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Elevations On The Temptation And Fall Of Man: 2, The temptation. Eve is attacked before Adam.

This is one in a series from Jaques-Benigne Bossuet’s Elevations on the Mysteries, and specifically the Fifth Day.  There is more here on the Bossuet Project.

Lord, make me understand the depths of Satan and the unbounded intricacies of this spirit, which you have been pleased to preserve all its subtlety, all its depth, all the natural superiority of the genius it has over us, to be used in the trials into which you wish to place our loyalty, and to make known magnificently the power of your grace.

This is the first work of this dark spirit. His evil and jealousy lead him to destroy the man whom God had made so perfect and so happy, and to subjugate him to whom God had given so much power over all bodily creatures, so that, unable to overthrow the throne of God himself, he overthrows him as much as he can through the man whom God has raised to such a high power.

We must, then, consider how he succeeded in this work, in order to know how we are to resist him, and to raise ourselves from our fall, that is to say, to raise up again in us the overthrown dominion of God.

We were, indeed, below the angel; but, as we have seen, a little below, for we were equal in the happiness of possessing the sovereign good; and, like an angel, we had intelligence and free will, aided by grace, and capable, with that grace, of rising to that blessed joy. We could easily resist Satan, who had lost grace and wanted to make us lose it also. No matter how much advantage he had in the way of intelligence, far from being able to force us, the grace which we had, and which he had rejected and entirely lost by his fault, rendered us his superior in strength and virtue. Thus he could do nothing against us except by persuasion, and it also flattered his pride to subdue our minds to his by skill, to trap us in the snares which he held out to us.

The first effect of this artifice is to have tempted Adam through Eve, and to have begun to attack us through the weaker part. However perfect she was made in body and still more in sprit, when the first woman immediately emerged from the hands of God, she was, according to the body, only a portion of Adam, and a diminutive type. It was in proportion nearly to the same spirit, for God directed in his work a wisdom which arranged all things with a certain propriety. It was not Eve, but Adam who named the animals: it was to Adam and not to Eve that he had brought them. If Eve, like her beloved companion, had participated in her dominion, it remained to the man a primacy which he could lose only by his fault and by an excess of complacency. He had given the name to Eve, as he had given it to all animals, and nature meant that it was somehow subject to him. It was, therefore, in him, the superiority of wisdom; and Satan comes to attack him by the weakest place, and, so to speak, the least fortified.

If this artifice succeeds in this mischievous spirit, it is not surprising that he continues it, and that he is still trying to defeat man by women, though in another way; because he did not yet have desire. He raised up his own wife against Job, and raised against him this domestic enmity, to try his patience. Tobias, who was to be after him the model of this virtue, had in his house a similar persecution. The greatest kings have fallen by this artifice. Who does not know the fall of David and Solomon? Who can forget the weakness of Herod and the murderess of St. John the Baptist? The devil, by attacking Eve, was preparing in woman one of the most dangerous instruments for the loss of the human race; and it is not without reason that the wise man said that she had subjugated the most powerful and given death to the most courageous.


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