“Just as in Adam all die, so all will be brought to life in Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:22)
We begin this Advent with the famous story of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The book of Genesis, as interpreted in the New Testament, says that the first two humans chose to disobey God after being tempted by the Devil. Their actions had consequences for both them and for the entire human race, in terms of bringing sin and death into the world.
After describing the Fall of Adam and Eve, the story also includes a promise of the eventual victory over evil. In Genesis 3:15, we read that God said to the Devil: “I will establish hostility between you and the woman, between your line and her line. Her offspring will crush your head and you will bruise his heel.” Christian tradition has long interpreted these words as a foretelling of a defeat for the Devil through a woman and her son.
This prophecy, known as the proto-evangelium or ‘first gospel’, led to comparisons between Adam and Eve on the one hand, and Christ and the Virgin Mary on the other. St Paul described Christ as the “last Adam”, who came to undo the sin of the first one (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45). Since he was the “offspring” of the Virgin Mary, she came to be compared with Eve.
This stained glass scene of the Fall of Adam and Eve is by the religious artist, Sister Margaret Rope. Dating to 1930, this Arts and Crafts gem is found tucked away within St Mary’s, Clapham. The text accompanying the scene is from a hymn to the Virgin Mary, O Gloriosa Virginum. It means ‘What sorrowful Eve took away, your offspring restores’ and refers to the reversal of Eve’s sin through Mary and her Son.
There is a long connection in Christian tradition between Adam, Eve and Advent. In the Middle Ages, Christmas Eve was celebrated as the Feast of Adam and Eve and mystery plays were performed to bring their story to life. A ‘Paradise Tree’, decorated with apples and wafers, featured as a stage prop in these plays. This later evolved into our modern-day Christmas tree.
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