Author Topic: Eastern Orthodox perspective on "Felix Culpa" - the 'happy fault' of the Fall  (Read 858 times)

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Offline Daniel2:47

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What is the Orthodox perspective on Felix Culpa, the idea that the Fall had some redeemable or fortunate consequences? I was recently reminded of this when I cam across the Christmas carol Adam Lay Ybounden, whose words are:

Quote
Adam lay ybounden,
Bounden in a bond;
Four thousand winter,
Thought he not too long.

And all was for an apple,
An apple that he took.
As clerks finden,
Written in their book.

Nay had the apple taken been,
The apple taken been,
Nay had never our lady,
Of been heaven queen.

Blessed be the time
That apple taken was,
Therefore we maun singen:
Deo gratias!

The carol contains the idea that the Theotokos would not have been needed if it weren't for Adam's transgression and the Fall of Man. The lyrics may have been written by a wandering minstrel in medieval England, so probably not someone trained in theology, but as far as I am aware, the idea of Felix Culpa found in this particular example would be acceptable to Roman Catholics.

What is the Orthodox perspective on the 'happy fault' of the Fall? Would the different way that the Orthodox tend to view Original Sin (more emphasis on sin as a disease, than a legal fault) have some influence on this too?
« Last Edit: December 07, 2017, 09:50:19 AM by Daniel2:47 »

Offline Iconodule

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From my reading, several Eastern fathers (I don't recall exactly which ones, possibly Saint Maximus and Saint Gregory of Nyssa were among them) said that the Son of God would have incarnated even without the Fall. It seems to me this is a matter of local opinion/speculation and the "felix culpa" is not an error.  I believe it was shared by several Latin fathers like Saint Ambrose of Milan.
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Radiates, vegetables, monstrosities, star spawn— whatever they had been, they were men!
- Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness

Offline Agabus

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From my reading, several Eastern fathers (I don't recall exactly which ones, possibly Saint Maximus and Saint Gregory of Nyssa were among them) said that the Son of God would have incarnated even without the Fall.

I have come across this idea several times.
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Offline Asteriktos

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I think it's fair to say that God's will was done despite our mess up, and things proceeded in such a way as to reconcile us to God, but I'm not sure how proper it is to attribute some of the benefits or good things to the fall itself. Consider how the betrayal of Judas led to our salvation, yet we wouldn't thanks Judas for it; the good things came as a consequence of the action, but it was because God intervened rather than because of the original human intention or action themselves. And fwiw I've read the same or similar quotes to the ones mentioned by Agabus and Iconodule (though I'm not sure what that incarnated life would have looked like without the fall).

Offline NicholasMyra

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From my reading, several Eastern fathers (I don't recall exactly which ones, possibly Saint Maximus and Saint Gregory of Nyssa were among them) said that the Son of God would have incarnated even without the Fall. It seems to me this is a matter of local opinion/speculation and the "felix culpa" is not an error.  I believe it was shared by several Latin fathers like Saint Ambrose of Milan.
If not explicitly stated, it is implicit in the logic of Orthodox comments on theodicy I've read.
Quote from: Fr. Thomas Hopko, dystopian parable of the prodigal son
...you can imagine so-called healing services of the pigpen. The books that could be written, you know: Life in the Pigpen. How to Cope in the Pigpen. Being Happy in the Pigpen. Surviving in the Pigpen. And then there could be counselling, for people who feel unhappy in the pigpen, to try to get them to come to terms with the pigpen, and to accept the pigpen.

Offline Porter ODoran

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What is the Orthodox perspective on Felix Culpa, the idea that the Fall had some redeemable or fortunate consequences? I was recently reminded of this when I cam across the Christmas carol Adam Lay Ybounden, whose words are:

Quote
Adam lay ybounden,
Bounden in a bond;
Four thousand winter,
Thought he not too long.

And all was for an apple,
An apple that he took.
As clerks finden,
Written in their book.

Nay had the apple taken been,
The apple taken been,
Nay had never our lady,
Of been heaven queen.

Blessed be the time
That apple taken was,
Therefore we maun singen:
Deo gratias!

This is a carol, sentimental, light-hearted, and practically secular. I think I know what you're asking in a larger way,  but I don't think this selection can serve as a theological statement.
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

Quote from: Seekingtrue
Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

Offline Porter ODoran

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This subject is part of a much larger one that quickly encompasses our whole existence and purpose. In Greek, ἀνάγκη, in German, 'es muss sein,' in Jacobean English, "it must needs be." Historians and hopeful Christians alike know that calamities impel God's work, which is to say, know that they serve a cause, but considering what or who causes them can quickly become subjective and lead some believers into disillusion. Is it God that does what must be done? The Apostle says plainly, He chooses, He chastises, and the Psalmist and certain of the Holy Prophets are famous for having confronted him for what he does to man, or, more particularly, to themselves and their friends. But we do not interrogate the whirlwind and expect an understandable reply (Job 38.1ff). The problem is perhaps the most basic paradox of life.
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

Quote from: Seekingtrue
Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

Offline Sharbel

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It's a poetic reference that uses a figure of speech to bring to front the joy of the Incarnation.  Of course the Fall isn't a happy choice, but the happy choice of God to become incarnate is.  The problem is that often a figure of speech ends up being taken literally over time.
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Offline Daniel2:47

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What is the Orthodox perspective on Felix Culpa, the idea that the Fall had some redeemable or fortunate consequences? I was recently reminded of this when I cam across the Christmas carol Adam Lay Ybounden, whose words are:

Quote
Adam lay ybounden,
Bounden in a bond;
Four thousand winter,
Thought he not too long.

And all was for an apple,
An apple that he took.
As clerks finden,
Written in their book.

Nay had the apple taken been,
The apple taken been,
Nay had never our lady,
Of been heaven queen.

Blessed be the time
That apple taken was,
Therefore we maun singen:
Deo gratias!

This is a carol, sentimental, light-hearted, and practically secular. I think I know what you're asking in a larger way,  but I don't think this selection can serve as a theological statement.

Just to be clear, I wasn't saying that this particular carol is the best example of this idea, but rather that listening to it was what prompted me to start looking into it. The words "blessed be the time that apple was taken" are quite shocking to a former evangelical who is still in the process of becoming Orthodox. In the evangelical world I was part of, the Fall is seen as a great tragedy and a fall from a paradise of innocence and direct communion with God, to a world where most people are alienated from Him by sin and by self-righteousness, where God can't stand the sin in their lives and Jesus had to come and die in our place to bring about the possibility of salvation. Much of that is true, with exceptions about Jesus "dying in our place" if it is understood that He was smitten on our behalf by the Father, and also that Adam & Eve were not necessarily perfected in their innocent state but would have still had to grow in maturity as well as communion with God, even in paradise. But from an evangelical perspective, it is certainly surprising to think that the Fall had redeemable features, since the aim of the Christian life is to restore us to a sort of pre-Fallen existence, rather than recognising that there is something even greater than that possible through the Incarnation of Christ and His union with mankind.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2017, 08:24:47 AM by Daniel2:47 »

Offline Sharbel

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Keep in mind that at the Fall God did not curse Adam and Eve, but the serpent.  From then on, God set up a plan to heal men, not to condemn them, so that they might again spend afternoons conversing in the Garden of Life.
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Offline Iconodule

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Keep in mind that at the Fall God did not curse Adam and Eve, but the serpent. 

Except he very clearly did curse Adam and Eve.
Quote
Radiates, vegetables, monstrosities, star spawn— whatever they had been, they were men!
- Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness

Offline Sharbel

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Keep in mind that at the Fall God did not curse Adam and Eve, but the serpent. 
Except he very clearly did curse Adam and Eve.
You mean about the sweating for bread and the pangs of birth?  Yeah, you're right.
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Offline Iconodule

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And the whole dying thing.
Quote
Radiates, vegetables, monstrosities, star spawn— whatever they had been, they were men!
- Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness

Offline Porter ODoran

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And the whole dying thing.

Dying was not explicitly part of the curse, unless I guess you want to interpret the curse of the man to work till he dies as such (in which case the woman was not cursed to die) (Gen 3.14-19). Instead, the scriptures discuss it multiple places as a direct result of the eating of the fruit, that is, of attaining to self-consciousness and guilt.
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

Quote from: Seekingtrue
Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

Offline Porter ODoran

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... In the evangelical world I was part of, the Fall is seen as a great tragedy and a fall from a paradise of innocence and direct communion with God, to a world where most people are alienated from Him by sin and by self-righteousness, where God can't stand the sin in their lives ...

Well, altho the scripture does not really discuss or explain it, its report is plain that the Fall destroyed mankind's access not only to perpetual life but to the daily tangible company of God. It can be speculated why this was, why mankind would not again speak face-to-face with God or walk beside him, until he visited again in Christ, but in my opinion the Evangelical observation as you outlined it is not far from the mark.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2017, 06:13:12 PM by Porter ODoran »
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

Quote from: Seekingtrue
Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

Offline WPM

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Pfft thumbs down on the OP don't like it
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Offline WPM

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I think it's fair to say that God's will was done despite our mess up, and things proceeded in such a way as to reconcile us to God, but I'm not sure how proper it is to attribute some of the benefits or good things to the fall itself. Consider how the betrayal of Judas led to our salvation, yet we wouldn't thanks Judas for it; the good things came as a consequence of the action, but it was because God intervened rather than because of the original human intention or action themselves. And fwiw I've read the same or similar quotes to the ones mentioned by Agabus and Iconodule (though I'm not sure what that incarnated life would have looked like without the fall).

What if the fall never happened and we survived by travelling on foot and gathering & foraging food
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Offline Sharbel

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And the whole dying thing.
That would be the medicinal part... or maybe all of that, including the sweat and the pangs, was also the medicinal part.
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Offline Iconodule

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And the whole dying thing.

Dying was not explicitly part of the curse, unless I guess you want to interpret the curse of the man to work till he dies as such (in which case the woman was not cursed to die) (Gen 3.14-19). Instead, the scriptures discuss it multiple places as a direct result of the eating of the fruit, that is, of attaining to self-consciousness and guilt.

“From dust you were made and to dust you will return”. And then the fencing off of the tree of life.
« Last Edit: December 09, 2017, 10:38:08 AM by Iconodule »
Quote
Radiates, vegetables, monstrosities, star spawn— whatever they had been, they were men!
- Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness

Offline Iconodule

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And the whole dying thing.
That would be the medicinal part... or maybe all of that, including the sweat and the pangs, was also the medicinal part.

Perhaps but then we are playing with semantics here.
Quote
Radiates, vegetables, monstrosities, star spawn— whatever they had been, they were men!
- Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness

Offline Porter ODoran

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And the whole dying thing.

Dying was not explicitly part of the curse, unless I guess you want to interpret the curse of the man to work till he dies as such (in which case the woman was not cursed to die) (Gen 3.14-19). Instead, the scriptures discuss it multiple places as a direct result of the eating of the fruit, that is, of attaining to self-consciousness and guilt.

“From dust you were made and to dust you will return”. And then the fencing off of the tree of life.

Read the posts you reply to.
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

Quote from: Seekingtrue
Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

Offline NicholasMyra

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Man was cast out so that he wouldn't eat of the tree of life and be an immortal god.

« Last Edit: December 11, 2017, 04:38:03 AM by NicholasMyra »
Quote from: Fr. Thomas Hopko, dystopian parable of the prodigal son
...you can imagine so-called healing services of the pigpen. The books that could be written, you know: Life in the Pigpen. How to Cope in the Pigpen. Being Happy in the Pigpen. Surviving in the Pigpen. And then there could be counselling, for people who feel unhappy in the pigpen, to try to get them to come to terms with the pigpen, and to accept the pigpen.

Offline Opus118

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I think it's fair to say that God's will was done despite our mess up, and things proceeded in such a way as to reconcile us to God, but I'm not sure how proper it is to attribute some of the benefits or good things to the fall itself. Consider how the betrayal of Judas led to our salvation, yet we wouldn't thanks Judas for it; the good things came as a consequence of the action, but it was because God intervened rather than because of the original human intention or action themselves. And fwiw I've read the same or similar quotes to the ones mentioned by Agabus and Iconodule (though I'm not sure what that incarnated life would have looked like without the fall).

What if the fall never happened and we survived by travelling on foot and gathering & foraging food

My guess is that if the fall did not happen, there would still be Adam and Eve and all of the animals and plants and bacteria and viruses that were first created but probably nothing else. There could possibly be music.
If you cannot remember everything, instead of everything, I beg you, remember this without fail, that not to share our own wealth with the poor is theft from the poor and deprivation of their means of life; we do not possess our own wealth but theirs.  If we have this attitude, we will certainly offer our money; and by nourishing Christ in poverty here and laying up great profit hereafter, we will be able to attain the good things which are to come. - St. John Chrysostom

Offline Porter ODoran

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Man was cast out so that he wouldn't eat of the tree of life and be an immortal god.

Rather, so that having Fallen, he would not find the way to perpetuate his new state of self-consciousness, shame, and guilt indefinitely. He would need to be restored to Paradise by a Savior before life would be anything but life-in-death. Your version is basically the Serpent's.
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

Quote from: Seekingtrue
Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

Offline NicholasMyra

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Man was cast out so that he wouldn't eat of the tree of life and be an immortal god.

Rather, so that having Fallen, he would not find the way to perpetuate his new state of self-consciousness, shame, and guilt indefinitely. He would need to be restored to Paradise by a Savior before life would be anything but life-in-death. Your version is basically the Serpent's.
lol, maybe read genesis to see who I'm paraphrasing. It ain't the serpent.
Quote from: Fr. Thomas Hopko, dystopian parable of the prodigal son
...you can imagine so-called healing services of the pigpen. The books that could be written, you know: Life in the Pigpen. How to Cope in the Pigpen. Being Happy in the Pigpen. Surviving in the Pigpen. And then there could be counselling, for people who feel unhappy in the pigpen, to try to get them to come to terms with the pigpen, and to accept the pigpen.

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I remember that when I was Roman Catholic, at the Holy Saturday Mass, the priest would chant "...o happy sin."
My only weakness is, well, never mind

He said he had a horrible house
I looked in it and learnt to shut my mouth

Come back my dream into my arms, into my arms

London is drowning, and I live by the river