The Holy Family, oil painting, ca. 1787, by Francisco de Goya, Museo del Prado, Madrid
Michael Hichborn

Our Savior is Born!

In the beginning of the world, God breathed life into the nostrils of Adam in the middle of a garden full of animals. And upon that creation, Our Lord gave two things to Adam. First, He gave him dominion over every creature … all the fish, birds, beasts, and creeping things were under the command and rule of Adam. He was the ruler of all living things upon the earth. The second thing God gave to Adam was “every herb bearing seed upon the earth, and all trees that have in themselves seed of their own kind” for him to eat. At that time, before sin and death entered the world, the entire universe was in complete harmony and in a state the Church Fathers call “Original Justice.”

In this place of Original Justice, Adam was given everything and forbidden only one thing. He was told not to eat the fruit of one particular tree. And when he did eat, he lost everything, including (eventually) his own life. What Adam had received, he would then lose; he was no longer the master of the created world, but now its slave. The creatures of the world no longer obeyed his commands, the ground rebelled, and the Tree of Life was cut off from him completely.

“Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat, cursed is the earth in thy work; with labour and toil shalt thou eat thereof all the days of thy life. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herbs of the earth. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.” Geneses 3:17-19

God cursed Eve and the serpent as well. The serpent was cursed among all cattle and beasts, and Eve was cursed pain in childbirth.

But God promised a savior.

“I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.” -Genesis 3:15
What is interesting is that there is a series of undoing’s of the Curse of Adam, Eve and the serpent at the Nativity of Our Lord. The Church Fathers agree that Our Lady experienced no pain in childbirth. The Catechism of the Council of Trent tells us:

“From Eve we are born children of wrath; from Mary we have received Jesus Christ … To Eve it was said: In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children. Mary was exempt from this law, for preserving her virginal integrity inviolate she brought forth Jesus … without experiencing, as we have already said, any sense of pain.” – Catechism of the Council of Trent, Article III
So, Eve’s curse was undone by Our Lord’s Birth.

In St. Luke’s nativity narrative, there is no mention of animals, but he does say that “she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger.” A manger is a food trough for animals. If there was a food trough for animals, then there must have been animals, even if they aren’t mentioned. The serpent was cursed with crawling on its belly and being the lowest among all “cattle and beasts.” Traditional nativity scenes include both an ox and an ass, representing cattle and beast. And as Our Lord is laid in the manger, he is on his back (while the serpent is on its belly) and venerated by all who are present, man and beast alike (while the serpent is the lowest of them all).

But the most intriguing of all is the fact that Our Lord is laid in a manger. Ven. Abp. Fulton J. Sheen wrote in his book, The Life of Christ, “He, Who would call Himself the ‘living Bread descended from Heaven,’ was laid in a manger, literally, a place to eat.”

In the Garden of Eden, Adam was cursed “with labour and toil shalt thou eat thereof all the days of thy life,” and cut off from the Tree of Life. But here in the manger, Our Lord undoes the curse of Adam by sleeping in a food trough made of wood, that would prefigure the wood of His cross. And once on His cross, He would become the saving Food in the new Tree of Life.

Our Advent time is done, and the Christ has entered the world to save us from the curse of sin.

From all of us at the Lepanto Institute, we wish you a very merry and Holy Christmas, and we pray that the Peace of Christ remain with you all days.
Christus Vincit!


Michael Hichborn is the President of The Lepanto Institute