Have you ever thought about what it must have been like for Eve after the Fall?
She’d blown it, for sure. All because of that apple, and the desire that rose up inside her to have that one forbidden thing. Where had that come from? And why did she listen to that serpent?
Well, what was done was done. And now life was hard. She and Adam had lost the one-ness they had before, and now he kept telling her what to do, as if he had to make up for when she offered him the fruit.
There was one good thing, though. The serpent was going to get his due. After all, God promised: “I will put enmity between you [serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel” (Gn 3:15).
In other words, while the serpent (or devil) and his offspring would be busy striking out at humankind, they (the “offspring” or in some versions, the “seed” of the woman) would deal the devil a death blow.
Right away, Adam and Eve have a son “with the help of the Lord” (Gn 4:1). Into that one short phrase is packed all their hope for the child God said would make things right. Then she has another, Abel. Two boys! Maybe Cain would surprise that snake in the garden, or Abel while watching his sheep. Surely one of them will get the better of it!
Imagine Eve’s pain when Cain turns out to be another “bad apple,” a murderer who cuts his brother down in his prime. So much for being fruitful and overcoming the devil. But now we see that seeds of faith are growing in Eve. She doesn’t give up. She has another son and calls him Seth, saying “God has granted me another offspring in place of Abel” (Gn 4:25). And by the time Seth has a son of his own, “people began to invoke the Lord by name” (Gn 4:26). The story that began in tragedy continues on in hope.
I can’t help thinking of Eve as we head into Advent. After all, now is the time we gather all our longing and aim it at the mother and child who undo the damage caused by Eve. Mary and Jesus are the woman and her seed who definitively crush the head of the serpent. And even though we live long after Jesus dealt that crushing blow on the Cross, we still stand here with Eve, “mourning and weeping in this valley of tears” (as we pray in the Hail, Holy Queen). In spite of her failure and loss, Eve was able to stand on God’s promise of victory and walk on in faith. In the same way, we can stand on that victory and walk on in certain hope toward the day when Jesus comes again to finally make things right.
On Dec. 9, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the story of Eve is proclaimed in the Liturgy of the Word. The whole Church hears God’s promise that the seed of the woman will crush the serpent’s head, and Eve will be declared mother of all of the living. In the Psalm Response, we praise God for his faithfulness in remembering Israel and bringing salvation. The second reading reminds us that we are chosen. And then in the Gospel, the angel announces to Mary the coming of the Son of the Most High God.
This is the good news of the Gospel. We may be, like Eve, bowed down by failure. Like her, we may have trouble conceiving something good. We might be plagued by the many ways Satan, that dread serpent, strikes at our heels. But the woman and her seed — Mary and Jesus — have crushed the serpent’s head. That work is finished. Satan’s power is limited. Christ rules and will come again in glory.
Take time in the “little Lent” of Advent to live consciously in the gap between what has already happened and what still is to come. Prepare your heart for the coming of the Lord. Receive the seed of his word. Repent of your sin, offer your burdens up to Christ and ask him to be born in you as you await his coming again.
Let us pray in the words of the Collect for Dec. 9:
Sarah Christmyer writes about Eve and ten other Old Testament women who paved the way for Mary in “Becoming Women of the Word: How to Answer God’s Call with Purpose and Joy” (Ave Maria Press). She teaches a class on Scripture at the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia and is co-developer and founding editor of “The Great Adventure Catholic Bible” study program. You can follow her blog and find information about the guided prayer journals, Bible studies, and other books she has written at her website, ComeIntotheWord.com.