While listening to Audrey Assad, I came across a Latin phrase that has arrested my thoughts of late: Felix Culpa. Felix Culpa means “O Happy Fault” or “O Blessed Fall” and is a part of the liturgical phrase “O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem” which translates “O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam. Which gained for us so great a Redeemer.”
My initial reaction to the phrase was simultaneously horror and beauty. Horror that the fall is proposed to be “necessary” and beauty that its “fault” could be and was made beautiful. Regarding its necessity, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine used Felix Culpa as a way to talk about theodicy. Evil was permitted into existence because it brought about a much greater good- chiefly the introduction of Jesus Christ. Were it not for evil, then Christ would not have been necessary. I struggle with that. Was the incarnation and the passion utilitarian? Or was it something in the heart of God before creation? I tend to believe that the Incarnation was in the heart of God before the fall and it was the intent of the Triune God to unite Himself with humanity with or without the fall. Accomplishing this through the incarnation.
Yet, the beauty of this phrase still stands in stark contrast to my objection- “O happy fault…. Which gained for us so great a Redeemer.” Without the fall, humanity would not have been able to be rescued to the point of unity with the Godhead: Theosis. Through the Incarnation and passion of Christ, humanity has been recapitulated to a glory that surpasses that of Adam and Eve before the fall. Dom Bruno Webb asserts that “instead of restoring man to what he had been, God has bent down from His eternity, taking him into His arms and pressing him to His heart in an embrace so close that the gulf between Creator and creature has been bridged, God and man henceforth forming in the order of grace a single being, ‘the whole Christ.” Through this “necessary sin,” humanity is able to participate in the divine dance of the Triune God. Wow. “And can it be that I should gain, an interest in the Savior’s blood!”
I am not sure I will come to any consensus on Felix Culpa in the near future, so until then “O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem.” Whether the fall was necessary or not, the beauty remains that God takes broken situations and makes them beautiful. “In my deepest wound I saw your glory. And it dazzled me.”