The Fall is at bottom an error about the relative importance of our selves versus God. It occurs when we put first in our lives anything other than God – who is, of course, by definition for everything whatever the most important thing of all. When we put God first, everything else then takes its proper place in our affections and attentions, and our wills are not deflected from their true and proper course. Then we give everything other than God its proper due, and justice prevails; so then does peace. Our lives go rather well, then, all things considered.
But whenever we dethrone God in our hearts, we mess up our judgement of things, and so deflect our will from its rightful course. So doing, we ruin the whole shooting match, even if only subtly. We cannot then but injure our fellow creatures, by mistreating them – whether or not advertently.
To dethrone God in our hearts is in one way or another to enthrone ourselves. It is to put our judgement about what is important, and thus our will toward our own desires that by our deformed judgements have themselves been deformed, ahead of his.
To dethrone God in our hearts is to be selfish.
We are not made by God for the purpose of erring and straying like lost sheep in this way. We were made to be good. Yet we are not good; no, not one of us.
Why? Why do all of us fall prey to such error?
It’s simple, really.
As having formed himself and his acts according to a selfish judgement of things that, in virtue of its purblind isolation from things as they really are, is fundamentally erroneous, the sinner cannot but treat other creatures improperly, thus somehow or other wounding them, or diseasing them. The selfish man wounds others.
And the wounded and sick cannot but attend to their own predicaments. Indeed, the focus of their attention on the amelioration of their own discomforts is altogether proper; no animal could get on in life, that did not do likewise. Animals are built to avoid and ameliorate pain. That’s how they survive.
In sum, then: the selfish wound; the wounded are perforce selfish; and so in their turn they too wound.
So the cycle rolls along under its own momentum. The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.
Thus the logic of the traditional Christian spiritual discipline of offering up suffering to God. The wounded Christian sinner suffers. But insofar as he subsumes his own pain in worship meet and right, he begins to break the cycle whereby he would otherwise have propagated the Original Sin that has afflicted him with its pernicious historical effects. By devoting his suffering to God, he consciously puts God ahead of that suffering. He enthrones God in his heart, despite his agony.
So doing, he transcends his own pain. He still suffers it, of course. But it is no longer his master. And if his pain is no longer his master, but rather only the Lord who is the Logos of all things, why then no other thing can be his master either; not even pleasures.
Of such is his eventual victory.