As I was confessing in June at the Sanctuary of Loreto, I have been asked the following question: “Why did God allow Satan to enter the earthly paradise and tempt the man and the woman?” The answer was not easy at all, but I had to say something, and I did so. A longer answer required more reflection, and further reflection triggered these lines.
First of all, you have to adhere to the Scriptures, which provide fragments that can be made to have a sufficient view. St. Paul gives us the first point in his letter to the Romans (5:14): “Adam the figure of Christ”; this means that in God’s eternal plan, we could not be the sons of God in Adam, but in Christ, the Incarnate Word. This passage tells us that the Word is embodied also in the absence of sin. He is the center of God’s plan, and it is said (Col 1:16): “All things were created through him and for him.” “In him” since he is the center of everything. (Eph 1:10). He appears as the center in the redemption because he has eternally been so (Eph 1:10): “The plan to unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth”.
The fall of Satan can only be related to the Incarnate Word, which, let me repeat it, had to be so to be without sin. Satan had the presentation of God’s plan that concerning the Word and the man. Hence his fall, his rebellion. On the one hand, the contempt of the Incarnate Word because he assumed a human nature, lower than the angelic one (Heb 2.7): as to the man, there was envy (Wisdom 1:24) because he was to be raised to sublime dignity. Satan was called to serve this plan that would have made him great, but he rebelled and was precipitated into the abyss along with the rebel angels, who joined him. Arrogance, contempt, envy are one with hatred, which is produced by itself, out of free choice.
Once he precipitated into the Abyss, Satan made it to enter Eden to tempt Adam and Eve. One wonders how God gave this permission to Satan. Satan, who is “the accuser”, sought revenge. The narrative of the book of Job is a guide to understanding the challenge posed by Satan. The rebel accused God of keeping the man and the woman under his protection, which meant he could not take glory in them: the prohibition to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, in that condition was inconsistent. God accepted the challenge and allowed Satan to bring the two founders of the human race, already quite schooled in obedience not to eat from the tree of good and evil, because otherwise they would have known death.
The temptation of Satan was serpentine and insinuated that God is an oppressor and that it was not true that they were going to die, because they would have become like Him. The two of them fell and Satan thought he had stopped the Incarnation plan. He thought to himself, to his lying self, that God the Word would have never become human, thus staying with people who had chosen him. But the Incarnation of the Word was confirmed. The words on the woman and on her winning offspring were addressed exactly to Satan.
Then, Satan’s purpose was to make the mankind as disgusting as possible, to the point that God caused the flood (let us take the story of the flood in its theological significance), but at the same time, the human race stayed in Noah’s day group. The Incarnation of the Word is still there.
Then God founded Israel and finally here is the Woman. Satan tried to make the woman capitulate, but Mary obeyed the word announced to her. Satan then wanted to seduce Christ in the desert, but he was defeated by his obedience to the Father, citing the Scripture. Finally, Satan created the infernal machine of the terrible death of Christ. In the garden of olive trees tempted him, telling him that no one would have followed him on the way he wanted to walk and he showed him the allege horrendous sins people committed, choosing him, that is, Hate.
The fact that Satan tempted him in the Garden is not only logical for what it reveals the torment of Christ, to the point of sweating blood. Faced with the imminent torment, Satan hoped to make Christ step back, but Christ did not: he defeated sadness, fear, and loneliness, given by the three disciples asleep, the horror of seeing sins, the ones he was taking upon himself to atone them. Christ did not step back. If he had gone back, he would have taught cowardice. He went forward, being caught, reviled, scourged and crucified, and did not utter a curse word, but expressed only love. The Father was silent about him; silent because He treated him like sin (2 Cor 5:21). The cry: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” reveals the silence of the Father, the rigor of the Father on the beloved Son. One wonders, where did he find the strength to mention the Father? From the third Person, the Holy Spirit, which gave strength to the Father to be silent about Christ and gave Christ the power to love, forgive, and atone.
When Satan saw Christ dead, he felt crumbled. There was no more room for the accuser to insinuate in men doubt about the love of God. Thus, Satan attacked the Church and he still continues to do so, but (Mt 16:18) “the gates of hell shall not triumph against it.”
Father Paolo Berti, Capuchin Monk. Member of Gris