On November 20th, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI mentioned the “absolute primacy” of Christ in his address to the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. Besides his reference to the absolute primacy of Christ (clearly a reference to the Franciscan and Benedictine tradition of Christ’s primacy quite apart from any consideration of sin – Pope Benedict has spoken very highly of the Benedictine Abbot Rupert of Deutz and specifically underscores his Christology), note how this entire paragraph regarding religious life stands on its own quite apart from any mention of Christ’s redemptive work:
Christo omnino nihil praeponere [prefer nothing to Christ] (cf. Rule of Benedict 72, 11; Augustine, Enarr. in Ps 29: 9; Cyprian, Ad Fort 4). These words which the Rule of St Benedict takes from the previous tradition, clearly express the precious treasure of monastic life lived still today in both the Christian West and East. It is a pressing invitation to mould monastic life to the point of making it an evangelical memorial of the Church and, when it is authentically lived, “a reference point for all the baptized” (cf. John Paul II, Orientale lumen, n. 9). By virtue of the absolute primacy reserved for Christ, monasteries are called to be places in which room is made for the celebration of God’s glory, where the mysterious but real divine presence in the world is adored and praised, where one seeks to live the new commandment of love and mutual service, thus preparing for the final “revelation of the sons of God” (Rm 8: 19). When monks live the Gospel radically, when they dedicate themselves to integral contemplative life in profound spousal union with Christ, on whom this Congregation’s Instruction Verbi Sponsa (13 May 1999) extensively reflected, monasticism can constitute for all the forms of religious life and consecrated life a remembrance of what is essential and has primacy in the life of every baptized person: to seek Christ and put nothing before his love.
Pope Benedict XVI underscores a point that is central to the doctrine of the absolute primacy of Christ, namely that the primary reason Christ came in the flesh, and the primary reason that the Angels and the elect exist, is for the glory of God – ad majorem gloriam Dei as St. Ignatius of Loyola puts it. The Incarnate Word gives the maximum glory to God in His Sacred Humanity; we are called to give glory to God per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso, viz. through Him, with Him and in Him as we pray in the Sacred Liturgy. This is God’s plan, sin or no sin, and the Pope’s words ring true not only for monks and nuns, but for all the faithful: By virtue of the absolute primacy reserved for Christ, monasteries [and by way of extension families, parishes, our souls, etc.] are called to be places in which room is made for the celebration of God’s glory, where the mysterious but real divine presence in the world is adored and praised, where one seeks to live the new commandment of love and mutual service, thus preparing for the final “revelation of the sons of God” (Rm 8: 19).
He mentions adoration and praise of the divine presence. Sin or no sin, we were created to adore and praise God. Our Lord Himself tells the Samaritan woman, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father also seeks such to worship Him. God is spirit, and they who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4: 23-24). Christ, then, who tells us that He is that truth (cf. Jn 14:6), is the Mediator, the High Priest, the one through whom we can adore the Living God. Christ exists for the glory of God; we also exist for the glory of God, but for us that glory is given to Christ and through Him to the entire Trinity. For this reason, as Pope Benedict XIV states, “a profound spousal union with Christ” reveals “what is essential and has primacy in the life of every baptized person: to seek Christ and put nothing before His love.”
According to Franciscan Christology these beautiful expressions would hold true even if Adam had not sinned – in other words, in a sinless world we would still be called to seek Christ and put nothing before His love and to give glory to God through, with and in Christ. Because of sin Christ comes in passible, mortal flesh and works out our Redemption on Calvary. The divine design is the same – man is called to glorify God and be one with Him through the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus – but because of sin Christ had to suffer, die and rise from the dead to conquer sin, Satan and eternal death forever [for more on this topic, including diagrams and a video click here].
According to the Franciscan school God willed one economy of grace which He offers to Angels and the elect through Christ (gratia Christi) and not two economies, one for Angels and Adam and Eve before sin (gratia Dei) and another “better” economy for Adam and Eve and their progeny after sin (gratia Christi), a sort of “plan A”, but because of sin God gives an even better “plan B”. Bl. John Duns Scotus points out that “there could never be but one Head in the Church from which there is derived the influx of graces upon the members.” (Ordinatio, III, d.13, q.4, n.8.). So Jesus is the Head (Col. 1:18); in Him dwells the fullness of Divinity corporally (2:9); from Him, as the Head, the whole body is supplied and built up (2:19). That is God’s eternal decree, sin or no sin.