I. Grace: A definition
χάρις: Charis: Gift, gratuity.
So, with all the value we receive by drawing a line between the Covenants of Creation and of Grace in the western tradition, it is necessary, if only to see God himself in the light of the revelation of Holy Scripture, to remember that is was an act of χάρις when God formed man from the dust of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. This was unnecessary, for God needs nothing. It was unmerited, for Adam was given life and as yet deserved nothing. It was favor, gratuity or grace, a gift freely given.
And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. 4
The first sacrament is given before the Fall. God himself does the work. Making use of Matter, that Matter being the very rib of the man to divide Man into two sexes; and making use of the words of Adam which constituted a Form which expressed Intention, it is God who makes them into one flesh. This too is a gift (χάρισμα) added to a state of life 5 in which (even now after the Fall and Christ's Redemption) God's creative act continues both to propagate the race of Man, and for believers becomes a means to add yet more grace whereby the husband and wife aid one another to salvation and sanctification. It is significant that of the Seven Mysteries (μυστήριον) or Sacraments, Matrimony is established before the Fall; and even more so that it signifies Christ and the Church as somehow a reality independent (in limited human terms) of the Fall, and therefore existing in the plan of God before (so to speak) the emergency that occasioned our redemption from sin and death.6 "This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church," writes Paul about the deeper truth signified by marriage.7
Before he was a sinner, Adam was a husband; and the first time we see a sacrament in Scripture it is while man is yet in his innocence. As the Solemnization of Matrimony declares in the English Book of Common Prayer: "Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man's innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church." The three elements of a sacrament are present, and so is the feature that, along with Form, Matter and Intention, constitute a Sacrament (even this sacrament of a state of the life, rather than of the Gospel), namely God's promised and, therefore, predictable working. For Jesus taught that marriage is God's own work, and nothing less: "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."8
We must conclude that grace is the very life of all creation, for none of the things in the created order are necessary for God to be whole, complete and without need; rather, it is we who need to be alive, and we exist soley due to his gift, his gratuity, of life. We must conclude that even before the Fall, sacramental grace is revealed to have been in operation, and that this sacramental grace signifies both the Incarnation and the election of the Church in a glorious mystery of Divine love, and does so before the emergency occasioned by the Fall of Man into sin and death.
Grace is everything to the created order, including beasts, Man and angels.
1. Murray, John The Covenant of Grace, The Tyndale Press: London in 1954
2. Hart, David Bentley, The Beauty of the Infinite, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids/ Cambridge, 2003
3. Acts 17:24,25
4. Gen. 3:22-24
5. "...partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures..." Art. XXV
6. This gives further evidence to the theory of Duns Scotus, which I summarize this way: Man was made for the Incarnation, independent (again, speaking within human limitations of expression) of the emergency occasioned by the Fall.
7. Eph 5:32
8. Mark 10:9