Sunday, April 12, 2009

O Happy Fault, O Necessary Sin of Adam

So it is sung in the Paschal Proclamation, the Exultet, on this night in the Easter/Paschal Vigil of the Western rite.

O Happy Fault, O Necessary Sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

Most blessed of all nights,
chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!

Of this night scripture says:
"The night will be as clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy."

The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.

Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth
and humanity is reconciled with God!

So Happy Pascha! Happy Easter!

As the Greeks and Russians and other Eastern Christians will be saying next weekend, which is the Orthodox Pascha:

Christos Aneste, Alithos Aneste! Christos Voskrese, Voistinu Voskrese! Krishhti Unjall, Vertet Unjall! Kristos Tenestwal! Bergit Tenestwal! El Messieh Kahm, Kakken Kahm! Christos harjav i merelotz, Orhniale harutjun Christosi! Christos T’ensah Em’ Muhtan, Exai’ Ab-her Eokala! Pchristos aftooun, Alethos aftooun! Christos Ten-si-OU, Ba-Ha-ke Ten-si-OU! Kriste aghsdga, Cheshmaritad aghsdga! Hristus A Inviat! Adeverat a Inviat! Meshiha qam! Bashrira qam!

That selection of some of the languages of Eastern Christendom translates the standard Paschal/Easter greeting of the East: Christ is Risen, Indeed, He is truly Risen!

Good Pascha to you all!


  1. I have to confess I have always thought this particular statement of faith, which I think owes something to St Augustine, could do with a bit of radical revision. Frankly I feel it violates the import of the biblical story and spiritual feeling generally even to refer to a "happy fault" and a "necessary sin". It would have been better for one and all including the redeemer if there had been no fault, no human suffering or need for a redeemer from it and given human free will there surely never was a need for the fault indicated. And, then, what scripture unless perhaps apocryphal, states that this resurrection night - elsewhere the morning of resurrection is spoken of - will be brighter than day and our time of joy? Altogether I find this a rather odd canticle or whatever one calls it, a bit too encrusted with the theological barnacles of history.

  2. I'm not certain if it's particularly Augustinian although I can see links with Julian of Norwich, most likely providing a background to some of her visions. As for which scripture, does one need scripture to support every poetic image? Catholic traditions would say no. Sola scriptura is not a Catholic doctrine and, as far doctrines are concerned, has its origins in the Reformation so it is also relatively new in Christian history. Then again the liturgy itself might also be considered a form of scripture.

  3. I quite agree not every poetic or liturgical image needs scriptural support; I am merely questioning the fact that the Exultet appears to affirm that its statements ARE scriptural "of this night scripture says..." but I can't recognize that reference and doubt there is one. If anything scripture points to morning rather than night so I find the Exultet rather misleading plus apart from the fact as said I just feel the "happy fault" and "necessary sin" are somehow controversial.

  4. I just want to say that as a devout Catholic I've often had the same thought about the 'happy fualt' line. I think it's meant to be hyperbole about how great Jesus and His sacrifice is, but still...

  5. What of Judas' fault? the one who betrayed Christ? is this a 'happy fault', a 'necessary sin' too?