In old age they will still bear fruit
July 18, 2022
17th Sunday in OT (C)
July 18, 2022

Adam’s mandate is ours too

Q: Archbishop J, if the domestic Church has a real liturgy, where does the priesthood come from?

Marriage is a very special sacrament. I remember learning about marriage in seminary and it shocked me. Marriage is the first sacrament. It predates baptism, and the others.

Think about this for a while. The other six sacraments were given by Christ or the Church out of the order of redemption. Marriage alone was given by God out of the order of creation.

When Jesus gives His teaching on marriage, He does not begin with the contemporary experience (sociological), He begins with the very beginning (theological): “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?’  So, they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mt 19:4–6).

Marriage begins before Christianity, it is there as a structure of grace for all of humanity, it goes back to Adam and Eve. Any attempt to understand marriage today, likewise, must begin with the intention of the Creator. From this intention we can begin to understand and evaluate the contemporary configurations that we see in our world today.

What we learn from Jesus and Genesis, is that the Creator’s intention was for marriage to unify a male and a female, that they would leave their mother and father and cleave to each other becoming one flesh.

In the one flesh we understand procreation, the fruit of the union. In Genesis 2 the very next line is: “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Gen 2:25). Adam calls Eve his wife. This is the first married couple.

Adam the Priest

In the Gospel of Luke, the genealogy of Jesus begins with “Adam, son of God”. This is both a royal and priestly role assigned to Adam. This role is amplified in the two accounts of creation. The first amplification is in Genesis 1:26–31.

The reason for creating the human was for the human to have dominion over all other creatures. This is a royal role. The king has dominion over the kingdom the way that God gave the human dominion.

In the beginning we do not only have the first married couple; we also have the first king and the first priest.

In Genesis 2:15, the second account of creation, before Eve was created, God gave Adam a priestly mandate: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

This double mandate that the New International Version translates “to work it and care for it” are loaded terms. In Hebrew, the terms are ‘abad’ (till) and ‘shamar’ (keep). This is a priestly office given to Adam.

In Numbers 3:6, the tribe of Levi is commissioned to keep guard “before Aaron the priest that they may minister to him.” We see the two Hebrew words used to give the function of the Levis as priest and minister. Again, these words are seen in Numbers 8:26.

For an exploration of Adam as High Priest see: Brian Pizzalato, Adam: High priest of humanity CNA (

From our perspective, what is important is that the family was the first place that priesthood was intended to be exercised. The Word of God, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness” (Gen 1:28) is striking, when combined with the couple walking with God in the cool of the evening.

Before the Fall, the couple had unmediated access to God. The liturgy was direct and the couple together in unity were the image and likeness of God. This is pure liturgy with no need for sacrifice.

The point of liturgy is access to the divine. This is what Adam and Eve had before the Fall. If we see the Fall as idolatry—worshipping another before God—then we must also see it as bad liturgy. Worship is to give worth to or to attest the worthiness of a thing.

Adam and Eve had free choice and they used it to put Satan before God. By the example of the second Adam—Jesus—we see what the first Adam was supposed to do: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Mt 26:39). Adam was to guard and to keep—to put God first and to keep His Word.

Putting God’s Word first and keeping it is the first liturgy in Eden (see Isa 1:10–20, Mt 7:21). This prevailed until the Fall. Then, all worship requires sacrifice because as Bishop Robert Barron, quoting theologian Matthew Levering, says: “In a world gone wrong, there is no communion without sacrifice.”


Family Liturgy

The mandate to Adam to till and to keep is still the mandate of all the baptised who are prophet, priest, and king. This mandate requires us to listen deeply to God’s Word, to nurture it in our hearts and in our families. But also, to guard it and keep it; “to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Rom 12:1).

In your life and in your family, you have a sacred duty to clarify to whom you give worth—is it to God or to Satan? In the temptation we will experience the triple concupiscence that comes from the Fall—lust of the flesh, lust of the eye and pride of life (1 Jn 2:16).

Despite the Fall, the man and the woman, through their difference and complementarity, still mediate the image and likeness of God. This is why marriage is a sacrament (Eph 5:32).

But remember the couple are the ministers of the sacrament. We often think of the wedding as the sacrament. What Ephesians describes is not just the event but the process of giving way to one another.

From this perspective, it is the daily sacrifices, small and big, that the married couple offer for the sake of communion—the leaving and cleaving—that is the stuff of the sacrament.

It is here that the image of Christ and His bride, the Church shines forth. It is in these small and large moments that each spouse “submits” to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph 5:21). Here is where we see the love of Christ the bridegroom cleaving to His wife, the Church.

This daily sacrifice, (read liturgy), offered freely to God and each other is the core of the domestic Church liturgy. As members of the body of Christ, the couple, offering true and pure worship to God sanctifies their will on the altar of love of God and each other.

The couple are the ministers of this daily sacrifice that brings communion and fruitfulness to the marriage. As they teach their children through this liturgy, they educate the next generation of disciples. The whole sacramental life of the Church is necessary if marriage is to be lived fully.


Key Message:

Marriage is a sacrament lived out in the daily offering of the spouses to each other joined to Christ.

Action Step:

Reflect on your family’s capacity for sacrifice for the sake of communion. Have a conversation about it as a family and help each other to make better choices.

Scripture Reading:

Mt 26:39