Preternatural gifts and supernatural gift of grace

Could Adam and Eve fly through the air? Preternatural gifts and Supernatural gift

by Taylor Marshall.

I was recently teaching a class on the preternatural gifts and the supernatural gift of grace when one student asked, "I heard a priest once say that Adam and Eve could fly before they sinned. Is that true?"

Interesting idea, but it doesn't have any basis in Scripture or Tradition. Adam and Eve were endowed with special gifts, but I doubt that flying was one of them.

Adam was constituted in a state of grace. This is a supernatural gift. It is super natura ("over nature") because it elevated man to the dignity of communing with God. This ability is absolutely and infinitely beyond any creatures capacity and consequently this gift of grace was supernatural or absolutely beyond human nature.

Man was also given other gifts that were not absolutely beyond his nature, but relatively beyond his nature. In other words, these gifts perfected Adam, but were not entirely beyond his nature (i.e. somewhere between natural human and angel). These gifts are called preternatural gifts from praeter natura ("beyond nature"). They are usually numbered as three: infused knowledge, immortality, and integrity of passions.

The one supernatural gift and the three preternatural gifts bring the number to four and correspond with the Venerable Bede's (and Thomas Aquinas') "Four Wounds of the Fall" since the loss of those four gifts resulted in four wounds:

  1. Original Sin (lack of sanctifying grace, and thus righteousness)
  2. Ignorance (lack of knowledge)
  3. Concupiscence (passions no longer integrated under reason)
  4. Mortality and sickness (the body no longer strengthened)

Moreover, these four gifts and their corresponding four wounds pertain to the four powers of the soul:

  1. Intellect (corresponding to the cardinal virtue of prudence)
  2. Will (corresponding to the cardinal virtue of justice)
  3. Concupiscible Appetite (corresponding to the cardinal virtue of temperance)
  4. Irascible Appetite (corresponding to the cardinal virtue of fortitude)

We therefore see that the four gifts were gifts pertaining to morality. They were not superpowers (like flying through the air or x-ray vision). However, Christ ascended into Heaven, so maybe there's a chance!