Monday, March 28, 2011

The Pentateuch, Day 3: The Blessed Trinity in Creation

God Separating Light from Darkness, Michelangelo

God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth

Each Sunday, Catholics recite "The Creed", the basic truths of Christianity that were first set down by the Apostles and then handed on faithfully to our own day.  The Nicene Creed begins thus:

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen...

As Catholics, we believe that one God created all the visible and invisible realities which we call "the world", and which the ancient Hebrews indicated under the phrase "heavens and earth".  But not all people have believed in one, all-powerful God.  In fact, the text of Genesis echoes pagan creation accounts that were well-known in the surrounding cultures of the Middle East. In contrast to these stories, the divinely-inspired writer of Genesis wanted to communicate, using images and terms familiar to his reader, that the world was created, not by a group of gods and demi-gods struggling to bring order out of the primordial chaos, but by a single, almighty Power that not only created order, but also created all matter out of nothing.

The Trinity in Creation

The Old Testament suggests, and the New Testament reveals the creative action of the Son and the Spirit, inseparably one with that of the Father.  This creative cooperation  is clearly affirmed in the Church's rule of faith:  "There exists but one God...he is the Father, God, the Creator, the author, the giver of order.  He made all things by himself, that is, by his Word and by his Wisdom", "by the Son and the Spirit" who, so to speak, are "his hands".  Creation is the common work of the Holy Trinity.--CCC 292

In the first few verses of Genesis, we see evidence of all the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity.  First, we have God creating Before the beginning, God the Father already had conceived the entire plan of creation and salvation, which He would enact with the Son, His Word, and the Spirit, His Wisdom.  As we read in Day 2, the New Testament states,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world... Eph. 1:3

Creation, James Tissot
In the beginning, God created all matter ex nihilo, which is Latin for "out of nothing".  In fact, the verb used for "created" in Gen. 1:1 is a translation of a Hebrew word which only is used with God as the subject.  Man can "make" from pre-existing materials any number of things, but only God can "create" out of absolutely nothing.  The matter which He created was primordial matter;  it is depicted in Genesis as a deep ocean in the midst of darkness, over which the creative and loving Spirit hovers.  The Spirit is often shown in Scripture to be the Giver of Life.  "When Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created; and thou renewest the face of the ground." Ps 104:30  

The Word of God and his Breath are at the origin of the being and life of every creature. It belongs to the Holy Spirit to rule, sanctify, and animate creation, for he is God, consubstantial with the Father and the Son...power over life pertains to the Spirit, for being God he preserves creation in the Father through the Son--CCC 703

To impose order upon this matter, God spoke, "Let there be light!" Gen. 1:3  The Word of God, who is Jesus Christ, is the active agent in the creation and ordering of the world.  As St. John will say in the prologue to his Gospel:

 In the beginning (sound familiar?) was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  Jn 1:1-4

Christ Himself was present at Creation, as He had always been present with the Father; all was made through Him and for Him, as the Nicene Creed says:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father.  God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten not made, one in being with the Father.  Through Him all things were made. 

St. Paul makes the same point:

[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God...for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth...all things were created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  Col. 1:15-17

The work of creation belongs to the Blessed Trinity, the three Divine Persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

A Good Creation

Enuma Elish tabl
The cultures surrounding the Hebrew people had their own creation myths. In the Babylonian epic Enuma Elish, the creation of the world is described as being the result of a struggle between opposing gods.  In this account, a dragon is sundered in two by Marduk, god of light, and its dead body forms the heavens and the earth:

Then the lord paused to view her dead body,
That he might divide the form and do artful works.
He split her like a shellfish into two parts:
Half of her he set up as a covering for heaven,
Pulled down the bar and posted guards.
He bade them to allow not her waters to escape.--Enuma Elish

From the blood of this dragon, man is fashioned.  Pope Benedict (while he was Cardinal Ratzinger) described the worldview these myths produced:

It is a foreboding picture of the world and of humankind that we encounter here:  The world is a dragon's body, and human beings have dragon's blood in them.  At the very origin of the world lurks something sinister, and in the deepest part of humankind there lies something rebellious, demonic, and evil...Such views were not simply fairy tales.  They expressed the discomfiting realities that human beings experienced in the world and among themselves. --In the Beginning, Pope Benedict XVI

The very heart of creation for these pagans is death and violence.  The world is not good, but bad, vicious, and evil.

By contrast, the Biblical writer begins with a world "without form and void"; it is dark, but not demonic.  It is not yet full of light, but it is material created by God who is Light.  God, by the power of His Word, creates a world that is both ordered and good.

And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.--Gen. 1:3-4

For the Hebrew, and later for the Christian, the world was created by a good, loving God and was itself good.  Physical creation is not, as some philosophies hold, inherently evil or corrupt, nor is it a random, orderless collection of events.

...we are told [in the first verses of Genesis] that God alone, who is the eternal Reason that is eternal love, created the world, and that it rests in his hands.  Only with this in mind can we appreciate the dramatic confrontation implicit in this biblical text, in which all these confused [Babylonian] myths were rejected and the world was given its origin in God's Reason and in his Word.--In the Beginning, Pope Benedict XVI  

Divine Providence

"Divine Providence" is the term we use to denote God's constant care and guidance of His creation.  Not only did God create this world in the beginning, but Scripture describes His almighty power  upholding and keeping alive and in existence all of creation at every moment of history. He sustains it all, and is continually guiding it forward toward the ultimate perfection for which He created it in the first place.   God created you in your mother's womb, He never fails to sustain you in existence at each and every moment, and He will do this for all eternity. 

  With creation, God does not abandon his creatures to themselves.  He not only gives them being and existence, but also, and at every moment, upholds and sustains them in being, enables them to act and brings them to their final end.  Recognizing this utter dependence with respect to the Creator is a source of wisdom and freedom, of joy and confidence.--CCC 301

Take a moment this week to meditate on the great goodness, power, and love of God, Who at each and every moment of your life is blessing you with the beauty of His creation, sustaining you and guiding you, and loving you with an infinite love.

Main Idea:  Creation is the good and glorious work of the Blessed Trinity, three Persons in One God, Who are sustaining and guiding it to its final destiny.    

Your Assignment 
1. Genesis, chapter 2.
2. Read the CCC, paragraphs 279-281, 287-289
3. Look up and define "providence".  

Next lesson:  Myth or Science?

I wanted to post a Youtube video of "Morning Has Broken" here, but I can't seem to get it to play without a bunch of ads!  Yikes!  Any tips on how to get the ads off of the video??? 

Couldn't figure out how to delete the ads, so please just turn them off and enjoy the music.  I do not endorse any of the products! 


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