Aug 31, 2011
The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World urges men and women build a better world, upholding the inviolable God-given right to life, promoting the dignity of every person, and advancing the common good (#33-46). This mandate however is initiated in the Garden of Eden (Gen 1:26-27). In the beginning and out of love, God brought time out of eternity and the spark of life that burst forth into the void. Here, “the reality of creation as a whole has become a monstrance of God's real presence” (Hans Urs von Balthasar: “The Glory of the Lord” I:420). Beauty “sheds its light outward from it; here is “the masterpiece of divine fantasy, which puts all human fantasy to naught” (Ibid., I:172). Creation sings with unique eloquence: He created the universe, who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being” (Heb 1:3). God contemplates, blesses, and pronounces it as “very good” (Gen. 1:31).
The Creation Narrative
God, who is beyond masculine and feminine notions, reveals the Divine Self in the Hebrew scriptures in masculine ways; God is Adonai (Lord), Melech (King), Avinu (Our Father). This is a figurative and not a literal way of speaking about the ineffable source and creator of the universe. In the creation narrative handed down in the Judeo-Christian tradition, Jews and Christians inherit this limited vocabulary which helps us to speak of God who is beyond all human language. In the Genesis creation story, God creates out of nothing, ex nihilo, outside of the Divine Self. In the creation myths of feminine deities, however, the womb of the mother-goddess sets the linguistic pattern conveying a sense that she has given birth to an already divinized world. In the creation myth, feminine deities emerge from the womb. Here we have a pantheistic cosmology. This is foreign to the Judeo-Christian tradition in which creation, though an image of God, is not God. It participates in the attributes of God. The affirmation that creation is God, and that God is creation is known as pantheism. Still, God’s glory, power, providence, majesty, and mercy are alive and active in our world, and our world lives in God, for “in him, we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28). The Creator-Spirit is not merely present in all things but providentially at work in them always and everywhere.
The Primeval Atom: the “Big Bang”
Sir Fred Hoyle coined the term, “the big bang,” a jocular and perhaps derisive way of speaking about “the primeval atom,” studied by Fr. George LeMaître (d 1966), the French physicist, astronomer, and Roman Catholic priest. He proposed that the expanding universe originated with a primeval atom or, as he called it, “the exploding egg.” Scientists have determined that, from the very outset, the cosmos was tailor-made for men and women. This means that “if the precise details of [its] expansion and contraction had been even minutely different from its present calculation, there would be no galaxies, no stars, no life. Men and women would not exist.” (John Haught, “God in Modern Science,” New Catholic Encyclopedia (1989) 18: 179.
Adam and Eve were the first king and queen of creation, a phrase used in the Byzantine Rite ceremony and sacrament of marriage. They were called to live in the garden of plenty as active and self-conscious beings to preserve, conserve, and oversee the garden and not merely consume its fruits. As descendants of Adam and Eve, we are created in God’s image, “a little lower than gods, wonderfully, beautifully made;” we are “crowned with glory and honor,” capable of marveling at the glory of the Lord (Ps 8:5; Ps 139:14). Each of us is an energy, a unique dynamism, endowed with faculties of memory, understanding, free will, wonder, and creativity, capable of discerning God’s plan, and of choosing between good and evil. We live in two worlds, the sensory and the spiritual, but we are called to participate in the divine life and to collaborate with God in fructifying the earth.