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Posts Tagged ‘Creation’

AdventCandlesI want to remind people that we are technically not in the Christmas season just yet, in spite of what retailers and radio stations would have us believe.  Don’t get me wrong — I love this time of year, and rejoice with any Christmas-lover that it is time to sing “Fa-la-la-la-la” again.  But, technicality of technicalities, it is in fact Advent.

Is Advent counter-cultural?  Yes, but for reasons that have nothing to do with religion.  Advent is a season of waiting, a season of expectation.  We commemorate the expectation of the birth of Christ, and we anticipate His Second Coming at the end of time.

But it doesn’t matter all that much what we are waiting for, because any emphasis on waiting itself implicitly flies in the face of our instant-gratification, “now-now-now” society.

Imagine a world in which everything we want is immediate, though.  This would mean no more surprises, no more joy of anticipation, no more sense of adventure, no more wonder…

Needless to say, I don’t mind being a “sign of contradiction” here…though, of course, I’m not sure how well I succeed in it.  I am as prone to impatience as anyone else.   Nevertheless, as a Catholic, I am very grateful for this special annual opportunity to observe the expectation of the one thing most worth waiting for.

That said, I thought it might help to enhance our appreciation of Advent — or, if you do not observe Advent yourself, to better understand what it means to those who do — by offering a short outline of the ways in which we hold that God prepared a waiting world for the coming of Christ throughout the millennia.  I’ll list just two of them here, and we’ll pick up with #3 tomorrow or Wednesday.  Bear with me — you may find that you didn’t expect all of the preparatory milestones I list.

1. Creation

CreationYes, the creation of the universe is itself the first step.  All things were created through and for Christ, the Eternal Word.  Everything that happened before the first human beings appeared — from the Big Bang through the dinosaurs, ice age, etc. — was a preparation for humankind, for the world was made for man; man, in turn, was made for God.

2. God’s Solicitude About Man

 

Adam_&_Eve_02God makes human beings in His own image and establishes them as the monarchs and priests of His creation.  Our first parents disobey God and go astray…but God does not abandon them.

There are two things of note in the Biblical account of the Fall.  First, God clothes Adam and Eve with animal skins (tradition sees in this the first animal sacrifice, as an animal obviously had to be killed in order for the skins to be obtained).  Mankind’s survival throughout the ages owes itself to the mercy and providence of God, which I think is aptly expressed in this primordial gesture.

Secondly, we have the proto-evangelion, the first promise of redemption:

[Addressing the serpent] I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.

Genesis 3:15

Here we have the prophecy of a mother giving birth to a son who will save the human race, defeating the serpent (“He will strike at your head…”), though it will cost him something to do so (“…while you strike at his heel”).  This promise lies near the root of humankind’s deepest (if forgotten) memory.

And I think that’s a good place to stop for now.

Images from Wikipedia

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Fr. Barron at his best 🙂

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ValleyWhen God had filled the earth with life
And blessed it, to increase,
Then cattle dwelt with creeping things,
And lion with lamb, at peace.
He gave them vast, untrodden lands,
With plants to be their food;
Then God saw all that he had made
And found it very good.
Praise God the Father of all life,
His Son and Spirit blest,
By whom creation lives and moves,
In whom it comes to rest.
 
– From the Stanbrook Abbey Hymnal (used in the Liturgy of the Hours, Evening Prayer)
 
Image from Wikipedia; text from http://www.universalis.com

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Annunciation

For part 1, click here: http://www.intothedance.wordpress.com/2013/05/25/the-praises-of-mary-the-new-eve-part-1/

St. Irenaeus of Lyons, a second-century Bishop, spoke of the Virgin Mary as having untied the “knot of Eve’s disobedience” with her own supreme act of obedience to the Divine Will.

Whereas Eve (like Adam) wanted to go her own way rather than trust in her Maker, Mary responded to the angel Gabriel’s annunciation of her virginal conception of Jesus with total humility:

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

St_Justin_Martyr

St. Justin Martyr, a second-century Apostolic Father, contrasted the Virgin Mary with the virgin Eve in his “Dialogue with Trypho,” stating that just as Eve in her disobedience had “conceived the word of the serpent,” bringing sin and death into the world, St. Mary in her obedience conceived the Word of God, bringing redemption and life.

Christ became man by the Virgin in order that the disobedience that proceeded from the serpent might receive its destruction in the same manner in which it derived its origin. (Italics mine)*

Finally, we must take a brief look at the correspondence between Genesis chapters 1-2 and John chapters 1-2:

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.  Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  God saw how good the light was. God then separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1: 1-4)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1: 1-5)

All right, so far the connection is pretty clear.  St. John is evoking the Genesis account of creation, and proceeds to imitate the structure of Genesis chapter 1 in the progression of days (“and the next day,” “and the next day,” etc).  In doing so, he shows us that Jesus Christ, God’s own Creative Word, came to restore the first creation, which Adam’s sin plunged into ruin.

But what about the second chapter of these two Books?  We’ll get to that in part 3.  But until then, read Genesis 2 and John 2 for yourself, and see if you can spot a connection.

Photos from Wikipedia

* As quoted by Dr. Scott Hahn here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgeU6d8Bxlo (9:00-9:11)

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Jon_Drew

What could possibly bring a Greenpeace activist (Drew Barrymore), the executive of an oil company (Ted Danson), American politicians of the Reagan era, Soviets, the National Guard, media from around the world, de-icing machine business owners from Minnesota, and a tribe of traditional Inupiat whale hunters in the frozen wilds of Alaska together, in addition to reuniting a broken-up couple (Barrymore and John Krasinski)?

Eskimos

If you saw “Big Miracle” or read my previous post about the film, you know that what united them in the 1980s was a mission to free a family of gray whales trapped in the Alaskan ice.

But what was it about this event that inspired such a variety of groups, some of whom were notoriously unfriendly toward one another, to collaborate?  And were they all drawn to this collaboration by the same thing?  No doubt, ambition, publicity, and other personal interests could have been behind some people’s involvement — at least initially.

Big Miracle 2

But whether they knew it or not, what brought them together in the end was the fulfillment of their vocation, our vocation, as human beings — what it means to have “dominion” over the earth and all its creatures.

Mankind is the priest of God’s creation, as Sacred Scripture attests:

The LORD God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it (Genesis 2:15)

“Cultivation” and “care” are priestly functions. We are God’s “caretakers,” called to exercise good stewardship over the earth and all its creatures.

Man’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator … requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation (CCC 2415).

Animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness (CCC 2416).

When the Old Testament was written, the creation account of Genesis and the gift of the Land to Israel were both understood liturgically.  It was not just that mankind and Israel were given “real estate” purely for their own use and enjoyment; rather, the point was that with the land, they had something to offer God in praise and Thanksgiving — not because He needed it, but because He rested on the seventh day.

Sounds funny, doesn’t it?  Let me explain: When Scripture talks about God “resting” on the seventh day, this is an expression of worship as the ultimate purpose of creation.  As creatures made in God’s image and likeness, human beings are called to order all things to the glory of God, Who is love itself (1 John 4:8).

God, Who is perfectly happy from all eternity and needs nothing outside of Himself, created the world from nothing in a sheer act of generosity.  His goodness can be seen in the mere existence of creation and in His providential care for all that exists.

The glory of God consists in the realization of this manifestation and communication of his goodness, for which the world was created (CCC 294).

So in exercising benevolence toward our fellow creatures, we can always see something of what we were made for.  And how could this not melt our hearts a little and bring us closer together, for however brief a time?

Images obtained through a Google image search.

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