Sunday, November 25, 2012

Creation renewed

According to the Old Testament, when we pushed God out of our lives in order to run things our own way, we ended up undermining all our relationships. But that’s not all. There were serious cosmic consequences. The created universe itself was wounded and became disordered.

If we keep reading through the Old Testament, however, we discover that the healing of these wounds, and the reconciliation of all creatures with one another, are aspects of the salvation and ultimate restoration promised by God. In the Book of Isaiah we read:

“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” 
- Isaiah 11:6-9 

This vision continues in the New Testament. In fact, St Paul says that creation’s “bondage to decay” will be overcome: 

“. . . the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves . . .”
- Romans 8:19-22

In his letter to the Christians at Colossae, St Paul says that the unity of all things - including earthly things - is being restored through the dying and rising of Jesus:

“[Jesus] is the head of the body, the Church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” 
- Colossians 1:19-20

Seen from one angle, then, our salvation is part of a much bigger picture: the salvation, renewal and transformation of everything that has been impacted and disordered by sin, including the world of matter.


“When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman . . .” (Galatians 2:4) God the Son - Jesus - became one of us in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, not in some vague mystical way, but by joining himself to the world of matter, the atoms and molecules of the created order, the physical universe. He came to us in a visible and tangible way. “True God” really did become “true Man” for our salvation.

This tangibility of God in Jesus is beautifully expressed by the Apostle John:

“Something which has existed from the beginning
which we have heard;
which we have seen with our own eyes;
which we have watched
and touched with our own hands;
the Word of life - this is our theme.
That life was made visible:
we saw it and are giving our testimony -
declaring to you the eternal life
which was present to the Father
and now has been revealed to us”.
- 1 John 1:1-2 (Jerusalem Bible translation)

That’s why we speak of Jesus as “God in the Flesh.” The word “incarnation” means just that . . . his “enfleshing”, when he came among us in his humanity as the actual revelation of God. In discussing this mystery the 20th century Anglican theologian, Eric Mascall, quotes these lines of the 19th century poet, H. R. Bramley, from what is now a well-known Christmas carol, referring to them as “the most profound theological statement ever made in the English language”:

“The Word in the bliss of the Godhead remains,
yet in flesh comes to suffer the keenest of pains;
he is that he was and for ever shall be,
but becomes that he was not, or you and for me”. 
- Eric Mascall (1905-1993), in Jesus - Who he is and How we Know Him

In fact, those words are a startling meditation on the key Gospel text:

“The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us.”
            - John 1:14

By becoming Man, Jesus joined himself to the created universe, ending the separation between the divine and the human, the visible and the invisible, spirit and matter, heaven and earth. Creation is “good” - not now just because of its origin in God, and not now just because it will be transfigured and glorified on the Last Day. For Christians, creation is “good” chiefly because of the Incarnation in which it becomes the means by which God shares with us his life and love.

It must surely have pleased the Lord . . . for divinity and humanity and thus all creation to be united in the only begotten and consubstantial Son, so that God might be all in all.”
- St John of Damascus (676-749), in On the Transfiguration 

“We might even say that the universe was created so that God might become incarnate, revealing creation as a descent from the Father of lights which is itself a participation in the eternal begetting of the Son.”
- Tracey Rowland, in No Bloodless Myth 

“In Jesus Christ, God has engraved his name upon matter; he has inscribed it so deeply that it cannot be erased, for matter took him into its innermost self.”
- Hans Urs Von Balthasar (1905-1988), In the Fullness of Faith, p. 122


Post a Comment