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Creation Reveals God's Glory

1986, March 12

General Audience

In previous catecheses we have dwelt on the truth of faith about creation from nothing (ex nihilo). This truth introduces us into the depths of the mystery of God, Creator "of heaven and earth." Creation is attributed principally to the Father, according to the expression of the Apostles' Creed: "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator...." It is the work of the three Persons of the Trinity, according to the teaching which was already present in a certain way in the Old Testament, and fully revealed in the New, particularly in the texts of Paul and John.

In the light of these apostolic texts we can affirm that the creation of the world finds its model in the eternal generation of the Word, of the Son, who is of the same substance of the Father. Creation finds its source in the Love which is the Holy Spirit. This Love-Person, consubstantial with the Father and the Son, together with the Father and the Son, is the source of the creation of the world from nothing, that is, of the gift of existence to every being. The whole multiplicity of beings participate in this gratuitous gift-the "visible and the invisible," so varied as to appear almost unlimited, and all that the language of cosmology indicates as the "macrocosm" and "microcosm."

The truth of faith about the creation of the world leads us to penetrate the depths of the trinitarian mystery. It reveals to us what the Bible calls the "Glory of God" (Kabod Yahweh, doxa tou Theou). The Glory of God is first of all in himself. It is the "interior" glory, which fills the unlimited depth and infinite perfection of the one divinity in the Trinity of Persons. Inasmuch as it is the absolute fullness of being and holiness, this infinite perfection is also the fullness of truth and of love in the mutual contemplation and giving (and hence in the communion) of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

God's interior glory springs from the mystery of the divinity. Through the work of creation, it is in a certain sense transferred "outside"-in the creatures of the visible and invisible world, in proportion to their degree of perfection.

A new dimension of God's glory begins with the creation of the visible and invisible world. This glory is called "exterior" to distinguish it from the previous one. Sacred Scripture speaks of it in many passages and in different ways. Some examples will suffice.

Psalm 19 proclaims: "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.... There is no speech, nor are there words whose sound is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world" (Ps 19:1, 2, 4). The Book of Sirach states: "The sun looks down on everything with its light, and the work of the Lord is full of his glory" (42:16). The Book of Baruch has a very singular and evocative expression: "The stars shone in their watches and were glad; he called them, and they said, 'Here we are!' They shone with gladness for him who made them" (3:34).

Elsewhere the biblical text sounds like an appeal addressed to creatures to proclaim the glory of God the Creator. For example, the Book of Daniel states: "O all you works of the Lord, bless the Lord, to him be highest glory and praise forever" (3:57). Or Psalm 66: "Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name: give to him glorious praise! Say to God, 'How glorious are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you. All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name'" (1-4).

Sacred Scripture is full of similar expressions: "O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures" (Ps 104:24). The whole created universe is a multiple, powerful and incessant appeal to proclaim the glory of the Creator. "All the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord" (Num 14:21); for "both riches and honor come from you" (1 Chr 29:12).

This hymn of glory, inscribed in creation, awaits a being capable of giving it adequate conceptual and verbal expression, a being who will praise the holy name of God and narrate the greatness of his works (cf. Sir 17:8). This being in the visible world is man. The appeal which goes up from the universe is addressed to him as the spokesman of creatures and their interpreter before God.

Let us return again for a moment to the words in which the First Vatican Council expressed the truth about creation and about the Creator of the world. "This one true God, in his goodness and 'omnipotent power,' not to increase his own happiness, nor to acquire, but to manifest his perfection through the gifts he distributes to creatures, by a supremely free decision, 'simultaneously from the beginning of time drew forth from nothingness both the one creature and the other, the spiritual and the corporeal...'" (DS 3002).

This text makes explicit with a language all its own the same truth about creation and about its finality, which we find in the biblical texts. The Creator does not seek any "completion" of himself in the work of creation. Such reasoning would be a direct antithesis of what God is in himself. He is the Being totally and infinitely perfect. Consequently he has no need of the world. Creatures, both visible and invisible, cannot "add" anything to the divinity of the Triune God.

But, God creates! God calls creatures into existence by a fully free and sovereign decision. In a real, though limited and partial way, they participate in the perfection of God's absolute fullness. They differ from one another according to the degree of perfection they have received, beginning with inanimate beings, then up to animate beings, and finally to human beings; or rather, higher still, to the creatures of a purely spiritual nature. The ensemble of creatures constitutes the universe. In its totality as well as its parts, the visible and invisible cosmos reflects eternal Wisdom and expresses the inexhaustible love of the Creator.

The revelation of the wisdom and love of God is the first and principal end of creation. The mystery of God's glory is realized in creation, according to the words of Scripture. "O all you works of the Lord, bless the Lord" (Dan 3:57). All creatures acquire their transcendental meaning in the mystery of that glory. "They reach out beyond" themselves to be open to him in whom they have their beginning...and their end.

Let us admire with faith the work of the Creator and praise his greatness:

"O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. May the glory of the Lord endure forever, may the Lord rejoice in his works. I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing to my God all my life" (Ps 104:24, 31, 33).