Friday, August 30, 2013

Cooperating in the Work of Creation

A priest writing in the With Bible magazine reflects on a recent return trip to the Lerins Islands, off the French coast close to Cannes. Returning after 20 years, he still marvels at the beauty.

On the island of Saint Honorat, there is a magnificent monastery inhabited by 22 monks, who continue the monastic life that began in the early 400s. He recalls the beauty of the surrounding fields, and the dedicated life of work and prayer of the monks, as they tend the fields and vineyard.

He goes back to our Christan understanding of creation, which places humanity at the summit of creation and as its goal. Deep ecology, which sees, he says, all of creation as equal worth,would have difficulty with this Christian understanding of creation. The Jewish interpreters of the Genesis account make it clear that God made humanity in a different way--in the image of God, and the priest wants to help us understand what is meant by using the interpretations of the Jewish teachers.

"Let us make man in the our image, after our likeness" (Gen. 1:26). We have the use of the 'us' which for the Jew of that time, he explains, did not refer to the editorial 'we' of our times. Who was God referring to when using the word 'us'? the priest asks. We can't use the Trinity to explain it, of course. So how can it be explained? 

There are many different interpretations, he says, and he presents two of them. One possibility: God had in mind the heavenly court of four of his angels: Truth, Justice, Love, and Peace.  Peace and Justice, so it is explained, were against God creating humanity, for they feared that destruction and lies would enter creation. Truth and Love were for the creation of humanity. God decided to create and use humanity to  spread these four values throughout creation.

Another interpretation was that God discussed the creation with humanity. Humanity was a partner with God, and God wanted to embody all of creation with these four values of Peace, Justice, Love and Truth. God made humanity after his image, the Jewish teachers taught, so he could work in partnership with his creation.

French bishops said last year very much the same thing; that God wanted humanity to work with him in his continuing creation. In Gen.2:15, we are told that humanity had the task to care and cultivate God's gift of creation by being made the stewards of the earth. To say that humanity is a co-worker with God might at first be thought to be an exaggeration, he says, but when Eve gave birth to Cain, the first born, it was with the help of God (4:1), who accompanies humanity throughout the creative process.  We were given intellect and will precisely so we could participate in this task. Though this task has obviously not always been carried out wisely, there is no reason to believe, he says, that this will always be the case in the future.

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