It is hard to gaze on the majesty of a snow-capped mountain, on the beauty of a sunset, or the subtle glory of a hummingbird and not be captivated with a sense of wonder and awe at the grandeur of the natural world.
Catholic Earth Day Reflections
Respect, and yes, even sincere affection for our planet is something that all of humanity shares in common. Creatio is founded on the idea that we all share a profound unity with the natural world that does beyond the fact that we evolved from a common ancestor or are composed of the same 118 elements, although that is pretty cool in itself. Our ties with the physical world are actually metaphysical ones, that run right down into the reality that we share a common meaning and purpose. Below I have included an excerpt of a longer reflection that composes part of a Creatio document entitled A Path to Beauty, soon to be found in bookstores everywhere…(1)
The Natural World
The teachings and Tradition of the Catholic Church affirm that the natural world and the human person are effective and authentic “ways” for men and women to come to the knowledge of God. Observation of the cosmos, its “movement, becoming, contingency, and the [its] order and beauty,” are “proof” of God’s existence, “not in the sense of proofs in the natural sciences, but rather in the sense of “converging and convincing arguments.” It is hard to gaze on the majesty of a snow-capped mountain, on the beauty of a sunset, or the subtle glory of a hummingbird and not be captivated with a sense of wonder and awe at the grandeur of the natural world.
Even while the natural world clearly unveils the quiet splendor of something greater than itself, it also hides mysteries and questions: “Why is all this here? Why is there something rather than nothing? What brought this to be? Why is nature so captivating, so beautiful?” In front of the magnificence of the natural world, the human person cannot remain apathetic, but is instead invited to face the impending reality, the answer to those questions. The reality presents two options to each person: either all of this is a product of complete chance and randomness; or something and/or someone is behind the design of the natural world. The answers to this dilemma, while pressing and necessary, are not immediately apparent to each person and must be illuminated with the light of Revelation.
Revelation and Creation
It is in the Sacred Scriptures that the Catholic Church begins to see the greater intentionality that lies behind the veil of the natural world. The Book of Genesis begins with an account of the creation of the universe. Without needing to make any scientific or empirical claims about the accounts in Genesis chapters one and two, it is clear that the narrative unfolds the reality of meaning and purpose inherent in the created world.
Apparent from the first words of the Genesis account is not only the reality of creation, its inherent goodness (kalos), but also the beauty, order, and hierarchy that culminates in the creation of the human person. In fact, the Greek word kalos, which can be found in the Septuagint translation of the book of Genesis, implies both a visible and invisible dimension to this goodness, and in fact unites the concepts of “goodness” and “beauty” into one. These internal and external dimensions of beauty-goodness that kalos expresses point toward the meaning of creation, to worship God on the seventh day, the shâbath or “Sabbath” day, the day of “rest and celebration.” Each of the Days of Creation exhibit the ways in which all of creation is meant to participate in the Sabbath rest of the Father.
The narrative of Genesis begins already with the Trinitarian vestiges present at the moment of the creation of the world. “In the beginning when God created[a] the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God[b] swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.” God proclaims “Fiat Lux,” “Let there be light,” and separates the light from the darkness. The Hebrew word recorded here is chôshek, which not only means “darkness” but also “misery, destruction, death, ignorance, sorrow, and wickedness”. The Septuagint also uses the greek word skotos, which has the connotation of “obscurity and darkness”. Here, from the first moment of creation where the mystery of God is pierced, God reveals that Creation is meant to be a work of His light in contrast to the darkness. While light brings life, darkness brings confusion, death, obscurity. The light expresses the kalos of God’s inner life, and He separates the Light from the darkness to distinguish more clearly the meaning of all of Creation.
Happy Earth Day!