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Creation Is the Work of the Trinity

General Audience — March 5, 1986

—    Active role of Son and Spirit

The reflection on the truth of creation, whereby God calls the world into existence from nothingness, urges the eye of our faith to contemplate God the Creator, who reveals in creation his omnipotence, wisdom and love. The Creator's omnipotence is shown both in calling creatures into existence from nothingness and also in maintaining them in existence. "How would anything have endured if you had not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved?" asked the author of the Book of Wisdom (11:25).

Omnipotence reveals also the love of God who, in creating, gives existence to beings different from himself, and at the same time different among themselves. The reality of his gift permeates the whole being and existence of creation. To create means to give, and especially to give existence. And he who gives, loves. The author of the Book of Wisdom stated this when he exclaimed: "You love all things that exist, and loathe none of the things which you have made, for you would not have made anything if you had hated it" (11:24); and he added: "You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord who loves the living" (11:26).

God's love is a disinterested love. It aims solely at this: that the good comes into existence, endures and develops according to its own dynamism. God the Creator is he "who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will" (Eph 1:11). The whole work of creation belongs to the plan of salvation, "the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things" (Eph 3:9). Through the act of the creation of the world, and especially of man, the plan of salvation begins to be realized. Creation is the work of a loving Wisdom, as Sacred Scripture mentions on several occasions (cf. e.g., Prov 8:22-36).

It is clear that the truth of faith about creation is radically opposed to the theories of materialistic philosophy. These view the cosmos as the result of an evolution of matter reducible to pure chance and necessity.

1.  Active role of Son and Spirit

St. Augustine wrote: "It is necessary that we, viewing the Creator through the works of his hands, raise up our minds to the contemplation of the Trinity, of which creation bears the mark in a certain and due proportion" [1] . It is a truth of faith that the world has its beginning in the creator, who is the Triune God. Although the work of creation is attributed especially to God the Father—this we profess in the creeds of the faith ("I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth")—it is also a truth of faith that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are the unique and indivisible "principle" of creation.

Sacred Scripture confirms this truth in different ways—first of all as regards the Son, the Word consubstantial with the Father. Some significant references are already present in the Old Testament, such as this eloquent verse of the Psalm: "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made" (Ps 33:6). This statement becomes fully explicit in the New Testament, as in the Prologue of John: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God...all things were made through him, and without him nothing was made...and the world was made through him" (Jn 1:1-2, 10). Paul's letters proclaim that everything was made "in Jesus Christ." St. Paul speaks of "one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist" (1 Cor 8:6). In the Letter to the Colossians we read: "He (Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible...all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Col 1:15-17).

The Apostle emphasizes the active presence of Christ both as the cause of creation ("through him") and as its final cause ("for him"). It is a subject to which we shall have to return. Meanwhile we also note that the Letter to the Hebrews states that God through the Son "also created the world" (1:2), and that the "Son...upholds the universe by his word of power" (1:3).

Especially in the writings of St. Paul and St. John, the New Testament deepens and enriches the creative Word already present in the Old Testament: "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made" (Ps 33:6). It makes clear that that creative Word was not only "with God," but it "was God." Precisely as the Son consubstantial with the Father, the Word created the world in union with the Father—"And the world was made through him" (Jn 1:10).

Not only that, the world was created also in reference to the person (hypostasis) of the Word. "The image of the invisible God" (Col 1:15), the Word, who is the Eternal Son "reflecting the glory of God and bearing the very stamp of his nature" (cf. Heb 1:3), is also he who is the "first-born of all creation" (Col 1:15), in the sense that all things have been created in the Word-Son, to become, in time, the world of creatures called from nothingness into existence "outside of God." In this sense "all things were made through him, and without him nothing was made" (Jn 1:3).

Revelation presents a "logical" (from Logos—Word) structure of the universe and also an "iconic" (from Eikon—image, image of the Father) structure. From the times of the Fathers of the Church, that teaching has been consolidated according to which the created world bears within itself the "vestiges of the Trinity" (vestigia Trinitatis). It is the work of the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit. Creation reveals the Wisdom of God. In creation, the above-mentioned twofold "logical-iconic" structure of creatures is intimately joined to the structure of the gift.

The individual creatures are not only "words" of the Word, whereby the Creator is manifested to our intelligence, but they are also "gifts" of the Gift. They bear within themselves the imprint of the Holy Spirit, the creator Spirit.

The first verses of Genesis already stated: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (the universe)...and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters" (Gen 1:1-2). Evocative even though vague, that reference to the action of the Spirit in that first "beginning" of the universe, appears significant for us who read it in the light of the full New Testament revelation.

Creation is the work of the Triune God. The world "created" in the Word-Son, is "restored" together with the Son to the Father, through that Uncreated Gift, the Holy Spirit, consubstantial with both. In this way the world is created in that Love, which is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son. This universe embraced by eternal Love begins to exist in the instant chosen by the Trinity as the beginning of time.

In this way the creation of the world is the work of Love. A created gift, the universe springs from the Uncreated Gift, from the reciprocal Love of the Father and Son, from the Most Holy Trinity.

[1]   De Trinitate, VI, 10, 12