For God so loved the world that He created man to share His Love because God IS Love. And Love desires to give of itself, burns with the longing to Love another. So God made the universe to be a beautiful temple and made a sanctuary of a garden and created man to live in the garden to keep it and to have friendship with Him in it. And God Who is Love knew that man needed love, and that loving another of his own kind would give him joy and help him learn and grow to love the One Who is Love. So God made woman, and the man and the woman did love each other, and God saw that it was good.
But an ancient evil crept into the garden. He did not want love, could not understand love, had turned away from love long before God created man. And seeing that God loved them, he held it against the man and the woman. And so he waited and plotted to catch the woman when she would be most unaware, because he was subtle and she was innocent and knew not of evil. But she would soon learn.
Now God had set a tree in the garden and He told the man and the woman to eat of the other trees but not this one. And they obeyed the One Who is Love. And God saw that it was good.
But the ancient evil one had long ago lost the ability to see what was good, and craved only darkness that would hide him, because what he wanted more than anything was to deceive and harm, and he especially wanted to harm the man and the woman whom God loved. The evil one wanted to be worshiped by creatures but more than he wanted to be worshiped by them, he wanted to destroy them. Because God loved them, the evil one loathed them.
And so these desires brought him nothing but pain, but he did not seek to free himself of it, and it only confirmed him in his hatred for all things good, and beautiful and true. And the darkness within him grew until he could no longer see the light in the world, for all had become for him darkness and shadow, and the darkness seethed within him and shadow settled around him.
And all things good and all things beautiful,
and Man, above all these things, he hated.
Then slithered he into the tree,
And in the darkness waited.
Stories are words and more than words
Story does seem to get our attention, doesn’t it? There is nothing like gathering around a table or a fire and sharing stories about what’s happening in our lives, or, on a larger scale, sharing the stories that are handed down from one generation to another, the stories that carry meaning that can never be completely exhausted, that always reveal more, both to the one who tells them and to the one who hears.
The story of salvation is like that. It’s a story that has been told and handed on in the family for so long that no one is really sure exactly when it was first told. There is always something new in it, something expected and something unexpected. It’s rich and many-layered, ever new even though it’s been around for centuries, for millennia. Has been told and heard by countless families within the larger family, year after year after year.
But sometimes we get so used to hearing it, our ears become dull, and we need to hear it in a different way in order to hear it at all. We need to listen to the words with new ears. Read the words with new eyes. What helped me read Genesis with new eyes was reading J. R. R. Tolkien’s strange but beautiful Silmarillion. The creation story in those pages stays with me to this day, even though I read it the first time many years ago, long before I was ready for it. Since then I’ve read it at least twice and I get more out of it each time. But I know I’ve barely made a dent in it. I remember recognizing the creation account of Genesis in it and being struck by the beauty of both. (Thinking back on the Silmarillion probably inspired the creation account I wrote in the first part of this post. It came to me last night while I was taking a break from thinking about what to write in this post.)
At some point in a narrative, especially a sacred narrative, prose may erupt into verse, for some ideas can best be expressed in poem or song. The rhythm, the choice of word and image, make the listener’s ears perk up. Oh,” the ears say to the brain, “here’s something, things have shifted gears. Listen up!” The Bible uses all of these ways to tell its story. Of course, the Bible is more than story, it also contains songs and texts for worship, for liturgy. The whole thing is for liturgy. But it is not only for liturgy. It is primarily for liturgy because the liturgy, the Mass, is where we gather to hear and share our story, where we receive our family story and then hand it on, down through the ages, from generation to generation, world without end. Amen.
Now let’s look at Genesis and the creation story in Genesis. The Lord created the world but He did so in a certain way. Genesis is not interested so much in how God created but, rather, why and what God created. He creates the heavens and the earth, a spiritual place for created spirits, the angels, and the earth, a material place for material beings. He makes the waters and the sky and fills them with fish and birds, He makes the land and covers with land with living things, plants, animals. There’s an order to the way He proceeds. Scott Hahn’s A Father Who Keeps His Promises has a useful diagram on page 44 that makes this easier to see.
God created the structure of creation on the first three days, then filled that structure with living beings on the second three days. “First the realms, then the rulers.” Hahn points out that “there parallels reveal the literary framework embedded in the Creation narrative, which Moses employed to describe God’s transformation of earth into a suitable habitation for humanity…it helps us to understand the meaning and significance of creation. In short, it shows us what and why God created.” (Ibid., 45.)
And now comes the why. God created all of this to provide a home for the ones He would create in His image and likeness. No other creatures, not even the angels, are created in His image and likeness, but every human is. No matter what that person does or how imperfect that person may be, or how greatly he has sinned, no human is beyond redemption because no human is ever beyond God’s reach. His arms are pretty long, after all.
So we’re created in His image and likeness. Our work has special value because we work in imitation of our Father (more on this later). And we are like God because we are persons and we have reasoning intellects, free will, and we can love. We are composite beings with rational souls and physical bodies. See the series on the soul on this site for much more about that. The first five posts are a good place to start (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5), and so are the posts containing videos from the Thomistic Institute (Part 9 and Part 10). The most important way in which we are like God is in our ability to love and also to reproduce and form a family, a loving marital covenantal relationship. (See p. 46.) Oh, look, there’s that covenant thing again. It’s going to appear a lot in our exploration of the story of salvation.
This has been part 3 in the ongoing series, the Story of Salvation. Thank you for visiting and reading. I hope you’ll join me again. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, please stay safe and well, virtuous and holy. May the Lord bless and keep you and yours, and may His peace be always with you. +JMJ+
Notes and Links
- A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love In Scripture, by Scott Hahn. Paperback, Kindle. (Affiliate links, see Full Disclosure below.) Logos or Verbum format. (Requires Logos or Verbum software.)
- Our Father’s Plan, series by Jeff Cavins and Scott Hahn. Video series, from EWTN Religious Catalogue.
- The Bible Timeline Study, part of the Great Adventure series by Jeff Cavins. See this page with introduction and options.
- The Silmarillion, by J. R. R. Tolkien. Paperback, Kindle. (Affiliate links, see Full Disclosure below. There are probably a few different versions of this one. If you use my link, I might get a small commission for either one you end up getting.)
Images: In the banner, from Pixabay. The structure of Creation, from A Father Who Keeps His Promises, page 44. See notes and links for more. The Garden of Eden, by Izaak van Oosten, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
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