When we think of Creation, I imagine most people don’t get much further than the first Genesis story: God created the cosmos out of a formless waste, and after six days, God rested. From this story alone one might come to the conclusion that Creation was a static event in history, something that happened at one particular moment and is now finished.
And yet, when we look around our world, we do not see a static cosmos that was created once and for all many years ago: we see an ever-growing, ever-changing existence in which species of life are coming into and out of existence, stars are being created and destroyed, and the whole of the universe continues to expand. How do we explain this change?
The answer, I believe, is in part tied to our conception of the Trinity. As I wrote a few months back, there could not have been one “moment” in time when Jesus was “begotten” of the Father because Jesus is coeternal with the Father; for there to be an exact moment of “begotten-ness” there would have to be a time when Jesus did not exist just prior to that, making him not coeternal. How, then, was Jesus begotten and coeternal? “The only possible answer to this question is that it has always been happening… There can never be a moment in which God the Father is not creating through the Son and in the Holy Spirit, past, present, or future” (A Retreat With Saint Bonaventure).
Thus, when we look at Creation, I think that it is only logical that God, being a Creator by his very nature, is in and through every moment of Creation as it continues to happen. Creation was not a static moment in time, but rather continues to happen as God the Father sends forth his Son in the Holy Spirit.
But as Creation continues to unfold, God is not the only one in control of Creation. As Genesis 1:26 says:
“Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth.”
This is profound to say the least. Not only are we as humans created in the image of God (wow) and entrusted with the care for God’s creation (wow), as rationale beings capable of wielding enormous control over the world in which we live, what God is saying in this passage is that we are actually co-creators with Him through Christ (WOW). It is completely within our power to learn from nature or to manipulate it for our own gain; to bring life or to destroy it; to care for what God is continuing to build or to pollute it and break it down. It is clear, in the unprecedented rise in global temperature, the increasing acidification of the ocean and decrease in life therein, the ever-growing landfills and toxic areas of our planet, and the displacement of so many due to ecological destruction, that humans have the ability to truly shape the world around us and that we have not always lived up to our role as just caretakers.
No more, said the parishioners of St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, MD. No more would they be ignorant to the ways in which their church was adding to polluted waters and higher temperatures. No more would they stand idly by refusing to see that energy and pollution were as much “life issues” as anything else. And despite being a place of worship, St. Camillus was as guilty as anyone. You see, as we continue to cut down natural areas and place parking lots in their place, there are fewer opportunities for the water to be absorbed into the ground. When it rains, water collects very quickly and carries off both nutrients from the soil and harmful chemicals from the hard surfaces, flooding drains and streets rather than nourishing the plants and soil, and sending it all to freshwater sources. At St. Camillus, the tremendously-sized roof only exacerbates the problem, pouring a waterfall of rainwater down the hill directly into an unfiltered drain.
As a church, they decided that they could make a difference. On Saturday morning, forty volunteers strong showed up to the church for phase one of the project: removing the top layer of sod, displacing five inches of soil, turning over an additional five inches of soil, and mixing in three inches of fresh topsoil. For six hours, we cut, shoveled, picked, and carried literally tons of dirt and rock from one place to another, laying the foundation for drainage gardens (to be installed next week) and natural water filters made of many layers of rock.
The best part? We had fun doing it. Not only were we putting in an honest day’s work for the sake of the earth and our brothers and sisters throughout the world, we were building community. There’s a true sense of camaraderie and brotherhood/sisterhood when you spend most of a day with people on an incredibly tiring and worthwhile project. How can you not feel a sense of accomplishment when you work together to move a ton of dirt and rocks? How can you not feel a sense of accomplishment when you just did something that will actually care for the extraordinary world that God has created rather than destroy it?
And so I ask: As co-creators with God through Christ, a people endowed with a special gift, what will we add to God’s masterpiece? It is my hope that every part of my life, the way I eat, travel, shop, work, consume, and put back, will be a positive addition to the work God has started, and that it will continue as God continues to create the world anew each and every moment. Won’t you too?