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Vol. II, Jan. 1996

 

The Heavens and the Earth

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

In the last Letter we promised to focus our attention in this coming year on scriptural lessons about the holy Angels' exemplary life, for as St. Charles Borromeo tells us: "The priest ought to be continent and reflect angelic virtues!" The goal for these biblical reflections about the activities of the Angels is to draw conclusions from their actions to their interests, to their interior attitudes (humanly we may say 'virtues') and resolutions before GOD and creation; this will allow us to know and pursue more facilely the ways to a deeper union in our friendship and familiarity with them.

1. We need to pause already at the very first verse in Sacred Scripture:

In the beginning, GOD created the heavens and the earth.
In principio creavit DEUS caelum et terram" (Gn 1,1).

In passing we may ask, how far these words, "in the beginning" refer to the Son, since John takes this up: "in the beginning" and "through Him all things came into being, and apart from Him nothing came to be." (Jn 1,3) St. Paul even says: "In Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities - all things were created through Him and for Him." (Col 1,16; cf. St. Thomas Aq., ST I, 46, 3) Of course, this implies an implicit revelation of a plurality of Persons in GOD in the very first phrase of Sacred Scripture, something modern theologians hesitate to accept. However, Pope John Paul II offers us the principle that we are to read the Old Testament "in the light of the New Testament" (Letter to the Families, 1994, 6.3). We need not insist on the Trinitarian aspect of this ‘alpha’ text in which the origin and end of creation in God is already given.

Whatever one’s position, one marvellous point remains true: We are all created by the same GOD, we all have the same origin - just as brothers and sisters have the same parents, so do Angels and men have one and the same Creator GOD in common, the same source of Infinite and Divine Goodness, to Whom we owe our existence. HE made us all after His own Image, so that, by creating us, HE had for all of us the same goal in "mind": to be for love and so enjoy life; once for ever called into the Bosom of the Blessed TRINITY as into a perfect, loving home where we shall be eternally united in the Divine Family with GOD our Creator and with one another, angels and men. There, lacking nothing, we shall enjoy in the highest conceivable form all the good we can possibly desire. In the beginning GOD created heaven and earth and determined our eternal destiny: unending happiness, beatitude in Vision and in the union of love with God and between angels and men.

2. However, we first need to verify whether the text really speaks of Angels and men. It does. We remember this opening verse of the Divine Revelation every time we profess the Nicene Creed at mass (cf. CCC 325):

"We believe in One GOD, the FATHER,
the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen."

This is the authentic profession of our faith, not the thoughts and interpretation of some theologian, however wise and holy he may be. This profession of faith is the fruit and synthesis of written (Holy Scripture) and oral Tradition (cf. 2 Thess 2,15), with a text, on which the entire Christianity bases its belief and its existence. Many references could be advanced to confirm, that by the creation of heaven and earth Scripture intends the creation of the spiritual and material world. The "Angels" constitute the spiritual world, while earth refers, first of all, to the pure material world, the "cosmos", and then also to man who, composed of both, was created last, the youngest child as it were to be born into the family of creation.

Pope Paul VI stated very clearly in The CREDO of the People of GOD from 1968:

"We believe in one only GOD, FATHER, SON and HOLY SPIRIT, Creator of things visible such as this world in which our transient life passes, of things invisible such as the pure spirits which are also called angels (DS 3002), and creator in each man of his spiritual and immortal soul."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), the last and most complete summary of our faith, teaches this same doctrine (327). The preceding paragraph (326) comments on "the Scriptural expression heaven and earth" and says it "means all that exists, creation in its entirety"! Consequently, the question is resolved beyond doubt: the creation of heaven refers to the creation of the Angels.

The ‘and’ between heaven and earth, merits special attention here. The Catechism does this expressly with the very significant observation: "heaven and earth ... also indicates the bond, deep within creation, that both unites heaven and earth and distinguishes the one from the other: the earth is the world of men, while heaven or the heavens can designate ... the 'place' of the spiritual creatures, the angels, who surround GOD."

We may understand this bond as "the interdependence of creatures" (CCC 340), which the Catechism affirms again and again (cf. 57, 307, 1046): "GOD willed the diversity of His creatures and their own particular goodness, their interdependence, and their order." (353)

We may see this further as an invitation, indeed, an obligation of reciprocal love between Angels and men, for "there is a solidarity among all creatures arising from the fact that all have the same Creator and are all ordered to His glory" (344).

Finally, we can discern in these bonds a certain reflection of the Triune creative source, of the Three Divine Persons united in one Being through love: The FATHER, silent and revealing Himself only through the SON and the HOLY SPIRIT, is reflected by the steadfast and mute material world; The SON, the WORD of the FATHER, generated, is reflected by man who also is generated and communicates through words; The Holy SPIRIT, giving testimony to the FATHER and to the SON, is reflected by the pure spirits who are sent out in Guardianship over all other creatures.

The conclusion is surely justified that "already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in GOD" (336).

3. An other question arises here, the question about the relationship between spirit and matter. We live this mysterious reality daily, since our spiritual soul animates our material body; the soul does not only have some influence over the body, but is essentially united to it as its inmost form. Even if the soul "separates from the body at death", "it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection" (366) for ever.

Near as this reality is to us, it remains a mystery, a mystery which we meet in a still more powerful way in Our Lord JESUS CHRIST: HE unites in His Divine Person not only a human body and human soul, but His infinite uncreated Divine nature is conjoined to this finite and created human nature, constituted in part by a truly material body.

And is not the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist, when the SON of GOD takes bread and wine and transforms them truly in His own BODY and BLOOD, without destroying their appearances, still more mysterious? Is it the incomprehensibility of this mystery, ignorance or what that awakens again and again the need to flee from this mystery by transforming the Eucharistic Sacrifice into community meeting or a social ‘agape’ feast? St. Paul already noted this human proclivity and its consequences (cf. 1 Cor 11,17), which, of course, do not change the reality of this, the mystery of Divine love, in the least.

The solution lies in the opposite direction: Let us humbly believe in Divine Revelation, in the incomprehensible Love of GOD Who is so near to us! Then we will also find it easy to accept the strong inter-relationship and dependence which GOD has established among His spiritual and material creatures, among the Angels and us men.

"CHRIST is the center of the angelic world. They are His angels," says the Catechism (331). This will not surprise us any longer: When He joined the material world by becoming man and even Eucharist, how could the pure, created spirits not desire to be ordered to and even be linked to this world, and be it only in the form of their Imitation of CHRIST, their Lord and King, to be with Him, to serve Him, to worship Him in this humble form of existence? This is another true form of heaven and earth, not just looking up to its Creator, but being with Him, and finding Him among them.

4. What then is the lesson the very first verse of the Sacred Scripture gives us?

We certainly should ask to grow in the faith in the holy Angels, for being invisible does not mean that they do not exist. We should reinforce our faith in those who have the same GOD as creator and are destined to share the same eternal beatitude with us.

The events surrounding the Birth of CHRIST are rich in manifestations of the holy Angels showing us their concern that all mankind find their Redeemer in JESUS CHRIST. It may be that we cannot do much for them (though we could spread good catholic books and give lectures about them to those entrusted to our pastoral care in regular meetings during the year), but at least we can make their mission towards us more fruitful by removing the hindrances to their mission through a more contemplative way of prayer and even of life. Yes, this is what we have to learn here: in the midst of a material (and often materialistic) world we must not let ourselves becomes slaves to matter, but should rather order it to serve the glory of God. After all, material creation is called to a "sharing" in our "glorification in the risen JESUS CHRIST’ (CCC 1047; cf. 1042,-1050, 1060).

Finally: In JESUS CHRIST, the beginning and the final end of all Creatures, we all should come together! We men should adore JESUS CHRIST with the help and fervor of the holy Angels, bending our knees in acknowledgement of our solidarity with the material creation, which has a need to glorify God. Material creation can be made a further participation in the divine praises through the beautiful of the liturgy and the altar, eg. with fresh flowers, worthy vestments, incense and holy music. We should listen like the Angels in heaven to JESUS CHRIST as the Good Shepherd Who wants to call all that HE created home to His FATHER! Like the holy Angels and with their help let us acknowledge JESUS CHRIST as our Creator and serve Him unconditionally, having always in mind: any decision made in faithfulness towards Him is a stone for the construction of our eternal home.

May the new year, which led us to the very beginning of Creation, be the beginning of a new effort, of an new enthusiasm on our way with the holy Angels to the end in JESUS CHRIST, where we hope to find for ever the fulfillment of all aspirations!

Fr. Titus Kieninger,ORC