Creation As Incarnation

Judaism and Christianity have been blamed for our world’s ecological crisis. Critics point to Genesis 1:26-28 giving humans dominion over physical creation. They charge that this mindset has resulted in abuse of our planet. Theologian Gregory Baum has suggested that part of this blame resides in church teaching, legislation and practice that gave expression to the “sharp division between the Church as the fellowship of grace and the world as the place of God’s absence.” Adds theologian Elizabeth Dreyer: “The anti-matter, anti-worldly aspects of so much Christian literature have contributed to our inability to value matter in appropriate ways.”

By contrast, St. Francis of Assisi called the sun and fire, air and wind brother, and the moon and stars, water and earth sister,. Was he just exercising poetic license? No, he had a deep insight into Christ’s Incarnation . This insight gave him, and gives us, the theological basis for a new attitude toward physical creation and the environment.

Creation in Love. Our tendency is to isolate theological truths, rather than seeing them as a seamless whole. Creation, Incarnation, the crucified Christ is one continuous outpouring of God’s love for us, not as isolated events. In Franciscan Theology of the Environment, Fr. William Short, OFM writes: “Wishing to express His overflowing goodness, God pours out an expression of the divine life. God’s desire to share goodness is expressed in creation. But creation is not merely to receive some partial, limited sharing in God’s goodness and life. God will actually give away even the very heart of the divine life, the Word.”

Creation and Incarnation are the expression of God’s Transcendent Love. To abuse creation is to abuse God’s gift to us. To be oblivious of creation’s beauty and bountifulness, is to be oblivious of God’s love and bountifulness.

Creation in Christ. Fr. Short states that God formed the world through the Word. Since the Word is the crowning glory of creation, “God makes light and darkness, trees, stones and fish, all the creatures, according to the Word as model, or blueprint or form.” Each being—living and nonliving—in some way resembles the model who is Christ. All creation was created for Christ and manifests Christ in some way. Just as there is solidarity between all human beings through the Body of Christ, so there is solidarity between all created beings, human and nonhuman, through Christ. Therefore, all creation is sacramental. We need to reverence creation and view it with “sacramental vision.”

Creation in Spirituality. How does our attitude toward or our relationship with physical creation affect our living the spiritual life? We need that spiritual insight that enables us as body persons to realize our uniqueness among all God’s creatures and yet our likeness to them as a recipient of God’s love. That brotherhood and sisterhood to creation must be the basis for our love of God’s creation. Then we can love others, whether the others are a person or a tree or a stone.

Alienation from God, ourselves, others and creation is the primary obstacle to growth in the spiritual life. When we are possessed by the Spirit of love, our alienation is wrung out of us and we are freed to reach out and be self-giving, at least for a time. The spiritual life is all about becoming more possessed by the Spirit of love and about the process of integration with God, with ourselves, with others, and with the physical world.

This process provides us with a “cure” for our deep-seated alienation. Our relationship to physical reality is an integral part of that cure. For if we are not open to creation as brother and sister, we are probably not open to the Spirit of love and we are probably experiencing some measure of alienation, whether we are aware of it or not.

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