Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (To the Greater Glory of God)
For: Saturday, March 22, 2008
The Resurrection of the Lord -- The Easter Vigil
From: Genesis 1:1-2:2
The Creation Account
 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was
without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the
Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.
 And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.  And God saw that
the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.  God called
the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there
was morning, one day.
 And God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it
separate the waters from the waters."  And God made the firmament and se-
parated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were
above the firmament. And it was so.  And God called the firmament Heaven.
And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.
 And God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into
one place, and let the dry land appear." And it was so.  God called the dry
land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And
God saw that it was good.  And God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation,
plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each
according to its kind, upon the earth." And it was so.  The earth brought forth
vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees hearing
fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was
good.  And there was evening and there was morning, a third day.
 And God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to sepa-
rate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for
days and years,  and let them be lights in the firmament of the heavens to
give light upon the earth." And it was so.  And God made the two great lights,
the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made
the stars also.  And God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give
light upon the earth,  to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate
the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.  And there was
evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
 And God said, "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let
birds fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens."  So God crea-
ted the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the
waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its
kind. And God saw that it was good.  And God blessed them, saying, "Be
fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the
earth."  And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.
 And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their
kinds: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their
kinds" And it was so.  And God made the beasts of the earth according
to their kinds and the cattle according to their kinds, and everything that creeps
upon the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let
them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and
over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps
upon the earth."  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God
he created him; male and female he created them.  And God blessed them,
and God said to them.,"Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it;
and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over
every living thing that moves upon the earth."  And God said, "Behold, I have
given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and
every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.  And to every
beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on
the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for
food." And it was so.  And God saw everything that he had made, and behold,
it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.
 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 
And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested
on the seventh day from all his work which he had done.  So God blessed the
seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which
he had done in creation.
1:1-2:4a. Creatlon is the beginnrng of salvation history and the foundation on
which are built God's salvific plans, which reach their climax in Jesus Christ.
The biblical accounts of creation focus on the action of God; it is he who sets
the scene and he is the creator, too, of those who will act out the drama and
with whom he will enter into dialogue.
The sacred text incorporates ancient traditions about the origin of the world;
scholars identify two separate accounts in the early chapters of Genesis. The
first of these emphasizes God's transcendence over all created things, and is
written in a very schematic style; this account (1:1-2:4a) is attributed to the
"Priestly" tradition. The second, which also covers the fall and the expulsion from
paradise, speaks of God in an anthropomorphic way; this more vivid, more popu-
lar account (2:4b-4:26) is considered to belong to the "Yahwistic" tradition. Here
we have two different ways in which the Word of God (not intending to provide a
scientific explanation of the origin of the world and of man) expounds the basic
facts and truths on the subject in a way people can readily understand, inviting
us to see me greatness and love of God manifested first in creation and then in
the history of mankind. "Our faith teaches us," St. Josemaria Escriva writes,
"that all creation, the movement of the earth and the other heavenly bodies, the
good actions of creatures and all the good that has been achieved in history, in
short everything, comes from God and directed toward him" ("Christ Is Passing
In the first account the Bible offers profound teaching about God, about man and
about the world. About God, who is the only God, creator of all things and man in
particular; he transcends the created world and is its supreme master. About man,
who is the image and likeness of God, above all other created beings and placed
in the world to rule all creation. About the world, which is something good and is
at the service of man.
1.1. "Three things are affirmed in these first words of Scripture: the eternal God
gave a beginning to all that exists outside of himself; he alone is Creator (the verb
'create'--Hebrew "bara"--always has God for its subject). The totality of what exists
(expressed by the formula 'the heavens and the earth') depends on the One who
gives it being" ("Catechism of the Catholic Church", 290).
"In the beginning" means that creation marks the start of time and the course of
history. Time and history have a beginning and they are headed towards a final
goal, which the Bible will tell us more about, especially in its last book, Revelation.
At the end, we are told: 'Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first
heaven and the first earth had passed away,
and the sea was no more" (Rev 21:1).
God the Creator is the same God as will manifest himself to the patriarchs, to
Moses and to the prophets and make himself known to as through Jesus Christ.
In the light of the New Testament we know that God created all things through his
eternal Word, his beloved Son (cf. Jn 1:1; Col 1:16-17). God the Creator is Father
and Son and (the relationship of love between them) the Holy Spirit. Creation is
the work of the Blessed Trinity, and all of creation (particularly man, created in
the image and likeness of God) in some way bears their seal. Some Fathers of
the Church (Augustine, Ambrose and Basil, for example), in the light of the New
Testament, saw the words "in the beginning" as having a deeper meaning--
namely, "in the Son".
The "action of creating" belongs exclusively to God; man cannot create; he can
only "change" or "develop" something that already exists. In the creation accounts
of other Near East religions the world and gods developed out of preexistent matter.
The Bible, however, records gradual revelation of the mystery of creation interpre-
ted in the light of God's choice of Israel and his covenant with mankind; it roundly
asserts that everything was made by God. Later on it will draw the conclusion that
everything was created out of' nothing: "I beseech you, my child, to look at the
heavens and the earth and see everything that is in them, and to recognize that
God did not make them out of things that existed" (2 Mac 7:28). This creative
power of God is also able to give sinful man a pure heart (cf. Ps 51:12), to restore
the dead to life and to give the light of faith to those who do not know him (cf. 2
It was God's love and wisdom that moved him to create the world, thereby com-
municating his goodness and making his glory manifest. The world, therefore,
"is not the product of any necessity whatever, nor of blind, fate or chance. We
believe that it proceeds from God's free will; he wanted to make his creatures
share in his being, wisdom and goodness" ("Catechism of the Catholic Church",
The expression "the heavens and the earth" means everything that exists. The
earth is the world of men; the sky (or the heavens) can mean the firmament or the
divine world, God's own "place", his glory and all spiritual (non-material) creatures
1:2. The Bible teaches not just that God created all things, but also thatthe sepa-
ration and ordering of the elements of nature is something established by God
once and for all. The presence of the loving power of God, symbolized by a gentle
breeze or a breath (the text refers to it as a spirit; "ruah" in Hebrew) which hovers
and keeps watch over the world when it is still in chaos, shows that, as the text
will go on to say, the Word of God and his Breath are present in the origin of being
and in the origin of every creature's life. That is why many Fathers of the Church
(Jerome and Athanasaus, for example) saw this passage as reflecting the presence
of the Holy Spirit as a divine Person who, along with the Father and the Son, is at
work in the creation of the world, "This biblical concept of creation", John Paul II
explains, "includes not only the call to existence of the very being of the cosmos,
that is to say, "the giving of existence", but also the presence of the Spirit of God
in creation, that is to say, the beginning of God's salvific self-communication to
the things he creates. This is true "first of all concerning man", who has been
created in the image and likeness of God" ("Dominum Et Vivificantem", 12).
1:3-5. At this point strictly speaking begins the description of the creation, which,
according to the literary plan of this account, is going to take place over six days.
These six days are meant to indicate the orderliness with which God went about
his work, and to show a rhythm of work and rest: the Jewish Law laid down Satur-
day, the sabbath, as a day of rest and a day dedicatcd to the Lord. In the
Christian Church this day was shifted to Sunday, because Sunday was the day
on which our Lord rose from the dead, thereby inaugurating the new Creation:
Sunday, the "dies dominica" (Latin), the Lord's day.
On the first day God creates light and separates light from darkness (the latter,
being something negative--the absence of light--cannot be created). Light is seen
here as being a thing in its own right (without reference to the fact that daylight
comes from the sun, which will not be created until the fourth day). The fact that
God puts names on things (or in this case on situations caused by some elements
being separated from others) indicates that he wields absolute power over them.
God is in authority, whether it be day or night.
Here we meet for the first time a phrase which is going to be used seven times
over the course of the narrative: "And God saw that it was good." This means that
everything that God creates is good because in some way it bears his seal and
shares in his own goodness, for it has come from divine goodness. The goodness
of the world proclaimed here by Holy Scripture has important consequences for
the Christian: "We must love the world and work and all human things. For the
world is good. Adam's sin destroyed the divine balance of creation; but God the
Father sent his only Son to re-establish peace, so that we, his children by adop-
tion, might free creation from disorder and reconcile all things to God" ([St]
Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 112).
1:6-8. In line with the culture of their time, the early Hebrews thought that rain
came from huge containers of water in the vault of heaven; when trapdoors were
opened, the rain poured down. When it says here that God separated the water
which were above the firmament from those below, what is really being taugt is
that God imposed order on the natural world and is responsible for the phenome-
non of rain. It is also making it clear from the outset that the firmament must not
be thought to involve any divinity (as was believed in the nations roundabout
Israel); the firmament is part of the created world.
1:11. As the inspired author depicts here, a distinction is made between God's
action in separating and ordering the elements (creating the vast spaces of sky,
sea and land) and his action of filling or adorning these spaces with different
kinds of creatures. These creatures introduced in an increasing order of dignity
(in line with the thinking of the time)--first the vegetable kingdom, then the stellar
kingdom, and, lastly, the animal kingdom. Everything is perfectly arranged; the
world of Creation invites to contemplate the Creator.
1:14-17. Against the neighboring religions, which regarded the heavenly bodies
as divinities exerting influence over human life, the biblical author, enlightened by
inspiration, teaches that the sun, moon and stars are simply created things; their
purpose is to serve man by giving him light by day and night, and to be a way of
measuring time. Put in their proper, natural place heavenly bodies (like all the rest
of creation) lead man to appreciate the greatness of God, and to praise him for
his awesome works: "The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament
proclaims his handiwork..." (Ps 19:1; cf. Ps 104). It follows that all forms of divi-
nation are to be rejected--consulting horoscopes, astrology, clairvoyance etc. (cf.
"Catechism of the Catholic Church", 2116).
1:26. The sacred text emphasizes the special significance of this moment: God
seems to stop to reflect and plan every detail of his next creation--man. Ancient
Jewish interpretation (followed also by some Christian writers) saw the use of
the plural "Let us make..." as meaning that God deliberated with his heavenly
court, that is, with the angels (implying that God had created them at the very
start, when he "created the heavens and the earth"). But the use of the plural
should rather be taken as reflecting the greatness and power of God. A consi-
derable part of Christian tradition has seen the "Let us make" as reflecting the
Holy Trinity, for New Testament revelation has made the Christian reader more
aware of the unfathomable greatness of the divine mystery.
"Man" here has a collective meaning: every human being, by his or her very na-
ture, is in the image and likeness of God. The human being is intelligible not by
reference to other created beings in the universe but by reference to God. The
likeness between God and man is not a physical one, for God has no body; it
is a spiritual likeness, lying in the human being's capacity for interiority. The
Second Vatican Council teaches that man is not deceived when he regards him-
self as superior to bodily things and as more than just a speck of nature or a
nameless unit in the city of man. For by his power to know himself in the depths
of his being he rises above the whole universe of mere objects. When he is drawn
to think about his real self, he turns to those deep recesses of his being where
God who probes the heart (1 Kings 1.6:7; Jer 17:10) awaits him, and where he
himself decides his own destiny in the sight of God. So when he recognizes in
himself a spiritual and immortal soul, he is not being led astray by false imagi-
nings that are due to merely physical or social causes. On the contrary, he
grasps what is profoundly true in this matter" ("Gaudium Et Spes", 14).
The fact that God creates man in own image and likeness "means not only
rationality and freedom as constitutive properties of human nature, but also from
the very beginning, the capacity of having a "personal relationship" with God as
'I' and 'you' and therefore the capacity "of having a covenant", which will take place
in God's salvific communication with man" (John Paul II, "Dominun Et Vivificantem",
34). In the light of this communication, brought about in all its fullness by Jesus
Christ, the Fathers the Church read the words "image and likeness" as meaning,
on the one hand man's spiritual condition, and, on the other, his sharing in the di-
vine nature through sanctifying grace. Even after the fall, man is still in the "image"
of God; through sin, however, he lost his "likeness" but this was restored through
It is part of God's design that human beings should have dominion over other crea-
ted things (represented here by the animals). This dominion makes man God's
representative (everything really belongs to God) in the created world. Therefore,
although man is going to be the lord of creation, he needs to recognize that God
alone is the Creator; man has to respect and look after creation; he is responsible
These words of Scripture show that "man is the only creature that God has loved
for itself alone, because all others were created to be at the service of man. Here
we can see, too, the basic equality of all human beings. For the Church, this
equality, which has its roots in man's very being, takes on the very special dimen-
sion of brotherhood through the Incarnation of the Son of God. [...] Therefore,
discrimination of any type [...] is absolutely unacceptable" (John Paul II, Address,
7 July 1984).
1:27. The creation of man marks the completion of God's plan, In presenting this
final act of creation, the sacred writer offers us a summary of the things that go
to make up the human being. As, well as repeating that God created man in his
image and likeness, he tells us that God created them man and woman, that is
to say, corporeal beings, endowed with sexuality, and designed to live in society.
"Being in the image of God, the human individual possesses the dignity of a per-
son, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge,
of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with
other persons. And he is called by grace to a covenant with his Creator to offer
him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead"
("Catechism of the Catholic Church", 357).
"The fact that man 'created as man and woman' is the image of God means not
only that each of them individually is like God, as a rational and free being. It also
means that man and woman, created as a 'unity of the two' in their common hu-
manity, are called to live in a communion of love, and in this way to mirror in the
world the communion of love that is in God, through which the Three Persons
love each other in the intimate mystery of the one divine life. This 'unity of the
two', which is a sign of interpersonal communion, "shows that the creation of
man" is also marked by a certain likeness to the divine communion ("communio")
This likeness is a quality of the personal being of both man and woman, and is
also a call and a task" (John Paul II, "Mulieris Dignitatem", 7).
The fact that the Bible and everyday language speak of God as masculine is a
result of cultural influences and the great care taken in the Bible to avoid any
hint of polytheism (which could arise if the godhead were described as feminine,
opening the way to generations of gods, as in other religions). God transcends
the body and sexuality; therefore, both man (masc.) and woman (fem.) equally
reflect his image and likeness. In these words of Genesis, for the very first time
in history, the fundamental equality in dignity of man and woman is proclaimed
--in marked contrast with the low esteem in which women were held in the
According to the traditional Jewish and Christian interpretation, this verse is allu-
ding to marriage, as if God had already created the first man and the first woman
as a married couple--forming that human community which is the basis of every
society. In the second Genesis account of the creation of man and woman (cf.
2:18-24), this will emerge even more clearly.
1:28. God has already created animals, endowing them with fruitfulness (v. 22).
He now addresses these two human beings personally: "he said to them...";
this indicates that the reproductive power of human beings (and therefore their
sexuality) are values for which they must assume responsibility before God, as
a way of co-operating in God's plans. Thus, God, "wishing to associate them in a
special way with his own creative work, blessed man and woman with the words:
'Be fruitful and multiply' (Gen 1:28). Without intending to underestimate the other
ends of marriage, it must be said that true married love and the whole structure
of family life which results from it is directed to disposing the spouses to coope-
rate valiantly with the love of the Creator and Savior, who through them will
increase and enrich his family from day to day" (Vatican II, "Gaudium Et Spes",
God also commands man to make the earth serve him. Here divine Revelation is
teaching us that human work is regarded as a way by which main operates in the
plan God had when he created the world: "By the work of his hands and with the
aid of technical means man tills the earth to bring fruit and to make it a dwelling
place for all mankind; he, also consciously plays his part in the life of social
groups; in so doing he is realizing the design, which God revealed at the begin-
ning of time, to subdue the earth and perfect the work of creation, and at the
same time he is improving his own person" (Vatican II, "Gaudium Et Spes", 57).
>From this divine disposition we see the importance a person's work has in his
or her personal life: "Your human vocation is a part--and an important part--of
your divine vocation. That reason why you must strive for holiness, giving a par-
ticular character to your human personality, a style to your life; contributing at
the same time to the sanctification of others, your fellow men; sanctifying your
work and your environment: the profession or job that fills day, your home and
family and the country where you were born and which you love [...]. Work, all
work, bears witness to the dignity of man, to his dominion over creation. It is an
opportunity to develop one's personality. It is a bond of union with others, the
way to support one's family, a means of aiding the improvement of the society
in which we live and in the progress of all mankind" ("Christ Is Passing By",
Man is charged by God with mastery over the earth; but he may not do whatever
he likes with it or act despotically: he should respect the universe as being the
work of the Creator. In this regard, Wisdom 9:3 says: "0 God, [...] who hast
formed man, to have dominion over the creatures thou hast made, and rule the
world in holiness and righteousness, and pronounce judgment in uprightness of
soul." "This holds good also for out daily work. When men and women provide for
themselves and their families in such a way as to be of service to the community
as well, they can rightly look upon their work as a prolongation of the work of the
creator, a service to their fellow men, and their personal contribution to the fulfill-
ment in history of the divine plan" (Vatican II, "Gaudium Et Spes", 34).
1:31. These words bring to an end this first description of the work of Creation. It
is as if God, after making man, stood back to see what he had done and was very
pleased with the result. Whereas the wording previously used was "And God saw
that it was good," now we are told that it was "very good". In this way, the good-
ness of the created world is being stressed, indicating that "this natural goodness
of theirs receives an added dignity from their relation with the human person, for
whose use they have been created" (Vatican II, "Apostolicam Actuositatem", 7).
>From this it follows that the human person and his/her dignity must be valued
above all other created things, and all human endeavor should be geared to foster
and defend these values.
2:1-3. From this point onwards, God will almost never intervene in creation directly.
Now it is up to man to act in the created world through the work he does.
God's "resting" sets an example for man. By resting, we are acknowledging that
creation in the last analysis depends on and belongs to God, and that God is
watching over it. Here rest is an example set by the Creator; we shall later find it
as one of the Ten Commandments (cf. Ex 20:8-18; Deut 5:42-14). "The institution
of the Lord's Day helps everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their
familial, cultural, social and religious lives" ("Catechism of the Catholic Church",
2184; cf. also John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, "Dies Domini", 31 May 1998).
Apropos of the sabbath, unlike the other days there is no mention of there being
evening and morning. It is as if that rhythm of time were being broken by the sab-
bath -- prefiguring the situation in which man, once he has accomplished his
mission of mastering the earth, will enjoy an unending rest, at an eternal feast in
God's presence (cf. Heb 4:1-10). In the language of the Bible "feast" or "festival"
means three things--a) obligatory rest from everyday work; b) recognition of God
as Lord of creation, and joyful contemplation of the created world; c) a foretaste
of the enduring rest and joy that will be man's after he leaves this world.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.
Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States. We encourage readers to purchase
The Navarre Bible for personal study. See Scepter Publishers for details.
"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." -- St Jerome
"The Father uttered one Word; that Word is His Son, and He utters Him forever
in everlasting silence: and in silence the soul has to hear it.
-- St John of the Cross