As you watch a program about the millions and millions of galaxies that lie beyond our own, or when you are adrift in the daze before falling asleep, you might wonder, “How did everything begin?” The answer is, “No one knows.” This lack of knowledge, however, does not stop creative human beings from proposing theories. Currently I’m working on a book that had me investigating how people explain the existence of the universe. Now at the outset of this post, since it is Valentine’s Day, I state the Christian position: All of creation is a tremendous act of love from God, who is best defined as love. It is an overflowing of his divine love. God fashioned us, his children, in his likeness and created the world as our home. Just how God did this remains a mystery, since no one was present to make a video of it.
So far, scientists have advanced the Big Bang theory, in which some 13.8 billion years ago a tiny point of energy and matter began expanding and continues to expand at ever increasing speeds. Some scientists theorize that eventually the universe will begin reversing. For thousands of years people without powerful telescopes have imagined how the world began. The ancient Babylonian myth discovered in Iraq (Enuma Elish) tells of the greatest god Marduk who slew the ancient god Tiamat and formed heaven and earth from her body. Then Marduk killed Tiamat’s husband and from his drops of blood made human beings—whose purpose was to work for all of the gods. This story is not very appealing.
Even less appealing is a Chinese story: Chaos formed into an egg and from it emerged a hairy giant, Pangu, who formed heaven and earth. When Pangu died, his body became various parts of the world. His breath became wind and clouds; his hair, stars; his left eye, the sun; his right eye, the moon; and so forth. Guess where human beings came from? The fleas on Pangu’s body!
By contrast, the two Jewish and Christian creation myths found in the Bible’s book of Genesis are quite beautiful. They explain the universe as the handiwork of the one God. In the first account, God is majestic and powerful and creates everything in six days just by his words. God blesses the man and woman, puts the earth into their care, and announces that everything is very good. In the second account, God is warmly human-like. God shapes man from the dust of the earth and breathes into him. God plants a beautiful garden and places the man there. Then, concerned that man has no similar partner, God, like a surgeon, puts the man to sleep, removes a rib, and creates woman from it. When this first couple disobeys, God doesn’t annihilate them, but gives them a second chance to live with him forever.
We may never learn exactly how the universe began, or how we came to be. Look how long it took to come up with the theory of evolution. What we do know, though, is that the world is ours to marvel at, enjoy, and preserve for future humans beings. The Creator is reflected in his creation: God’s power, goodness, and beauty. God keeps everything in existence and continues the work of creation through us. Furthermore, creation draws us to God. As Pope Francis noted in his encyclical Laudato Si’: “In the heart of this world, the Lord of life, who loves us so much, is always present.”
When have you experienced creation making you more aware of God’s love and presence?
Here is a good video to jump start your Lent: