Workers of the Vineyard of Creation

Workers of the Vineyard of Creation November 28, 2016

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31a RSV). When God brought the world into existence he opened himself up to it so that it could participate in his supra-essential being. All that exists, as it exists in God, is good.  That which is very good is completely open to God’s grace, so that it not only fulfills the natural good given to it, but transcends it by that grace. Creation was made to be very good to be deified by grace.

Creation of the world by Anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Creation of the world by Anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
As the world was very good, it was also beautiful. Beauty is the radiance and glory of goodness. To see the world is good is to see the beauty of that goodness. The world was made glorious in its creation. Sadly, while God made the world beautiful, sin defiled it and made it ugly. Restored in Christ, the world will once again be made very good and beautiful. All those who work for its defilement sin because they counter God’s intention for creation.

The more we destroy the beauty and integrity of the world, the more we devastate the world through our selfish desire to dominate it, the further we find ourselves to be from God because we stand against him and his intention for creation. We are called to be just stewards over his creation, but instead, we have destroyed it. With species after species becoming extinct, we must worry about our future, and whether or not our sin will rebound upon us and create our own end. If we are unwilling to change and follow Christ in restoring the glory of the world, we risk having our sins lead us to the sewage pit of hell before being cast aside into the ever-lasting garbage dump of sin.

Didymus the Blind by Lizarazo999 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Didymus the Blind by Lizarazo999 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The relationship between the goodness of creation and its beauty was explained by Didymus the Blind. While we only have a partial version of his commentary on Genesis, and the opening section is left rather fragmentary, we have enough to understand Didymus’s reading of creation. God made the world as a divine artist, making the world and all that is in it beautiful:

God would see the entire proportion and cause … and the harmony of each with the others … and we say that the painter sees things differently … skill, despite his aesthetic application … the artists, you see, on  seeing the proportion of this part to that, and on one part to another, grasps its beauty, whereas an unskilled person does not achieve that vision, which is the result of artistic perception and understanding..[1]

Likewise, in talking about the creation of the firmament, Didymus showed how Scripture indicated the beauty of creation by the way God saw it was good:

God called the firmament heaven, and God saw that it was good (v.8) … God saw it was good, but such a degree of praise should be given that … immediately the word saw gives a glimpse of beauty… has the restoration …. and of the proportion he gives praise on seeing that … to estimate the usefulness and cause and the … and some parts from matter, for being built is lacking in honor. It is possible to see other parts as lacking honor, such as hair and the like, and no one with the ability to judge the overall pattern of a city would blame the builder for building in the city a prison and other things along with what is honorable and beautiful. After all, an individual item by itself is not so admirable as when you estimate the usefulness of everything together, as in the case of a city’s appearance. Likewise in the case of creation, something even more admirable: it is impossible to mention this detail or that, since everything has been created for their use.[2]

While it would have been nice to have Didymus’ full argument preserved, what we have gives us enough to know his general disposition on the relationship of the goodness and beauty of creation. The world was created so that each part of creation participated in and helped give itself over to the integral unity and beauty of creation. Each part was a part of the goodness of creation, and so each part helped give it some of its beauty. While it might be difficult, when looking at the world all cut up into parts, to find the goodness and beauty in each of those parts, when brought together their place in creation is able to be discerned, demonstrating why their existence is also good. When the world is broken up into individuated parts, so that their unity and harmony is hindered, sin is at work, defacing the beauty of God’s work.

Christ came to restore all things (cf. Acts 3:21), that is, to recreate creation as it were. This includes the restoration of creation to its original goodness and beauty, to cleanse it from the defilement and harm of sin. Christians are called to be workers in this restoration of creation, which is why creation was said to be awaiting the revelation of the children of God (cf. Rom 8:19).  The children of God are those who have not only had their own life reconstituted by the Logos, but have become co-workers with the Logos in the restoration of creation. They have been called not only to be stewards of creation, not only to be its active protectors, but also to be workers for its restoration, healing it from the harm and defilement which has come upon it because of sin.

Sadly, many Christians have denied their rightful place beside Christ. They have rejected their obligation to the world. They think they can ignore it. They selfishly horde up the grace which they have received, burying it as it were, thinking that by doing so, when Christ comes again in judgment, he will be pleased with the little grace they have preserved. They are supposed to use it, to bring glory to God, and in doing so, they will multiply it as they help bring creation back to its proper place in the kingdom of God. Creation was meant to be a part of the kingdom of heaven, with humanity serving as priests to help give it over to God in order to receive its proper grace and sanctification.

When Christians continue to work to the destruction and defilement of the world, when they continue to cover up its innate beauty with garbage and unnecessary waste, they risk losing not the world, but their place in the kingdom of God.  They are connected to the world, and so what happens to the world happens to them,  for their fate is tied with the world.

Therefore, Christians are called to look for and promote the natural beauty of the earth, to restore that beauty, so that they can hand over to God the gift of the good earth. In this way, they will find themselves following the loving service of Abel, rendering great glory to God. But if and when they work for and give something less to God than they can, they follow Cain the murderer, and they find their offering not only rejected by God, but that like Cain, they will feel jealous of those who God has approved. This is why it should not be surprising that they will attack without mercy those who seek to elevate the world, for they want to bring the world and all of creation down to their level.

Christians must find a way to restore their understanding as to their responsibility for creation, and so seek after and help implement God’s intention for the earth. We must ask God to help us see the natural goodness and beauty of the world so that we can work with him as laborers in the vineyard of creation. Not everyone sees and understands this at the same time. This is why we should work with love to help others see the beauty of creation and welcome them when they are ready as fellow laborers with God. We should not be jealous of those who come late to the vineyard to work; we should rather rejoice that they too have come to see the beauty of creation and will attain with us the beatific vision which includes the glorification of the earth. For those who are not against us are with us, and those who come to serve with us, even if they are late to work, still deserve with us the reward of the new creation, the eternal kingdom of God which comes in and through the transfiguration of creation itself. Without God, without the work of the incarnation, our work would end in failure; but with him, all things are possible. Let us help the Logos prepare creation so that when the kingdom of God comes we can enjoy what God has planned for his creation, the glory of eternal life in and with him.


 

[1] Didymus the Blind, Commentary on Genesis. trans. Robert C. Hill (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2016). 29.

[2] Ibid., 34.

 

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