Christ, the Beginning of Creation – Conclusion
by Fr. Maximilian M. Dean
[To see the full article on one page visit Appendix: Christ the Beginning]
Everything has been made by means of Christ
Returning, then, to the words of the Evangelist we see that all of this corresponds to the flow of the Prologue. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God; and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was made nothing that has been made” (Jn 1:1-3). The revelation here is that everything had been made through Jesus Christ.
That the entire universe was made by God is logical. Every work of God ad extra, in fact, is always a work of the entire Trinity, even if at times certain works may be attributed to only One of the Divine Persons. Creation is a work of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and is sometimes attributed to the Father, sometimes to the Son and sometimes to the Spirit (i.e. Veni Creator Spiritus), but it remains always a work of God Three in One.
However, in this verse St. John wants to make us understand that the creative work of God was accomplished through Christ, “the Beginning of the creation of God” (Apoc 3:14). St. Paul had already written this a number of times before St. John wrote his Gospel. In his letter to the Hebrews Paul wrote that “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all in these days has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the world” (Heb 1:1-2). God, through Christ, made the world, that is, through Him who “effected man’s purgation from sin” (v.3), namely the Word made flesh (in fact this entire first chapter – the “Prologue” – of the Epistle to the Hebrews is speaking of the Word Incarnate who now sits “at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much superior to the Angels…” and in this passage Christ, as we have already seen earlier, is called by God Himself the “Beginning”).
Paul also affirms this when writing to the Colossians. Christ, “in whom we have our redemption, the remission of our sins” (1:14), thus the Word Incarnate, “is the Image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. For in Him were created all things in the heavens and on earth […] All things have been created through and unto Him” (1:14-16).
In this regard Augustine emphasizes the fact that John in the third verse of the Prologue would be speaking “uselessly of the Divinity of the Word if he meant to be silent about the humanity of that same Word”. This follows from the fact that Christ is “insinuated” in the Prologue in two modes: on the level of His predestination ante assumptionem carnis and on the level of His manifestation cum assumpta carne, but whether speaking of Christ’s predestination or manifestation he is always referring to Christ, the Word made flesh.
The Prologue then says that John the Baptist gave witness to Christ, to Him who “was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world knew Him not. And He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (Jn 1:10-11). Christ “was in the world.” Christ “came unto his own.” The world, therefore, “was made through Him,” through Christ.
Once again, the Apostle Paul preceded the Evangelist in maintaining that all things exist in virtue of the Christ: “for us there is only one God, the Father from whom are all things, and we unto Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through Him” (1 Cor 8:6).
In conclusion, following the norm lex orand, lex credendi, there is a clear affirmation in the Eucharistic Prayer II of the present Roman Missal which is not a recent invention, but rather a continuity of Tradition. Eucharistic Prayer II, which has its own preface, is based on the Anaphora composed by St. Hippolytus in 215, and for this reason it is strictly connected with his preface. In this preface the Church prays thus, that is that is it right and just to give thanks and praise to You “Father most holy, through Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Your Word through whom you made all things, whom You sent as our Savior and Redeemer, incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin.”
“Ante me factus est” (Jn 1:30)
Yet another confirmation of Christ as the Beginning comes from the testimony of John the Baptist which is recorded after the Prologue. He says, “This is He of whom I said, ‘After me there comes One who has been set above me, because He was before me.’” (Jn 1:30). We do well to look at the text in Latin: Post me venit vir, qui ante me factus est, quia prior me erat.” Some English translations (like the Confraternity which I use) translate vir (ἀνὴρ in Greek) with “one,” but the literal translation reads, After me comes the man who was made [factum est] before me, because He has been set above me.” The point here is that the Baptist is giving witness to the man Jesus Christ – this is as clear as the day. But the question is how can he say that Jesus was made before him? That ante me factus est cannot be applied to the Word in Himself, because the Eternal Word was not made, but begotten. The Baptist is always bearing witness to the Verbum caro factum est – the Word made flesh (1:14). Here is St. Augustine’s comment: “Christ created John [the Baptist] himself, after whom was created Christ who was Creator and creature…”
Note well that St. Paul had already employed this terminology in strict reference to the Incarnation: God sent His Son factum ex muliere – made of the woman (Gal 4:4). Even St. Luke recounted how the shepherds, after the vision of the Angels and the hearing of that “good news of great joy,” said among themselves: “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, [videamus hoc Verbum, quod factum est] which the Lord has made known to us” (Lk 2:15).
The Baptist, therefore, was giving witness to the Word made man. But we all know that historically Christ was not made (temporal conception and birth) before the Baptist, but six months after him (cf. Lk 1:36). Jesus was conceived and born after him. This means that the Baptist, even if in a subtle way, was witnessing to Christ as the Beginning of every creature that existed; Christ was that Beginning in the mind of God before the foundation of the world. In fact, this is the only way in which Christ could be said to have been factum est before John the Baptist.
Otherwise this would mean that the Baptist was giving witness either to the creation of the Word in Himself (the Word was made – factum est – before the Incarnation!?!) or to the pre-existence of the humanity of Christ (in which case we would have an eternal creature!?! Equally heretical). These two heresies have been condemned repeatedly by the Church: namely, that the Eternal Word was created or that His humanity pre-existed. No, the Church has constantly professed that the Eternal Word was not created and that His humanity did not pre-exist.
Rather, Christ – as the Beginning – was always the firstborn in God’s decree of creation because Christ was foreseen and predestined in the beginning. Hence the Baptist was correct in saying that this Man comes after him, yet was set above him because He was before him. In other words: “After me comes the Christ [the Man], the Beginning in which God created all things, who was made before me in the divine decrees precisely because He preceded me in the divine design.”
In the end we profess and believe that God is God, Three and One, eternal, without beginning and outside of time, and that God freely willed to create. The first creature to be willed by the Lord was Christ, and He willed that Christ’s human nature be united in soul and body to the divine Nature in the divine Person of the Son. We joyfully profess that Jesus Christ was the “Beginning of the creation of God” (Apoc 3:14) in whom all things were created, and this without exception (cf. Jn 1:3). In fact, all of the elect were chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4) and were created by means of Him and with a view to Him who is the Beginning of creation. In other words, Christ was the start of creation (and thus of time itself) and was the creative principle of everything. Time finds its beginning in God’s decree to communicate Himself to the humanity of Christ in the Incarnation and this decree is the source from which all other creatures come forth.
The arguments of Scotus on the primacy of Christ can be reduced to two. The first is his perspicacious teaching of the ordinate volens which maintains that God’s will unfolds in a most orderly fashion. After His Divine Essence (Scotus speaks of God as first ‘willing Himself’ – in modern English we might say: first, God is God, then…), God willed that which was most perfect, that which was closest to this end, namely the soul of Christ. Then, through Christ, God willed everything else.
The second argument is his teaching on Christ’s predestination to the maximum grace and glory possible in the created world. His is a predestination which is not occasionata, not conditioned, not relative, but willed first as the summum opus Dei – the greatest work of God.
But as we have seen in this study, the Scripture and Tradition attest that Jesus Christ is the Beginning of God’s creative activity. And since the Beginning must be the first, and not the second or third, this means that to the two principal arguments of Scotus we can add this datum of divine revelation that from the beginning God had Jesus Christ before Him as the cause and beginning of His designs to create. Therefore, the Incarnation was an immutable decree of the Divinity, a decree willed in an absolute manner, independently of anything which is outside of God. To sum it up: “Dico tamen quod lapsus non fuit causa praedestinationis Christi. Immo etsi nec homo nec angelus fuisset lapsus, nec plures homines creandi quam solus Christus, adhuc fuisset Christus praedestinatus sic.”
 St. Augustine, Sermo 290, c.2, n.2 (PL 38, 1313).
 Cf. St. Francis de Sales, The Treatise on Divine Love, L.II, c.IV.
 Bl. John Duns Scotus, Ordinatio, III, d.7, q.3; Opus Parisiense, Lib III, d.7, q.4.
 Bl. John Duns Scotus, Reportatio Barcinonensis, II, d.7, q.3.
 Bl. John Duns Scotus, Ordinatio, III, d.7, q.3; Opus Parisiense, Lib III, d.7, q.4.
 Bl. John Duns Scotus, Opus Parisiense, Lib III, d.7, q.4.
 Cf. Fr. Maximilian M. Dean, A Primer on the Absolute Primer of Christ, pp. 67-90, for a more detailed sutdy of Col 1:15-20.
 St. Augustine, Sermo 341 (PL 39, 1494).
 Cfr. Fr. Ruggero Rosini, op. cit., p.120, nota 223.