Christ, the Beginning of Creation – Part VI

Christ, the Beginning of Creation – Part VI

by Fr. Maximilian M. Dean

[To see the full article on one page visit Appendix: Christ the Beginning]

“Tu in principio, Domine, terram fundasti” (Heb 1:10)

            In the Epistle to the Hebrews St. Paul speaks splendidly about Christ, about Him who came to us “in these last days” and who “effected man’s purgation from sin.” He, the Word made flesh, is “the brightness of His [God’s] glory and the image of His Substance” and He upholds “all things by the word of His power (1:1-3). The Apostle tells us that God said many stupendous things to Christ (cfr. v.5), among which there is this expression which is most pertinent to our present discussion: “ ‘Thou in the beginning, O Lord, didst found the earth’” (v.10; Ps 101:26). What we have here is God Himself calling Christ “the beginning” [Latin: in principio; Greek: σὺ κατ’ ἀρχάς].

The Scripture, therefore, repeatedly uses the expression in the beginning in reference to Christ and creation. When God, in His free love, willed to created, He willed the Christ – the Incarnate Word. His primary intention in creating was the Incarnation. Christ is the Beginning; Christ is the first instant of the created universe.[1] And when God set His plan in motion He did so always with Christ in mind as the Beginning of all creation.

We do well do explain here that one can call Christ “the Beginning” of creation in two ways: first, as the temporal beginning (before Him there was no time); second, as the principal or fontal origin of all things (“without Him nothing was made that has been made” Jn 1:3).

  The Beginning without a beginning:

– The first “moment” of creation begins when God wills to create. And behold Christ was always the first creature willed by God, “the Firstborn of every creature,” “the beginning… that in all things He may have the first place” (Col 1:15-18); He was always the first to be predestined“foreknown, indeed, before the foundation of the world” (1 Pt 1:20) and in whom all of the elect have been predestined (cfr. Eph 1:3ff). As we shall see later on, Christ says: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His ways, before He made any thing from the beginning. I was set up from eternity, and of old before the earth was made…” (Prov 8:22-23; cfr. Eccl 1:4). Before Christ there was no time, there were no succession of moments; there was only the eternal God. But when God created, Christ was in His mind as the Beginning.

The Beginning in the sense of the Principal or Fountain of all creation[2]

Exemplary cause because everything was created “unto Him,” with Him in mind as the sublime Model of all of creation, as that perfect creature in so far as He was united substantially to the Divinity in the second Person of the Most Holy Trinity who assumed flesh and is thus the One who will recapitulate all things in Himself (cfr. Col 1:20).

Efficient cause because by the will of God all creatures have been created through Him (cfr. Heb 1:2; Col 1:15,17) and, as the Evangelist says, “All things were made through Him, and without Him was made nothing that has been made” (Jn 1:3).

Final cause because we exist for Christ – and not Him for us – as the Apostle states: “All are yours, and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor 3:23); and in the same Epistle: “for us there is only… one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through Him” (1 Cor 8:6). Even if God alone is our final cause, the end for which we exist, we cannot obtain this end except through the mediation of the God-Man who is, consequently, our secondary – but necessary – final cause according to the divine decree: “nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and him to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him” (Mt 11:27) because one alone is the “Mediator between God and men, Himself man, Christ Jesus” (1 Tm 2:5). Moreover, Jesus Himself teaches us: I alone am “the way… No one comes to the Father but through Me” (Jn 14:6).

At any rate, the decree of the Incarnation and of Christ’s mediation was immutable from the outset. Therefore, the heavens and the earth shall pass away; Christ, on the other hand, will remain “the same” (Heb 1:12); “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday and today, yes, and forever” (Heb 13:8). Yesterday… because He is that true God and true Man which was the Beginning of God’s creative plan, before the creation of the world and before the predestination of the elect in Him. Today… because He came in these last times, in these days, “today,” in the virginal womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the fulfillment and revelation of the mystery of God hidden in ages past but now revealed in Christ. Forever… because He is the eternal Priest who lives forever to make intercession “before the face of God on our behalf” (Heb 9:24) and who is always with His Church “even unto the consummation of the world” (Mt 28:20).

To be continued…

[1] Scotus repeatedly speaks of priority (without the succession of moments in time) in God, and after God Himself, the first One willed ad extra was Christ: “Deus est ordinatissime volens: ergo sic vult. Primo ergo vult se; et post se immediate, quantum ad extrinseca, est anima Christi; ergo primum post velle intrinseca, voluit gloriam istam Christo; ergo ante quodcumque meritum at ante quodcumque demeritum praevidit Christum sibi esse uniendum in unitate suppositi” (Opus Parisiense, L. III, d. 7, q. 4).

[2] Cfr. Fr. Ruggero Rosini, op. cit., Ch. IV “Creati in Cristo” pp. 108-149; in English one can see Fr. Maximilian Dean’s A Primer on the Absolute Primacy of Christ, pp. 79-82 or the section dedicated to this on the website; Fr. Dominic Unger, OFM Cap., Franciscan Christology: Absolute and Universal Primacy of Christ, in FS vol.22 (N.S. 2) no.4 (1942) 441-453; e Fr. Meilach, The Primacy of Christ in Doctrine and Life, (Franciscan Herald Press, Chicago, 1964) 49-53.