We celebrate on May 2nd the feast of St. Athanasius, the 4th century bishop of Alexandria in Egypt. He was one of the great defenders of the divinity of Christ against the Arians who claimed that the Word, the Second Person of the Trinity, was created by God the Father and so was not eternal.
The Word was God, eternal, consubstantial, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, Athanasius taught. Humanity and all creation were brought into being by the Word. We are made in the image of God, the saint says in his treatise “Against the Arians” and we are made in the image of the Word of God, who became flesh.
“Our Lord said: ‘Whoever receives you, receives me.’ The image of the Word through whom the universe was made, the Wisdom that made the sun and the stars– is in us.”
The saint carries this thought further:
“The likeness of Wisdom has been stamped upon creatures in order that the world may recognize in it the Word who was its maker and through the Word come to know the Father. This is Paul’s teaching: ‘What can be known about God is clear to them, for God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature has been there for the mind to perceive in things that have been made.’”
All creation has been stamped with “the likeness of Wisdom.” The universe can be traced to the Word; and it draws us to the Word. Creation is hardly secular, divorced from God, to be seen as worthless. The Word of God, Jesus Christ, came among us that we might discover the divine image not only in ourselves, but in the things that are made. Creation leads us to its Creator, and to Jesus Christ.
We make Jesus Christ too small if we see him only as a human being, the saint argues. We also make creation too small if we dismiss it as godless. Jesus immersed himself in the waters of the Jordan at his baptism, and in the water was proclaimed as God’s only Son. At the last supper, Jesus took bread and wine, blessed them and gave himself to us through them. The bread at Mass is the “fruit of the earth” and the wine “fruit of the vine.” Creation brings the Word to us; Creation brings Jesus Christ to us.
Pope Francis asks for this same recognition of the dignity of creation in his encyclical “Laudato Si.” Creation brings us to Jesus Christ.
Father, you raised up St. Athanasius, to be an outstanding teacher of the divinity of your Son. May we grow to know and love you through his wisdom and through the world made in his image. Amen.