The Nicene Creed begins with “I believe in God” and as the Catechism of the Catholic Church1 says this is the most fundamental part of the Apostles’ Creed. (CCC 199). “The whole Creed speaks of God, and when it also speaks of man and of the world it does so in relation to God.” (CCC 199) All of the articles of our faith depend on God, and so when we reflect on the teachings of the Catholic Church they all must fall fundamentally upon faith in God, and not simply any god, but the one God who Is and who has revealed Himself as the one true God.
God’s Divine Name helps us understand His relationship to Creation
It is this God who we believe created the entire universe and the entire world. The immensity of God’s majesty is beyond what anybody can comprehend, and yet the Lord revealed His name to His people, specifically to Moses, at Mount Sinai:
Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you’, and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I Am has sent me to you’…this is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” (Exodus 3:13-15)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 206) states that in the revealing of His mysterious name, YHWH (“I AM WHO I AM”), that God’s divine name is mysterious just as God is a mystery because He is beyond our comprehension. The divine name “is at once a name revealed and something like the refusal of a name, and hence it better expresses God as what He is- infinitely above everything that we can understand or say: He is the ‘hidden God,’ His name is ineffable and he is the God who make himself close to men. (cf Isaiah 45:15, Judges 13:18)”
God loved mankind and so He revealed His name as a way to show that He is infinitely above everything else that He has created. In the Old Testament, oftentimes to name a thing is to talk about the character or definition of a thing, and so when God revealed His name to the people of Israel He was telling them that He is, and that He is so much above everything else that the way He could express Himself is to show the majesty of His existence above every other thing He created. That He considered His creation enough to share something so vital as His own identity and mystery to mankind is the beginning of God’s love for His creation, specifically for mankind.
Psalm 102: 26-28, teach us in what manner God’s revelation of His name shows us how He relates to the world. The Psalm reads: “26 Of old You laid the earth’s foundations; the heavens are the work of Your hands. 27 They perish, but You remain; they all wear out like a garment; Like clothing You change them and they are changed, 28 but You are the same, Your years have no end.” God created the universe and everything that exists in the world, but as He reveals to Moses, His divine name, I AM WHO AM, shows that God most properly is the one who exists and that everything else in the world exists and continues to exist because He remains to keep them there.
God creates the universe:
The Catholic Church holds that God created the entire universe and everything that is not God was made by God. St. John the Apostle writes in the Bible, “All things came to be through Him, and without Him nothing came to be.” (John 1:3) Physicists have determined that the universe is almost 14 billion years old beginning in a Big Bang. Our faith leads us to understand that God made the universe and that when He created the universe He saw that it was all good (cf Genesis 1). He spoke and light formed, He spoke and the heavens and worlds were made. Though many make controversies about whether or not to take the words of Genesis literally as it appears that the universe was made in six days, the Catholic Church does not hold a view that requires us to believe that the universe was created in six twenty-four hour days. As St. Peter writes, “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.” (2 Peter 3:8), indicating that the book of Genesis is mysterious and that what God is trying to reveal in Genesis is the manner in which God created all things and made them so that there was something good in them.
So too then we are called to become stewards of God’s creation, that is Genesis tells us that God has given us the entire universe to enjoy and care for. Just as He loved the universe into creation, making all things in some manner good and orderly, He made us to follow His example in loving each other and caring for His creatures by making us into His image (cf Genesis 1:25, 26)3.
The beauty of God’s Creation points to His goodness and His love for us
Nothing in the universe and world that exists today needs to have been made except that God love them into existence. Proverbs 16:4 says, “The Lord has made all things for Himself” (Douay-Rheims translation) in which we should see that God made the universe to refer back to Him and that He made us to share in His life and love4.
St. Augustine of Hippo, a Catholic saint and bishop of the fourth and fifth century writes in one of a sermon given on Easter around 411 AD:
“Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air, amply spread around everywhere, question the beauty of the sky, question the serried ranks of the stars, question the sun making the day glorious with its bright beams, question the moon tempering the darkness of the following night with its shining rays, question the animals that move in the waters, that amble about on dry land, that fly in the air; their souls hidden, their bodies evident; the visible bodies needing to be controlled, the invisible souls controlling them; question all these things. They all answer you, 'Here we are, look ; we're beautiful.'
Their beauty is their confession. Who made these beautiful changeable things, if not one who is beautiful and unchangeable?”5
St. Augustine’s answer in his sermon is God, the creator of the universe, and he is tasking us to look at the beauty and the order of the entire world and to reflect on the love that God had to share it with us even before we had anything to give or offer to Him. And so in times of stillness, silence, and quiet contemplation of God sometimes we are given a glimpse of the extent of His beauty and love through reflecting on the beauty of the world around us. The world is a complicated place with many scientific laws and rules, and yet sometimes God comes to wake us up and says, “Don’t forget that I am here, and that I am calling you back to Me. Do not forget that I am the Way, the Life, and the Truth. Do not forget that all that you see before Me is given to you so that you can come to Me.”
1. English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for the United States of America copyright 1994, United States Catholic Conference, Inc. –Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
Note that references to paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church are given as CCC #.
2. All translations of the Bible, except those given from quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, are from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website: http://www.usccb.org/bible/books-of-the-bible/index.cfm, unless otherwise noted.
God made every kind of wild animal, every kind of tame animal, and every kind of thing that crawls on the ground. God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said: Let Us make human beings in our image, after Our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth.” (Genesis 1:25, 26)
4. Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC 293, “Scripture and Tradition never cease to teach and celebrate this fundamental truth: ‘The world was made for the glory of God.’ (Dei Filius, can. Section 5: DS 3025) St. Bonaventure explains that God created all things ‘not to increase His glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it,’ (St. Bonaventure, In II Sent. I, 2, 2, 1.) for God has no other reason for creating than His love and goodness: ‘Creatures came into existence when the key of love opened His hand.’ (St. Thomas Aquinas, Sent 2. Prol.) …
CCC 294, “The glory of God consists in the realization of this manifestation and communication of His goodness, for which the world was created…”