Genesis i. 11-13.

June 24, 2010

And he said: Let the earth bring forth the green herb, and such as may seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after its kind, which may have seed in itself upon the earth. And it was so done.  And the earth brought forth the green herb, and such as yieldeth seed according to its kind, and the tree that beareth fruit, having seed each one according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.  And the evening and the morning were the third day.

11-13. The conclusion of the work of distinction.  The third day (ii): the creation of plants.

St. Thomas: “As was said above, on the third day the formlessness of the earth is removed.  Now a twofold formlessness was described regarding the earth: first, that it was invisible[1] or void, because it was covered with waters; second, that it was unorganized[2] or empty, that is it did not have its due beauty and adornment, which is acquired for the earth from the plants clothing it in a certain way.  And thus both varieties of formlessness are removed on this third day: first, in that the waters were gathered into one place, and dry land appeared; second, in that the earth brought forth the green herb.  The expositors [except Augustine] say that the plants were produced in act, in their various species, on this third day, following the literal meaning of the text.  Scripture expressly says, Let the earth bring forth the green herb, and such as may seed, for it is apparent that it was perfect species of plants that were brought forth, from which the seeds of the others might arise” (ST. Ia q. lxix. a. ii.).

St. Chrysostom: “Turn your mind here, beloved, to how all things on earth were made by the word of the Lord.  For there was no man to work the earth, no plow, no help of oxen, no other effort of such kind: it heard the commandment only, and immediately made what was its own.  From which we learn that even now that it is neither the care of farmers, nor their labor, nor other toils in tending the fields, that bring forth the successful result of fruit for us; for before all of these is the word of God, which from the beginning was made to the earth” (Homiliæ in Genesin, v. 4.).

St. Bede: “It is clear from these words of God that the adornment of the world was made perfect in springtime.  For it is then that green herbs appear on the earth, and trees laden with fruit; it is also to be noted that the first shoots of herbs and trees came forth, not from seed, but from the earth; for at the single command of the Creator the earth, which had prepared the dry land, became suddenly replete with plants, and forests were clothed with flowers; and these without delay produced from themselves fruit and seeds according to their kinds.  For it was fitting that whatever perfect things appeared at the command of the Lord, just as man himself, for whom all things on earth were made, should be believed to have been made perfectly, that is, in their time of youth” (Hexæmeron I. col. 21).

St. Basil: “The earth brings forth germination by itself, needing no help from anything else.  For some have thought that the sun, as it draws things from the lower parts to the surface by the force and attraction of heat, is the cause of those things which are produced from the earth: and so the adorning of the earth is older than the sun, so that those who were deceived by this error might cease to adore the sun as the author of things pertaining to life” (Hexæmeron, v. 1.).

“But who can survey the plants’ variety of fruit: their shapes, their colors, their individual tastes, the usefulness of every one?  Nothing is without cause, nothing was made blindly: everything is brought forth from God’s ineffable wisdom” (ibid., 8.).

St. Ambrose: “But some might perhaps say: Why is it that along with useful plants are also generated lethal and dangerous plants? … Nothing is without meaning; the earth brings forth nothing in vain.  What seems unusable to you is useful to others; indeed the same things are often useful to you, in a different way.  What cannot be used for food furnishes medicine: and often the same things that are poisonous to you provide harmless fodder for the birds or the beasts” (Hexæmeron, III. viii. 38, 39.).

“But what of the beauty of the full field!  What a smell!  What sweetness!  What pleasure for the farmers!  How can we worthily describe this, if we use our own speech?  But we have the testimony of Scripture, in which the sweetness of the field is compared to the blessing and grace of the saints, as holy Isaac says: The smell of my son is as the smell of a plentiful field.[3] How then shall I describe the violets growing purple, the white lilies, the red roses, the countryside painted now with gold, now with many-colored, now with yellow flowers, in which you do not know whether the appearance or the fragrant power pleases more?  The eyes are fed with this pleasing spectacle, far and wide is the fragrance spread, with whose sweetness we are filled.  Whence the Lord says divinely: With me is the beauty of the field;[4] for with Him is that which He Himself made” (ibid., 36.).

“Now let us speak of fruit-bearing trees … He spoke and they were made; and all at once, as with the flowers before, and the green plants, so now the earth is clothed with forests.  Trees rushed together, woods rose up; suddenly the peaks of the mountains were covered in leaves.  The pine and cypress raised themselves to their great height; cedars and spruce trees came together” (ibid., xi. 47.).

b. Moral application.

Let the earth bring forth, God says, the green herb; and immediately the earth is filled with every kind of shoot springing up.  And it is said to man: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,[5] but the love of God is not poured into the hearts of all.  The hearts of men are more deaf than the hardest of stones” (ibid., III. xvii. 70.).


[1] Septuagint, ἀόρατος.

[2] Septuagint, ἀκατασκεύαστος.

[3] Gen. xxvii. 27.

[4] Ps. lxix. 11.

[5] Deut. vi. 5.

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