Genesis i. 5.

June 24, 2010

And he called the light day, and the darkness night; and there was evening and morning, one day.

5a. Day and night, one day; the nature of light and the cause of day and night before the creation of the sun.

St. Chrysostom: “God expressly named the boundary of day and the boundary of night as one, in order to establish some order and visible sequence, and that there might be no confusion” (Homiliæ in Genesin, iii. 3.).

St. Thomas: “It is to be said that that light was the light of the sun, but as yet unformed, in so far as this, that it already was the substance of the sun, and had the power of illuminating in general; but afterwards [on the fourth day], a specific and defined power was given to it to bring about particular effects.  And following this, in this bringing forth of light, light is distinguished from darkness with regard to three things.  First, with regard to cause, because the cause of light was in the substance of the sun, but the cause of darkness was in the darkness of the earth.  Second, with regard to place, because in one hemisphere there was light, in the other darkness.  Third, with regard to time, for in the same hemisphere there was light at one time, darkness at another.  And this is what is said, And He called the light Day, and the darkness Night” (ST. Ia q. lxvii. a. iv. ad 2.).

“It is to be said that there is a twofold movement in the heavens.  One is common to the whole of the heavens, which causes day and night; and seems to have been instituted on the first day.  The other is that which is varied through the different bodies, according to which movements occurs the difference of days among themselves, and that of months and years.  And therefore on the first day mention is made of the single distinction of night and day, which occurs through the common movement.  And on the fourth day mention is made of the difference of days and seasons and years, when it is said, let them be for seasons, and for days and years;[1] which difference occurs through the particular movements” (ibid., ad 3.).

Evening is mentioned first, because, since day begins with the light, the ending of light, evening, occurs before the ending of darkness and night, which is morning” (ibid., q. lxxiv. a. iii. ad 6.).

One day is said in the institution of the first day, in order to designate that the space of twenty-four hours constitutes one day.  Whence through this that is said, one, the measure of a natural day is given in advance.  Or for this reason, to signify a day to be finished by the return of the sun to one and the same point.  Or because after the completion of seven days, we return to the first day, which is one with the eighth.  And these three reasons are given by Basil”[2] (ibid., ad 7.).

St. Chrysostom: “His almighty hand and infinite wisdom were not powerless, so that he could not produce all things in one day … [but] he created in a certain order and in pieces, and passed on to us clear teaching on created things by the tongue of this blessed prophet, in order that, having been taught these things, we might not fall into the opinion of those who are moved by human reasonings.  For if, even with these things accomplished in such a way, there are not lacking those who allege that all created things exist by chance: if He had not considered us worthy of being taught by so fitting a plan, what would they not have dared, who strive to say and do anything against their own salvation?

“For what is more miserable and foolish than those, who try to say such things, and assert that things happened by chance, and deceitfully deprive the whole creation of divine providence?  For – tell me, I beseech you – by what settled reason would it be conceivable that such elements, and such furnishing could be directed without anyone governing or preserving them all?  No ship could ever cross the waves of the sea without a helmsman; no soldier does anything vigorous or exceptional without the omens and the lead of his commander; no house can stand firm unless there is someone there to manage it: but this enormous world, and the furnishing of its elements, can be sustained, rashly, by chance, with no one existing who could govern it all, and who could maintain and preserve it through His wisdom?” (Homiliæ in Genesin, iii., 3-4.).

5b. Moral exhortation.

St. Ambrose: “It is beautiful that the changing of light and darkness are to be called day: it concluded with morning as an end, in order to teach that day both begins with light, and comes to an end in light.  For it is not a whole day until the night has been completed.[3] And so let us, too, always walk honestly, as in the day, and cast off the works of darkness.  For we know that night was given for the rest of the body, not for the performance of any task or work, which are hastened through in sleep and oblivion.[4] Not for us are rioting, drunkenness, chambering, impurities.[5] Let us not say: Darkness and walls cover us, and who knows if the most High shall see?[6] Instead let there be in us the love of light, and the zeal of honesty, so that, walking in the day, we may desire to let our works shine before God, to whom belongs honor, praise, glory, power, with Our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the Holy Spirit from all ages, and now, and always, forever and ever.  Amen” (Hexæmeron, I. x. 38).


[1] Gen. i. 14

[2] Hom. in Hex. ii., 8.

[3] Cf. St. Augustine, De Genesi contra Manichæos I. x. 16: “Because the night pertains to its own day, one day is not said to have passed until the night has passed and it is morning.”

[4] (Metaphorical – moral sleep and oblivion.)

[5] Rom. xiii. 13, 12.

[6] Sir. xxiii. 26 (Vulgate/DR: Darkness compasseth me about, and the walls cover me, and no man seeth me); Ps. lxxii. 11 (Vulgate/DR: How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?) 

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