Genesis i. 14-19.

June 25, 2010

And God said: Let there be lights made in the firmament of heaven, to divide the day and the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years: to shine in the firmament of heaven, and to give light upon the earth. And it was so done.  And God made two great lights: a greater light to rule the day; and a lesser light to rule the night: and the stars.  And he set them in the firmament of heaven to shine upon the earth, and to rule the day and the night, and to divide the light and the darkness. And God saw that it was good.  And the evening and morning were the fourth day.

14-19. The beginning of the work of adornment.  The fourth day: the creation of the heavenly bodies.

a. The work of adornment in general.

St. Thomas: “In the recapitulation of the divine works, Scripture says, So the heavens and earth were finished, and all the furniture of them.[1] In these words a threefold work may be understood.  The first is the work of creation, by which heaven and earth are produced, but without form.  The second is the work of distinction, by which heaven and earth were finished, or made perfect, by receiving their fitting beauty and order.  And to these two works is added the third, adornment.  And adornment differs from distinction (perfection).  For the perfection of heaven and earth is seen to pertain to those things that are intrinsic to heaven and earth, but adornment to those things that are distinct from heaven and earth.  In the same way a man is completed by his proper parts and forms, but he is adorned by clothes, or other things of this sort … Now as it was said above, mention is made of three things in creation, namely of heaven, water, and earth.  And these three are also formed by the work of distinction during three days: on the first day, heaven; on the second day the waters are separated, or distinguished; on the third day occurs a separation on earth, of the sea and dry land.  And similarly in the work of adornment: on the first day, which is the fourth in all, the heavenly bodies are produced, which move in the heavens, for their adornment.  On the second day, which is the fifth, are produced the birds and fish, for the adornment of the middle element; for these move in the air and in the water, which are taken together.  On the third day, which is the sixth, are produced the animals that move on land, for its adornment” (ST. Ia q. lxx. a. i.).

b. The relation of the work of the fourth day to the creation of light.

St. Thomas: “It is necessary to say that the light made on the first day was produced according to the general nature of light, but on the fourth day was attributed to the heavenly bodies defined powers to bring about defined effects; according to which we see the sun’s rays to have one effect, and the moon’s another, and thus of the others” (ibid., ad 2.).

c. The nature and ends of the heavenly bodies.

St. Chrysostom: “He set them, it says, in the firmament of heaven.  What is this, He set them [posuit]?  Is it as if someone were to say, He fixed them?  By no means: for we see them often, in one moment of time, go across a great space, and never stay in one place, but fulfill their course, which the Lord has commanded for them.  What then does this mean, He set them?  That is, He ordered that they be in the heavens.  One can see this even from the course of Scripture, for elsewhere it says: The Lord God took man, and put him [posuit] into the paradise;[2] not that He fixed him in paradise, but that He commanded that he be in paradise” (Homiliæ in Genesin, vi. 5.).

St. Thomas: “Any corporeal creature may be said to have been made either for the sake of its proper act, or for another creature, or for the whole universe, or for the glory of God.  But Moses, that he might bring back his people from idolatry, only mentions that cause, according to which they were made for the use of men.  Whence it is said, lest perhaps lifting up thy eyes to heaven, thou see the sun and the moon, and all the stars of heaven, and being deceived by error thou adore and serve them, which the Lord thy God created for the service of all the nations.[3] Now he explains this service at the beginning of Genesis in three ways.  First comes forth the usefulness to men from the heavenly bodies with regard to sight, which guides them in their works, and is of greatest use for recognizing things.  And with regard to this, he says, to shine in the firmament of heaven, and to give light upon the earth.  Second, with regard to the changes of times, by which weariness is removed and good health preserved, and necessaries of life are provided that would not exist, if it were always summer or winter.  And with regard to this, he says, to be for seasons, and for days and years.  Third, with regard to the right time for activities and works, inasmuch as from the heavenly bodies is taken the indication of a rainy season or a clear, which are fitting for various activities.  And with regard to this he says, to be for signs” (ibid., a. ii.).

St. Basil: “Certainly the Lord Himself explained one of the signs of the sun, when He said: Today there will be a storm, for the sky is red and lowering[4] … “Furthermore the Lord foretold that the signs of the destruction of all things would appear in the sun and moon, and in the stars: The sun shall be turned to blood, and the moon shall not give her light.[5] These are the signs of the end of all things” (Hexæmeron, vi. 4.).

Let them be, he says, and for days: not so that they may cause days, but that they may govern them.  For day and night came before the creation of the sun and moon” (ibid., vi. 8.).

d. The fourth day expounded with reference to Christ.

St. Basil: “God said, Let there be lights made … and God made two great lights.  Who spoke, and who made?  Do you not perceive two persons in these words?  Everywhere the doctrine of  theology is mysteriously interspersed with history” (Hexæmeron, vi. 2.).

St. Ambrose: “Who says this?  God says this.  And to whom does he say it, if not to the Son?  Thus God the Father says: Let the sun be made; and the Son made the sun.  For it was suitable that the world’s sun should be made by the Sun of Justice[6] (Hexæmeron, IV. ii. 5.).

He hath made the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down.[7] For when the day begins to finish its hours, the sun knows that his setting is due.  Therefore the sun has power over the day, and the moon power over the night, which is compelled to obey the changes of times, and now is filled with light, and now becomes empty: although very many are seen to take this passage mystically of Christ and the Church; because Christ discerned the passion of His own body, when He said: Father, the hour is come, glorify thy Son,[8] so that by His own going down he might give eternal life to all those who were threatened by the going down of eternal death: and that the Church might have its seasons, namely of persecution and of peace.  For the moon often seems to die out, but it never does.  It can be overshadowed, but it cannot die … For the Church shines, not with her own light, but with the light of Christ; and she invokes upon herself the splendor of  the Sun of justice, that she may say: And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me[9] (ibid., ii. 7; viii. 32).

e. Moral exhortation.

St. Chrysostom: “What is this you say, o man?  When you see the heavens, you admire their beauty, their array of stars, their excellence of their brightness?  Do not stop there, but extend your mind to the Creator Himself: you are thrown again into a stupor by the sun’s light, and you admire its many uses: and because you see the rays lighting up your eyes, you admire the beauty of the elements?  But do not stop here either; no, think of this: if the creature is so wonderful, and above the opinion and intellect of all, how great is He who brought it forth solely by his word of command?  Consider the same thing of the earth: when you see it adorned with flowers, like a garment separated into many colors; when you see it covered with fields of various plants on every side, do not ascribe to the power of the earth the things born out of it, nor to the aid of the sun or the moon; but instead think that, before before their creation, God said merely, Let the earth bring forth the green herb, and the next instant the entire face of the earth was adorned.  If we keep going over this to ourselves every day, we shall ourselves be pleasing; and as much as is fitting – no, as much as our strength can bear – we shall give glory to the Lord” (Homiliæ in Genesin, vi. 6.).


[1] Gen. ii. 1.

[2] Gen ii. 15.

[3] Deut. iv. 19.

[4] Matt. xvi. 3.

[5] Matt. xxiv. 29.  Vulgate/DR has: The sun shall be darkened. Cf. Acts ii. 20.

[6] Mal. iv. 2.

[7] Ps. ciii. 19.

[8] John xvii. 1.

[9] Gal. ii. 20.

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