Genesis ii. 1-3.

June 25, 2010

Chapter II.  With the six days’ work completed, God blessed the seventh: he placed man, specially marked, in Paradise, with various rivers and fruit-bearing trees, and formed Eve from his side to be his help.

So the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the furniture of them.  And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made: and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.  And He blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made.

1-3. God completes the work of creation, rests on the seventh day and blesses it.

a. “Perfecti sunt”: in what sense heaven and earth were completed and “perfected.”

St. Thomas: “The perfection of a thing is twofold: a first perfection, and a second.  The first perfection is that according to which a thing is perfected, or completed, in its substance.  This perfection is the form of the whole, which arises from the integrity of the parts.  Now the second perfection is a thing’s end.  An end is either a work, as the end of a lyre player is to play the lyre, or is something that is reached by work, as the end of a builder is a house, which he makes by building it.  Now the first perfection is the cause of the second, because the form is the principle of the work.  The final perfection, which is the end of the whole world, is the perfect beatitude of the saints, which will be at the final consummation of the world.  But the first perfection, that which is in the integrity of a whole, was the first institution of things.  And this is assigned to the seventh day” (ST. Ia q. lxxiii. a. i.).

“Two things are required for the achievement of beatitude, namely nature and grace.  Therefore the perfection of beatitude will be at the end of the world, as was said.  But this consummation has previously existed causally: with regard to nature, in the first institution of things; with regard to grace, in Christ’s Incarnation, for grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.[1] Thus, therefore, on the seventh day was the consummation of nature; in the Incarnation of Christ, the consummation of grace; at the end of the world, the consummation of glory” (ibid., ad 1.).

b. “And God ended his work”

“On the seventh day God performed some work; not in making a new creature, but in ministering to creation, and moving it to its proper operation, which already in some way pertains to a certain beginning of the second perfection.  And therefore the consummation of works, according to our translation, is attributed to the seventh day.  But according to another translation,[2] it is attributed to the sixth day.  And both may be allowed to stand.  For the consummation with regard to the integrity of the parts of the world, happened on the sixth day, and the consummation with regard to the operation of the parts, happened on the seventh” (ibid., ad 2.).

“Afterwards nothing completely new was made by God, but had in some way existed previously in the work of the six days.  For some things pre-existed materially, as that God formed woman from Adam’s side.  Others pre-existed in the work of the six days, not only materially, but also causally,  as the individuals that are now produced existed in the first individuals of their species.  Even new species, if these appear, pre-existed in active powers.  Also, some animals of a new species sometimes arise from the union of animals of different species, as the mule is produced from a donkey and a horse; and these also previously existed causally in the work of the six days.  And some existed previously with regard to likeness, as souls that are now created” (ibid., ad 3.).

St. Bede: “It is plain that the number six is perfect, because it is the first that is composed of its own parts.[3] So in six days God created the whole adornment of heaven and earth, that he who instituted all things in measure, and number, and weight[4] might teach that his works were perfect, even by the number of days in which they were made” (In Principium Genesis I col. 33; cf. St. Augustine, De Genesi ad litteram, IV. vii. 14, ii. 2.)

c. “And he rested on the seventh day”

ST. PAUL, Hebr. iv. 3-4: We, who have believed, shall enter into rest; as he said: As I have sworn in my wrath; If they shall enter into my rest; and this indeed when the works from the foundation of the world were finished.  For in a certain place he spoke of the seventh day thus: And God rested the seventh day from all his works.

St. Ambrose: “But now let our sermon come to an end, for the sixth day is complete, and we have reached the highest achievement of the works of this world in completed man, to whom is given rule over all living things, and a certain encompassing of all things, and all the grace of worldly creation.  Let us defer to silence; for God rested from all the works of the world: but he rested in the innermost parts of man; he rested in his mind and intention.  For he had made man capable of reason, an imitator of God himself, zealous of the virtues, desirous of the graces of heaven.  In these God takes his rest: On whom shall I rest, but on him that is humble, and peaceful, and trembleth at my words?[5]

“Therefore thanks be to the Lord our God, who made a work of this kind in which he might take his rest.  He made heaven: I do not read that he rested; he made earth: I do not read that he rested; he made the sun, the moon and the stars, and nor do I read here that he rested.  But I read that he made man, and then he rested, having made a creature whose sins he might forgive.  Or perhaps even then the mystery of the Lord’s future passion was anticipated; for it is revealed that Christ rested in man: he who predestined to himself rest in a body for the redemption of man, according to what he himself said: I have slept and taken my rest: and I have risen up, because the Lord hath protected me.[6] For he rested, who created: to him is honor, glory, existence from all ages: now, and always, and forever.  Amen” (Hexæmeron, ad fin.).

St. Augustine: “It probably can be said that the command for the Jews to observe the sabbath was a shadow of the future; for it figured spiritual rest, which God, by the example of his own rest, promised in a hidden meaning to the faithful who do good works.  This rest was also confirmed by Christ the Lord, who only suffered when he wished to, and confirmed this mystery even with his burial.  For on this very day, the sabbath, he rested in the tomb, and had a whole day of a certain holy freedom, after on the sixth day, that is on the day of preparation, which they call the ‘sixth of the sabbath,’ he consummated all his works, as what was written of him was fulfilled on the very gibbet of the cross.  For he used this word when it says: It is consummated; and bowing his head he gave up the ghost[7] (De genesi ad litteram, IV. xi. 21.  Cf. Strabus, Glossa ordinaria, col. 83).

St. Augustine: “Lord God, give us peace (for thou hast granted all things to us):[8] the peace of quiet, the peace of the sabbath, peace without evening.  For indeed this whole most beautiful order, of very good things in their finished ways, is about to pass away: and indeed it was morning in them, and it will be evening.

“But the seventh day is without evening, and has no setting, for you sanctified it to remain for ever; so that that rest, in which you rested after your very good works, and which your Book tells us of, may also be ours after our own works, which are very good for this reason only, that you granted them to us; and that we may rest in the sabbath of eternal life, in you.

“For even now you will take your rest in us, just as you now work in us, and so your rest shall be through us, just as your works are through us.  But you, Lord, always work, and always rest.  You do not see according to time; you are not moved according to time; you do not rest according to time; and yet you make everything we see in this temporal world, and time itself, and rest from time.

“And so we see the things you have made, because they are; but it is because you see them that they are.  And we see outside ourselves, that they are, and we see within ourselves, that they are good; but you saw your deeds at that place, where you saw there were things to be done.  And we at a different time were moved to do good, after our heart conceived of your spirit; at an earlier time we were moved to do evil, and to abandon you: but you, God, the only good, have never ceased to do good.  And indeed we have some good works by your gift, but they are not eternal; after them, we hope to rest in your glorious sanctification.  But you, the good having no need of good, are always at rest, because you yourself are your rest.  And who among man will give to man to understand this?  What angel to an angel?  What angel to a man?  Let it be begged for from you, searched for in you, knocked for to you; thus, thus let it be received in you; found in you; opened by you.  Amen” (Conf., ad fin.).

Mystical interpretation of Creation.

Several Doctors expounded the seven days of creation as corresponding to the seven ages of the world: St. Augustine, De Genesi contra Manichæos, I. xxiii., St. Bede, In Principium Genesis I col. 36-38; St. Isidore, Quæstiones in Vetum Testamentum, ii. 1-13; cf. Strabus, Prolegomena, col. 64-66.  Bede’s and Isidore’s expositions are based on but differ from Augustine’s; of the three, Bede’s is the most illuminating.  The expositions are here combined in a brief summary, mostly following St. Bede:

1. The first day, on which light was created, corresponds to the first age of the world, in which man was placed among the delights of paradise; the “day” of the first age began to decline already “when our first parents, through their sin, lost the happiness of their heavenly native country, and were banished to this valley of tears” (Bede); full evening came with the flood, merited by the great wickedness of the human race.

2. The morning of the second age of the world saw Noah’s ark as a new firmament between the waters of the flood and of the rain pouring down from the heavens; its decline and evening occurred with the building of the Tower of Babel and  the confusion of tongues.

3. The gathering of the waters and the production of plants on the third day corresponds to the separation between the sea of idolatry arising after the flood, and the line of patriarchs beginning with Abraham, which bore the fruit of faith in the one God.  The third age’s decline and evening occurred with the sins of the Israelites and their rejection of the divine precepts, culminating in the malice of Saul.

4. The glory of the creation of sun, moon and stars is matched by the rise of a new people of God under the Kings David and Solomon, the building of the Temple, the signs of the prophets, and the prophecy of the Messiah.  This age had its evening in the sins of the kings, and reached full night in the destruction of Jerusalem and the deportation to Babylon.

5. The fifth age lasts until the coming of Christ; it is compared to the fifth day because in it the Hebrews began to live among the gentiles, as in the sea; and of them some were like great whales whom the the waves of the world and the terrors of idolatry were unable to move.  Others, like birds, received the wings of freedom and returned to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple.  Decline occurred with the subjection to Roman authority, and the increasing wickedness of the Jews, who became so blind that they could not recognize the Lord Jesus Christ.

6. In the midst of countless reprobate men, justly compared to the wild beasts created on the sixth day, the second Adam is born, not only the image and likeness of God, but God himself as man.  As from Adam’s side Eve was created, the Church is created from Christ’s side on the cross.  The sixth age has its decline in the growing cold of the charity of many,[9] which St. Bede recognized already in his time, even as he recognized that it would grow much worse at full evening.  We are surely at the evening of the sixth age, when, according to St. Bede, the man of sin shall be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposeth, and is lifted up above all that is called God,[10] and the tribulation is such as to deceive, if possible, even the elect.[11] Verumtamen Filius hominis veniens, putas, inveniet fidem in terra?[12]

7. After the dark night at the end of the sixth age will come the morning, the glory of Christ’s coming.  As on the seventh day of the world God rested from his good works, so in the seventh age of the world, which knows no evening, God will rest with his saints, through whom he worked good throughout the sixth ages of the world.  St. Bede sees the seventh age as beginning with the blessedness of the saints in heaven before the end of the world, and culminating in the eighth age, the eighth day, the resurrection of the body and eternal beatitude: “And for this reason it is fitting that we do not read the seventh day to have been succeeded by evening, because there shall be no sadness that could end this seventh age; indeed, it will instead be perfected in the greater happiness, as we said, of the eighth age: for in it, beginning with the glory of the resurrection, this whole life shall pass away, and, without end, far from the vicissitudes of life, we shall be changed[13] by the contemplation of the face of God.”

[1] John i. 17.

[2] LXX.

[3] 1+2+3=6; 6×1=6; 2×3=6; 3×2=6.

[4] Sap. xi. 21.

[5] Is. lxvi. 2.  Vulgate/DR: What is this my place of rest?  My hand made all these things, and all these things were made, saith the Lord.  But to whom shall I have respect, but to him that is poor and little, and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my words?

[6] Ps. iii. 6.  Applied to Our Lord’s death and Resurrection.  “Taken my rest” in this passage and in St. Ambrose’s concluding sentence refers to Christ’s death: which sentence accordingly begins with the following meaning: “He who created, died for us: and so to Him” etc.

[7] John xix. 30.  St. Augustine’s text of Gen ii. 2 began with Consummavitque Deus etc., the same word Christ used on the cross, Consummatum est.

[8] Is. xxvi. 12 (LXX): Κύριε ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν, εἰρήνην δὸς ἡμῖν, πάντα γὰρ ἀπέδωκας ἡμῖν.  Vulgate/DR: Lord, thou wilt give us peace: for thou hast wrought all our works for us.

[9] Matt. xxiv. 12.

[10] 2 Thess. ii. 2-3.

[11] Matt. xxiv. 24.

[12] Luke xviii. 8.

[13] 1 Cor. xv. 52.


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