The Divine Word Holds the Universe Together

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made through him, and without him nothing was made.”

In these words John the theologian teaches that nothing exists or remains in being except in and through the Word.

Think of a musician tuning his lyre. By his skill he adjusts high notes to low and intermediate notes to the rest, and produces a series of harmonies. So too the wisdom of God holds the world like a lyre and joins things in the air to those on earth, and things in heaven to those in the air, and brings each part into harmony with the whole. By his decree and will he regulates them all to produce the beauty and harmony of a single, well-ordered universe. While remaining unchanged with his Father, he moves all creation by his unchanging nature, according to the Father’s will. To everything he gives existence and life in accordance with its nature, and so creates a wonderful and truly divine harmony.

To illustrate this profound mystery, let us take the example of a choir of many singers. A choir is composed of a variety of men, women and children, of both old and young. Under the direction of one conductor, each sings in the way that is natural for him: men with men’s voices, boys with boys’ voices, old people with old voices, young people with young voices. Yet all of them produce a single harmony. Or consider the example of our soul. It moves our senses according to their several functions so that in the presence of a single object they all act simultaneously: the eye sees, the ear hears, the hand touches, the nose smells, the tongue tastes, and often the other parts of the body act as well as, for example, the feet may walk.

Although this is only a poor comparison, it gives some idea of how the whole universe is governed. The Word of God has but to give a gesture of command and everything falls into place; each creature performs its own proper function, and all together constitute one single harmonious order.

This excerpt from a discourse Against the Pagans (nn. 42-43: PG 25, 83-87) by St. Athanasius is used in the Roman Office of Readings for Friday in the 1st week of Ordinary time. St. Athanasius was one of the eloquent defenders of the full divinity of Christ during the Arian controversy of the 4th century AD.

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St. Athanasius was born in Alexandria, Egypt, around the year 296 AD. Most probably, he was educated in the famous catechetical school of that city, which decades earlier was led by St. Clement of Alexandria and then Origen. Athanasius became a deacon and secretary to the Alexandria’s bishop, Alexander, and in that capacity accompanied his bishop to the first great Ecumenical Council, the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. Shortly after returning from the Council (328), St. Athanasius was named the successor to Bishop Alexander and became patriarch archbishop of Alexandria, the greatest episcopal see in the Church after Rome.St. Athanasius is one of the most important of the Early Church Fathers, best known for his tireless proclamation of the Council of Nicaea’s profession of faith in the full divinity of Christ during the troubled period of the Arian heresy, which denied Jesus’ equality with the Father. For decades after the Council, powerful forces in the government of the Eastern Roman empire lobbied for an Arian form of Christian faith. Athanasius bravely stood against them and was exiled numerous times by the government and actually had to flee to Rome in 339 where he stayed for 7 years in exile, establishing close relationships with the Roman Church which supported him throughout the rest of his life as he continued to stand for orthodoxy. While still a deacon in his twenties, Athanasius wrote his famous treatise, On the Incarnation (full text available below), which remains one of two best known works. The other is his Life of Antony, the spiritual classic which tells the story of St. Anthony of the Desert who initiated the monastic movement in Egypt and indeed throughout the entire Christian world. St. Antony and his monks were stalwart supporters of Athanasius throughout his struggle with Arianism. From 339 to 359 Athanasius also wrote a number of other works defending the orthodox faith of the Council of Nicaea. St. Athanasius died in Alexandria on May 2, 373, and to this day he is honored on May 2 in the Roman liturgy.  (Bio by Dr. Italy)