Today’s Catechism sections discuss the mystery of creation. Supplemental materials come from the Vatican I constitution, “Dei Filius” and from the writings of St. Theophilus of Antioch called “Ad Autolycum”. Good reading!

IV. THE MYSTERY OF CREATION

God creates by wisdom and love

295 We believe that God created the world according to his wisdom.141 It is not the product of any necessity whatever, nor of blind fate or chance. We believe that it proceeds from God's free will; he wanted to make his creatures share in his being, wisdom and goodness: "For you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."142 Therefore the Psalmist exclaims: "O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all"; and "The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made."143 God creates "out of nothing"

296 We believe that God needs no pre-existent thing or any help in order to create, nor is creation any sort of necessary emanation from the divine substance.144 God creates freely "out of nothing":145

If God had drawn the world from pre-existent matter, what would be so extraordinary in that? A human artisan makes from a given material whatever he wants, while God shows his power by starting from nothing to make all he wants.146

297 Scripture bears witness to faith in creation "out of nothing" as a truth full of promise and hope. Thus the mother of seven sons encourages them for martyrdom:

I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws. . . Look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. Thus also mankind comes into being.147

298 Since God could create everything out of nothing, he can also, through the Holy Spirit, give spiritual life to sinners by creating a pure heart in them,148 and bodily life to the dead through the Resurrection. God "gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist."149 and since God was able to make light shine in darkness by his Word, he can also give the light of faith to those who do not yet know him.150

God creates an ordered and good world

299 Because God creates through wisdom, his creation is ordered: "You have arranged all things by measure and number and weight."151 The universe, created in and by the eternal Word, the "image of the invisible God", is destined for and addressed to man, himself created in the "image of God" and called to a personal relationship with God.152 Our human understanding, which shares in the light of the divine intellect, can understand what God tells us by means of his creation, though not without great effort and only in a spirit of humility and respect before the Creator and his work.153 Because creation comes forth from God's goodness, it shares in that goodness - "and God saw that it was good. . . very good"154- for God willed creation as a gift addressed to man, an inheritance destined for and entrusted to him. On many occasions the Church has had to defend the goodness of creation, including that of the physical world.155

God transcends creation and is present to it

300 God is infinitely greater than all his works: "You have set your glory above the heavens."156 Indeed, God's "greatness is unsearchable".157 But because he is the free and sovereign Creator, the first cause of all that exists, God is present to his creatures' inmost being: "In him we live and move and have our being."158 In the words of St. Augustine, God is "higher than my highest and more inward than my innermost self".159

God upholds and sustains creation

301 With creation, God does not abandon his creatures to themselves. He not only gives them being and existence, but also, and at every moment, upholds and sustains them in being, enables them to act and brings them to their final end. Recognizing this utter dependence with respect to the Creator is a source of wisdom and freedom, of joy and confidence:

For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made; for you would not have made anything if you had hated it. How would anything have endured, if you had not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by you have been preserved? You spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord, you who love the living.160

IN BRIEF

320 God created the universe and keeps it in existence by his Word, the Son "upholding the universe by his word of power" (⇒ Heb 1:3), and by his Creator Spirit, the giver of life.

The Dogmatic Constitution, Dei Filius from the First Vatican Council expresses the creation of the universe from nothing:

Chap. 1. God, Creator of All Things

The holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church believes and confesses that there is one, true, living God, Creator and Lord of heaven and earth, omnipotent, eternal, immense, incomprehensible, infinite in intellect and will, and in every perfection; who, although He is one, singular, altogether simple and unchangeable spiritual substance, must be proclaimed distinct in reality and essence from the world; most blessed in Himself and of Himself, and ineffably most high above all things which are or can be conceived outside Himself.

This sole true God by His goodness and "omnipotent power," not to increase His own beatitude, and not to add to, but to manifest His perfection by the blessings which He bestows on creatures, with most free volition, "immediately from the beginning of time fashioned each creature out of nothing, spiritual and corporeal, namely angelic and mundane; and then the human creation, common as it were, composed of both spirit and body" [Lateran Council IV, can. 2 and 5]

But God protects and governs by His providence all things which He created, "reaching from end to end mightily and ordering all things sweetly" [cf. Wis 8:1]. For "all things are naked and open to His eyes" [Heb 4:13], even those which by the free action of creatures are in the future.

St. Theophilus of Antioch provides a beautiful discourse on creation in his work, “Ad Autolycum” (2, 4):

CHAPTER IV.—ABSURD OPINIONS OF THE PHILOSOPHERS CONCERNING GOD.

Some of the philosophers of the Porch say that there is no God at all; or, if there is, they say that He cares for none but Himself; and these views the folly of Epicurus and Chrysippus has set forth at large. And others say that all things are produced without external agency, and that the world is uncreated, and that nature is eternal; and have dared to give out that there is no providence of God at all, but maintain that God is only each man’s conscience. And others again maintain that the spirit which pervades all things is God. But Plato and those of his school acknowledge indeed that God is uncreated, and the Father and Maker of all things; but then they maintain that matter as well as God is uncreated, and aver that it is coeval with God. But if God is uncreated and matter uncreated, God is no longer, according to the Platonists, the Creator of all things, nor, so far as their opinions hold, is the monarchy551 of God established. And further, as God, because He is uncreated, is also unalterable; so if matter, too, were uncreated, it also would be unalterable, and equal to God; for that which is created is mutable and alterable, but that which is uncreated is immutable and unalterable. And what great thing is it if God made the world out of existent materials? For even a human artist, when he gets material from someone, makes of it what he pleases. But the power of God is manifested in this, that out of things that are not He makes whatever He pleases; just as the bestowal of life and motion is the prerogative of no other than God alone. For even man makes indeed an image, but reason and breath, or feeling, he cannot give to what he has made. But God has this property in excess of what man can do, in that He makes a work, endowed with reason, life, sensation. As, therefore, in all these respects God is more powerful than man, so also in this; that out of things that are not He creates and has created things that are, and whatever He pleases, as He pleases.

Footnotes

141 Cf. Wis 9:9.
142 ⇒ Rev 4:11.
143 ⇒ Pss 104:24; ⇒ 145:9.
144 Cf. Dei Filius, cann. 2-4: DS 3022-3024.
145 Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 800; cf. DS 3025.
146 St. Theophilus of Antioch, Ad Autolycum II, 4: PG 6, 1052.
147 2 Macc 7:22-21, 28.
148 Cf. ⇒ Ps 51:12.
149 ⇒ Rom 4:17.
150 Cf. ⇒ Gen 1:3; ⇒ 2 Cor 4:6.
151 Wis 11:20.
152 ⇒ Col 1:15, ⇒ Gen 1:26.
153 Cf. ⇒ Ps 19:2-5; ⇒ Job 42:3.
154 ⇒ Gen 1:4, ⇒ 10, ⇒ 12, ⇒ 18, ⇒ 21, ⇒ 31.
155 Cf. DS 286; 455-463; 800; 1333; 3002
156 ⇒ Ps 8:1; cf. ⇒ Sir 43:28.
157 ⇒ Ps 145:3.
158 ⇒ Acts 17:28.
159 St. Augustine, Conf: 3, 6, 11: PL 32, 688.
160 Wis 11:24-26.