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Recapitulating Creation

Irenaeus speaks of creation coming out of the very "substance" of God.' It is not as if the elements of the universe are fashioned out of a neutral substance. It is not as if creation is set in motion from afar. The matter of life comes forth directly from the womb of God's being. The glory of the sun rising in the east is the glory of God shining on us now and now and now. The whiteness of the moon, the wildness of the wind, the moisture of the fecund earth is the glow and wildness and moistness of God now. It is the very stuff of God's being of which we and creation are composed.

Irenaeus was writing in the face of two great falsenesses in his age. One was the falseness of the Roman Empire, dominating the world with inhumanity, disregarding the sovereignty of nations, and inequitably ravishing the resources of the earth. The other was the rise of new spiritualities that looked above the matter of our being and beyond the body of creation for a gnosis or higher knowing that would save them from the rest of humanity and from the physicalness of their being. Both were viewed by Irenaeus as dangerous denials of the essential truth of the universe, that it is born of God's being and that it carries within itself the sounds of the sacred...

Irenaeus uses a term that at first sight seems complicated. He speaks of Christ as "recapitulating" creation.' What do we do when we recapitulate something? We say it again. We repeat something that has already been said but in a way that brings into focus the essence of what was previously said but has been forgotten or obscured. Irenaeus teaches that Christ expresses the heart of the first work of God, namely, the work of creation, the deepest and most essential energy of the Creator. He is the recapitulation of the original utterance of God, not of something new or unrelated to the Word that calls all things into being.

- John Philip Newell, Christ of the Celts: The Healing of Creation ( Jossey-Bass), pp. 35-39.