When Christ rose from the dead, it was a world-changing event in the most profound way imaginable.
In a very real sense, the whole world was reborn in Christ.
As strange as it may sound to say that, how could it be otherwise? If God, in His fullness, entered His creation, really walked within it and really died within it—and then was really resurrected within it, would that not be a world-transformative event? The old realities and the old rules would seem to no long hold sway. Death—the sentence imposed on us by sin—would no longer be definitive.
In taking on the fullness of humanity, God transformed it, so the Church teaches us. In dying and then rising, God thus ended the dominion of death over human life. This great truth must be restated: the human person, in body and soul, is no long bound by death. Our story no longer must end with the grave. To believe otherwise is to deny that God took on the fullness of our humanity.
Christ redeemed humanity, but, in so doing all creation was restored in Him. All creation, Scripture teaches us, had been groaning under the curse stemming from the sin of the first man, Adam (see Romans 5:12 and 8:22). So in removing that curse, Christ, the last Adam, also redeemed the whole of creation.
In fact, what we Christians say and believe goes much further than this. We believe that all things were made anew in Christ (Revelation 21:5). This is to say much more than just Christ scrubbed creation clean of its impurities. Or that the world simply had ‘changed.’ Or that the laws of nature had been altered. All things have been remade. Consider what that means for a moment.
St. Paul called this extraordinary reality a ‘new creation’: “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
It’s a most fitting truth. Christ, John 1 teaches us, was the Word spoken by God that through which whole universe into being—the visible and invisible, the heavens and earth, from the smallest subatomic particle to the largest superstructure of galaxies.
In a sense, Christ always carries creation with Him. This was the inevitable conclusion to be drawn from the teaching of the early Church that God, who being infinite, could not be contained by anything. Therefore, all things were contained within Him.
As Christ is fully divine so it goes for Him—especially since all things were made through him. As Athanasius puts it in On the Incarnation:
He rather contained all things Himself; and just as while present in the whole of Creation, He is at once distinct in being from the universe, and present in all things by His own power—giving order to all things, and overall and in all revealing His own providence, and giving life to each thing and all things, including the whole without being included, but being in His own Father alone wholly and in every respect thus, even while present in a human body and Himself quickening it, He was, without inconsistency, quickening the universe as well, and was in every process of nature, and was outside the whole, and while known from the body by His works, He was none the less manifest from the working of the universe as well.
This truth is reaffirmed throughout the New Testament. As Colossians 1:17-20 says,
He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in all things he himself might be preeminent.
For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile all things for him,
making peace by the blood of his cross
through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.
Likewise, 1 Corinthians 15:28 states: “When everything is subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all.” And again in Ephesians 1:10 tells us that God set forth in Christ “a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.”
Of course, the old creation is very much still with us. God did not create the world in an instant, but rather in an orderly and progressive fashion, as is made clear in Genesis 1. We should not expect then that the new creation will be different in that regard.
In a way, this is in keeping with the reality of the created order: it does not all come into being through a flash bang, as if it were some magician’s phantasm, here now, gone the next. Stars and planets slowly coalesce out of clouds of cosmic dust. Plants sprout from seeds. Animals either hatch or are born, only to develop further. Even Christ—especially Christ—spent nine months in the womb.
And so it is with the world. It is being reborn. And there is new growth all around us. To be sure, it may be hard to see it—just it may be hard to imagine an oak tree by looking at an acorn seed and or envision a soaring eagle by eyeing its egg. And so we live between worlds, groaning amid the old, hoping with joy for the fullness of the new, as Romans 8 calls us to do:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved (verses 18-24).
But this week and the Easter season as a whole are a time above all else a time for joy. For we celebrate that moment—the turning point—when the world was reborn: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
By Stephen Beale
Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at GoLocalProv.com and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on MSNBC.com and ABCNews.com. A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints. He welcomes tips, suggestions, and any other feedback at bealenews at gmail dot com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/StephenBeale1