John Paul II’s meditations on creation as gift in Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology Of The Body (180-1) are deeply stimulating. He begins from the observation that the gift of creation is a “radical” gift, that is, a gift that constitutes the recipient in the giving, “an act of giving in which the gift comes into being precisely from nothing.” Created existence is gifted in the most fundamental sense: It was not there to receive before God gave it existence.
But it is particularly man who makes the creation a gift. He reflects on Genesis 1:27, but verse 29 is also in the background: “God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant . . . .” John Paul notes,
“In the account of the creation of the visible world, giving has meaning only in relation to man. In the whole work of creation, it is only about him that one can say, a gift has been granted: the visible world has been created ‘for him.’” Thus, “creation is a gift, because man appears in it,” and man makes creation a gift because as image of God man “is able to understand the very meaning of the gift in the call from nothing to existence. He is also able to respond to the Creator with the language of this understanding.”
But the gift is also reciprocal: “creation constitutes the fundamental and original gift: man appears in creation as the one who has received the world as gift.” But also, man as image of God is a gift to the creation: “one can also say that the world has received man as gift.” John Paul might have Genesis 2:5 in mind: Since there is no man to serve the field, there are no shrubs. The world’s fullness awaits the gift of Adam.
And the reciprocity repeats itself at another level. God gives the world to man, and man to the world, and within the world God gives one human to another: “Man appears in [the world] as ‘created,’ that is, as the one who, in the midst of the ‘world,’ has received the other human being as a gift.” To be created is to be the recipient of a gift, and the gift of Eve to Adam crowns Adam as the crown of creation.
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Tuesday, July 3, 2012 at 5:52 am
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