In four superb homilies and a concluding essay, Joseph Ratzinger, provides a clear and inspiring exploration of the Genesis creation narratives.
While the stories of the world’s creation and the fall of humankind have often been subjected to reductionism of one sort or another—literalists treat the Bible as a science textbook whereas rationalists divorce God from creation—Ratzinger presents a rich, balanced Catholic understanding of these early biblical writings and attests to their enduring vitality.
Beginning each homily with a text selected from the first three chapters of Genesis, Ratzinger discusses, in turn, God the creator, the meaning of the biblical creation accounts, the creation of human beings, and sin and salvation; in the appendix he unpacks the beneficial consequences of faith in creation.
Expertly translated from German, these reflections set out a reasonable and biblical approach to creation. ‘In the Beginning...’ also serves as an excellent homiletic resource for priests and pastors.
“Its purpose ultimately would be to say one thing: God created the world.” (Page 5)
“Thus we can see how the Bible itself constantly readapts its images to a continually developing way of thinking, how it changes time and again in order to bear witness, time and again, to the one thing that has come to it, in truth, from God’s Word, which is the message of his creating act. In the Bible itself the images are free and they correct themselves ongoingly. In this way they show, by means of a gradual and interactive process, that they are only images, which reveal something deeper and greater.” (Page 15)
“Indeed, Holy Scripture in its entirety was not written from beginning to end like a novel or a textbook. It is, rather, the echo of God’s history with his people. It arose out of the struggles and the vagaries of this history, and all through it we can catch a glimpse of the rises and falls, the sufferings and hopes, and the greatness and failures of this history. The Bible is thus the story of God’s struggle with human beings to make himself understandable to them over the course of time; but it is also the story of their struggle to seize hold of God over the course of time.” (Pages 8–9)
“Creation is designed in such a way that it is oriented to worship. It fulfills its purpose and assumes its significance when it is lived, ever new, with a view to worship. Creation exists for the sake of worship.” (Pages 27–28)
“The order of the covenant—the nearness of the God of the covenant, the limitations imposed by good and evil, the inner standard of the human person, creatureliness: all of this is placed in doubt. Here we can at once say that at the very heart of sin lies human beings’ denial of their creatureliness, inasmuch as they refuse to accept the standard and the limitations that are implicit in it. They do not want to be creatures, do not want to be subject to a standard, do not want to be dependent. They consider their dependence on God’s creative love to be an imposition from without. But that is what slavery is and from slavery one must free oneself. Thus human beings themselves want to be God.” (Page 70)
The readable but challenging meditations attempt a balance between extremes of fundamentalism and rationalism and emphasize a unity between the Old and New Testaments.
These homilies on Genesis...will be a source of light to many priests and religious educators who are seeking the deeper meaning of the biblical truths of dependence or of the Sabbath rest or who are looking for an answer to the claim that God’s mandate ‘Fill the earth and subdue it’ is responsible for the shameless exploitation of the earth that we have witnessed.
With penetrating insight, Cardinal Ratzinger here treats the profoundly important and far-reaching doctrine of Genesis...I’ve not read a more profound or magisterial book in years.
—New Oxford Review
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