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The Majesty of God is Manifest in What He Has Made – A Meditation on a Great Hymn of Creation

September 21, 2011

OK, it’s gotten controversial to say it, but I want to say it anyway, that creation shouts its maker. It reveals its creator, and manifests its God. While the more militant atheists the more extreme followers of scientism and secularism may well scoff and urge believers like me to the door, I want to say again, I see God in what he has made, and he has done a marvelous thing.

Scripture often sings of the majesty of God manifest in what he has made. Some of my favorite verses in this regard come from the song of creation at the end of the Book of Sirach:

  1. The sun at its rising shines at its fullest, a wonderful instrument, the work of the Most High! Great indeed is the LORD who made it, at whose orders it urges on its steeds. (Sir 43:2,5)
  2. Behold the rainbow! Then bless its Maker, for majestic indeed is its splendor (43:11)
  3. The thunder of his voice makes the earth writhe; by his power he shakes the mountains. (43:16)
  4. He makes the snow fly like birds; Its shining whiteness blinds the eyes, the mind is baffled by its steady fall. (43:17)
  5. Those who go down to the sea recount its extent, and when we hear them we are thunderstruck; In it are his creatures, stupendous, amazing, all kinds of life, and the monsters of the deep! (43:23-25)
  6. Beyond these, many things lie hidden; only a few of his works have we seen! (43:32)
  7. More than this we need not add; let the last word be, he is the all! Let us praise him the more, since we cannot fathom him, for greater is he than all his works; (43:27-28)

Yes, creation shouts, proclaims and sings the Lord who made it. And we too, who believe ought to take up the song, today more than ever. For increasingly there are those who see the created world only as an impersonal machine of sorts, rather than a living revelation of God. We who believe must take up the ancient song, too easily cast aside by a secular world. Some may call us fools, but at least add that we are fools for Christ!

With that in mind I would like to share with you a minor masterpiece of English and German hymnody that will help us take up the song.

Some of you who read this blog regularly know that I am a fan of hymns, and especially those from the English and German tradition. One of my regrets is that, when we went over to the use of English in the Mass here in America, we did not draw more deeply on 400+ year tradition of hymns, but instead went to mimeographed and stapled song sheets containing mostly (poor) folk music, quickly composed to fill a gap. Many of the great hymns in the English hymnals were often beautiful translations of old Catholic, Gregorian hymns. The German hymnals also effectively imported ancient material and adapted it well. Many of the German hymns were then taken into the English hymnals as well.

And this song of creation taps into these rich traditions. I consider the song a minor masterpiece in terms of its poetic rhyme and the various tunes (Usually Haydn’s Creation) are also quite wonderful. Consider this text which is a gloss on Psalm 19:1-6):

The spacious firmament on high,
with all the blue ethereal sky,
and spangled heavens, a shining frame,
their great Original proclaim.
Unwearied sun from day to day
does his Creator’s power display;
and publishes to every land
the work of an almighty hand.

Soon as the evening shades prevail,
the moon takes up the wondrous tale,
and nightly to the listening earth
repeats the story of her birth:
whilst all the stars that round her burn,
and all the planets in their turn,
confirm the tidings, as they roll
and spread the truth from pole to pole.

And though in solemn silence all
move round our dark terrestrial ball?
And though no real voice nor sound
amid their radiant orbs be found.
In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
and utter forth a glorious voice;
for ever singing as they shine,
“The hand that made us is divine!”

Yes, the hand that made us is divine! And note the way that the text says, “In reason’s ear” for I will assert what was never controversial until the last Century, that the created world demonstrates to our reason, our intellect, that all this was created by an intelligent, orderly (and I would add) loving Creator. And this Creator we call God. Some in this modern world will call us kooks and fanatics, but at least add that we are kooks for Christ, and fanatics who are trying to be faithful.

What a magnificent poem indeed. Imagine the stars and planets, forever singing as they shine, “The hand that made us is divine!” And remember, as Sirach (Jesus Ben Sira) said above: Beyond these, many things lie hidden; only a few of his works have we seen!

Here is a version of the song sung to a different melody than is commonly used, but I post it first because of its higher production quality:



And here is the traditional melody :

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Comments (8)

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  1. Nick says:

    St. Augustine’s Confessions (CHAPTER VI):
    And what is this God?
    I asked the earth, and it answered, “I am not he”; and everything in the earth made the same confession.
    I asked the sea and the deeps and the creeping things, and they replied, “We are not your God; seek above us.”
    I asked the fleeting winds, and the whole air with its inhabitants answered, “Anaximenes was deceived; I am not God.”
    I asked the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars; and they answered, “Neither are we the God whom you seek.”
    And I replied to all these things which stand around the door of my flesh: “You have told me about my God, that you are not he. Tell me something about him.”
    And with a loud voice they all cried out, “He made us.”
    My question had come from my observation of them, and their reply came from their beauty of order.
    And I turned my thoughts into myself and said, “Who are you?”
    And I answered, “A man.”
    For see, there is in me both a body and a soul; the one without, the other within. In which of these should I have sought my God, whom I had already sought with my body from earth to heaven, as far as I was able to send those messengers–the beams of my eyes? But the inner part is the better part; for to it, as both ruler and judge, all these messengers of the senses report the answers of heaven and earth and all the things therein, who said, “We are not God, but he made us.” My inner man knew these things through the ministry of the outer man, and I, the inner man, knew all this–I, the soul, through the senses of my body.
    I asked the whole frame of earth about my God,
    and it answered, “I am not he, but he made me.”

  2. Matt says:

    I also like the “Canticle of the Sun” by St. Francis of Assisi.

  3. vistanow says:

    Blessed be the name of the Lord! Creator of Heaven and Earth! In Jesus all we have to do is to try to follow His commandments and he will perfect in us as we go along on the way, fruits that will bear to eternal life. Blessed creator is He!

  4. Linus says:

    Even the devils believe in God, so man has no excuse. And this is why I don’t think there is a sane man who does not believe that God exists – there are however many who have an ax to grind, intellectual exhibitionists, and those who attempt to rationalize their immoral life styles by denying His existence.

    That said the most convincing arguement for God’s existence, for me, is the fact that we are able to appreciate the beauty that exists everywhere in the universe – whether we regard the physical beauty that is manifest or the universal order that is manifest. For the facility to appreciate beauty is gratuitous, it is not necessary, the universe could function just fine if we did not have it and we could function without it. In fact, this faculty may be the only thing in existence that is not absolutely necessary. To me this speaks not only of a Creator but of a loving creator for if He was not loving why would He give us this facility? So what is so astounding is not necessarily the beauty but the facility we have to appreciate it.

  5. Vijaya says:

    We have just started Bible study and of course, we begin with Genesis and the story of creation is both filled with love and poetry. We are thought and breathed and loved into existence. Thank you for the beautiful hymn.

  6. Patt says:

    To acknowledge God is to look at His handiwork all around us, and then consider His great love in making us in His image and likeness!! WOW!. .Fantastic article and wonderful posts!! Thanks to all of you!!

  7. Jon White says:

    That song IS beautiful. In the category of praise for creation, I favor the hymn, “All Things Bright And Beautiful”.

  8. Michael says:

    The first part of Psalm 19 (one of my favorites) comes to mind:

    The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the firmament proclaims the works of his hands.a
    Day unto day pours forth speech;
    night unto night whispers knowledge.
    There is no speech, no words;
    their voice is not heard;
    A report goes forth through all the earth,
    their messages, to the ends of the world.