Forever Singing as they Shine, the Hand that Made Us is Divine: A Consideration on the Hymn of Creation

A certain number of comments that come over the transom here at the blog never see the light of day. Perhaps they are unnecessarily hateful, contain profanities, or are personal attacks on other commenters, clergy or other public figures.

One such comment came recently which I did not post for just about all the reasons I just listed. Among his profanity-laden words, was a sneering denunciation of  God as “your magical sky-fairy” (sic). Our combative commenter, and self described consumer of “brave science,” may be surprised one day to meet our true and living God who is in fact no little “sky-fairy” but is Deus Omnipotens (God All Powerful).

It is a strange and remarkable thing to me how, in this age of discovery, where we have discovered such magnificent realities that show a universe steeped in order and unbelievable size, that increasing numbers of people want to hold that the whole thing is just dumbly there. In other words, to increasing numbers today, the obvious order of the universe is accidental; we human beings are simply the result of random, blind, and unguided mutations; all the order of creation we can plainly observe, and the sophisticated interdependent systems which give rise to complex life, are all just accidental. We are asked to believe by some that all this obvious order, an order that no one can miss, somehow leapt together, unguided and accidentally, from a primordial dust and soup; that from disorder, came order. Yes, and, although things tend to fall apart and go back to their basic components (the Law of Entropy), nevertheless, in this case, we must believe that in a somehow random and accidental way, things actually moved from disorder to order, all their own, even though, as some insist, no outside force, energy or intelligence acted on them.

To me this sort of belief requires more “faith” than simply to believe that a higher and intelligent being (whom we call God) both created and introduced the order that is so obvious in the universe and in this world, not to mention our bodies, down to the smallest cells and atoms. And to be sure, the atheist/secularist notion of random, unguided, accidental order is a  belief, for its conclusion is outside of what science can study or demonstrate. For all the denunciation by many atheists of Philosophy, Theology and Metaphysics, those who deny God’s role in creation are not making a scientific claim, they are staking out a philosophical, theological and metaphysical claim and asking others to believe it. To me, such a “belief” in the random, unguided, and accidental existence of things, in the face of such overwhelming and consistent order is unreasonable in the extreme.

The whole universe shouts Order! Consistency! Intelligibility! Our bodies, and every delicately functioning system on this planet all echo back the refrain: Order! Consistency!  Intelligibility! And while I cannot, and do not, ask a scientist to specifically affirm the Biblical and Christian God and our whole Catholic Theological tradition by science, the existence of consistent order in the universe and in the world is plainly obvious, and serves as the basis of the whole scientific method. For if things were truly random, and not orderly, intelligible, or predictable, science could not brook theories, test results, or verify them. No experiment would turn out similar results if everything acted randomly. The scientific method presupposes order and consistency within a verifiable range. Thus while science need not draw conclusions as to how this order came about, it is wholly inappropriate, as certain scientists have done, to be dismissive of believers who conclude from order that someone ordered it so.

Yes, what a glorious and magnificent thing creation is. And to this believer it loudly proclaims God who made it.

There is a beautiful hymn that I have seldom heard sung in Catholic Parishes, that takes up the voice of creation, especially that part of creation we call the stars (firmament) and the planets. The hymn is a gloss on Psalm 19, and, to me, it is a minor masterpiece of English poetry. It was written by Joseph Addison in 1712.

It comes from a time before skeptical agnosticism and hostility to the very notion, (let alone existence), of God had taken deep root in our culture. And, frankly, it also comes from a more sober time that was able to accept the plainly obvious fact that creation is ordered, and therefore was ordered by someone in a purposeful and intelligent manner. That someone we believers call God.

Consider the beautiful words of this song and its reasoned conclusion that, as Psalm 19 notes, creation shouts its Creator.

The spacious firmament on high,
with all the blue ethereal sky,
and spangled heavens, a shining frame,
their great Original proclaim.
The 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.

What though in solemn silence all
move round the dark terrestrial ball?
What 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 He has done a marvelous thing!

Here is a sung version of this wonderful song:

19 Replies to “Forever Singing as they Shine, the Hand that Made Us is Divine: A Consideration on the Hymn of Creation”

  1. That’s a good song.

    You know, one can grant an agnostic or even an atheist their opinion on the existence of God. But a guy who goes around calling God names just reeks of fear. Deep down, he knows God is there and won’t be mocked. But, for some sad, sorry reason, he won’t see the Light.

    1. Jan,

      I understand it may be uncomfortable for believers to read the “calling god names” from atheists, but I assure you, as atheists do not believe in god, there is no “fear” reeking from their words. We atheists have abandoned, along with our belief in any deity, the sentiments of supposed “respect” that believers have habituated themselves to through their worship services and prayers. We simply have no respect or regard for fictitious creatures and, therefore, are not particularly careful about how the words we choose to describe such beings comes across to believers.

      We might, however, be justified in suspecting that the lack of respect which you manifest in your attack on an atheist – attributing to an atheist not only a “fear” of god, but also an unconscious (?) belief, and a “sad, sorry” refusal to “see the light” that reflects a character flaw — why go to all the trouble trying to disparage the character of a person who simply does not believe?

      I propose it is fear on your part. Fear of atheists, because you still hold that hatred of “otherness” – of those who are different than you; fear that atheists just may be right after-all, which would destroy your claims to moral authority and superiority over others; and perhaps fear that all your efforts in devotion and support of Church institutions is in vain.

      But they have therapy for those kind of things. Look into it.

  2. While reading this post, a recent standup performance of the comedian David Cross came to mind. He opens the performance with some comical social observations; but later in his set, he transitions into jabs at the various Biblical translations and the absurdity of Christianity.

    Though some linguistic beauty may have been lost from the Bible, particularly the Psalms, since its transliteration and interpretation, there is still profound beauty in it. Humility, to gape in the presence of perplexing infinite beauty, is a squandered gift.

  3. Very good post, Monsignor! I have to deal with this every day in my personal life, as my wife is an atheist. I too wonder how they can look at all the order around them and simply chalk it up to randomness. I see it as you do, that it takes way more faith to believe their version than that a Supreme Being created all of this. I’ve heard my wife comment to me (jokingly) about not forgetting to “check my intellect at the door” when I go to church. It makes me think of a verse from the Bible that goes something like, “The children of the world are wiser in their generation than the children of light”. I always wondered what this verse meant, but now I wonder if it is actually a knock at secular atheists, who think they’re wiser, brighter than those who believe in God… I pray for my wife often, that she will see and understand the truth.

    1. Gerry, I humbly would suggest that you redouble your efforts to demonstrate the truth of God’s love for us in all you say and do for your wife and all others you come across in life. You may also want to talk with her about the nature of true knowledge and that we all must trust other human beings for most of what we accept as true knowledge. If your wife is the kind of atheist I was, I only believed in the physical world because that was all I could trust was real. Faith is trust in something – for atheists, it is trust that the physical world is the only reality they can consider as true and permanent, even if it is a harsh taskmaster. But the more good examples of God’s loving presence in the world we can show atheists (through our good works, the truth of Christ’s resurrection, and modern miracles such as those documented at Lourdes and Fatima, and as discussed by physicist and priest Father Stanley Jaki) the sooner they may have the knowledge and understanding they need to help them recognize and accept God’s gift of Faith that He constantly offers them. I am praying for your wife and you in this matter.

  4. There are good arguments from the intelligibility and beauty (which should be added to your list) of the universe, an argument from order is far more ambivalent. The music of the spheres seems to be contrapuntal, with one line describing how precious we are to God and the other describing a much more naturalistic perspective, in which we are less different from animals than we think, Earth is less different from other planets, and events are the consequences of seemingly random causes. We can even see this in the Parable of the Sower. To sow is not to carefully place each seed in a bed specially prepared for it, it is to toss out seeds more or less at random.

    On a different topic, I can’t help but notice that those people who are so ardent about “brave science” are almost never scientists themselves. There are a few noteworthy exceptions, but that’s what they are: exceptions.

  5. Atheism

    The belief that there was nothing and nothing happened to nothing and then nothing magically exploded for no reason creating everything and then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason what so ever into self-replicating bits which then turned into dinosaurs.

  6. A beautiful Hymn! Thanks for reminding us of the beautiful works of God this morning. It’s been proved that even little children seek order in their environment and are constantly seeking the cause of all things without any external influence or apriory. Order is necessary for living beings. Our intelligence naturally wants to know ‘why’ and ‘who’. We really don’t go farther when we say, “Oh the world exists on its own and I exist on my own too, I am just a consequence of a biological phenomenon!” No we are not sacks of potatoes for soup. We are made to see our creator and have definitely some objective here on Earth.

  7. Monsignor, God works in mysterious ways. Each of us is immersed in individual, continuous, struggles to survive in this world in a “good” way, to comprehend the world, and to figure out what “good” means. The Evil One constantly works to confuse and deceive each of us, and, in addition to our fallen nature and the Devil’s efforts, we also contribute to the confusion and misdirection of humanity (in our past, present, and the future until the end of time) by the sins WE committed, commit, and will commit. Anything we do or did or will do that is intentionally “not good” may well give other people cause to doubt the existence of a “good God” and/or the existence of a reality (such as Christianity’s spiritual realm) in addition to our materiel veil of tears. I am today a Catholic Christian because God offered me the gift of Faith and I recognized the opportunity and made the leap beyond rationality necessary to accept it. Prior to that I was an atheist, amazed and awed by the material universe’ beauty and complexity – but I saw no need for a god to make sense of the beauty and complexity. In my case, it was only when I began to unexpectedly experience psychic phenomena – seemingly as a result of practicing the martial art called Tai Chi Chuan – that I had to acknowledge the possibility of reality extending beyond the mere physical/material “plane.” So, just as we should not look down on or make fun of people with physical blindness, so neither should we look down on or make fun of or accuse of willful blindness those who HAVE NOT YET BEEN ABLE FOR REASONS KNOWN ONLY TO GOD to accept God’s gift of faith. There, but for His grace, go I. Such people deserve only our pity, mercy, kindness, patience, and love. Maybe such from us will help them somehow to be able to risk taking the leap of faith beyond the merely rational to recognize and accept that God IS and offers them the fullness of life and truth.

  8. I am now Catholic, but was raised in the Church of Christ. We used to sing that hymn in the chorus at my Church of Christ high school. It has always been one of my favorites.

  9. This reminded me of the conversation we had a few weeks ago, about the text from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Act 5, Scene 1, used in Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Serenade to Music”:

    Look how the floor of heaven
    Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
    There’s not the smallest orb that thou behold’st
    But in his motion like an angel sings,
    Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
    Such harmony is in immortal souls;
    But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
    Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.

    The existence of the “music of the spheres” was a theory of the Pythagoreans, ca. 500 B.C.:

    Some thinkers suppose that the motion of bodies of that size [i.e. stars] must produce a noise, since on our earth the motion of bodies far inferior in size and in speed of movement has that effect. Also, when the sun and the moon, they say, and all the stars, so great in number and in size, are moving with so rapid a motion, how should they not produce a sound immensely great? Starting from this argument and from the observation that their speeds, as measured by their distances, are in the same ratios as musical concordances, they assert that the sound given forth by the circular movement of the stars is a harmony. Since, however, it appears unaccountable that we should not hear this music, they explain this by saying that the sound is in our ears from the very moment of birth and is thus undistinguishable from its contrary silence, since sound and silence are discriminated by mutual contrast. What happens to men, then, is just what happens to coppersmiths, who are so accustomed to the noise of the smithy that it makes no difference to them. Aristotle, On the Heavens, 291b.

    The harmony of nature under God was described by Pope St. Clement I, ca. 95 A.D.:

    “The heavens are moved by his direction and obey him in peace. Day and night accomplish the course assigned to them by him, without hindrance to one another. The sun and the moon and the dancing stars according to his appointment circle in harmony within the bounds assigned to them, without any swerving aside. The earth, bearing fruit in fulfilment of his will at her proper seasons, puts forth the food that supplies abundantly both men and beasts and all living things that are thereupon, making no dissension, neither altering anything which he has decreed. Moreover, the inscrutable depths of the abysses and the unutterable statues of the nether regions are constrained by the same ordinances. The basin of the boundless sea, gathered together by his workmanship ‘into its reservoirs,’ passes not the barriers wherewith it is surrounded; but even as he ordered it, so it does. For he said, ‘So far shall you come, and your waves shall be broken within you.’ The ocean which is impassable for men, and the worlds beyond it, are directed by the same ordinances of the Master. The seasons of spring and summer and autumn and winter give way in succession one to another in peace. The winds in their several quarters at their proper season fulfil their ministry without disturbance; and the ever-flowing fountains, created for enjoyment and health, without fail give their breasts which sustain the life for men. Yes, the smallest of living things come together in concord and peace. All these things the great Creator and Master of the universe ordered to be in peace and concord, doing good to all things, but far beyond the rest to us who have taken refuge in his compassionate mercies through our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the majesty for ever and ever. Amen.” St. Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians, 20.

  10. Great post, Monsignor! How do we get our music directors and choirs to learn and sing such well-written hymns, and to deep-six the claptrap from the 70s that was written by fourth-rate imitators of Peter, Paul and Mary?

  11. Beautiful! Thank you! And this divine Hand created us! One of my favorite quotes ( and I don’t remember the source) Is “From all eternitey we were conceived in His Mind and carried in His bosom.”

  12. At 12 years of age I became an atheist although I continued to go to church with my parents. I seldom debated my positions – probably because I wasn’t so sure I was right. I read Charles Colson’s “How Now Shall We LIve” in my fifties and his writing forced me to look at atheism differently. However, Jesus as the “true” Son of God was still a problem. I lived for 26 years with a cradle Catholic who had moved away from the Chruch. She wanted to get married in the Church, but in the several different areas of the country in which we had lived, no priest would marry us because we were living together. At one point I joined a Unitarian Church where in Bible study we would break down New Testament scripture to prove that Jesus wasn’t what he was supposed to be.
    A move to Las Vegas changed our lives. We found the most loving and open priest in a small, mostly Spanish speaking parish, that said he could marry us – if we lived as brother and sister until the wedding date and both of us went through annulments of our first marriages. We were married three years later with a Church Mass.
    I decided that to support my wife by attending Mass with her. Wonder of wonders, my eyes were opened and the decision to attend RCIA and be taught the history and traditions of the Church by lay people who volunteered there time in the summers to be educated at the Fransiscan University of Steubenville blew me away. My wife also attended and her eyes were also opened to the richness of the word of God. I am totally immersed. I find the Latin Mass extremely solemn and I feel closer to the Lord. I regret only that it took 68 years for this to happen.

    As for the order of the universe, I look at it from the standpoint that everything can be put into mathematical formulas. How much more order can you get than this. And order just doesn’t happen randomly as far as I am concerned. There had to be a supreme being to give us this order. God. And from the beginning with him, the Holy Spirit and the Son.

  13. A very telling article here. I haven’t read the comments which have been with-held but have interacted in several venues with “out of order” commentary and shall seek to make a few general comments.
    People who use an alleged scientific basis or brave scientific basis or whatever leave me wondering if they realize that science is open to everything but only acknowledges that which is presented in a theory that can’t be disproven. That’s the theory that is or is not to be disproven – not the belief which it describes.
    Furthermore, I wonder about people who denigrate, or seek to disqualify, things which are beyond detection by the five senses. What about things we’ve found through use of instrumentation such as the electromagnetic spectrum of radio (and other) waves? Or the curving of space found by gravity deriving reactions of massive bodies in the basic three dimensions of space as they bend into the dimension of time.
    Is a science that ignores the possibility of more intangeables than we’ve found so far a “brave” science.
    As for people who make personal attacks; perhaps you could consider posting their stuff – especially if they only attack the blogger of the original article and present no effective (derision is usually just bluff and bluster) dispute of what is posted in the base article. Then, it could be pointed out that attacking the poster, but not coherently attacking the post, tends to show that the one disputing sees no flaws in the post and merely seeks to distract. Not my decision so it’s only presented as food for thought.
    Enough negative though. I suppose that I’m more about the visual here than the musical. I perceive the movements of the universe as more of a dance. Not like the waltz-like randomness of the Aurora Boreaulis (sic) that I mentioned here a few articles ago. More like a coreography of an old fashioned musical where dozens of dancers move amongst each other in a long practiced co-ordinated support of each others’ efforts.
    Moons around planets – planets around suns – suns around galaxies…
    And how can coreography succeed without a Coreographer?

  14. Trolls will be trolls. I wouldn’t take someone seriously who writes “magical sky-fairy”. You will no more be able to reason with a troll than an animal. Trolls intend for you to take them seriously and feed from that attention. Ignore their presence and they will go away when they tire of it. They have as much pride as that which I shall not bother to name because you, catholics, already know of whom I speak.

    If someone truly wants to know what we are about, the spirit will let you know. Otherwise, consider them a troll. Real truth carries the mandate of personal change- like the truth about creation. That is why Pilate said, “What is truth?” Truth was at his door and he was too afraid to open it. Pilate knew he would lose his position, his power, his riches, and his comfort- And he wasn’t willing to give it up for the sake of knowing the truth. Veritas!

  15. Thank you Father; a beautiful post in which you say many things that need to be said over and over.

  16. I never knew this was a hymn!

    Thank you for posting this video, I was aimlessly searching the web tonight and thought of this, my favorite poem, trying to remember certain phrases only to discover your site

    “Forever singing as they shine, the hand that made us is Divine”


    Goodnight and thank you again

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