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:
- 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)
- Behold the rainbow! Then bless its Maker, for majestic indeed is its splendor (43:11)
- The thunder of his voice makes the earth writhe; by his power he shakes the mountains. (43:16)
- He makes the snow fly like birds; Its shining whiteness blinds the eyes, the mind is baffled by its steady fall. (43:17)
- 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)
- Beyond these, many things lie hidden; only a few of his works have we seen! (43:32)
- 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 :