St. Athanasius, the 4th century bishop of Alexandria in Egypt whose feast we celebrate today, was one of the great defenders of the divinity of Christ against the Arians. When he claimed that Christ was God, he was also claiming for humanity, and indeed for all creation, a share in divine life. We are made in the image of God, the saint says in his treatise “Against the Arians” and so we are made in the image of the Word of God, who became flesh.
“Our Lord said: ‘Whoever receives you, receives me.’ The image of the Word through whom the universe was made, the Wisdom that made the sun and the stars– is in us.”
And the saint carries this thought further.
“The likeness of Wisdom has been stamped upon creatures in order that the world may recognize in it the Word who was its maker and through the Word come to know the Father. This is Paul’s teaching: ‘What can be known about God is clear to them, for God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature has been there for the mind to perceive in things that have been made.’”
All creation has been stamped with “the likeness of Wisdom.” The universe is hardly secular then, a world divorced from God and easily dismissed as worthless. The Word of God, Jesus Christ, came among us that we might discover that image not only in ourselves, but in the things that are made. Creation leads us to its Creator.
We make Jesus Christ too small if we see him only a human being, the saint argues. We also make creation too small if we dismiss it as godless. Jesus immerses himself in the waters of the Jordan at his baptism and is proclaimed as God’s only Son. At the last supper, Jesus took bread and wine, blessed them and gave himself to us through them. The bread at Mass is the “fruit of the earth” and the wine “fruit of the vine.” Creation brings the Word to us.
Pope Francis asks for this same recognition of the dignity of creation in his encyclical “Laudato Si.”