Pope Francis is soon to issue an important encyclical on the environment. Some say that’s none of the church’s business, but creation is the church’s business, In his great treatise “On the Incarnation of the Word ” St. Athanasius says Jesus Christ came to save it.
“The Word of God, incorporeal, incorruptible and immaterial, entered our world. Yet it was not as if he had been remote from it up to that time. For there is no part of the world that was ever without his presence; together with his Father, he continually filled all things and places.
“ Out of his loving-kindness for us he came to us, and we see this in the way he revealed himself openly to us. Taking pity on our weakness, and moved by our corruption, he could not stand aside and see death have the mastery over us; he did not want creation to perish and his Father’s work in fashioning humanity to be in vain. He therefore took to himself a body, no different from our own, for he did not wish simply to be in a body or only to be seen.
“ If he had wanted simply to be seen, he could indeed have taken another, and nobler, body. Instead, he took our body in its reality.”
Jesus Christ, the Word of God, entered into the world of real time and place, Athanasius says. The world was not a stage he used, to be dismantled and thrown away. it was a reality he embraced and redeemed. “He is the Word through whom you made the universe; the Savior you sent to redeem us.” “He became flesh and dwelt among us.”
God’s plan of salvation, then, was not restricted to human beings: “he did not want creation to perish and his Father’s work of fashioning humanity to be in vain.”