Christianity teaches that the world is not eternal, but that there was a time when the world was not, a time when it had no existence. The world was created ex nihilo, created from nothing. If the world was created from nothing then the threat of returning to nothingness is ever present. The only way the created world can transcend death and overcome this threat is to remain in constant communion with God, the Uncreated. This mission of constant communion belongs to humankind.
Humankind appears at the end of the creation story indicating that humanity is the highest of all creatures. Since the human body is made up of all material elements, humankind is linked to all creation, and all creation has a share in humanity. Humanity not only includes but exceeds the material world and the incorporeal creatures we know as angels. Creation needs beings who can freely turn to God, accept their existence from God, and enter into relationship with God. Humanity is created to fulfill the destiny of the created world and does so by giving its consent to relationship with God on behalf of creation thus, uniting the Created to the Uncreated.
The entrusting of creation’s destiny to humanity is at the core of what it means for humankind to “have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth” (Genesis 1:26). Humanity’s dominion over all the earth is one of care and responsibility not domination. Dominion begins with our own relationship to the created world, how we see it, and our openness to learning from it. Perhaps the following quotations, from the meditation trail at the Antiochian Village, offer some insight into dominion:
- “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof: the world and all that dwell therein.” Psalm 24:1
- “Someone who sanctifies himself by practicing contemplation of nature ceases to make an object of the universe through greed and blindness…. Contemplation of nature transforms nature…in the direction of the New Jerusalem.” Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch, 21st century.
- “The whole earth is a living icon of the face of God.” St. John of Damascus, 8th century.
- “I want creation to penetrate you with so much admiration that wherever you go, the least plant may bring you the clear remembrance of the Creator.” St. Basil the Great, 4th century.
- “Then was Jesus led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to pray.” St. Matthew the Evangelist, 1st century.
- “Love all of God’s creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light! Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will soon perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 19th century.