High Christology of Creation (Some Preliminary Thoughts)

Christology is the branch of theology that deals with the person of Jesus Christ. There are a few passages of the New Testament that are considered high points of christology. What is remarkable about these passages is that they seem to be fragments of early Christian hymns. It appears that the early Christians expressed their understanding of Christ in hymns before they attempted theological explanations. Or, perhaps it is more correct to say that hymns became the earliest forms of theology!

What is even more remarkable is that most of these early hymnic expressions of high christology link their exalted vision of Christ to Christ as Creator! We can’t look at Christ in isolation from Creation. This is something that Orthodox can understand, as so much of our faith is expressed doxologically, in words and actions of worship and praise. The Orthodox the feast of Transfiguration this week (August 6th) is one of the two feasts in the church calendar (the other being Theophany, on January 6th) that most explicitly celebrate the impact on creation of Christ’s coming in the flesh.

Creator of All (click to enlarge)
Creator of All
Creator of All Living Beings (click to enlarge)
Creator of All Living Beings
Let’s look at some of the lofty passages of christology in the New Testament. Consider Colossians 1:15-20.
He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation;
for in him all things 
in heaven and on earth
were created,
things visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions
or rulers or powers.
All things have been created
through him and for him.
He himself is before all things, 
and in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead,
so that he might come
to have first place in everything.
For in him all the fullness of God 
was pleased to dwell, 
and through him God was pleased
to reconcile to himself all things,
whether on earth or in heaven,
by making peace
through the blood of his cross.
First Corinthians 8:6 is more concise: 
For us there is one God, the Father, 
from whom are all things
and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ,
through whom are all things
and through whom we exist.
Hebrews 1:3 is even more concise:
He is the reflection of God’s glory 
and the exact imprint of God’s very being,
and he sustains all things by his powerful word.
And there is John 1:1-18, the amazing prologue to the Gospel of John that we read every Pascha at the midnight Liturgy. Here are the key sections of this great passage:
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God. 
All things came into being through him, 
and without him not one thing came into being
that has come into being.
In him was life, 
and the life was the light of all people.
The true light,
which enlightens everyone,
was coming into the world.
He was in the world,
and the world came into being through him;
yet the world did not know him.
But to all who received him, 
who believed in his name,
he gave power to become children of God. 
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, 
and we have seen his glory.
From his fullness we have all received, 
grace upon grace.
The law indeed was given through Moses; 
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God. 
It is God the only Son,
who is close to the Father’s heart,
who has made him known.
How perceptive of the Orthodox tradition to read this Gospel passage at the Anastasis (Resurrection) Liturgy. The resurrection was the ultimate manifestation of Christ’s role in creation – in this case, the new creation. Christ, as the Word of God, was the One through whom everything in the original creation came into being. God created by the Word. Don’t just take John’s word for it. Listen to Genesis: And God said, “Let there be light… And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind…” And God said, “Let us make humankind in our image…” God created everything by speaking the Word. Christ as the Word was the Creator of everything that exists. Christ, as Risen Lord, brought about the New Creation. We are living in the new creation, and it is Christ’s continuing sanctification of the new creation that we celebrate on Aug 6th. Christ is transfigured on the mountain, and the icon shows the rays of divine glory radiating outwards from Christ and touching Moses and Elijah standing next to him, the apostles lying on the ground, blinded by the light, and all creation, including us who are members of the new creation!
Orthodox Icon of the Transfiguration (click to enlarge)
Orthodox Icon of the Transfiguration (click to enlarge)
In everything having to do with Creation, we see Christ: as the Word that brings everything into being; as the Risen Lord who brings about the new creation; and the One who sanctifies and deifies all creation with the glory of the Transfiguration. This the Christology of Creation!

The Blinding Glory of the Transfigured Christ (click to enlarge)
The Blinding Glory of the Transfigured Christ (click to enlarge)

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