Shining on All Things

From Against the Pagans 40.2 (ca. 335)

By his own wisdom and Word, who is our Lord and Savior Christ, the all-holy Father (whose excellence far exceeds that of any creature) like a skillful pilot guides to safety all creation, regulating and keeping it in being, as he judges right. It is proper that creation should exist as he has made it and as we see it happening, because this is his will, which no one would deny. For if the movement of the universe were irrational, and the world rolled on in random fashion, one would be justified in disbelieving what we say. But if the world is founded on reason, wisdom, and science, and is filled with orderly beauty, then it must owe its origin and order to none other than the Word of God.

He is God, the living and creative God of the universe, the Word of the good God, who is God in his own right. The Word is different from all created things; he is the unique Word belonging only to the good Father. This is the Word that created this whole world and enlightens it by his loving wisdom. He who is the good Word of the good Father produced the order in all creation, joining opposites together, and forming from them one harmonious sound. He is God, one and only-begotten, who proceeds in goodness from the Father as from the fountain of goodness, and gives order, direction, and unity to creation.

By his eternal Word the Father created all things and implanted a nature in his creatures. He did not want to see them tossed about at the mercy of their own natures, and so be reduced to nothingness. But in his goodness he governs and sustains the whole of nature by his Word (who is himself also God), so that under the guidance, providence, and ordering of that Word, the whole of nature might remain stable and coherent in his light. Nature was to share in the Father’s Word, whose reality is true, and be helped by him to exist, for without him it would cease to be. For unless the Word, who is the very “image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation,” kept it in existence, it could not exist. For whatever exists, whether visible or invisible, remains in existence through him and in him, and he is also the head of the Church, as we are taught by the ministers of truth in their sacred writings.

The almighty and most holy Word of the Father pervades the whole of reality, everywhere unfolding his power and shining on all things visible and invisible. He sustains it all and binds it together in himself. He leaves nothing devoid of his power but gives life and keeps it in being throughout all of creation and in each individual creature.

St. Athanasius (ca. 298-373) was a bishop and theologian, the great defender of the Nicene confession of Christ’s true divinity. He was the primary spokesman for the orthodox cause at the Council of Nicaea and became Bishop of Alexandria several years later. He also played an important role in finalizing the canon of New Testament books. Athanasius was exiled from his see five times for his unwillingness to compromise with the Arians, and wrote several defenses of Nicene teaching, among them the treatise Against the Pagans. He is commemorated on May 2 by Western Christians, on May 15 by the Coptic Church, and on January 18 by the other Eastern Orthodox churches.

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