“My soul cleaveth to the dust:
O quicken thou me, according to thy word”
(Psalm 119, pt 4, vs 25)
Dust and dirt? Quite a change from the emphasis of the Epiphany season on the essential divinity of Christ, it might seem. To be sure, with Septuagesima Sunday we mark a new beginning. We begin at the beginning. And that means, beginning, too, with dust and dirt, with the ground of creation, quite literally.
At Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, we begin reading from The Book of Genesis. In so doing, we enter into an ancient tradition. The tradition conveys ancient wisdom, namely, a profound reflection upon the mystery of Creation within the Revelation of God as Trinity.
We begin with Genesis only to find ourselves in the midst of the vineyard of creation in today’s gospel. But we begin with Genesis. It is, at once, a difficult and a necessary starting point. It is difficult because of the contemporary tendency to view the Book of Genesis in one of two ways, both of which are false. The first way is to read Genesis as a kind of scientific treatise, which it isn’t (this is the folly of creationism: bad science and bad religion). The second way is to read Genesis as a haphazard collection of fables and myths, which it isn’t.
The Book of Genesis does not propose a discovery of God; it begins with God. “In the beginning, God.” There is the proclamation of God as the absolute beginning after which everything else is secondary, after which everything else is derivative, after which everything else is a product. And while something of the Mind of the Maker, to use a famous phrase, is made known in what he makes, the Creator is not simply equated with what he makes. He is known as beyond and in control. It is his creation. The distinction between the Creator and the created is absolutely crucial.