Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
The abandonment of the traditional doctrine of creation and the embrace of theistic evolution has coincided with an explosion of ugliness in sacred art and architecture. In this newsletter, I will reflect on one of the reasons why this is so and offer you a concrete opportunity to allow the true Catholic doctrine of creation to beautify your homes and the homes of your children and grandchildren this Christmas.
Prior to the evolution revolution, a long line of Church Fathers and Doctors had seen in the various kinds of creatures, instantiations of the “logoi,” or Divine Ideas, which existed in the mind of God from eternity. In the Summa Contra Gentiles, St. Thomas affirms:
Augustine says that God made man and a horse by distinct exemplars. He also says that the exemplars of things are a plurality in the divine mind. This conclusion likewise saves to some extent the opinion of Plato and his doctrine of Ideas, according to which would be formed everything that is found among material things (Summa Contra Gentiles, Book One, 54, 5).
According to this view, each kind of plant or animal corresponded to a certain “form” in the Mind of God, while the form of Man summed up in itself all of the perfections of all of the spiritual and corporeal creatures. This understanding went hand in hand with the doctrine of special creation, since God created each kind of creature, perfect according to its nature, and equipped those that reproduce sexually to reproduce after their kind. Within this view of the cosmos, it was natural for sacred artists to recognize and reproduce the forms with which the Divine Creator had filled the universe.
With the widespread acceptance of evolution, however, many Christian artists and architects abandoned the idea of stable forms in favor of an evolutionary world-view. Instead of a stable symphony of different kinds of creatures, they imagined a continuum of creatures in constant flux, continually morphing one into another, just as they imagined that a one-celled organism had evolved over aeons of time into the bodies of the first human beings. Moreover, they imagined that this constant evolution entailed a struggle for existence, so that new and superior life-forms emerged through the extinction of the less-fit and the “survival of the fittest.” Within this framework, most artists saw no need to remain faithful to traditional forms of sacred art or architecture, and all kinds of hideous experiments in art and architecture began to spread throughout the Christian world.
St. Paul tells us to “Hold the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me in faith, and in the love which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 1:13). The word “form” is a translation of the Greek word “Hypotyposin,” which means a specific pattern or form. It is an important word, because it tells us that the doctrines of the faith have a precise definition; there is nothing vague or ambiguous about them. When Holy Church defines a doctrine, like the divinity of Christ, for example, she does so with precision, using a “form of sound words” that protects the dogmas of the faith against misinterpretation or misunderstanding. What we moderns often forget, however, is that, prior to the invention of the printing press, for three-quarters of the Church’s history, only a tiny handful of Catholics could read. For them, the “form of sound words” could not constitute their entire education in the faith, and Mother Church in her wisdom provided other “forms” which conveyed the truths of the faith clearly, correctly, and powerfully to the vast numbers of her illiterate children. These “forms” became known as the holy icons, images which made present in a quasi-sacramental way, the mysteries of the faith and of salvation history, as well as the presences of the holy angels and saints.
According to the Seventh Ecumenical Council, Nicea II, the holy icons approved for use in churches to teach illiterate believers the Faith, teach with authority in accord with the Word of God (CCC, 1160). From the first millennium until today, all authentic icons of creation have portrayed Jesus Christ, the WORD through Whom all things were made, speaking things into existence. In the icon of the first day of creation, for example, it is customary for the iconographer to show the Eternal Word bringing forth the angelic hierarchies and physical light simultaneously, as in the famous icon of the first day of creation from Monreale Cathedral in Sicily, made a metropolitan cathedral by the Pope at the end of the twelfth century.
The fact that the Pope made Monreale Cathedral a metropolitan cathedral is very significant, because the holy icons in the cathedral tell the complete history of the world from creation to the Final Judgment. At a time when only a tiny handful of Catholics could read, these holy icons were the primary teachers of the Faith to the vast majority of illiterate faithful. Indeed, this is why the Roman Catechism and the recent Catechism of the Catholic Church take pains to insist on the importance of the icons, which agree with the teaching of Holy Scripture. In every authentic series of icons on creation, the six days are presented as distinct days of fiat creation, in which all of the different kinds of corporeal and spiritual creatures were created for man, who is created, body and soul, on the sixth day, prior to Eve, who is created from Adam’s side later on the sixth day of creation.
It is particularly significant that the doctrine of creation set forth in Monreale Cathedral and in all authentic icons of creation is identical to the doctrine defined by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, just a generation after the elevation of Monreale Cathedral to the status of a metropolitan cathedral. As demonstrated above, the Firmiter defined that God created ALL things by His omnipotent power – that is, all the corporeal and the spiritual creatures, by fiat – and, finally, man, thus affirming that the work of creation was finished with the creation of Adam and Eve. This is beautifully reflected in the traditional icon of the seventh day of creation. Here we see God RESTING in His perfectly beautiful, harmonious, finished, complete work of creation – a creation completely free from human death, deformity, or disease.
Many people today object that Moses and the ancients could not have understood the complexities of evolutionary science and that this is why God allowed them to believe the fanciful fairy tale of fiat creation. But it is easy to refute this preposterous claim by simply reflecting on the familiar icon of human evolution – the all but omnipresent image of a common ancestor of chimps and humans evolving into an upright human being. In reality, this icon is a fantasy, concocted by proud human beings who could not accept that there are things that cannot be determined by extrapolation from our limited sphere of knowledge in this fallen world – things that we can only know through Divine Revelation. In reality, the evolutionary icon does not correspond to any solid scientific evidence in paleontology, genetics, or any other branch of natural science. Moreover, one does not need to know anything about natural science to understand what the evolutionary icon is saying. One does not even need to know that 2 + 2 = 4 to understand it. So, the whole idea that Moses and the ancients were too simple to understand evolution is absurd. If God had used a natural process, like mutation and natural selection, to evolve the bodies of the first human beings, He could easily have shown this to Moses. Then on the walls of our cathedrals we would have beautiful icons of reptiles changing into birds, land mammals changing into whales, and a common ancestor of chimps and humans changing into the body of the first human being. The reason we do not see such images in our cathedrals is that human evolution is a myth, based on the false assumption of Descartes that “things have always been the same from the beginning of creation,” and that, therefore, we can explain the origins of human beings by extrapolating from the material processes that we observe in this fallen world.
As we prepare to enter the holy season of Advent, the Kolbe Center would like to offer you a simple way to beautify your homes, delight your children and grandchildren, and reinforce the true Catholic doctrine of creation, by offering a magnificent 54-piece puzzle of the holy icon of the first day of creation from Monreale Cathedral for a donation of $15 or more to support the work of the Kolbe Center. As mentioned above, when writing the icon of the first day of creation, it is customary for iconographers to show the Eternal Word bringing forth the angelic hierarchies and physical light simultaneously. In this way, the holy icon gives the lie to the many modern commentators who insist that “There could not be days without the sun,” by reminding us that God created the light on the first day of creation to alternate with darkness to form the day-night cycle, continuing in that role until God created the Sun on the fourth day of Creation Week to “rule the day” that He had created on Day One.
As your children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, assemble this beautiful puzzle, your simple catechesis will allow them to delight in the beauty of the first day of creation when God created “the heavens and the Earth” and “the light” so that “there was evening and there was morning, one day.”
Please keep the Kolbe Center in your prayers.
Yours in Christ through the Immaculata,
P.S. You can order your 54-piece puzzle of the first Day of Creation at this link. These puzzles make wonderful Christmas presents that will beautify your homes and the homes of your children, grandchildren, relatives and friends!