First Lesson of Paschal Vigil

Genesis 1:1-31; 2:1-2

In the beginning, God created heaven and earth. And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved over the water. And God said: Be light made. And light was made. And God saw the light that it was good: and He divided the light from the darkness. And He called the light Day, and the darkness Night: and there was evening and morning, one day. And God said: Let there be a firmament made amidst the waters: and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made a firmament, and divided the waters that were under the firmament from those that were above the firmament. And it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven: and the evening and morning were the second day.

God also said: Let the waters that are un-der the heaven be gathered together into one place; and let the dry land appear. And it was so done. And God called the dry land Earth: and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good. And He said: Let the earth bring forth his green herb, after its kind, which may have seed in itself upon the earth. And it was so done. And the earth brought forth the green herb, and such as tieldeth seed according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And the evening and morning were the third day. And God said: Let there be lights made in the firmament of heaven to divide the day and the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years.: to shine in the firmament of heaven. and to give light to the earth. And it was so done. And God made two great lights: a greater light to rule the day; and a lesser light to rule the night: and the stars. And He set them in the firmament of heaven, to shine upon the earth, and to rule the day and the night, and to divide the earth, and to rule the day and the night, and to divide the light and the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And the evening and morning were the fourth day.

God also said: Let het waters bring forth the creeping creature having life, and the fowl that may fly over the earth under the firmament of heaven. And God created the great whales, and every living thing and moving creature which the waters brought forth, according to their kinds, and every winged fowl according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And He blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the waters of the sea: and let the birds be multiplied upon the earth. And the eve-ning and the morning were the fifth day. And God said: Let the earth bring forth the living creature in its kind, cattle, and creeping things, and beasts of the earth according to their kinds. And it was so done. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds, and cattle, and every thing and every thing that creepeth on the earth after its kind. And God saw that it was good.

And He said: Let us make man to His own image and likeness: and let him have do-minion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts, and the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth. And God created man to His own image: to the im-age of God He created him, male and fe-male He created them. And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth. And God said: Behold, I have given you every herb-bearing seed upon the earth, and all trees that have in them-selves seed of their own kind to be your meat: and to all the beasts of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to all that move upon the earth, and wherein there is life, that they may have to feed upon. And it was so done. And God saw all the things that He had made, and they were very good. And the evening and morning were the sixth day. So the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the furniture of them. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made: and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.


Chapter 1

Verse 1. Beginning. As St. Matthew begins his Gospel with the same title as this work, the Book of the Generation, or Genesis, so St. John adopts the first words of Moses, in the beginning; but he considers a much higher order of things, even the consubstantial Son of God, the same with God from all eternity, forming the universe, in the beginning of time, in conjunction with the other two Divine Persons, by the word of his power; for all things were made by Him, the Undivided Deity. H. — Elohim, the Judges or Gods, denoting plurality, is joined with a verb singular, he created, whence many, after Peter Lombard, have inferred, that in this first verse of Genesis the adorable mystery of the Blessed Trinity is insinuated, as they also gather from various other passages of the Old Testament, though it was not clearly revealed till our Saviour came himself to be the finisher of our faith. C. — The Jews being a carnal people and prone to idolatry, might have been in danger of misapplying this great mystery, and therefore an explicit belief of it was not required of them in general. See Collet. &c. H. — The word bara, created, is here determined by tradition and by reason to mean a production out of nothing, though it be used also to signify the forming of a thing out of pre-existing matter. 21. 27. C. — The first cause of all things must be God, who, in a moment, spoke, and heaven and earth were made, heaven with all the Angels; and the whole mass of the elements, in a state of confusion, and blended together, out of which the beautiful order, which was afterwards so admirable, arose in the space of six days: thus God was pleased to manifest his free choice in opposition to those Pagans who attributed all to blind chance or fate. Heaven is here placed first, and is not declared empty and dark like the earth; that we may learn to raise our minds and hearts above this land of trial, to that our true country, where we may enjoy God for ever. H.

Verse 2. Spirit of God, giving life, vigour, and motion to things, and preparing the waters for the sacred office of baptism, in which, by the institution of J. C., we must be born again; and, like spiritual fishes, swim amid the tempestuous billows of this world. v. Tert. &c. W. H.—This Spirit is what the Pagan philosophers styled the Soul of the World. C. — If we compare their writings with the books of Moses and the prophets, we shall find that they agree in many points. See Grotius. H.

Verse 3. Light. The sun was made on the fourth day, and placed in the firmament to distinguish the seasons, &c.; but the particles of fire were created on the first day, and by their, or the earth’s motion, served to discriminate day from the preceding night, or darkness, which was upon the face of the deep. H. — Perhaps this body of light might resemble the bright cloud which accompanied the Israelites, Ex. xiv. 19, or the three first days might have a kind of imperfect sun, or be like one of our cloudy days. Nothing can be defined with certainty respecting the nature of this primeval light. C.

Verse 4. Good; beautiful and convenient:—he divided light by giving it qualities incompatible with darkness, which is not any thing substantial, and therefore Moses does not say it was created. C. — While our hemisphere enjoys the day, the other half of the world is involved in darkness. S. Augustine supposes the fall and punishment of the apostate angels are here insinuated. L. imp. de Gen. H.

Verse 6. A firmament. By this name is here understood the whole space between the earth and the highest stars. The lower part of which divideth the waters that are upon the earth, from those that are above in the clouds. Ch. — The Heb. Rokia is translated stereoma, solidity by the Sept., and expansion by most of the moderns. The heavens are often represented as a tent spread out, Ps. ciii. 3. C.

Verse 7. Above the firmament and stars, according to some of the Fathers; or these waters were vapours and clouds arising from the earth, and really divided from the lower waters contained in the sea. C.

Verse 11. Seed in itself, either in the fruit or leaves, or slips. M. — At the creation, trees were covered with fruit in Armenia, while in the more northern regions they would not even have leaves: Calmet hence justly observes, that the question concerning the season of the year when the world began, must be understood only with reference to that climate in which Adam dwelt. Scaliger asserts, that the first day corresponds with our 26th of October, while others, particularly the Greeks, fix it upon the 25th of March, on which day Christ was conceived; and, as some Greeks say, was born and nailed to the cross. The great part of respectable authors declare for the vernal equinox, when the year is in all its youth and beauty. H. See T. and Salien’s Annals, B.C. Christ 4053.

Verse 14. For signs. Not to countenance the delusive observations of astrologers, but to give notice of rain, of the proper seasons for sowing, &c. M. — If the sun was made on the first day, as some assert, there is nothing new created on this fourth day. By specifying the use and creation of these heavenly bodies, Moses shows the folly of the Gentiles, who adored them as gods, and the impiety of those who pretend that human affairs are under the fatal influence of the planets. See S. Aug. Confes. iv. 3. The Heb. term mohadim, which is here rendered seasons, may signify either months, or the times for assembling to worship God; (C.) a practice, no doubt, established from the beginning every week, and probably also the first day of the new moon, a day which the Jews afterwards religiously observed. Plato calls the sun and planets the organs of time, of which, independently of their stated revolutions, man could have formed no conception. The day is completed in twenty-four hours, during which space the earth moves round its axis, and express successively different parts of its surface to the sun. It goes at a rate of fifty-eight thousand miles an hour, and completes its orbit in the course of a year. H.

Verse 16. Two great lights. God created on the first day light, which being moved from east to west, by its rising and setting made morning and evening. But on the fourth day he ordered and distributed this light, and made the sun, moon, and stars. The moon, though much less than the stars, is here called a great light, from its giving a far greater light to earth than any of them. Ch. — To rule and adorn, for nothing appears so glorious as the sun and moon. M. — Many have represented the stars, as well as the sun and moon, to be animated. Ecclesiastes xvi, speaking of the sun says, the spirit goeth forward surveying all places: and in Esdras ix. 6, the Levites address God, Thou hast made heaven and all the host thereof; and thou givest life to all these things, and the host of heaven adoreth thee. S. Aug. Ench. and others, consider this question as not pertaining to faith. See Spen. in Orig. c. Cels. v. C. — Whether the stars be the suns of other worlds, and whether the moon, &c. be inhabited, philosophers dispute, without being able to come to any certain conclusion: for God has delivered the world to their consideration for dispute, so that man cannot find out the work which God hath made from the beginning to the end, Eccles. iii. 11. If we must frequently confess our ignorance concerning the things which surround us, how shall we pretend to dive into the designs of God, or subject the mysteries of faith to our feeble reason? If we think the Scriptures really contradict the systems of philosophers, ought we to pay greater deference to the latter, than to the unerring word of God? But we must remember, that the sacred writings were given to instruct us in the way to heaven, and not to unfold to us the systems of natural history; and hence God generally addresses us in a manner best suited to our conceptions, and speaks of nature as it appears to the generality of mankind. At the same time, we may confidently asset, that the Scriptures never assert what is false. If we judge, with the vulgar, that the sun, moon, and stars are no larger than they appear to our naked eye, we shall still have sufficient reason to admire the works of God; but, if we are enabled to discover that the sun’s diameter, for example, is 763 thousand miles, and its distance from our earth about 95 million miles, and the fixed stars (as they are called, though probably all in motion) much more remote, what astonishment must fill our breast! Our understanding is bewildered in the unfathomable abyss, in the unbounded expanse, even of the visible creation. — Sirius, the nearest to us of all the fixed stars, is supposed to be 400,000 times the distance from the sun that our earth is, or 38 millions of millions of miles. Light, passing at the rate of twelve millions of miles every minute, would be nearly 3,000 years in coming to us from the remotest star in our stratum, beyond which are others immensely distant, which it would require about 40,000 years to reach, even with the same velocity. Who shall not then admire thy works and fear thee, O King of ages! Walker. — Geog. justly remarks, “we are lost in wonder when we attempt to comprehend either the vastness or minuteness of creation. Philosophers think it possible for the universe to be reduced to the smallest size, to an atom, merely by filling up the pores;” and the reason they allege is, “because we know not the real structure of bodies.” Shall any one then pretend to wisdom, and still call in question the mysteries of faith, transubstantiation, &c., when the most learned confess they cannot fully comprehend the nature even of a grain of sand? While on the one hand some assert, that all the world may be reduced to this compass; others say, a grain of sand may be divided in infinitum! H.

Verse 20. Creeping: destitute of feet like fishes, which move on their bellies. M. — Fowl. Some assert that birds were formed of the earth, but they seem to have the same origin as fishes, namely, water; and still they must not be eaten on days of abstinence, which some of the ancients thought lawful, Socrates v. 20. To conciliate the two opinions, perhaps we might say, that the birds were formed of mud, (C.) or that some of the nature of fish, like barnacles, might be made of water and others of earth, C. 11. 19. — Under: Heb. on the face of the firmament, or in the open air. H.

Verse 22. Blessed them, or enabled them to produce others. — Multiply: the immense numbers and variety of fishes and fowls is truly astonishing.

Verse 26. Let us make man to our image. This image of God in man, is not in the body, but in the soul; which is a spiritual substance, endued with understanding and free-will. God speaketh here in the plural number, to insinuate the plurality of persons in the Deity. Ch. — Some of the ancient Jews maintained that God here addressed his council, the Angels; but is it probable that he should communicate to them the title of Creator, and a perfect similitude with himself? C. — Man is possessed of many prerogatives above all other creatures of this visible world: his soul gives him a sort of equality with the Angels; and though his body be taken from the earth, like the brutes, yet even here the beautiful construction, the head erect and looking towards heaven, &c. makes S. Aug. observe, an air of majesty in the human body, which raises man above all terrestrial animals, and brings him in some measure near to the Divinity. As Jesus assumed our human nature, we may assert, that we bear a resemblance to God both in soul and body. Tertullian (de Resur. 5.) says, “Thus that slime, putting on already the image of Christ, who would come in the flesh, was not only the work of God, but also a pledge.” H. See S. Bern. on Ps. xcix. W.

Verse 27. Male and female. Eve was taken from Adam’s side on this same day, though it be related in the following chapter. Adam was not an hermaphrodite as some have foolishly asserted. C. — Adam means the likeness, or red earth, that in one word we may behold our nobility and meanness. H.

Verse 28. Increase and multiply. This is not a precept, as some protestant controvertists would have it, but a blessing, rendering them fruitful: for God had said the same words to the fishes and birds, (ver. 22.) who were incapable of receiving a precept. Ch. — Blessed them, not only with fecundity as he had done to other creatures, but also with dominion over them, and much more with innocence and abundance of both natural and supernatural gifts. — Increase. The Hebrews understand this literally as a precept binding every man at twenty years of age (C.); and some of the Reformers argued hence, that Priests, &c. were bound to marry: very prudently they have not determined how soon! But the Fathers in general agree that if this were a precept with respect to Adam, for the purpose of filling the earth, it is no longer so, that end being sufficiently accomplished. Does not St. Paul wish all men to be like himself, unmarried? 1 Cor. vii. 1. 7. 8. H.

Verse 29. Every herb, &c. As God does not here express leave to eat flesh-meat, which he did after the deluge, it is supposed that the more religious part of mankind, at least, abstained from it, and from wine, till after that event, when they became more necessary to support decayed nature. H. M. — In the golden age, spontaneous fruits were the food of happy mortals. C.

Chapter 2

Verse 1. Furniture, ornaments or militia, whether we understand the Angels, or the stars, which observe a regular order and obey God. M.

Verse 2. He rested, &c. That is, he ceased to make any new kinds of things. Though, as our Lord tells us, John v. 17. He still worketh, viz. by conserving and governing all things, and creating souls. Ch. — Seventh day. This day was commanded, Ex. xx. 8. to be kept holy by the Jews, as it had probably been from the beginning. Philo says, it is a the festival of the universe, and Josephus asserts, there is no town which does not acknowledge the religion of the sabbath. But this point is controverted, and whether the ancient patriarchs observed the seventh day, or some other, it is certain they would not fail, for any long time, to shew their respect for God’s worship, and would hardly suffer a whole week to elapse without meeting to sound forth his praise. The setting aside of stated days for this purpose, is agreeable to reason, and to the practise of all civilized nations. As the Hebrews kept Saturday holy, in honour of God’s rest, so we keep the first day of the week, by apostolic tradition, to thank God for the creation of the world on that day, and much more for the blessings which we derive from the Resurrection of J. C. and the sending down of the Holy Ghost, which have given it a title above all other days. H. On the seventh day, at the beginning of this verse, must be taken exclusively, as God finished his work on the 6th, whence the same Sept. and Syr. have here on the 6th day. H. — But the Heb. and all the other versions agree with the Vulgate. C. — The similarity of v. 6. and v. 7. in Heb. may have given rise to this variation. H.


1997 to 2000: The Mosaic Authenticity of the Pentateuch

From the Response of the Commission on Biblical Studies, June 27, 1906

1997 Question 1. Whether the arguments accumulated by critics to impugn the Mosaic authenticity of the Sacred Books, which are designated by the name of Pentateuch, are of such weight that, in spite of the very many indications of both Testaments taken together, the continuous conviction of the Jewish people, also the unbroken tradition of the Church in addition to the internal evidences drawn from the text itself, they justify affirming that these books were not written by Moses, but were composed for the most part from sources later than the time of Moses? Reply: No.

1998 Question 2. Whether the Mosaic authenticity of the Pentateuch necessarily demands such a redaction of the whole work that it must be held absolutely that Moses wrote all and each book with his own hand, or dictated them to copyists; or, whether also the hypothesis can be permitted of those who think that the work was conceived by him under the influence of divine inspiration, and was committed to another or several to be put into writing, but in such manner that they rendered his thought faithfully, wrote nothing contrary to his wish, omitted nothing; and, finally, when the work was composed in this way, approved by Moses as its chief and inspired author, it was published under his name. Reply: No, for the first part; yes, for the second.

1999 Question 3. Whether without prejudice to the Mosaic authenticity of the Pentateuch it can be granted that Moses for the composition of the work made use of sources, namely written documents or oral tradition, from which, according to the peculiar goal set before him, and under -the influence of divine inspiration, he made some borrowings, and these, arranged for word according to sense or amplified, he inserted into the work itself? Reply: Yes.

2000 Question 4. Whether, safeguarding substantially the Mosaic authenticity and the integrity of the Pentateuch, it can be admitted that in such a long course of ages it underwent some modifications, for example: additions made after the death of Moses, or by an inspired author, or glosses and explanations inserted in the texts, certain words and forms of the antiquated language translated into more modern language; finally false readings to be ascribed to the errors of copyists, which should be examined and passed upon according to the norms of textual criticism. Reply: Yes, the judgment of the Church being maintained.

2021 to 2028: The Errors of Modernists, on the Church, Revelation, Christ, the Sacraments

From the Decree of the Holy Office, "Lamentabili" July 3, 1907

2021 21. Revelation, constituting the object of Catholic faith, was not completed with the apostles.

2022 22. The dogmas which the Church professes as revealed are not truths fallen from heaven, but they are a kind of interpretation of religious facts, which the human mind by a laborious effort prepared for itself.

2023 23. Opposition can and actually does exist between facts which are narrated in Sacred Scripture, and the dogmas of the Church based on these, so that a critic can reject as false, facts which the Church believes to be most certain.

2024 24. An exegete is not to be reproved who constructs premises from which it follows that dogmas are historically false or dubious, provided he does not directly deny the dogmas themselves.

2025 25. The assent of faith ultimately depends on an accumulation of probabilities.

2026 26. The dogmas of faith are to be held only according to a practical sense, that is, as preceptive norms for action, but not as norms for believing

2027 27. The divinity of Jesus Christ is not proved from the Gospels; but is a dogma which the Christian conscience has deduced from the notion of the Messias.

2028 28.When Jesus was exercising His ministry, He did not speak with this purpose, to teach that He was the Messias, nor did His miracles have as their purpose to demonstrate this.

[editor’s note: the Church has deemed the above statements all false.]

29: Creation

The creed of the Council of Toledo of the year 400 [and 447]

9. If anyone says and [or] believes, that the world was made by another God than [and not] by him, concerning whom it is written :In the beginning God created heaven and earth [cf. Gen. I, I], let him be anathema.

469: The Unity and Power of the Church

And we are taught by evangelical words that in this power of his are two swords, namely spiritual and temporal. … Therefore, each is in the power of the Church, that is, a spiritual and a material sword. But the latter, indeed, must be exercised for the Church, the former by the Church. The former (by the hand) of the priest, the latter by the hand of kings and soldiers, but at the will and sufferance of the priest. For it is necessary that a sword be under a sword and that temporal authority be subject to spiritual power. … It is necessary that we confess the more clearly that spiritual power precedes any earthly power both in dignity and nobility, as spiritual matters themselves excel the temporal. … For, as truth testifies, spiritual power has to establish earthly power, and to judge if it was not good. … Therefore, if earthly power deviates, it will be judged by spiritual power; but if a lesser spiritual deviates, by its superior; but if the supreme (spiritual power deviates), it can be judged by God alone, not by man, as the Apostle testifies: “The spiritual man judges all things, but he himself is judged by no one” [1 Cor. 2:15]. But this authority, although it is given to man and is exercised by man, is not human, but rather divine, and has been given by the divine Word to Peter himself and to his successors in him, whom the Lord acknowledged an established rock, when he said to Peter himself: “Whatsoever you shall bind” etc. [Matt. 16:19]. Therefore, “whosoever resists this power so ordained by God, resists the order of God” [cf. Rom. 13:2], unless as a Manichaean he imagines that there are two beginnings, which we judge false and heretical, because, as Moses testifies, not “in the beginnings” but “in the beginning God created the heaven and earth” [cf. Gen. 1:1]. Furthermore, we declare, say, define, and proclaim to every human creature that they by necessity for salvation are entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff.

2226: Christian Marriage

From this it is now well established that truly legitimate authority has the power by law and so is compelled by duty to restrain, to prevent, and to punish base marriages, which are opposed to reason and to nature; but since a matter is involved which follows upon human nature itself, that is no less definitely established which Our predecessor, Leo XIII, of happy memory, plainly taught: * “In choosing a state of life there is no doubt but that it is within the power and discretion of individuals to prefer either one of two: either to adopt the counsel of Jesus Christ with respect to virginity, or to bind himself with the bonds of matrimony. To take away the natural and primeval right of marriage, or in any way to circumscribe the chief purpose of marriage established in the beginning by the authority of God, “Increase and multiply” [Gen. 1:28], is not within the power of any law of man.”

2228: Christian Marriage

Thus the child holds the first place among the blessing of matrimony. Clearly the Creator of the human race Himself, who because of His kindness wished to use men as helpers in propagating life, taught this in Paradise, when He instituted marriage, saying to our first parents, and through them to all spouses: “Increase and multiply and fill the earth” [Gen. 1:28]. This thought St. Augustine very beautifully infers from the words of St. Paul the Apostle to Timothy [1 Tim. 5:14], when he says: “So the Apostle is witness that marriage is accomplished for the sake of generation. I wish,he says, young girls to marry. And as if someone said to Him: Why? he immediately adds: To bear children, to be mothers of families” [1 Tim. 5:14].

⇦ Back to Paschal Vigil