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“The ‘Apokalypsis’ of the Sons of God”

Entropy, in physics, describes the measure of disorder. In the entire universe there is a rise in disorder as, slowly but surely, energy dissipates. You know how this works in daily life. When your ice cube melts, heat, energy, goes into the ice, not cold into the air, even though if you put your hand near the ice the air is colder there. The air’s heat is going into the ice, not the other way around. The movement of energy into the ice agitates and loosens the tightly packed water molecules so that they become more disordered and take on a liquid water state rather than solid icy state. More heat and the molecules become more disordered, get even farther apart, and become steam. Eventually the heat dissipates, redistributes, and droplets form.

This will happen, at galactically large and infinitesimally small levels, until all energy, call it heat, is evenly distributed and has nothing else to affect, thus leading to what has been called the “heat death” of the universe. The cosmos will become so disordered, energy so evenly distributed, that entropy can no longer increase. That’s when changes come to an end and perfect (but still disordered) chaos results. By the way, time is sometimes called “the measure of change.” If nothing is changing, is that the… end time? In terms of physics, perhaps. I’m no expert. I believe that the Lord will return once the Restrainer stops restraining. Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev 22:20) Until then, every click of your mouse, every blink of your eye, results in a redistribution of energy.

Or, to tweak the environmentalist extremists, by breathing and thinking, you are killing the universe and the demon Pachamama can’t stop it.

Connect all that with what we read in Genesis, not a book that describes scientifically how creation happened but rather that and why it happened. In Gen 1:2 in Hebrew the “eretz… earth,” …

 Was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit [wind, breath, ruach] of God was moving over the face of the waters.

The ordering of the cosmos then began, systematically, according to God’s plan.

The Hebrew that describes the disordered state is tohu wa-bohu, which can mean a whole tool shed of things. In one way, let’s call it TWB, it can mean “emptiness” and therefore “vanity” which comes from the root for empty. Tohu is used in Isaiah for “vanity.” Some rabbis, personifying the state, thought of TWB in terms of “bewildered and astonished” which is a formless, disordered mental state. In the Jewish Kabbalistic tradition TWB could be “everything as one without differentiation.” These all well describe the “heat death” state of the universe once entropy has done its distribution. The end would look very much like the beginning.

Enter St. Paul.

On this 4th Sunday after Pentecost, we have Romans 8 in which the Apostle to the Gentiles waxed eschatological, about the end times, when everything will be unmade, and about a “new creation.” In this chapter Paul connects humanity to the larger created universe (Greek ktisis). Let’s call it “the environment.” When the “end” comes, what will happen with the created universe?

Paul makes a distinction between a “new creation” (“the glory that is to be revealed” v. 18) and the “old creation” (the sufferings of the present life, vv. 19-21). In Pauline thought, these are not merely sequential, that is, a destruction of the old and then a wholly new creation. The two are fused together in the person of Christ. In him, they overlap. He is at the intersection of the old and new creation.

Paul, too, talks about the created universe as if it is a person, indeed a woman, waiting, groaning in birth pains (v. 22). What is it waiting for? The apokalypsis, the “revelation of the sons of God” (v. 21), by which we mean not what the sons of God will reveal, but rather the revealing of the sons themselves.

Why would the created universe, in a manner of a person, look forward to the end times, the destruction of the old creation? Because the new creation will be so much more than the old.

Just as we must pass through death to come to the resurrection and glory, so too all the material cosmos will pass through the unfathomable elevation of all creation. Mankind, the pinnacle of material creation, will rise and the material universe will “rise.” “Creation” will be set free from the bondage of decay. The Original Sin disordered not only humanity, but all creation. The Resurrection means that all creation will rise. The birth pangs of a “mother nature” aim at the resurrection and a new creation.

The Son, the divine logos, through Whom all things visible and invisible, the whole of the cosmos’ material as well as the spiritual realm, were created, took our human nature (created) into an indestructible bond with His divinity (uncreated). When He rose from the disordering of death, we rose. So too, in the end times, because of Christ, there will not be “heat death of the universe.” There will be a new creation. And since death will have been well and duly conquered, perhaps there won’t be a need to measure disorder any longer, no entropy.

Mankind and Mother Nature will have found their goal and perfection in the Risen Christ in the heavenly liturgy singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” before the throne of God in perfect dynamic, infinitely love-charged order.

There’s a great quote from Dom Guéranger about this reading, which even refers to atoms:

When the Spirit moved over chaos, he adapted the informal matter to the designs of infinite love. Thereby, the various elements, and the countless atoms, of the world that was in preparation, really derived from this infinite love the principle of their future development and power; they received it as their one single mission to cooperate, each in its own way, with the Holy Spirit; that is, cooperate in leading man, the creature chosen by Eternal Wisdom, to the proposed glorious end,—union with God. Sin broke the alliance; and would have destroyed the world… A violent state—the state of struggle and expiation has now been substituted for what, in the primal design of the Creator, was to be the effortless advance of the king of creation to his grand destiny, the spontaneous growth of, what someone has called man, the god in the bud. Divine union is still offered to the world—but, at what a cost of trouble and travail! We may still enjoy the eternal music of triumph, and all the joys of the divine nuptial banquet; but oh! what a long prelude of sighs and sobs must precede!

What will all this look like? We don’t know. For some homework, take a look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1046-1048 which deals with this very chapter from Romans. Whatever form it all takes, the knowledge of what is to come must fill every believer’s heart and mind with hope and joy. This is the hope we are waiting for: the revelation, apokalypisis, of the sons of God.

Someday, it will all come to pass, and every disorder, every tear, will be wiped away.

This Sunday the Church also gives us the account in Luke of the calling of St. Peter, appropriate this year on the heels of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

At first glance, the readings from Romans and from Luke might not seem to be connected.

The calling of Peter is in all three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. Luke has some details that the others don’t have. We are at the beginning of Christ’s public ministry. He had been to Nazareth and was teaching in Galilee. The fame of his miracle at Cana brought out huge crowds. At the Sea of Galilee, called also Gennesaret, the crowds pressed Him on the water’s edge and He got into a boat, significantly Simon’s, to teach. Surely the boat was held at the right distance at the end of a rope, which in nautical terms is called a “line.” Hence, this is the first instance of “online” ministry.” He made use of technology, the boat and line, to talk to more people than He could have otherwise.

Also, as Fathers of the Church point out, there were more than one boat available, but Christ taught from Simon Peter’s boat, another word for which is a “barque.” Christ still teaches from Peter’s Barque, the Holy Catholic Church.

Luke recounts what the other Gospels do not. Christ, still in the barque with Simon, told the fishermen, who had unsuccessfully fished all night, to “put out into the deep” and try again. What do we have here? The divine Word was upon the waters that had yielded nothing, disorder, in the darkness. The miraculous catch of fish worked by Jesus, the reordering of all the fish in superabundance within the nets, is the backdrop to Peter’s throwing himself down before the Lord, confessing his sinfulness, and then leaving everything behind. What was it that Simon Peter had said when Jesus told a bunch of professional fisherman to try again? In the light of day, instead of the preferred night when fish could be attached to lanterns? He said, “At your word” we will do it and he calls Christ, “Master” (Greek epistata,” a kind of overseer). It comes off as “Whatever you say, chief.” They got the superabundant catch. Peter then calls Christ “Lord” (Greek kyrie, which reflects the Hebrew way of speaking about God). Peter recognized that only God could make this catch happen.

Peter, recognizing his sinfulness, his disorder, perhaps his inner tohu wa-bohu, was struck with the beginning of wisdom, “fear of the Lord” (cf. Prov 9:10). He was fully aware as a Jew that that which is sinful or ritually unclean should never be brought into the presence of God, for example, into the Temple’s Holy of Holies. At Yom Kippur, a High Priest who was improperly disposed could be struck dead in the Holy of Holies. As Peter knew from Exodus 33, man shall not see God and live.

Christ says, “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be fishers of men.” Sorry, I just couldn’t write “catching men” as in the RSV of Luke. Rather, the RSV of the account in Mark.

The account of the calling of Peter in the Gospel of John says:

Jesus looked at him, and said, ‘So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter).

When God renames someone in salvation history He reorders their lives, redistributes their energies, not according to man’s plans, which must ultimately result in “heat death of the cosmos.” but rather according to His plans, which must ultimately result in “the revelation of the Sons of God” and the raising of the cosmos accordingly.

Ne longior, a few things to take away. Disordered Peter and the other Apostles find their order and new energy at the feet of the Lord. Christ does not choose those who are worthy, He calls those whom it pleases Him to choose. Though frail, they become mighty for the fulfillment of God’s work. As Augustine of Hippo preached about Christ and Peter, “once I have taken possession of him, it will be obvious that it is I who am at work in him…” (s. 43.5-7). Seeing what Peter would do, given his background, would lead many to recognize that it must really be God at work. We can apply this to looking at the human side of the Church as well.

As in a tale in Boccacio’s Decameron, for years a Christian urged his Jewish friend, Abraham, to be baptized. Then Abraham had to go to Rome for something. The Christian was certain that Abraham would never convert once he saw the incompetence and corruption of Rome and Curia. When he returned Abraham said, “I’m ready to be baptized.” Why? Abraham concluded that something so wretched and corrupt as what he saw in Rome could not have possibly endured for long unless it was truly from God.

On that note, in this profound moment that changed the world’s trajectory on many levels, Peter wasn’t alone. There were his business partners, Zebedee and Sons, Co., and hired hands. When there was need, they all pitched in with the miraculous catch. Some might have stood off in envy to let them flounder. We don’t read of that in the account. But more than one person contributed to the concrete fact of Peter seeing that miraculous catch in all it abundance, triggering in Peter the recognition of being in the presence of God. See what good works, works of mercy can do for others? They can trigger in others the sensation of God’s love.

In addition, getting back to the cosmos, in the Collect of Sunday Mass we have a mention of the “mundi cursus… the course of the created universe” according to God’s ordering. The fact of knowing that God is ordering the universe should bring us “tranquilla devotio… calm devotion,” devotion being a term involving total application to one’s state in life as it is here and now.

And that leads to this final point. Peter was a professional who had his work. In the moment that it mattered the most, Peter didn’t refuse to do his work, the work of his vocation being a fisherman. Through Peter’s application of himself to the task at hand, in the “here and now,” he was brought to his true vocation. When wondering about our state in life, we mustn’t carry out our present state poorly.

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