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The first book, Genesis, teaches us about initial penance, that is, about faith and fear, which are the essence of penance, because it is through them that we begin to conceive feelings of penance. This book forms us in faith, as if it were the very symbol of faith, because what it relates addresses things that are visible and at the same time things that are invisible.

God, with angels in heaven, looks down on the world which is surrounded by the zodiac.
Padua Baptistry. The first day of creation

It begins with the words ‘In the beginning God created heaven and earth,’ that is, heaven, the empyrean, and what it contains, that is, things that are invisible, and the earth, that is, all things visible. Now the Person of the Father is expressed in this passage and that of the Son also. ‘In the beginning,’ or ‘in the principle,’ that is, God the Father created heaven and earth in principle, that is, in the Son. (Gen. 1:1) The Person of the Holy Spirit is also expressed then by these words, ‘And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters,’ (Gen. 1:2) that is to say, the Holy Spirit who has created and governs everything.

It is also interesting to note that the Gospel of John also begins with the term ‘In the beginning’. (John 1:1) The verse continues (was the word,’ and this equates the Word as being both the Son and the ‘principle’ or ‘beginning’. Here, of course, the reference is to the transcendent Christ.

Genesis instructs us in the faith of the Incarnation and the Passion, One who suffered as much as a man, (so that we believe in Christ) and not as God. This is represented in the person of Isaac who was not sacrificed but who was replaced in the sacrifice by a ram. It also forms us in the faith, so that we believe that Christ was granted to us by pure grace and not because of our merits, like Isaac, the son of the promise.

It also forms us in faith in the Resurrection, in the Ascension and the mission of the Holy Spirit, through Joseph, who, having been sold, came to Egypt to become a high dignity, and made for the abundance of wheat in all Egypt. For in the same way Christ, having been sold and raised above the world by His Ascension, caused His preachers to spread the wheat of the word of God throughout the world. Joseph is a figure of the Resurrection, Ascension and the mission or sending of the Holy Spirit.

Genesis also inspires us with a constructive fear in the history of Adam, so that by the vice of gluttony or disobedience, we are not driven out of the spiritual paradise, as Adam was from the earthly paradise. By Cain, it teaches us to avoid homicide. By the flood, to abstain from all vice. Again, it turns us away from gluttony, by the example of Esau, who sold his birthright for a bowl of red lentils.

At first glance some of these associations may seem a bit far fetched but if we stop and think about them they are inviting us to reflect more deeply on the principles they represent. Together, with many others, they can assist us towards a better understanding of the spiritual life.

(Based on RATIONALE DIVINORUM OFFICIORUM, Book 6, Chapter 25 paragraph 2)

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