Pope Benedict XVI- Audiences
“Firstborn of all creation”
September 7, 2005
Dear Brothers and
1. We have already
reflected earlier on the grandiose fresco of Christ, Lord of the
universe and of history, that dominates the hymn St Paul placed at
the beginning of the Letter to the Colossians. This canticle, in
fact, punctuates all four of the weeks spanned by the Liturgy of
The heart of the
hymn consists of verses 15-20, into which Christ enters directly and
solemnly as the "image" of "the invisible God" (v. 15).
The Greek term
ekon, "icon", is dear to the Apostle: in his Letters he uses it
nine times, applying it both to Christ, the perfect icon of God (cf.
II Cor 4: 4), and to man, the image and glory of God (cf. I Cor
However, by sin,
men and women "exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images
representing mortal man" (Rom 1: 23), choosing to worship idols and
become like them.
We must therefore
continuously model our being and life on the image of that of the
Son of God (cf. II Cor 3: 18), so that we may be "delivered... from
the dominion of darkness" and "transferred... to the Kingdom of his
beloved Son" (Col 1: 13).
This is a first
imperative in this hymn: to model our life on the image of the Son
of God, entering into his sentiments, his will and his thoughts.
2. Christ is then
proclaimed the "firstborn" of "all creation" (v. 15). Christ is
before all things (cf. v. 17) because he has been begotten since
eternity, for "all things were created through him and for him" (v.
16). The ancient Jewish tradition also says that "the whole world
was created in view of the Messiah" (Sanhedrin, 98b).
For the Apostle,
Christ is the principle of coherence ("in him all things hold
together"), the mediator ("through him") and the final destination
toward which the whole of creation converges. He is the "firstborn
of many brothers" (Rom 8: 29), that is, the Son par excellence in
the great family of God's children, into which we are incorporated
3. At this point,
our gaze turns from the world of creation to that of history. Christ
is "the Head of the Body, the Church" (Col 1: 18); he already became
this through his Incarnation.
Indeed, he entered
the human community to support it and make it into a "body", that
is, in harmonious and fruitful unity. Christ is the root, the vital
pivot and "the beginning" of the coherence and growth of humanity.
Precisely with this
primacy Christ can become the principle of the resurrection of all,
the "firstborn from the dead", so that "in Christ all will come to
life again": first Christ, the first fruits; then, at his coming,
all those who belong to Christ (cf. I Cor 15: 22-23).
4. The Canticle
draws to a close celebrating the "fullness", in Greek pleroma,
which Christ possesses in himself as a gift of love of the Father.
It is the fullness of divinity that shines out, both in the universe
and in humanity, becoming a source of peace, unity and perfect
harmony (Col 1: 19-20).
"reconciliation" and "repacification" is brought about through "the
blood of his Cross", by which we are justified and made holy. By
pouring out his Blood and giving himself, Christ has spread peace,
which in biblical language is a synthesis of the Messianic goods and
saving fullness extended to the whole of created reality.
The hymn ends,
therefore, with a shining horizon of reconciliation, unity, harmony
and peace, against which the figure of its architect solemnly rises:
Christ, the "Beloved Son" of the Father.
5. Many historians
of the ancient Christian tradition have reflected on this important
passage. St Cyril of Jerusalem, in one of his dialogues, cites the
Canticle of the Letter to the Colossians in response to an anonymous
correspondent who had asked him: "So can we say that the Word
begotten by God the Father suffered for us in his flesh?".
The answer, echoing
the Canticle, is in the affirmative. Indeed, Cyril says, "the image
of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature, visible and
invisible, for whom and in whom all things exist, was given - Paul
says - to be the Head of the Church: he is also the firstborn from
the dead", that is, the first in the series of the dead who are
"He made his own",
Cyril continues, "all that is of the flesh of man and "endured the
Cross, heedless of its shame' (Heb 12: 2). We do not say that a
simple man, heaped with honours, I know not how because of his
connection with him, was sacrificed for us, but that the Lord of
glory himself was the One crucified" (Perché Cristo è uno:
Collana di Testi Patristici, XXXVII, Rome, 1983, p. 101).
Before this Lord of
glory, a sign of the supreme love of the Father, let us also raise
our song of praise and bow down before him, in adoration and
I offer a warm
welcome to all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at
today's Audience, including the group of priests from Scotland, the
Capuchin Friars from Indonesia and the Lutheran pilgrims from
Sweden. I also greet with affection the groups from England,
Denmark, Malta, New Zealand and the United States of America. I wish
you all a pleasant stay in Rome!
Lastly, I greet
you, young people, sick people and newly-weds.
Tomorrow we will be celebrating the Feast of the Nativity of the
Virgin. May the heavenly Mother of God guide and sustain you on your
journey to an ever more perfect attachment to Christ and his Gospel.
Let us end our
meeting by singing the Pater Noster.
© Copyright 2005 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
This page is the work of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and