Dr. Susan Waldstein Illumines the hierarchy of Creation in Light of a Trinitarian Key

Dr. Susan Waldstein Illumines the hierarchy of Creation in Light of a Trinitarian Key

Recently, Dr. Susan Waldstein had an article of hers published in the highly renowned journal, Communio.[1] 

Communio was founded in 1972 by Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, and Joseph Ratzinger. It stands for the renewal of theology in continuity with the living Christian tradition, the continuing dialogue of all believers, past and present, “as if all were simultaneously in the circle.” Now published in collaboration with thirteen other editions in Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East, Communio is truly “catholic” and international in scope.[2]

[The above is from the apse of the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome. The image represents creation coming from the Holy Trinity, with the hand above the Crucifix representing the Father, Christ on the Cross, the Son, and the flowing streams at the base of the Crucifix represent the Holy Spirit.]

Dr. Susan Waldstein’s article, Reading Natural Hierarchy in a Trinitarian Key, is a natural fit for such a journal. Waldstein takes guidance from Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si where he encouraged us to follow the example of St. Bonaventure and “read reality in a Trinitarian key.”[3] Thus, Dr. Waldstein brings this hermeneutic to bear on the hierarchy of natural created beings, bringing to bear insights from St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure, Aristotle, and Charles De Konink, to name a few.

This article corrects a tendency in contemporary scientific inquiries to “violently reduce the wealth of their own experience by holding the only real things are the ultimate particles”(p.2). Understanding and appreciating the natural hierarchy of created beings opens up the natural beauty of creation to our contemplation. Regarding the created order in a Trinitarian Key simultaneously advances knowledge and wonder, understanding and contemplation.

Dr. Waldstein concludes,

Since God created all creatures by his will in order to communicate his goodness to them, his will is participated in them through their appetite for the good. He orders each creature to his goodness by their various appetites for the goods that will perfect them. Each creature will reflect him and thereby attain him best when they achieve their perfection as a mature part in the order of the whole.

Thus every created being in some way reflects the goodness of God, and does so precisely as part of an hierarchical structure of nature. Waldstein goes on,

Lifeless matter and plants have certain natural inclinations without knowledge. Animals also have a sensitive appetite by which they can desire particular sensible objects. But men have a rational appetite or will by which they can consciously love what is good and, in particular, each other and Infinite Goodness who is Love itself. As we meditate with the eyes of faith on the perfecting of appetite in human love and friendship, we grasp some intimation

And so this theological consideration of the hierarchical structure of created beings forms a kind of ladder by which the mind ascends to God. Further, by seeing this inherent ordering of things to the one who is Infinite Goodness, we are able to appreciate in a more profound way that creation points to and reveals the Triune God.

[1] Communio 42, Winter 2015. 

[2] “About Communio | Communio,” accessed October 27, 2016, https://www.communio-icr.com/about.

[3] Laudato Si, 239.