St. Irenaeus is honoured as a Father of the Church and is considered to be the first Catholic theologian. He is best remembered for his writings against the heresy of Gnosticism, a heresy which is still around today in one form or another.
St. Irenaeus taught that physical creation is a good thing and that the evils in our world stem from man’s exercise of his free will. Gnostics taught the opposite, they claimed that the physical world was essentially evil at its core.
Catholics are a people best known for their sacramental life. The sacraments, especially the Eucharist, affirm for us that the world we live in somehow serves as a channel or mediator of God’s grace. God is present throughout creation, and all creation points to the creator.
So it is that the farmer or the gardener is somehow participating in the divine activity of creation when nurturing new life in the soil; so too the factory worker, the artist, the baker or builder when creating new things of human hands. Parents in bringing forth new life echo the work of the creator; so too do all of us participate somehow in divine life through our acts of love to one another.
The earth is good. Creation is good. We are creatures made of created, physical stuff, and that is good. God proved that by taking on flesh and blood in the person of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We affirm it daily in hundreds of ways, and we affirm it when we use bread and wine to become Our Lord’s Body and Blood in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. St. Irenaeus helped us to understand that.