Through Our Sister, Mother Earth, Praise God

Yes, I am celebrating Earth Day. And no, in spite of what you read in my blog or in other people’s comboxes, this does not (necessarily, anyway) make me a pagan disciple of Gaia-worshiping hippie nuns with degrees in creation-centered theology, thank you. I am also not going to use this space to trigger a combox steel-cage match on global warming, the wisdom of filling the earth and subduing it, or the outrage of being deprived of my inalienable American right to finally remember to pick up a 4-pack of cheap incandescent light bulbs only to have two break in the bag on the way home and the other two be burned out already.

Let’s leave all that aside today and share some reminders of the amazing gift of God that surrounds and sustains us daily, in the words of a couple of religious who aren’t currently being investigated.

The Canticle of the Creatures
Francis of Assisi’s praises of the Creator as imaged in creation emerged from a profoundly dark night of the soul, when the saint had retired in dejection, thinking his mission was over, to Chiara’s convent at San Damiano where that mission began. This great hymn of joy was first sung in Francis’s own Umbrian dialect, and is generally considered to be the first literary work ever composed in the language that would later become Italian. On the basis of the familial relationship with all creation Francis exhibits in the Canticle, he was named the patron saint of the inconvenient truths of ecology.

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing. To you, alone, Most High, do they belong. No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him. And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens you have made them, precious and beautiful.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, and clouds and storms, and all the weather, through which you give your creatures sustenance.
Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom you brighten the night. He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you; through those who endure sickness and trial. Happy those who endure in peace, for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.
Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whose embrace no living person can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those she finds doing your most holy will. The second death can do no harm to them.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks, and serve him with great humility.

Two from Gerard Manley Hopkins
A 19th century English convert to Catholicism and Jesuit priest, Hopkins too suffered from lifelong bouts of depression, but his poems in praise of God’s creation reflect only joy and hope. That joy was with him at the end: His last words were, “I am so happy. I am so happy. I loved my life.”

Read these out loud to get the full music of Hopkins’s sprung rhythms.

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things—
  For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
      Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
  Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
               Praise him.

God’s Grandeur

THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
  It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
  It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;        5
  And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
  And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
  There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;        10
And though the last lights off the black West went
  Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
  World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

For all this–for all our sullying and wasting and failure to steward–nature is never spent. Let your prayer today be to spend some time with our Sister, Mother Earth. Do her a favor: plant something, clean up after yourself, adopt a stray, go barefoot, recycle. Most of all, on this Earth Day, seek out whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?), and through it, praise Him.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for the beautiful words about our beautiful world.Romans 1:20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

  • Brother

    Earth's crammed with heaven,And every common bush afire with God;But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,And daub their natural faces unaware…~ From "Aurora Leigh" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

  • Melody K

    The Canticle (Daniel 3:57-88, 56) in morning prayer for today from the Liturgy of the Hours was particularly appropriate:"…Let the Earth bless the Lord. Praise and exalt him above all forever. Mountains and hills, bless the Lord. Everything growing from the earth, bless the Lord…"That one always lifts my spirits.

  • Joanne K. McPortland

    And the Entrance Antiphon for Mass today (from Ps 66) was "Cry out with joy to God, all the earth; O sing to the glory of his name."

  • Anonymous

    How can you even imagine a whale let alone see one swimming in the ocean and not see the hand of God. A whale is never going to cure cancer or make a million dollars on Wall Street but what a terribly empty place the world would be without them. Only a truly loving God would place such a noble creature on the same planet as us. Thank you for the postSteve M

  • Anonymous

    from Bill FoleyI aplogize that my comment does not apply to the article in question, but I have come across a paragraph that is one of the most beautiful things that I have ever read, and I want to disseminate it over the Internet.Human Person and the TabernacleParagraph from page 344 of Volume 1 of The Mystical Evolution in the Development and Vitality of the Church by Father Juan Arintero, O.P.“One day, at the time of Communion, Blessed Mariana of Jesus, the Lily of Madrid, being unusually aware of her lowliness and unworthiness, said to her Lord: “My Lord, the tabernacle in which Thou art is much more clean and beautiful.” Christ answered her: “But it cannot love me.” “From this,” said the holy nun, I understood how much more Christ prefers to reside in our souls than in gold or silver or precious jewels which are inanimate creatures incapable of love.”

  • Joanne K. McPortland

    Not so far off, Bill. It's good to be reminded that humanity is part of the Creation we celebrate, a part so loved that Christ himself entered into it.