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.
|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.