Laudato Si – A “Third Testament”

Laudato Si is a great title for Pope Francis’ brave, direct encyclical on our collective human responsibility for polluting and endangering our home here on earth. Francis of Assisi was the first European environmentalist. He wrote his Canticle to the Sun back in 1223 in Italian, and this 2015 encyclical by our modern Francis, eight centuries later, is named Laudato Si after the 5th line in the Canticle. “Laudato sie, mi Signore cum tucte le Tue creature” translates as:

Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures

All “creatures” on this earth give simple, pure praise by their very existence and diversity. Canticle of the Sun is, in a way, a “Third Testament”, more evolved than the Old Testament and the New Testament.  The Old Testament, in Genesis 1: 26, clearly expresses God’s wish that we be masters of all the other creatures. It is easily seen as flawed and human-centric when viewed in today’s precarious setting by all but the most closed minds. Here I offer an original song about interconnectedness. It is called Sapphire, after the iconic photo from space that helped us realize how beautiful and precious is Planet Earth. The New Testament tells Christians that God the Father sacrificed his son, Jesus, to redeem humanity from our sins.

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Brother Sun and Sister Moon… What I call the “Third Testament” was perceived back in 1223 by the revolutionary genius and sensitivity of Francis of Assisi and by indigenous peoples many millennia ago. In Canticle of the Sun Francis personifies even the inanimate to show the intimacy of every thing in our universe. Here, Francis celebrates not the triumphant division of creation into masters and chattels, but the oneness and interdependence of all living and non-living things on earth. What the “Third Testament” tells us, if we are truly listening, is that we must now struggle  in extreme haste to see creation as one. We must see our “enemies,” in love and vulnerability, as partners in our urgent struggle.

We humans must, in fact, redeem ourselves.

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Saint Francis – Waaay Back Then

St. Francis Window at St. Anthony of Padua Parish Church - Brampton, Ontario St. Francis Window at St. Anthony of Padua Parish Church – Brampton, Ontario

Canticle of Brother Sun

Saint Francis of Assisi

1224

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 bright, 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.
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.

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Even a non-theist like me can appreciate the essential insight and thanks in this poem from the thirteenth century by the one whom I consider to be the first environmentalist – and a fellow Camino Santiago pilgrim!  I left the stanza on Bodily Death in (save for one line) because, religious or not,  we should all care about how we live while we are sharing this place and prepare for a departure eased – made joyful, even – by the sense that we have cared about our “Brothers” and “Sisters” on whom we depend and who, in turn, depend on our faithfulness to all life.

I found it (while looking for something else for a future blog) in my well-thumbed, autographed, copy of David Suzuki’s great 1997 book written with Amanda McConnell, The Sacred Balance.

Happy Feasting, Everyone!