Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.   --John 8:12

 Saint Francis of Assisi: He is the saint who sings, the saint who laughs, the saint who kisses, who plays the violin by bowing a stick on his arm, a dancing angel. He is the saint who joyfully sings to nature, who joyfully loves the nature God has created. He does so not as a pantheist, but clearly in all things, as a gardener loves each flower in his garden for itself. Joy! Joy! It is nothing other than music. He hangs from God on a golden thread, swaying back and forth with life's joy - the troubadour of God. He is inebriated with music and joyful love. Of all the saints, he is the poet; all his deeds are spontaneous rhymes, his words music! And even more than a poetic saint, one would prefer to call him a holy poet.
The Canticle (song) of Brother Sun and Sister Moon

Most High, all powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor,
and all blessing.

To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no man is worthy to mention 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.

Praise be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon
and the stars, in heaven you formed them
clear and precious and beautiful.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene,
and every kind of weather through which
You give sustenance to Your creatures.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you light the night and he is beautiful
and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains us and governs us and who produces
varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Praised be You, my Lord,
through those who give pardon for Your love,
and bear infirmity and tribulation.

Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord,
through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no living man can escape.

Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will find
in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.

Praise and bless my Lord,
and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.

Despite the origin of this work, one is struck by its apparent universality; the piece mentions many threads present in many spiritual traditions. Indeed it has endured for nearly a thousand years, captivating those who make study of it. The personification of the elements in the "Canticle of the Sun" attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, is something more than a mere literary device.
Francis' love of all the creatures of the earth was not simply the result of a tender or sentimental disposition; it arose rather from that deep and abiding sense of the presence of God, which under girded all that the mystic said and did. Even so, Francis' habitual cheerfulness was not that of a careless nature, or of one untouched by sorrow.

While it remains to us today unrecorded, Francis' hidden struggles, his wrestling with the Divine in prayer is surely a given. He freely acknowledged his wanderlust ways and transgressions.
And he must have thought that they made him more compassionate and more loving to all.

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