THE CANTICLE OF THE SUN
Saint Francis of Assisi
Most high, omnipotent, good Lord,
Praise, glory and honor and benediction all, are Thine.
To Thee alone do they belong, most High,
And there is no man fit to mention Thee.
Praise be to Thee, my Lord, with all Thy creatures,
Especially to my worshipful brother sun,
The which lights up the day, and through him dost Thou brightness give;
And beautiful is he and radiant with splendor great;
Of Thee, most High, signification gives.
Praised be my Lord, for sister moon and for the stars,
In heaven Thou hast formed them clear and precious and fair.
Praised be my Lord for brother wind
And for the air and clouds and fair and every kind of weather,
By the which Thou givest to Thy creatures nourishment.
Praised be my Lord for sister water,
The which is greatly helpful and humble and precious and pure.
Praised be my Lord for brother fire,
By the which Thou lightest up the dark.
And fair is he and gay and mighty and strong.
Praised be my Lord for our sister, mother earth,
The which sustains and keeps us
And brings forth diverse fruits with grass and flowers bright.
Praised be my Lord for those who for Thy love forgive
And weakness bear and tribulation.
Blessed those who shall in peace endure,
For by Thee, most High, shall they be crowned.
Praised be my Lord for our sister, the bodily death,
From the which no living man can flee.
Woe to them who die in mortal sin;
Blessed those who shall find themselves in Thy most holy will,
For the second death shall do them no ill.
Praise ye and bless ye my Lord, and give Him thanks,
And be subject unto Him with great humility.
In a recent lecture in New York, Oxford Professor John Lennox (watch the lecture below) said it is important to point out that science doesn’t explain anything. Take energy as an example. Science does a terrific job of describing many aspects of energy and even builds predictability models around its attributes which are close enough to demonstrate repeatability. None of that truly defines energy’s essence.
To understand any creation, one must look to its creator for help. It is within the creator’s prerogative to either reveal himself or to remain silent. The Creator of the universe speaks to us generally (that is, to all people at all times) through His creation and our discoveries of His autograph have led us to a better understanding of the components of the universe, but we are often misguided.
Ironically, the more we learn about God’s creation, the more fragmented and compartmentalized our understanding devolves. We have lost context in reductionism.
In the 1970’s Owen Barfield (the lesser known Inkling) had this to say:
“Amid all the menacing signs that surround us in the middle of this twentieth century, perhaps the one which fills thoughtful people with the greatest sense of foreboding is the growing sense of meaninglessness. It is this which underlies most of the other threats. How is it that the more able man becomes to manipulate the world to his advantage, the less he can perceive any meaning in it?”
As Malcolm Guite wisely commented, “It is hugely ironic that the path Western thought and assumptions has taken – the path that was once called positivism and is now called materialism, has led to an experience of alienation from any notion of truth or meaning at all.”
The gestalt of understanding is lost on we who now somehow believe that the sum of the parts are equal to the whole. The truth is staring us in the face.
As Gerard Manley Hopkins said
“The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.
Art: Sistine Chapel Ceiling: Creation of Adam by Michelangelo, 1510
The Creation of Adam is a fresco painting by Michelangelo, which forms part of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, painted c. 1508–1512. It illustrates the Biblical creation narrative from the Book of Genesis in which God breathes life into Adam, the first man. The fresco is part of a complex iconographic scheme and is chronologically the fourth in the series of panels depicting episodes from Genesis.
The image of the near-touching hands of God and Adam has become iconic of humanity. The painting has been reproduced in countless imitations and parodies.
Literature and Liturgy: The Canticle of The Sun and John Lennox
Of the several “cantica in vulgari” which St. Francis composed, the only one that has come down to us, as far as is known, is the “Praises of the Creatures,” or, as it is now more commonly called, “The Canticle of the Sun.” Celano, who alludes to this laud, says of St. Francis that he was of the race of Ananias, Azarias and Misael, inviting all creatures with him to glorify Him who made them. It is this side of St. Francis’ thoughts which finds expression in the Canticle; and in this particular order of ideas modern religious poetry has never produced anything comparable to this sublime improvisation into which have passed alike “all the wealth of the Saint’s imagination and all the boldness of his genius.” Tradition tells us that Fra Pacifico had a hand in the embellishment of this laud, about which a whole controversial literature has grown. Some light may perhaps be thrown on this delicate question in the new critical edition of the Canticle promised by Luigi Suttina. The Canticle appears to have been composed toward the close of the year 1225 in a poor little hut near the Monastery of San Damiano.
Saint Francis of Assisi and Paschal Robinson, Writings of Saint Francis of Assisi (Philadelphia: The Dolphin Press, 1906), 150.
Dr. John Lennox: Seven Days That Divide The World
John C. Lennox (PhD, DPhil, DSc) is a professor of mathematics in the University of Oxford, fellow in mathematics and the philosophy of science, and pastoral advisor at Green Templeton College, Oxford. He is author of God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? on the interface between science, philosophy, and theology. He lectures extensively in North America and in Eastern and Western Europe on mathematics, the philosophy of science, and the intellectual defense of Christianity, and he has publicly debated New Atheists Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.
Berry, W. Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community (1993).
Gunton, C. The Triune Creator (1998).
Moltmann, J. God in Creation (1985).
Schmemann, A. For the Life of the World (1973).
Wright, C. God’s People in God’s Land (1990).
Wright, N. T. Surprised by Hope (2008).
Zizioulas, J. Being as Communion (1985).
For Further Reading
Bouma-Prediger, S. For the Beauty of the Earth (2010).
Collins, F. The Language of God (2007).
Dillard, A. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974).
Gunton, C. The Triune Creator (1998).
Levertov, D. The Stream and the Sapphire (1998).
Wilkinson, L., and M. R. Wilkinson. Caring for Creation in Your Own Backyard (1992).
Wilson, E. O. The Creation (2006).