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SEASON OF CREATION 2020: REFLECTIONS AND CELEBRATION

By: Fr. Antonio Maria L. Rosales, OFM

The SEASON OF CREATION is a worldwide celebration from September 1 (Day of Thanksgiving for Creation) to October 4 (Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, Patron of the Environment). The beginning and end of the Season of Creation are linked with the  concern for creation in the Eastern and Western traditions of Christianity.

The initiative was started by the Greek Orthodox Church when the late Patriarch Dimitrios I proclaimed September 1 as A DAY OF PRAYER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT in 1989, by commemorating on that day "how God created the world."  On October 4, Roman Catholics and other churches from the western traditions commemorate St. Francis of Assisi, author of "Canticle of Creatures," whose opening words were used by Pope Francis in his 2015 Encyclical on creation, the "Laudato Si."  Pope Francis states that "this time offers individual believers and communities a fitting opportunity: (1) to reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation, (2) to thank God for the wonderful handiwork he has entrusted to our care, and (3) to implore his help for the protection of creation as well as his forgiveness for the sins committed against the world in which we live."

For us, already in 2003, the Philippine Bishops (CBCP) started to celebrate creation from September 1 to October 4.  The Archdiocese of Manila institutionalized it in 2013 by integrating Creation spirituality in the liturgies, especially the Sundays in this period, to raise awareness about the ecological crisis and encouraging action to protect God's creation.

The theme of the 2020 celebration is JUBILEE FOR THE EARTH: NEW RHYTHMS, NEW HOPE to bring together a prophetic voice on Climate Change, along with actions for the restoration of the Earth: equality, justice, sustainability and a transition to sustainability economies. The theme explores the reality that this year, Covid-19 revealed our shared human nature and the inter-connectivity of our economies, political structures, health care systems, food production chains, and energy and transportation systems in devastating ways. The pandemic also showed that the entire network is rooted in the earth and limited by the earth's capacity to sustain our economic and ecological demands.  The unjust effects of Climate Change are a consequence of our inability to find a sustainable balance of this network.

In this event, major Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant and Anglican organizations have joined to encourage the 2.2 billion Christians worldwide to pray and act on ecological issues. It is also a most appropriate occasion to celebrate by hosting Ecumenical prayer service to promote Christian unity, as well as promote dialogue with other belief systems, and even with those who do not have any, as this earth is our common home.  (This piece is summary of ideas from Phil Tanis "Season of Creation 2020" which is based on an original article courtesy of WCC.) Parishes, religious communities, schools, organizations etc. can organize a program to celebrate Creation.  The following is my suggestion for this year's celebration:

September 1 = Day of Thanksgiving for Creation and asking forgiveness for abuses. Sept. 2-7 (including Sunday) = Reflections, workshops, activities etc. on ENERGY ("Brother Sun" and "Brother Fire"). Sept. 8-14 (including Sunday) = Reflections, etc. on WATER ("Sister Water"). Sept. 15-21 (including Sunday) = Reflections, etc. on AIR ("Brother Wind and Air"). Sept. 22-28 (including Sunday) = Reflections, etc. on EARTH ("Mother Earth"). Sept. 29-Oct. 3 = Reflections, etc. related to Covid-19: the victims & Front Liners and medical practitioners, ORATIO IMPERATA, etc. Oct. 4 (Sunday this year, commemorate St. Francis in the liturgy) = draw a Covenant with Creation: integrating the program: "Live simply that others may simply live," and "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle."  The traditional blessing of animals, pets and plants may be done at the end of the Masses, or in the parish grounds outside of the Mass.

Covid-19 will limit the activities. Some Masses during the week can be held outdoors, weather permitting, either at sunrise or sunset.  The theme for the week will be expressed in decorations, songs, intercessions, gifts being offered.  The activities may be entrusted to the Youth Groups of the parish or community.  Everything will be done without violating health protocols (masks/face shields, distancing, hand-washing, and such).  If the celebration is ecumenical or involving other faith systems, the participants will be asked to offer a prayer or a song or some symbol of how the theme is expressed in their culture or belief system.  Even if the Indigenous Peoples' Sunday will be on October 11 this year, representatives from the group, when and where available, will be invited in any of the themes where they will be most comfortable to take part in.  May the Lord give us peace.