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THE “SONG” AND THE “CRY” OF CREATION:
ST. FRANCIS’ CANTICLE AND PSALM 148

By: ELTON L. VIAGEDOR, OFM

A Mystical Vision of Creation

It is not a coincidence that the annual celebration of the Season of Creation, officially instituted as part of the liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church by Pope Francis in the year 2015, starts on the 1st day of September and ends on October 4 (feast day of St. Francis of Assisi). This five-week celebration is intimately related to the life St. Francis of Assisi. The ecological spirituality of St. Francis is grounded on his mystical vision of the fundamental relationship and connection of all creatures owing to our common divine origin. Such vision is artistically expressed in his famous canticle -the Canticle of all Creatures. St. Francis arrived at such profound vision because of his deep reflection and relentless desire to follow God’s Word as fulfilled in Jesus. This reveals how deeply scriptural is the spirituality of St. Francis and how his mystical understanding of the “kinship” of all creatures re-articulates the biblical vision of creation. One of the ways to see this continuity is to have a comparative analysis of St. Francis’ Canticle and the Song of Creation in Psalm 148.

Interdependence and Inter-relatedness of All Creation: St. Francis and the Psalmist

It is very apparent that St. Francis’ Canticle of Creation is an invitation to all creatures to praise and give thanks to the Lord. Among the various explanations given with regards to the meaning of the canticle, the fundamental theme that comes out is St. Francis vision of the “universal harmony” of all creation, that is, the interdependence and the inter-relatedness of all God’s creatures. For St. Francis, there is an indispensable link and connection between us and the rest of creation. Since we are all created by one and the same God, we are intimately connected and bounded to each other. In St. Francis’s canticle, every creature is exhorted and invited to exult the Lord because all of creation is created by one and the same God. The canticle serves as creation’s song of thanksgiving to God as the Creator of all.

Just like the Canticle of Creatures, Psalm 148 is also an invitation to all creatures to praise the greatness and magnificence of the Lord. From this alone, one can already note the striking convergence and continuity between the psalm and St. Francis’ canticle. Psalm 148 is basically a grand exhortation for all heavenly and earthly creatures to praise God. All creatures, those of heaven and earth, inanimate and animate, all animals and peoples of different types and classes are exhorted to give praise to the Lord (a universal acclamation!). It is strategically located at the center of the hallelujah psalms (Psalms 146-150) in order to emphasize its role as the grand chorus of the creatures’ hymn of praise to God. Psalm 148 underlines that the praise of the human community has to be united with the song of praise of all creatures precisely because all of creation has its origin in God. We are all inter-related.

The Song and the Cry of Creation

This vision of the fundamental kinship or the inter-relatedness of all creation in St. Francis’s canticle and in Psalm 148 has profound implications to our present situation. Since all of creation are fundamentally related, we are also bound to care and protect each other! Especially us human beings, we are largely dependent on nature. Creation, with its gifts and produce, sustains us. In the same way, we too must be willing to be responsible, to be converted, to change our attitudes and practices, to sacrifice and to do our part in sustaining and protecting the whole of creation. Lest we forget, if we do not take care of creation, creation will destroy us. Creation today continues to cry due to the onslaught of human irresponsibility and greed. Our prevailing socio-economic system (neo-liberal capitalism), which looks at nature as an unlimited source of goods/raw materials, justifies the “rape” and destruction of creation in the name of “profit.” This has resulted to unprecedented environmental tragedies that largely affect the poor and the disenfranchised of our society.

If we dare to sing with St. Francis, we must also dare to challenge the present cultural context and the socio-economic and political structures that deliberately plunder and transgress the sanctity of creation. This is an imperative for all of us. St. Francis and the psalmist remind us once again that we are spiritually, ethically and politically bounded to respond to the “tears” of creation and to listen to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.