St. Francis of Assisi whose feast day it is today (4th October) believed that everything in the natural world was a gift from God and deserved to be appreciated and valued. Because of this, Francis in his ‘Canticle of the Sun’ refers to the sun, wind, air, and fire as his brothers, and to the moon, stars, earth, water, and death as his sisters and praise God for some of the wonders of the material world.
The Canticle of the Sun, or The Canticle of the Creatures, was written in Old Italian (Umbrian dialect) in 1225. Despite composing the Canticle of the Sun at a time when Francis was experiencing emotional anxiety and physical illness towards the end of his life, he reflects on his personal relationship with God and experiences his awe-inspiring and relentless goodness in all created things.
The action of God in Francis’s life is what inspires and motivates him. Francis is profoundly in love with God and he lives and breathes fired by this passion.
The first verse in the Canticle is about the centrality of God in his life; the cosmic section is one in which Francis calls for praise of the sun, moon and stars and the elements of wind, water, earth and fire recognising our inter-relatedness with God’s divine creation of the world. The final verse is thought most probably to be a later addition in which Francis directs his companions to praise God and give thanks to humble service. Finally, Francis praises God for all who suffer sickness with patience, for all who forgive their enemies.
The Canticle of the Sun portrays Francis’s understanding of God’s divine identification with the frail human condition. Through His creation, presence in the world and Incarnation, God’s love can transcend and transform human suffering.
This beautiful piece (composed as a heartfelt prayer and possibly to be sung) expresses St Francis’ relationship with nature, whereby God is reflected in all things.
Something beautiful to pray today asking for the eyes to see this, and the head, hands and heart to act accordingly.
The Canticle of the Sun, also known as Laudes Creaturarum (Praise of the Creatures)
Most High, all powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honour,
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 splendour!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised 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 coloured 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.
(This English translation is from the Umbrian)