|In recent years a new practice has emerged whereby a number of ecclesial communities have designated the month of September, culminating in the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi on 4 October, as the “Season of Creation”. Lots of liturgical resources are being produced for celebrating this season and you can find many of them at seasonofcreation.org. At that site, you can also sign up to receive regular news and resources to assist you in celebrating this new liturgical season.
It is a smart initiative. As Father Thomas Berry, CP, a great ecological prophet who was far ahead of his time, once wrote, “The dream drives the action”. Liturgy is all about dreaming, dreaming of a better future for humankind, dreaming that we humans could finally learn, somehow, to embrace God’s dream for our future and the future of Mother Earth. So many of our conventional prayers, while beautiful in many ways, can be interpreted as subtly reinforcing the idea of a God who is somewhere else other than here among us, a purely transcendent notion of God. So, it is good to balance that conventional emphasis with prayers that emphasize the God who is here among us now, the immanent notion of God. Our rich Catholic tradition, especially in the writings of our great mystics, teaches us that God is both immanent and transcendent. Perhaps if we could really believe that and bring that into our consciousness fully, we would relate to Mother Earth and to one another quite differently than we do. As the Monks of Weston Priory write in one of their hymns, “The God who is within all and beyond all”. Our tradition, after all, is a “Both/And” tradition rather than an “Either/Or” tradition! So, bringing this balance into our liturgical language and practice might help us to think differently about exactly where God is and when and how we encounter God.
The theme of the Season of Creation for 2023 is taken from the writings of the prophet Amos: “Let justice flow on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream” (5:24).
In his beautiful message for the World of Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, 1 September 2023, our Holy Father Francis recalls his visit to Lake Saint Anne in Canada in July 2022. He writes:
That lake has been a place of pilgrimage for many generations of indigenous people. Surrounded by the beating of drums, I thought: “How many hearts have come here with anxious longing, weighed down by life’s burdens, and found by these waters consolation and strength to carry on! Here, immersed in creation, we can also sense another beating: the maternal heartbeat of the earth. Just as the hearts of babies in the womb beat in harmony with those of their mothers, so in order to grow as people, we need to harmonize our own rhythms of life with those of creation, which gives us life”.
You can read the whole letter HERE
The theme of the Season of Creation for 2023 is taken from the writings of the prophet Amos: “Let justice flow on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream” (5:24). When I think about the beautiful and yet deeply troubled land of South Sudan, I am reminded of the walk I took with Brother Felipe Garcia, FSC, when I visited South Sudan in Fall of 2021. Brother Felipe takes a long walk every morning, just after sunrise, before it becomes too hot. On a particular day, he took me down to see the mighty Nile River, the historic river that flows through East Africa and is made famous in the history of Egypt and the pages of the Bible. When will true justice and deep righteousness come to this land? I think it will only be when all of us can attain the kind of conversion of heart that the Holy Father to which our Holy Father Francis is calling us in his letter.
In his letter, Pope Francis references an earlier text by Pope Benedict XVI, his homily for the solemn inauguration of his own Petrine Ministry back on 24 April 2005. In that homily, Benedict wrote: “the external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast”. Those are, I think, deeply prophetic words. The renewal of Mother Earth hinges so much on a renewal of our own interior lives, a renewal that will enable us to discern the presence of God within us as well as beyond us, a renewal that will help us to see that Creation, and our own existence, are gifts and not possessions. As Pope Francis wrote in his message for this occasion in 2022:
“Creation refers both to God’s mysterious, magnificent act of creating this majestic, beautiful planet and universe out of nothing and to the continuing result of that act, which we experience as an inexhaustible gift. During the liturgy and personal prayer in “the great cathedral of creation”, let us recall the great Artist who creates such beauty, and reflect on the mystery of that loving decision to create the cosmos” .
19 June 2023
Fr David Gentry, Mission Promoter
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