Saturday, May 2, 2009

All Creatures Great and Small

I was talking with my children the other day about "creatures." They know the term, as it is typically used today, in the sense of "monsters" or "aliens." I told my children that they themselves were creatures. They said they were not. However, I told them that we are creatures, because we are created by God, and that only God is not a creature.

Later I was thinking about how important this idea is.

When we feel self-important, we need to remember that we are created beings, and that the Creator is the all-important One.

When we are too busy for prayer (one of my more pernicious sins recently), we need to remember that the One who created us loves us and wants to hear from us.

When we think that creation is ours for the pillaging, we need to remember that we have a bond with the rest of creation as creatures ourselves. We are not separate from creation. While we are most beloved of creation, we are related to the rest of creation through our mutual Creator. St. Francis reminds us of this in the prayer, "The Canticle of the Sun" which was apparently originally called "The Canticle of the Creatures":

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord,
All praise is Yours, all glory, honor and blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong;
no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.
We praise You, Lord, for all Your creatures,

especially for Brother Sun,
who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor,
of You Most High, he bears your likeness.
We praise You, Lord, for Sister Moon and the stars,

in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.
We praise You, Lord, for Brothers Wind and Air,

fair and stormy, all weather's moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.
We praise You, Lord, for Sister Water,

so useful, humble, precious and pure.
We praise You, Lord, for Brother Fire,

through whom You light the night.
He is beautiful, playful, robust, and strong.
We praise You, Lord, for Sister Earth,

who sustains us with her fruits, colored flowers, and herbs.
We praise You, Lord, for those who pardon,

for love of You bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace,
by You Most High, they will be crowned.
We praise You, Lord, for Sister Death,

from whom no-one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in their sins!
Blessed are those that She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm.
We praise and bless You, Lord, and give You thanks,

and serve You in all humility.

Being a creature is about relationship. It is about knowing one's place as both lowly and exalted at the same time. It is about knowing that all of creation speaks of the Creator, and that no matter where we turn we can see the effects of God. I am reminded of the hymn, "All Things Bright and Beautiful":

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Let's bring back the use of the word "creature." It helps us to remember who we are, and who God is.


the booklady said...

Beautiful Pete! I read that prayer out loud slowly as a prayer and it made me cry. Failure to turn to Him in humble supplication is my most pernicious sin as well--thanks for the gentle reminder. When all is going well, it's so easy to think it's because we somehow did something to deserve our good fortune, rather than that we receive ALL by His Loving Grace.

God bless you!

Pete Caccavari said...

That is a prayer I'd heard of but had never read (although I know David Haas' version, the hymn, "Canticle of the Sun"). It is indeed a beautiful prayer. You're right that it is so easy to think we did something to deserve our good fortune, forgetting that all good comes from God. When we are truly practicing Christianity, we are holding in mind several, seemingly contradictory, things simultaneously: we are made in the image of God and therefore fundamentally good; we are wounded by original sin and therefore inclined toward sin; we are lowly creatures unworthy of God's love but in need of it; we are adopted sons and daughters exalted by His love for us. Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.

the booklady said...

Forgive me being a pest, but when I read this line from St. Mark's Gospel tonight and saw the word, "creature", I immediately thought of your post and wanted to share it w/you,

'Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.' Mark 16:15

So much about Christianity -- about Truth -- exists in paradoxes of seemingly contradictory concepts, like what you describe above, which I suppose further reaffirms the creaturely-ness of us and Divinity of Him. Ah!

Now, unworthy creature that I am, I am off to proclaim Him in everything I do and all by His Grace! Thanks again for the inspiration Pete!

God bless you!

Pete Caccavari said...

You're not being a pest at all, Booklady. Thanks for bringing my attention to this passage from St. Mark. I hadn't thought about that, but that directly relates to what I was talking about. You are right, too, about the paradoxical nature of Christianity and Truth in general. I have long admired Zen Buddhism's emphasis on paradox. Actually, it was in reading Zen Buddhist texts that I first came to appreciate paradox. It was not until later that I came to see how vital paradox is in Catholicism. As you rightly point out, paradox helps us to see our limitations and God's infiniteness. Paradox shows us the limits of reason but also the interconnectedness of reason and faith. It helps to humble us and to enlighten us.