15 September 2021

The Canticle of the Creatures

The Canticle of the Creatures is a hymn of praise that recapitulates Francis’ journey to God in and through the beautiful things of creation… But the Canticle also represents a lifetime of conversion, as Francis strove to be a brother to all things and to praise God in the cloister of the universe despite his sufferings, feelings of abandonment and darkness. In the Canticle, composed one year before he died and while he was laying ill in a small dark hut near San Damiano, Francis sang of the human family (brother-sister- mother) as the model for all relationships. The Canticle of the Creatures is the capstone of his theological vision.

Beautiful stained glass in Greccio Friary depicts ‘The Canticle of the Creatures’ by Bee Liang.

The Canticle reminds us that we humans are as dependent on the elements of creation as they are dependent on us. With his marvellous respect for creatures of all kinds, for sun, moon, stars, water, wind, fire and earth, Francis came to see that all creation gives praise to God. Brother Sun and Sister Moon praise God just by being sun and moon. …

As the final song of his life, the Canticle reveals to us Francis’ deep reflection on the mystery of the Incarnation. For Francis it is the Incarnation that gives insight into the goodness of the created world as the sacrament of God. Creation and Incarnation are intimately united in such a way that we cannot truly grasp our relationship to creation apart from understanding our relationship to Jesus Christ.

Beautiful stained glass in Greccio Friary depicts ‘The Canticle of the Creatures’ by Bee Liang.

Francis’ relationship to Christ did not follow a narrow path but grew to the widest possible horizon. The deeper he grew in relationship with Christ, the more he found himself intimately related to the things of creation as brother. We might say that his relationship with Christ changed his internal focus. He developed a deeper consciousness of “relatedness” and came to realise he was related to all things no matter how small, because everything shared in the primordial goodness of God, the source of his own life. Francis discovered that he was part of the cosmic family of creation.

An excerpt from Ilia Delio, OSF, “A Franciscan View of Creation: Learning to Live in a Sacramental World.” Volume 2 of The Franciscan Heritage Series. Published by The Franciscan Institute, St Bonaventure University, St Bonaventure, NY, 2003.

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