“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth..
God looked at everything He had made, and found it very good.”
(Genesis 1: 1, 31)
Sometimes, looking around the world, we are staggered by the sheer beauty of what our eyes behold. Creation is magnificent and stunning. Everything seems to sing of the glory of the Lord.
The Church reminds us of this beauty of creation in the Liturgy of the Hours. The four-week cycle of the Psalter begins with the Canticle of Daniel, which is also prayed on the great feast days. It begins with this line –
“O all you works of the Lord, O bless the Lord;
To Him be highest glory and praise forever.”
It goes on to beckon every element of creation to praise God – the clouds; the sun, moon and stars; breezes and winds; night-time and day; the plants of the earth; the mountains and hills; every bird in the sky; the ‘children of men’; and much more besides. It is an exceptionally beautiful canticle of praise and one which reminds us very clearly of the beauty of the world around us.
Opening his 2015 Encyclical Letter ‘Laudato Si’, Pope Francis quoted Saint Francis of Assisi’s ‘Canticle of the Creatures’ – in fact, it is from this Canticle that the Encyclical takes it’s name. The Holy Father tells us –
“In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us.”
Concluding his Encyclical, the Pope offers us two prayers.
The first is a ‘Prayer For Our Earth’, which opens with these lines –
“All-powerful God, You are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of Your creatures. You embrace with Your tenderness all that exists.”
And the second is a ‘Christian Prayer in union with creation’, which begins –
“Father, we praise You with all Your creatures.
They came forth from Your all-powerful hand;
they are Yours, filled with Your presence and Your tender love.
Praise be to You!”
This is very much an echo of the Canticle of Daniel.
Visiting the city of Oxford a couple of years ago, I went to many Churches which had been built over the years as an expression of the love of God – they were all beautiful and each one lifted the soul. And then, walking through the gardens of one of the colleges, I came upon the little rose which is pictured above – and I was reminded that this was more beautiful still, as it was God’s own creation, given to us out of His love of us.
Sometimes, I read words from Christians – a view I do not share – where the world seems to be viewed as the enemy of the Christian, as something that needs to be fought relentlessly, as though we are in a state of constant war with the world. In this view, those writers call for the end of the world so that Christ will come again. Now, Christ will most certainly come again – but at a day and time we do not know; perhaps tomorrow, perhaps a thousand years from now or even longer. We don’t know when, only that one day it will happen.
But until that day comes, let us join with Daniel, with St Francis and with the Holy Father and the Church in blessing the Lord for the beauty of this astonishing creation which He has given us.
And in looking upon it, let it raise our minds, our hearts and our prayers to Him with joy.