In the beginning, God entrusted our first parents with the care of His garden and the praise of His glory.  As the summit of God’s creating work, man and woman were to lead creation in offering to the Lord an unceasing hymn of praise and thanksgiving.  Original sin marred this primal grace of working, but the human family never completely lost its awareness that rendering God glorious praise was an intrinsic part of its destiny, even here on earth. 

 

            Thus we find Old Testament psalms and canticles in which the singer invites creation to join with him in praising God: Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord! Praise Him, sun and moon…you mountains and hills, fruit trees and cedars, beasts wild and tame, reptiles and birds on the wing (Daniel 3:57; Psalm 148:3, 9, 10).  We can wonder, when these ancient hymns resounded on the lips of the Incarnate Word during His earthly lifetime, if creation “sat up,” so to speak, sensing that it was the Creator Himself inviting them to the great work of praise.

 

            The second section of Psalm 145 offers a different perspective on the praise of God.  Here it is not man who invites creation to praise the Lord, but man who is invited to repeat the blessing which all creatures are offering to their Maker.  Here we are summoned, like good pupils in the school of prayer, to listen and to learn as sun and moon, birds and beasts, mountains and meadows, seas and streams speak of the glory of [God’s] reign. These verses of Psalm 145 bid us to look deeper, to discover that everything God created declares [His] might and makes known to [us] both His mighty deeds and the glorious splendor of [His] reign.

 

            This, in turn, gives us new insight into the most famous of St. Francis’ writings, The Canticle of the Creatures (or, The Canticle of Brother Sun) which he composed in the Umbrian dialect.  Scholars have debated for centuries which meaning of the preposition per the Little Poor Man had

 

 in mind when he issued these calls to praise.  Is he inviting us to thanksgiving: Praised be You, my Lord, FOR our Sister, the Moon?   Or is the Seraphic Father expressing a sense of instrumentality: Praised be You, my Lord, BY our Sister, the Moon?  Or, is he summoning us to a deeper recognition of God’s presence in His creatures: Praised be You, my Lord, THROUGH our Sister, the Moon?

 

            In the light of Psalm 145 (which St. Francis undoubtedly knew and probably often prayed), we can say: All three!  Francis of Assisi was THE great learner in the school of prayer which is God’s creation.  He knew how to be still and drink in all that nature could teach him about the Almighty.  And, as The Canticle of Creatures proves, the Little Poor Man knew how to repeat (creation’s) blessing and savor the glorious splendor of [God’s] reign which it revealed to him. 

 

            We, too, are invited to participate in this “holy converse” and to be counted among God’s friends who repeat creation’s blessing.  This is, as St. Francis shows us, an any day, any time, any season grace of working which will make us ever better listeners and learners in the school of prayer.  Then we will be ready to begin on earth what will be our grace of working for all eternity: rendering God glorious praise in His everlasting kingdom.




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Psalm 145

 

II

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Your creatures shall thank You,
O Lord,

and Your friends shall repeat their blessing.

They shall speak of the glory of Your reign

and declare Your might, O God,

to make known to men Your mighty deeds

and the glorious splendor of Your reign.

Yours is an everlasting kingdom;

Your rule lasts from age to age.

 

 

Holy Converse

PART 31