May 16 2012

Brother Sun, Sister Moon

Some of the most famous words attributed to Francis of Assisi are the following: “All praise be yours, my Lord, through all that you have made, and first my Lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and light you give to us through him.  How beautiful he is, how radiant in all his splendor!  Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.  All praise be yours, my Lord through Sister Moon and stars; in the heavens you made them bright and precious and fair…”

I suspect many would view St. Francis’ words as whimsical or strange.  Who goes around calling the sun her “brother” or the moon his “sister”?  Not many, I suppose, but I’ve come to appreciate the way Francis and others over the centuries have viewed various elements of God’s Creation as family members.  In fact, I wonder at times if some of our environmental woes may have been averted if we had not lost grasp of our familial connection to the rest of the earth.  Everything that exists—the sun, moon, earth, plants, animals, humans—has the same source, God.  We all come from God and we all belong to God.  That makes us family, does it not?

Two key ingredients in any healthy family are love and respect.  I am very thankful to be a part of a family where these two virtues are abundant.  Where these virtues are absent trouble is inevitable.  This is true not just for our immediate family but also for our extended family that includes all of Creation.   Every person and every thing that God has made deserves our love and respect.  If we do not extend them this there will be trouble.  You can count on it.

The rest of Creation is due our love and respect, if for no other reason, because God made it and it manifests His glory.  St. Francis’ words cited above reveal his belief that praise comes to God through all that He has made.  Note carefully his words “through all.”   Recognizing that all of God’s Creation should be viewed as family helped Francis see the beauty inherent in God’s handiwork.  This beauty, in turn, led him to offer his worship and praise to the Maker of heaven and earth.

Each day and each night we have visual reminders in the sky of God’s goodness and love.  Let us give thanks for “Brother Sun” and “Sister Moon” for the light—both physical and spiritual—they shine upon us.  Let us also join with them in offering our praise to “the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17).  It’s a wonderful thing, after all, when families can do things together…

–Chuck

(I photographed the sunrise and moonset shown above a couple of weeks ago in Big Bend National Park.)