Welcome to Week 26. We are in the midst of the time of mysticism, from 850 to 1600. The section of In the Same Breath that covers this era is called “Mystical Aha! Moments.” To see what I mean by an “Aha! Moment,” and to read mine, please see this earlier post.
Francis of Assisi was born in 1182, the year the magnetic compass was invented and 18 years before buttons were first used in clothing. He was a lover of nature, a rich young man who left his family to live in poverty for love of God.
He founded the Franciscan order after hearing a message from Christ: Rebuild my church. Since the orders had long formed a counter balance to many of the problems of the regular clergy, it wasn’t a surprise that he founded an order for men and inspired his friend, Clare, to do the same for women. Francis also founded the Third Order of St. Francis for lay people. The orders grew and are still active today. They include Catholic, Episcopal and Anglican priests, nuns, brothers and lay people.
Many mystics during this time leaned more toward trying to reach an unreachable transcendent God rather than feeling a connection with an immanent one. Francis wasn’t in their ranks. He still holds to clear differences – God is Lord who had creatures – but it is a reachable, almost friendly God.
His Canticle to Brother Sun is probably one of the more profound and easy to understand expressions of the mystery of the unity between Spirit and Creation that we have in Western writings.
Most High Almighty Good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor and all blessings!
To You alone, Most High, do they belong.
And no man is worthy to mention You.
Be praised, my Lord, with all Your creatures,
Especially Sir Brother Sun,
By whom You give us the light of day.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor.
Of You, Most High, he is a symbol.
Be praised, my Lord, for Sister Moon and the Stars!
In the sky You formed them bright and lovely and fair.
Be praised, my Lord, for Brother Wind.
And for the Air and cloudy and clear and all Weather.
By which You give sustenance to Your creatures.
Be praised, my lord for Sister Water,
Who is very useful and humble and lovely and chaste.
Be praised, my Lord, for Brother Fire,
By whom You give us light at night,
And he is beautiful and merry and mighty and strong.
Be praised, my Lord, for our Sister, Mother Earth,|
Who sustains and governs us,
And produces fruits with colorful flowers and leaves!
Be praised, my Lord, for those who forgive for love of You
And endure infirmities and tribulations.
Blessed are those who shall endure them in peace,
For by You, Most High, they will be crowned!
Be praised, my Lord, for our Sister Bodily Death,
From whom no living man can escape!
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Blessed are those whom she will find in Your most holy will,
For the Second Death will not harm them.
Praise and bless my Lord and thank Him
And serve Him with great humility.