In observation of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi on October 4th I offer you his
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
Reflection Orthodox Christianity has traditionally placed a great deal of emphasis on the sinfulness of humanity and the need to be forgiven. St. Francis and the ensuing Franciscan spirituality offer a different emphasis aligned with the first chapters of Genesis. All of creation is good, very good, because creation is the very expression of God’s love. Franciscans argue that God has two sacred books, Holy Scripture and creation. Franciscans understand Jesus came into the world to reveal God’s love in and of and with all of creation which means Jesus points to original blessing, not to original sin.
I believe it is Francis’ recognition of all of creation as blessing that is the root of what the contemporary theologian Matthew Fox refers to as Creation Spirituality. According to Fox, who was a Dominican priest until he was expelled from the order in 1993 and became an Episcopal priest, creation spirituality is the spirituality of the future. It “integrates the wisdom of Eastern, Western and Indigenous traditions with the scientific understanding of the evolving universe and the passion of creativity.”* This is an integral spirituality that affirms the thesis of “original blessing.” From the beginning we are all blessed. We are all good. This supersedes the concept of “original sin.”
Although Creation Spirituality contradicts the orthodox Christian emphasis on sin and sinfulness, Fox unswervingly avers that creation spirituality is profoundly Biblical. I refer to Eugene Peterson’s “Message” version of two Psalms in support of Fox.
From Psalm 19, “God’s glory is on tour in the skies. God-craft on exhibit across the horizon. Madame Day holds classes every morning. Professor Night lectures each evening.” (Ps 10.1-2) We experience the universe with awe. When we look at Hubble Telescope images of deep space it cannot escape us that we are less than a blip on the cosmic screen of all that is and simultaneously utterly essential because there we are, noticing, taking our lessons from our expanding universe.
From Psalm 24, “God claims earth and everything in it. God claims world and all who live in it. Wake up you sleepyhead city. Wake up you sleepyhead people. King-Glory is ready to enter. (Ps 24.1, 7-8) We experience God in all things and all things in God. Theologically this is called panentheism. It is neither the God out there of theism nor the “no god” of atheism. God is all that is and all that is not. God is all in all. That realization is where St. Paul said we are headed in the First Letter to the Corinthians. (1 Cor 15.28)
*Fox, Matthew, Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality (Santa Fe: Bear and Company, 1983), 12-16.
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