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A Spiritual Almanac: “Canticle of the Sun” by Francis of Assisi

Feb 4, 2021

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Saint Francis of Assisi wrote the song, “Canticle of the Sun,” in 1224 as he recovered from an illness in a cottage built for him by his friend, Saint Clare, and her religious Order of Poor Ladies. According to tradition, the canticle was first sung by Francis and his companions when they believed Francis was near death, with the final verse praising Sister Death written only a few minutes earlier.

The canticle has been incorporated into countless compositions over the years and has served as a touchpoint for both spiritually minded and secular environmentalists.

It’s a somewhat long piece, but it continues to inspire those of us who view environmental responsibility as a key element of our spiritual practice.

 

CANTICLE OF THE SUN 

By St. Francis of Assisi 

 

My Lord most high, all-powerful, all-good,
Celebration, light, and all sweet blessings are yours,
yours alone.
No man speaks
who can speak your Name.

 

Praise to you, my Lord, and to all beings of your creation!
Praise especially to brother sun,
who fills the day with light
— through whom you shine!
Beautiful and bright, magnificent with splendor,
He shows us your Face.

 

Praise to my Lord for sister moon
and for the stars.
You have formed them in the firmament,
fine and rare and fair.
Praise to you, Lord, for brother wind,
for the air, for the clouds,
for fair days and every turn of weather
— through which you feed the world.

 

Praise to my Lord for sister water,
precious and pure, who selflessly serves all.

 

Praise to my Lord for brother fire,
through whom you fill the dark with light.
Lovely is he in his delight, mighty and strong.

 

Praise to my Lord for our sister, mother earth,
who nourishes us and surrounds us
in a world ripe with fruit, pregnant
with grassy fields,
spangled with flowers.

 

Praise to my Lord for those seeking your love,
who discover within themselves forgiveness,
rejecting neither frailty nor sorrow.
Enduring in serenity, they are blessed,
For they shall be crowned by your hand, Most High.

 

Praise to my Lord for our sister death,
the body’s death,
whom none avoid.
A great sadness for those who die having missed life’s mark;
Yet blessed they whose way
is your most holy will —
Having died once, the second death
does them no ill.

 

Sing praises!
Offer holy blessings to my Lord!
In gratitude, selflessly offer yourself to him.

 

FOR ADDITIONAL READING: See Francis of Assisi: A New Biography by Augustine Thompson.

More spiritual nuggets for today:

On this day in 1846, the Mormons left Nauvoo, Illinois and began their settlement of the West.

When they arrived in Nauvoo seven years earlier, it was an undeveloped swamp, and epidemics of cholera, malaria and typhoid plagued the Mormons before they drained it. But after the murder of their founder, Joseph Smith, by a mob of vigilantes, they decided to leave Nauvoo and move west. Between February 4 and March 1, 400 wagons carrying 2,000 Mormons crossed the Mississippi River into Iowa, beginning a migration that would eventually take them to Utah and other Great Basin states.

And on this day in 1859, Constantin von Tischendorf discovered the “Codex Sinaiticus” or “Sinai Bible” — a handwritten manuscript containing the oldest complete copy of the New Testament.

Tischendorf found it at Saint Catherine’s monastery in the Sinai Peninsula. He had seen fragments of the manuscript on an earlier visit — pages of it were crumpled up and discarded in a rubbish basket. But even though he realized the manuscript’s importance, he was unable secure it from the monks. Returning to the monastery again in 1859, he was about to abandon his search when he was approached by a monastery resident. Tischendorf later described the encounter in his journal:

“On the afternoon of this day I was taking a walk with the steward of the convent in the neighbourhood, and as we returned, towards sunset, he begged me to take some refreshment with him in his cell. Scarcely had he entered the room, when, resuming our former subject of conversation, he … took down from the corner of the room a bulky kind of volume, wrapped up in a red cloth, and laid it before me. I unrolled the cover, and discovered, to my great surprise, not only those very fragments which, fifteen years before, I had taken out of the basket, but also other parts of the Old Testament, the New Testament complete, and, in addition, the Epistle of Barnabas and a part of the Shepherd of Hermas.”

After negotiating with the monastery, Tischendorf took possession of the manuscript. Today, it’s considered one of the most important manuscripts in the Christian tradition and the bulk of it is currently on display at the British Library in London.

I guess one man’s trash really can be another man’s treasure if you know what to look for. And that’s today’s Spiritual Almanac.

For additional reading, see Francis of Assisi: A New Biography by Augustine Thompson. There’s a link above.

Thanks for listening. Be kind, take good care and I’ll see you tomorrow.

“Canticle of the Sun” by St. Francis of Assisi. Public domain.

For the audio podcast, visit https://spiritualalmanac.buzzsprout.com.

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