Above : Listen to Canticle of the Creatures
Below : Scroll down to read the Canticle of the Creatures
If we listen to the Canticle of the Creatures it’s possible to hear how St Francis of Assisi felt and understood that our life is intimately connected with Creation, with God’s Creation. God’s artistry is in everything, everywhere and we as humanity are part of His creativity. It is within Creation where divinity and humanity became one, when Jesus was amongst us and it is within Creation that God’s Holy Spirit dwells with us today.
If we view Creation only in terms of ecology, nature, botany and biology we see ourselves apart from God’s Creation, instead of being a part of His Creation – exclusive rather than inclusive. If we view Francis only in terms of a modern day eco-warrior we completely miss his spirituality and the depth of the Franciscan charism.
For Francis, as God is Our Father, he saw family relationships within all Creation. Birds, fire and wind are brothers. The moon, stars and water are sisters and our planet Earth who nourishes us is Mother. Creation is nature viewed with The Creator in mind, creation is fullness, life and community. Creation becomes fraternity.
In the Canticle of the Creatures Francis displays a confident humility, a humility that rejoices, offers praise, gives thanks and shows love to God. There is no demand made of God and no focus on self as can so often be found in modern day “Worship Music”.
The Canticle of The Creatures explains:
Francis’ canticle tells us that creatures and elements reflect in their beauty and strength the blessings that come from God, this is one of the ways He is present with us today.
Chronologically, there are three stages to consider in the development of this poetic praise of God, each of which reveals a side of Francis’s vision of God, creation, and the human soul. Francis’s companions tell us of the composition of the first part of this piece, verses 1-9, in which the saint sings the praises of creation in glorifying God. While suffering intensely from his physical infirmities, he announced: “I wish to compose a new hymn about the Lord’s creatures, of which we make daily use, without which we cannot live, and with which the human race greatly offends its Creator.” A short while later, after hearing of a quarrel that had broken out between the civil and religious authorities of Assisi, Francis asked the brothers to go before them singing these verses, but added two more, verses 10-11. He composed the final verses 12-13 on his death bed. Verse 14 may well be a refrain used after each verse of the entire Canticle.
Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, Vol 1, The Saint – page 113
Francis’s Canticle is thought to be the earliest piece of literature written in the Italian language, rather than in the language of the Church; Latin.
Canticle of the Creatures
Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, and the honour, and all blessing.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no human is worthy to mention Your name.
Praised be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day and through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour;
and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
in heaven You formed them clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather,
through whom You give sustenance to Your creatures.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night,
and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains and governs us,
and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your
love, and bear infirmity and tribulation.
Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, shall they be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.
Below is from Thomas Celano’s work about Saint Francis of Assisi “The Remembrance of the Desire of a Soul” in which he describes Francis’s contemplation of God in all of His Creation.
Chapter CXXIV : The Saint’s Love for Creatures Animate and Inanimate
In art he praises the Artist;
whatever he discovers in creatures
he guides to the Creator.
He rejoices in all the works of the Lord’s hands, [Ps 92:5]
and through their delightful display
he gazes on their life-giving reason and cause.
In beautiful things he discerns Beauty Itself;
all good things cry out to him: [Gen 1:31]
“The One who made us is the Best.” [Ps 100:3]
Following the footprints imprinted on creatures,
he follows his Beloved everywhere; [Job 23:11, Song 5:17, Matt 12:18]
out of them all he makes for himself a ladder [Gen 28:12-13]
by which he might reach the Throne. [Jb 23:3]
He embraces all things
with an intensity of unheard devotion,
speaking to them about the Lord
and exhorting them to praise Him.
Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, Vol. 2, The Founder, page 353
[FA:ED Vol 1 – The Saint p113-114]
[Canticle of the Creatures is also known as The Canticle of Brother Sun, The Canticle of the Sun, and Laudes Creaturarum – Praise of the Creatures]
See a short video showing Earth Breathing as the snow covering falls and leave, grows and recedes with the changing seasons.
See and hear the Canticle of the Creatures in the Italian dialect of Umbrian as Francis would have spoken.
Read Psalm 148 on which St Francis of Assisi might have based his canticle.
Hear also the song: All Creatures of Our God and King
Photo: Ventnor Downs, Isle of Wight