And now for something completely, but not unimportant: how do we view and treat our Sister, Mother Earth, as Christians?
For those who think that the use of this title is inspired by new age ideas or the pantheistic worship of Mother Earth as the godess Gaia, think again. I’m quoting in fact one of the most important Christians of the last 2000 years, Saint-Francis, from his famous ‘canticle of the sun’.
This prayer/poem is so important that I quote the complete text here:
Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.
To you, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and beautiful.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which you give your creatures sustenance.
Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you;
through those who endure sickness and trial.
Happy those who endure in peace,
for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.
Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve him with great humility.
A lot can be said about every verse of the canticle, but I don’t have the time and the knowledge to go into all of that. I’ll just note here the parallels with teh basic idea of psalm 148, in which elements of nature are commanded to praise God. It’s a theme that is found more in the bible, not only humans but all of creation worshipping God. Like in ‘let the trees of the field clap their hands’.
But let’s go back to ‘our sister, Mother Earth’.:The earth and her ecosystems are part of the same creation as we are, hence the word ‘sister’, used by Francis, but she also gives us everything we need to stay alive, she can be considered a mother too. God has placed us on this planet and in this global ecosystem, and there’s only one of it. If we destroy it, there’ll be nothing left.
And one a side note: no, I don’t see Mother earth as a personal entity, these words are just methaphors. but even then so-called scientific materialistic reductionism doesn’t isn’t doing much justice to nature either, and we might need some pushback against our modern naturalism! There is much more to life and nature than just matter and things that can be scientifically explained away. Such a way of thinking is an insult to the Supreme artist!
All of this creation is indeed the work of the hands of God, who is the Supreme artist. If I would make an artwork, and you would destroy it, not respect it, and in the end dismantle it to make money, I would be very hurt. I think it’s the same with God: If we’re commanded to love God with all that we are, we are to respect the Creator, and we can’t repsect the Creator if we disrespect His Creation…
What about our responsibility to ‘tend the garden’. I think the recent increase in interest in the concept of creation care is not unimportant. We are sometimes influenced by horrible theology that sees all of creation as disposable, since all of this world will be destroyed and only the souls of the good believers will be taken to heaven. There ideas are actually much closer to gnostic dualism than to biblical Christianity.
So, how do you feel about our sister, Mother Earth? How do you show your respect to the Supreme Artist?