Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Feast of St.Francis of Assisi

The crucifix of San Damiano*.

On this day when we celebrate the life of St. Francis I am so pleased to recall what Teilhard said about this great Saint (in a conversation with Blessed Gabriel Allegra) who saw all creation as a brother or a sister.

'Francis is so dear and close to me! I believe he assists me in my difficulties and blesses my work. In him one can feel the presence of God the Father and the refreshing perfume of the house of Nazareth'.

St. Francis by Cimabue
I can feel the presence of Francis in so much of Teilhard - especially in his 'Hymn to Matter'. This forms the concluding part of his 'Spiritual Power of Matter'  which explores the experience of Elias ( In the Book of Kings) being caught up in a whirlwind of a fiery chariot.   He describes the whirlwind as  a 'moving heart' of  'an immeasurable pervasive subtlety'.  It is a wonderful piece of writing which conveys the sense of the power of God's creation.  No wonder he thought that Francis blessed his work.   The more I reflect on his love of Francis and the more do I read Teilhard through the lens ( as it were) of the saint, the more do  I understand the mysticism of the scientist.  And, the more I reflect on Teilhard through the prayers  of  St. Francis, the more do I appreciate what Francis has to say to us here in the 21st century.

Compare, for example,   St. Francis's  'Canticle of the Sun' : 

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.

With Teilhard's  opening lines in his 'Hymn to Matter': 

Blessed be you, universal matter, immeasurable time, boundless ether, triple abyss of stars and atoms and generations: you who by overflowing and dissolving our narrow standards or measurement reveal to us the dimensions of God. Blessed be you, impenetrable matter: you who, interposed between our minds and the world of essences, cause us to languish with the desire to pierce through the seamless veil of phenomena.

On this special day I  have reflected on what I think of as the Franciscan corner of the icon (top left) which contains our  Seraphim.  (READ BLOG  HERE) But I also remember the 'fiery wheels' (Ophanim, see post for 26th September 2011)  which Teilhard refers to in his 'Spiritual Power of Matter'   and which are bearing the throne of Christ Omega.

Giotto - Miracle of the Crucifix *

Let's close with one of St. Francis's prayers - said before a crucifix.  I am sure it would have been known to Teilhard.  I think it is very much a 'Sacred Heart' prayer - and draws our mind once again to the central position of the cross in our icon.  It seems to me an appropriate prayer for contemplating this element of  the icon.

Most high, glorious God,
enlighten the darkness
of my heart and give me Lord,
a correct faith, a certain hope,
a perfect charity, sense and knowledge,
so that I may carry out
Your holy and true command. 

To find out more about this prayer  go HERE.

So let us pray : Sacred Heart of Jesus, enlighten the darkness of  our hearts.  St. Francis, pray for us. 


*Whilst praying in the ruins of the church of St. Damiano,  Francis experienced a vision of Christ telling him to: "Go and repair My Church, which as you can see, is in ruins."  It seems to me  that this is a command which applies as much to followers of Christ today as in St.  Francis's time.  Teilhard thought that a deeper understanding of the  Sacred Heart  - as the universal Christ - was central to this process of re-building a Church fit for the future.  This journey to the Sacred Heart is above all else,  leading me  to the realization of how relevant Teilhard is to the Church of today which - like the church of  St. Damiano - is in urgent need of repair!

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