(A view from Campground #1, Thousand Hills State Park, Kirksville, MO, Oct. 7, 2011)
The Canticle of Brother 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.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through all that you have made,
And first my lord Brother Sun,
Who brings the day; and light you give to us through him.
How beautiful is he, how radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Moon and Stars;
In the heavens you have made them, bright
And precious and fair.
All praise be yours, My Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all the weather's moods,
By which you cherish all that you have made.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Water,
So useful, lowly, precious and pure.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
Through whom you brighten up the night.
How beautiful is he, how gay! Full of power and strength.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Earth, our mother,
Who feeds us in her sovereignty and produces
Various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through those who grant pardon
For love of you; through those who endure
Sickness and trial.
Happy those who endure in peace,
By you, Most High, they will be crowned.
All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Death,
From whose embrace no mortal can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those She finds doing your will!
The second death can do no harm to them.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks,
And serve him with great humility.
--St. Francis of Asissi, roughly around 1225
That line about "...and fair and stormy, all the weather's moods" really stood out for me today.
What a difference the time change makes.
Last week, I was taking a walk around 5:30 p.m. and distinctly thought, "Well, this is getting on to being the last time I'll be able to take a walk after work for a few months."
In just a couple of short days, we've moved from one of the most perfect, bright, colorful falls we've had in a few years, to the gray, slick, heavy, wet strains of November.
November is one of the "mud months" in northeast Missouri. It's a fickle month when it comes to Mother Nature. We get a couple of unseasonably nice days in November, but most days tend to be on the gray side--gray and with a cold dampness.
It's very easy to get negatively seduced by the bad weather. But in looking at the Canticle of the Sun, I see many good things in nature--and even her fickle-ness is to be praised. After all, it's like the old joke about Missouri weather: "Don't like the weather in Missouri? Wait a couple of hours, it will change."
But it's true. Even if the "good" weather is only a few hours or minutes. The fallback position is to appreciate the "neutral" weather. "Oh, wow, the wind stopped blowing!" "Cool, it's not raining anymore. Okay, it's still gray but it's not gray and raining."
St. Francis even finds a means in this canticle to praise Death--because in new life, Death has no power over us.
I think about Voltaire's line, "The perfect is the enemy of the good."
I'm afraid a lot of us are recovering hyper-perfectionists. What's worse, is I think sometimes the church is hyper-perfection's greatest enabler. When we dwell too much on "sinless Jesus; rotten, sinful us," frankly, we set ourselves up.
Now, that's not to say we shouldn't address the problem of sin--particularly our own sins--we should. But we should not give sin so much power that it fosters in us an attitude of hyper-unworthiness because we can never, in this world, achieve perfection. None of us do. From the worst incarcerated criminal to the little old lady who never does much wrong except for a wicked or uncharitable thought now and then, we are all imperfect.
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God--and last time I checked, we don't get triaged into first, second, or third class sinners.
Hyper-perfectionism paralyzes us from turning around and doing good for the sake of doing good--if we can't be perfect, we won't do it at all. It ties us down to the bondage of our false selves--the self that acts like we really can achieve perfection. The desire for that constant hyper-perfect, hyper-happy life can become an addiction, so that we never see "good enough" ever again--because we are working too hard to be perfect. We will never have enough. We will see things through the lens of scarcity rather than the magnifier of abundance.
When I read the Canticle of the Sun, I am reminded of the spectrum and changeability of Nature, and how it reminds me there is much in which to rejoice. Even on my bad days I can be reasonably happy--and on a gray November day, reasonably happy is good enough!