The ancient pre-Christian Celts were pantheist (God is everything), and so they believed in many gods. These divinities were to be found everywhere in nature and in the home. Later, after their conversion to Christianity, I guess they would be better described as panentheists (God is in everything). We see this in the prayers they have left us and others, still in use, that have been passed down to us: a spirituality that strongly asserts the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation – that God has become one of us in his Son Jesus Christ. An assertion that God is not distant, but rather interested in and involved with all that he has made. This approach seemed to come naturally to Celts but this month we celebrate this revolutionary approach to the nearness of God in creation when celebrate St Francis of Assisi.
The once wealthy Francis embraced poverty and sought to serve the poor and all in need. In this he was similar to many other saints, but he was different in his gift of reimagining our relationship with the created order around us; preaching to the birds and seeing our encounter with creation as being the very place where might, in fact, encounter God.
Our blessing of the animals service acknowledges the truth that, for many, the love and companionship they receive from, and give to, their pets can be the most profound relationship they enjoy; a relationship that speaks of love and joy, of faith and trust. This, I believe, also speaks of the nearness of God in his created order and so we are blessed by him through it.
Greta Thunberg, the 16 year old climate change activist, recently challenged world leaders to appreciate the vital relationship we have with our planet. Creation demands our respect and everyone must take responsibility for its protection if the escalation of climate change and our ultimate extinction is to be avoided.
Creation, it seems, brings blessing but it also demands our deepest respect. As stewards of the created order, may we rejoice in the great gifts we enjoy but heed the call to care for all that God, in his grace, has given us.
Yours in the faith,