Laudato Si 85: God’s Book in Creation

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website. Others have written of God’s writing in creation: pope, bishops, and philosophers:

85. God has written a precious book, “whose letters are the multitude of created things present in the universe”.[John Paul II, Catechesis (30 January 2002),6: Insegnamenti 25/1 (2002), 140] The Canadian bishops rightly pointed out that no creature is excluded from this manifestation of God: “From panoramic vistas to the tiniest living form, nature is a constant source of wonder and awe. It is also a continuing revelation of the divine”.[CCCB, Social Affairs Commission, Pastoral Letter You Love All that Exists… All Things are Yours, God, Lover of Life” (4 October 2003), 1] The bishops of Japan, for their part, made a thought-provoking observation: “To sense each creature singing the hymn of its existence is to live joyfully in God’s love and hope”.[Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan, Reverence for Life. A Message for the Twenty-First Century (1 January 2000), 89] This contemplation of creation allows us to discover in each thing a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us, since “for the believer, to contemplate creation is to hear a message, to listen to a paradoxical and silent voice”.[John Paul II, Catechesis (26 January 2000), 5: Insegnamenti 23/1 (2000), 123.] We can say that “alongside revelation properly so-called, contained in sacred Scripture, there is a divine manifestation in the blaze of the sun and the fall of night”.[Ibid., Catechesis (2 August 2000), 3: Insegnamenti 23/2 (2000), 112.] Paying attention to this manifestation, we learn to see ourselves in relation to all other creatures: “I express myself in expressing the world; in my effort to decipher the sacredness of the world, I explore my own”.[Paul Ricoeur, Philosophie de la Volonté, t. II: Finitude et Culpabilité, Paris, 2009, 216.]

These are all rich citations, but the last might suggest a bit more than Professor Ricoeur writes at first glance. Every artist expresses herself or himself in created work. As God’s creation, looking deeply into the created universe surely tells us something deep and true about the Creator. Wasting and damaging the environment without even a casual gaze may be no less a sacrilege than tossing Scriptures into a hole or into a fire or into the garbage. That such acts would be deeply disturbing to people, Christians and Muslims come to mind, probably reveals something of the narcissism of humankind, that we attribute honor and reverence to God, but we do so in a limited way–mainly through works of our own hands.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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