The Via Creativa and Brother Francis on his Feast Day,
October 4

Brother Francis was an artist in founding a new religious order and in his relationships with others, especially the more-than-human ones, as well as in his poetry.  He was both mystic and prophet.  Let us look at his greatest written work, his poem we know as the “Canticle of Brother Sun.”

“Canticle of the Sun” Anonymous stained glass window, photographer unknown. Franciscan Media

This mature poem, written near the end of Francis’ life, echoes many of the richest themes of the Cosmic Christ archetype.  The words “all good Lord!” and “all glory” appear in the first stanza and these are words for the Cosmic Christ–“glory” or doxa symbolizes the divine radiance present in all beings and “Lord” signifies governor of the universe. 

The divine is incarnated in the flesh of nature.  “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 he is how radiant in all his splendor!  Of you Most High, he bears the likeness.”  The sun is a likeness of the Divine and the word radiance is another clue to the Cosmic Christ. 

Francis is following the order of Genesis one—this is his creation story—and of John one in praising first the gift of light through the sun.  (He is also following the order of contemporary cosmology that tells us the universe began with a fireball lasting 700,000 years).  Sun and light were indeed the origin of things. 

By calling the sun “Lord,” Francis is celebrating panentheism while rejecting the “lords” of the feudal era, those whom he spent his life fighting by his rejecting of feudal privilege and his resisting  the emerging capitalism of his day while living a devotion to poverty.

Detail of untitled mural, Saint Francis of Assisi Church, Coyoacan, Federal District, Mexico.
Photo by Enrique López-Tamayo Biosca , Flickr

He balances “Brother Sun” with “Sister moon and stars” offering a yin/yang, feminine/masculine balance that he maintains throughout his poem when he says next: “All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Moon and Stars; In the heavens you have made them bright and precious and fair.” 

Notice how cosmic this poem is from the start—first the Sun, now the moon and stars and heavens.  Again, the themes of light, splendor and illumination continue as he celebrates the “brightness” of the moon and stars.  The Cosmic Christ—“the light who enlightens all who have life”–is present in all creatures and therefore all creatures are brother and sister to one another.  The family of all creation, the web of creation, the interconnectivity of all creatures, is honored by Francis.

Adapted from: Matthew Fox, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, pp. 112f.
Banner Image: “St. Francis Preaching to the Animals,” Painting by Jan Siberechts, Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp.

Queries for Contemplation

Due to limits of space we have treated only the first few stanzas of Francis’ poem.  Do you notice how deeply cosmic it is?  How he is endeavoring to bring psyche and cosmos together—just as all true ritual seeks to do? 

“The family of all creation, the web of creation, the interconnectivity of all creatures, is honored by Francis”—is it honored by us too?  Is this world view the medicine to the abuse of Mother Earth and her creatures that humankind is currently involved in?  How can we bring Francis’ vision home to today to heal Mother Earth before it is too late?

Recommended Reading

In A Spirituality Named Compassion, Matthew Fox delivers a profound exploration of the meaning and practice of compassion. Establishing a spirituality for the future that promises personal, social, and global healing, Fox marries mysticism with social justice, leading the way toward a gentler and more ecological spirituality and an acceptance of our interdependence which is the substratum of all compassionate activity.

In what may be considered the most comprehensive outline of the Christian paradigm shift of our Age, Matthew Fox eloquently foreshadows the manner in which the spirit of Christ resurrects in terms of the return to an earth-based mysticism, the expression of creativity, mystical sexuality, the respect due the young, the rebirth of effective forms of worship—all of these mirroring the ongoing blessings of Mother Earth and the recovery of Eros, the feminine aspect of the Divine.

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10 thoughts on “The Via Creativa and Brother Francis on his Feast Day, <br>October 4”

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear James,
      Thank you for your question. In bringing up the 700,000 year fireball that birthed the Cosmos, what is popularity referred to as the Big Bang (and assume lasted as long as an explosion in a Marel movie), Matthew is noting that Brother Francis instinctively understood and appreciated that our universe came from light. Again, our solar system came from light, the fierce burning of the sun and its left over particles that formed into Earth and our sister planets was something Brother Frances knew without having facts. Modern cosmology is based upon these scientific revelations, Brother Frances based his Canticles on his mystical understanding.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  1. Avatar
    David-Roger Gagnon

    Thank you for this, Matthew. There is a strong resonance with many spiritual practices of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples ! These traditions, and the vision of Francis and other mystics, are what we so desperately need in this time ! So well written, as always !

    1. Gail Ransom

      Thank you David-Roger, for your confirmation and support of Matthew’s work and the importance of a clear, light birthed cosmology. Please continue to share your knowledge of these indigenous spiritualities to help our whole human family enter into a more enlightened state.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  2. Avatar

    The feminine aspect of the divine – Eros-How is she related to our cultural
    Eroticism as expressed in masculine ways? I guess we are sidetracked or frightened by the more fully mystical yet deeply fecund and earthy concept of Eros as feminine- These are conflicted meanings that need to be addressed as women now must create a new role to change the course we are on -This is very serious stuff!

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Connie,
      Yes, the feminine energy in all its power is what we need to bring our entire species into a healthy spirituality that is seeded and stemmed from Earth. Matthew has given considerable attention to the Divine Feminine in his life work and in the earliest meditations in this series, beginning with the first one on Mothers Day. I encourage you to check out those meditations and then find some good company to pursue this concern with you.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

  3. Avatar

    ” Lord we offer thanks and praise for the circle of our days…” Is how a beautifully illustrated children’s book version the Canticle of the Sun goes. I hear it’s rhythm in my cells from reading it over and over to my little girl.
    Thank you for today’s offering
    Today I must assist my beloved animal cat creature on to his next life. It is comforting to know St Francis is being celebrated today. Blessings on all the beloved creatures of our earth.
    Loving thoughts are welcome,

    1. Gail Ransom

      Dear Susan,
      Thank you for the child’s phrasing and the image of you reading Brother Francis’s Canticle to your daughter while its rhythms reverberate in your cells. This plus the unfortunate passing of your beloved cat into the arms of St. Francis create a living, breathing interconnected “circle of days” – Francis’s Canticle lived through your life and love.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      FOr the Daily Meditation Team

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