Celebrating Creation Time 1 September – 4 October
31st August 2012 - by Ellen Teague
Columban mission is to the poor and to the exploited Earth. The month of September provides an opportunity to celebrate Creation Time.
In 1989 the Ecumenical Patriarch suggested that 1 September, the first day of the Orthodox Church’s year, should be observed as a day “of protection of the natural environment”. Ten years later the European Christian Environmental Network (ECEN) widened this proposal, urging churches to adopt a Time for Creation stretching from 1 September to the feast of St Francis on 4 October and this was endorsed by the 3rd European Ecumenical Assembly in Sibiu, Romania in 2007, which recommended that the period “be dedicated to prayer for the protection of Creation and the promotion of sustainable lifestyles that reverse our contribution to climate change”.
Since 2008 Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) has compiled a programme of resources to encourage and assist churches to observe Creation Time and has done so again this year. These include suggestions on a variety of ways in which churches, groups and individuals could choose to focus on a creation theme at this particular time of the year. The theme for 2012 is Sustainable energy in creation – Time for prayer and action. Resources are now available to download. Operation Noah has also produced study materials for this period.
St Francis – now the patron saint of ecologists – recognised the presence of God in creation and had a very positive attitude towards nature. He valued the natural world and often sought refuge in beautiful places. Francis saw every creature in the world as a mirror of God’s presence and, if approached correctly, a step leading to God. One of the great legacies of Francis is that he expanded the concept of “neighbour” to include, not only the human race, but the whole of creation. The memory of Francis in our world today inspires naturalists, ecologists and many sensitive people to preserve nature untamed by human hand. An untamed environment, whether it is a vast ocean, a rainforest or a desert, points to the ultimate mystery at the heart of the world which continually calls human beings to a deeper communion with God, fellow humans and the earth. It is fitting that Creation Time concludes on the Feast of St. Francis.
It is only in relatively recent times that the Catholic Church has begun to develop a theological understanding of our role and responsibilities with respect to the natural world, although Care for Creation has been an element of Catholic Social Teaching. In 1990, Pope John Paul II wrote (in Peace with God the Creator, Peace with all Creation) as follows: “Christians … realise that their responsibility within creation and their duty towards nature and the Creator are an essential part of their faith”. The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales picked up on this thinking with their 2002 document, Call of Creation. Celebrating Creation Time is an opportunity to build on this rich tradition.
Columban eco-theologian Sean McDonagh has written a number of books about Faith and care for creation, including ‘To Care for the Earth’. In 2007, he spoke at a conference on Climate Change, organised by the Archdiocese of Manila because the parishes were fearful of flooding in extreme weather. Those worst fears were realised just a few weeks ago when a typhoon caused torrential rain and flooding in the Philippine capital. Awareness and action on the Integrity of Creation is an integral part of Columban Mission.
See the links below for resources.