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Canticle of the Sun or Canticle of the Creatures

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All Creatures of Our God and King (Trans. by William Henry Draper, Words by St. Francis of Assisi)

The hymn, All Creatures of Our God and King, the English Christian Easter hymn by William Henry Draper was originally taken from the words of St. Francis of Assisi in his poem Canticle of the Sun (1225).  The poem was first published in a hymn book in 1919.  The poem is based upon the words of Psalm 148.  

Francis was born in Assisi, 100 miles northeast of Rome.  Born in 1181 or 1182, Francis was born into a family of some means, they were of the mercantile stock class.  Little education was given to Francis, probably by the priests of San Giorgio, he describes himself as unlettered but we know that he knew some French also along with Latin.  His first biographer, Thomas of Celano recounts that early on life for Francis was one of frivolity, lewd living, and arrogance.  Francis signals out his time with the lepers as one of extraordinary change, summoning him to leave behind all that was before him.  In his own words, Francis writes,

"...for when I was in sin, it seemed too bitter for me to lepers.  And the Lord himself lead me among them and I showed mercy to them.  And when I left them, what had seemed bitter to me was turned into the sweetness of soul and body.  And, afterwards, I delayed a little and left the world."

As the words of this beautiful poem indicates, Francis had a profound vision of the goodness of God's creation, that the very creation of God reveals the glory of the Lord, in their activities.  The stars, Sun, wind, air, water, fire, and earth all give glory, give praise back to God in their own special ways.  This glorious delight in creation is part and parcel of a theology that is both God centered and full of a right kind of view of the whole created order.

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.
Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which You give Your creatures sustenance.
Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.
Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You;
through those who endure sickness and trial.
Happy those who endure in peace;
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.
Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.
Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve Him with great humility.
(Saint Francis of Assisi, Canticle of the Sun, Canticle of the Creatures)


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