Posted by Murray Bodo, OFM on 9/24/19, 7:00 AM
As Francis of Assisi looked out of his cave and down to Assisi from the heights of Mount Subasio, it was as if the whole of creation were spread out beneath his cave, and God’s goodness rushed in upon him. He could only think of that pure Goodness and how God shares his life with us. Everything good and beautiful comes from God.
God went so far as to give us one of the persons of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus the Christ, who came among us as Jesus, the carpenter’s son from Nazareth. Jesus was one of us, and yet he was more. He came to show us how to praise God, though only he could praise God perfectly. Only Jesus was the perfect lover of God outside the circle of the Blessed Trinity. Everything and everyone comes from the Trinity, including Jesus. And everything that is exists in Jesus Christ.
This was beyond Francis’ thinking. These were thoughts too high for him, a merchant’s son who understood the give-and-take that is business. The world of business Francis knew, and he knew that God’s economy was different. All the supply was on God’s side. All we could give in return was praise through Jesus Christ, who alone can give back adequately what the Father gives eternally. Praise we can give. And care for and of all God has created outside the Trinity, beginning with Jesus himself who sums up and contains all of creation in his own divine nature.
Francis knew the two stories of the beginnings of things in the book of Genesis. One story emphasizes human beings’ dominion over all lesser creatures. The other story was about humans’ care and nurturing of all creatures, including Earth itself. Francis loved the second story more. It appealed to who he was and how he saw his relationship to the world around him. So, he would praise God through Jesus Christ with all creatures, for all creatures, and in and by means of all creatures. And he would care for them and nourish them, as God’s words in Genesis said he should. That is an economy Francis could understand: God gives all good; humans in return praise and care. He knew he had to praise or he wouldn’t be able to care and nourish. And he had to care and nourish or his praise would be empty. That was to be his story. That was everyone’s deepest story. Bad things would befall us all, but praise and care would keep us going.
And that was love, to praise and care for, no matter what. That’s what God’s good merchant does: receive good unlimited and pay it back with praise and care. That was the economy of love that was the counter weight to the economy of money that was beginning to make its way into Assisi.
And so he would always keep praise in the forefront of his and his brothers’ lives. They would all try to remember to praise. And to help them he will direct the brother gardener to not plant the whole garden with food plants, but to set aside a plot for those plants, which in their season would bloom with Brother Flowers. Then when the brothers saw the pretty little flower bed with its sweetly scented herbs and flowering plants it would invite everyone to praise God; for Brother Flowers will say, “God made me for you, O human!”
As Brother Thomas of Celano, Francis’ first biographer, wrote: “Saint Francis praised the Artist in every one of his works; whatever he found in things made, he referred to their Maker. He rejoiced in all the works of the Lord’s hands, and with joyful vision saw into the reason and cause that gave them life. In beautiful things he came to know Beauty itself. To him all things were good. They cried out to him, ‘He who made us is infinitely good.” By tracing His footprints in things, Francis followed the Beloved wherever He led. He made from created things, a ladder to His throne.”