Celebrating the Season of Creation
The Season of Creation starts on September 1, proclaimed last year by Pope Francis as World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation; originally practiced by the Orthodox Church as Day of Creation and ends on October 4, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of the environment. “Christians or not, as people of faith and goodwill, we should be united in showing mercy to the earth as our common home and cherishing the world in which we live as a place for sharing and communion.” (Pope Francis, Message for the World Day of Prayer for Creation, September 1, 2016)
Originally introduced as a new pastoral initiative in Australia by Norman Habel, Lutheran theologian and author; eco-theologian Fr. Sean McDonagh affirmed the introduction of this new liturgical initiative “he believes that it is essential to bring the message of creation right into the heart of the liturgical cycle of the churches.” (Sean McDonagh, Climate Change: The Challenge to all of us, Claretian Publications, 2007, pp. 152-153) Norman Habel proposed this “Season of Creation” as an added season to Advent, Christmas, Lent, Paschal Triduum, Easter and Ordinary Time; Habel wrote “the season of Creation offers an opportunity for churches to introduce new visual elements into their worship and to be ecumenical and connected with creation in a particular context. The Sundays of the first year in the three-year cycle of Creation are called Forest Sunday, Land Sunday, Outback/Wilderness Sunday and River Sunday. Congregations can turn the sanctuary into a vibrant part of creation as they celebrate with creation.” (http://seasonofcreation.com/about/the-season-of-creation-story/)
Elements of the Celebration
The Season of Creation fits the celebration of the “care of our common home” emphasized by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si’; focusing on creation and our role to protect and nurture the gift of creation shared by the life of the Creator completed in the redeeming act of Jesus. The liturgical framework is to raise the level of faith-experience into transformative acts that foment concern for the planet and humanity. The Season of Creation is now emboldened by the guiding teaching of Laudato Si, where Pope Francis begins with a situationer related to the ecological crisis (What is happening to our Common Home), to practical ways of achieving our objectives of answering the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor – three areas: ecological faith, ecological education and ecological action. “The Church calls us to conversion regarding ecological concerns. In order to undergo this conversion, individual dioceses, parishes, basic ecclesial communities, schools, religious congregations and various other church and church related groups have initiated over the last several years various ecological education programs, environmental protection activities, and sustainable development projects. We welcome ecumenical initiatives in ecological advocacy in order preserve and promote God’s irreplaceable gift of Creation.” (Celebrating Creation Day and Creation Time, Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo, President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, September 1, 2003)
To better celebrate the Season of Creation, A Charter for the Season of Creation would include 7 elements (Sean McDonagh, Climate Change: The Challenge to all of us, Claretian Publications, 2007, pp.
- Celebrate the earth as a sacred planet filled with God’s vibrant presence
- Unite with all creation in praising the God of creation.
- Confess our sins against creation and empathize with a groaning creation.
- Embrace creation as our extended family.
- Proclaim the Good News that the risen Jesus is the cosmic Christ who fills and renews all creation.
- Gather all to the Eucharist to receive the healing power of Christ that extends to all creation.
- Go forth on a mission to be partners with Christ in healing all creation.
Enhancing the celebration of the Season of Creation
From the year 2000, the year it was ‘practiced’ until today, exactly seventeen years after; the celebration of the Season of Creation has yet to find its way in the pages of the liturgical Ordo, either of the Catholic Church or in other denominations. Few Archdioceses or Dioceses are celebrating it as a liturgical season by itself. The following institutions or organizations are worth mentioning for formally endorsing the celebration “the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines in 2003, the Third European Ecumenical Assembly in Sibiu in 2007 and the World Council of Churches in 2008,” this does not mean that by this endorsement parishes, or communities within these endorsing organizations are complying with the instruction to celebrate the Season of Creation.
The lack of initiative to organize the celebration may be rooted in the institutional standard that any liturgical “formulations” must be examined by the liturgical commission tasked by church institutions to formulate and regulate liturgical celebrations; or simply put this has not reached on the table of discussion among our liturgists. This failure needs to be addressed, this has to reach to the level of approval from our Church authorities. “We wish to introduce this period to our Catholic faithful and acknowledge “Creation”, that priceless gift of the Almighty and Loving Creator who has made us into his own image and likeness… As we celebrate Creation Time, let us deepen our faith in the Triune God through our communal liturgies, devotions, and in our personal prayer life…” (Celebrating Creation Day and Creation Time, Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo, President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, September 1, 2003)
On a positive note, the impact of the Encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato Si’: On Care of Our Common Home, gave impetus for communities, organizations on celebrating the Season of Creation. This year as noted by the website,www.seasonofcreation.org; there is a global collaboration to celebrate the Season of Creation, among them: The Global Catholic Climate Movement, Act Alliance, Green Faith, World Council of Churches, Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, Anglican Communion Environmental Network, and participated by different international and local faith-based, and environmental organizations.
How to celebrate the Season of Creation
There are many ways to celebrate the Season of Creation, either in liturgical celebrations or by integrating ecological actions in the celebration of the liturgy. What is most important is for us to be able to participate ‘actively’ in the celebration as a community and be able to transform the celebration as a way of ecological conversion. Pope Francis said: “Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change. We lack an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone. This basic awareness would enable the development of new convictions, attitudes and forms of life. A great cultural, spiritual and educational challenge stands before us, and it will demand that we set out on the long path of renewal.” (Pope Francis, LS #202) That beyond the words of our liturgical celebrations this will reverberate in the grassroots communities affected by environmental destruction, climate impacts, capitalist greed – all these not only affect the living environment but also these have dehumanizing effects on people’s lives. When we take into account the lived experience of the planet and people into the core of liturgical celebrations this offers a space that makes liturgy meaningfully celebrated in the fruitfulness of people’s experience ‘with creation’ – truly, a transformative Christian renewal.
Here are some suggestions; this is the basic pattern of the Season of Creation calendar: September 1 – Start of the Celebration (World Day of Prayer of Creation; Day of Prayer for
Creation in Orthodox traditions)
Four Sundays – four domains of creation e.g, Forest, Land, Ocean and River Sundays St Francis of Assisi Day (Blessing of the Animals)
Special Sunday – appropriate to the country or community
Second Sunday in Oct – Final Sunday of the Season
This is the 2017 Season of Creation calendar of the Uniting Church in Australia
THE SEASON OF CREATION – 2017 Series A: The Spirit in Creation
|September 1||Creation Day|
|September 3||1st Sunday in Creation||– Forest Sunday|
|September 10||2nd Sunday in Creation||– Land Sunday|
|September 17||3rd Sunday in Creation||– Wilderness/Outback Sunday|
|September 24||4th Sunday in Creation||– River Sunday|
|October 1||St Francis of Assisi Day||– Blessings of the Animals|
There are enormous liturgical celebrations of the Season of Creation from our brothers and sisters in other Christian denominations. Online resources are readily available, the following are highly recommended: http://seasonofcreation.com,http://www.seasonofcreation.org.
A parish, Christian community or groups may adopt the determined calendar, or may craft appropriate liturgical celebration of the Season of Creation; adaptive to their own culture or practices. It is recommended that plans and programs are communicated to the local ordinary (bishop or pastor), or they may seek approval from the existing liturgical commission.
More than just a liturgical season
The celebration of the Season of Creation is more than a celebration, it integrates both prayer and action; as mentioned by then CBCP President, Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI, D.D., he said: “this is why today we thank the many Christian churches that celebrate Creation Day and Creation Time, in order to offer “prayers and supplications to the Maker of all, both as thanksgiving for the great gift of creation and as petition for its protection and salvation” (Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I of Constantinople; it was his call in 1999 that set off this ecumenical celebration)
The celebration will enable us to reflect ways forward to address the challenges of the impacts of environmental degradation and of climate change; affirming these challenges, Pope Francis declared: “Global warming continues, due in part to human activity: 2015 was the warmest year on record, and
2016 will likely be warmer still. This is leading to ever more severe droughts, floods, fires and extreme weather events. Climate change is also contributing to the heart-rending refugee crisis. The world’s poor, though least responsible for climate change, are most vulnerable and already suffering its impact.” (Pope Francis, Message for the World Day of Prayer for Creation, September 1, 2016)
This Season of Creation brings meaning to all other seasons we celebrate in the liturgical year, with our incorporation of the connectedness of the spirituality, nature, people and liturgy enabling a fruitful celebration in our participative living of the six seasons (Advent, Christmas, Lent, Paschal Triduum, Easter and Ordinary Time). The Season of Creation then, made us all the more understand the lived mystery of Jesus’ presence in any liturgical celebration “the mystery of Christ, unfolded through the cycle of the year, calls us to live his mystery in our own lives” (http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and- worship/liturgical-year/).
Sharing the spirit of Laudato Si, Pope Francis offers us this Prayer, fitted for celebrating the Season of Creation:
“O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned
and forgotten of this earth, who are so precious in your eyes…
God of love, show us our place in this world as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,” God of mercy, may we receive your forgiveness and convey your mercy throughout our common home. Praise be to you! Amen.
(Pope Francis, Message for the World Day of Prayer for Creation, September 1, 2016)
FRAY JAAZEAL JAKOSALEM, OAR
Chair, Commission on Social & Ecological Concerns Recoletos
FRAY DIONISIO SELMA, OAR