The Orthodox church year begins on 1 September with a commemoration of how God created the world. In 1989 this day was proclaimed a special day of prayer for creation by Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios. The world council of churches took up this idea and extended it from one day into a season from 1 September to 4 October. When Pope Francis published Laudato Si’ in 2015 he also established the Season of Creation as a Catholic practice.
This is a new idea for Catholics. The creation of the world has never featured for us as something to be celebrated publicly by the church, but in the Orthodox tradition, they have been doing this for centuries. We have cause to be grateful that our fellow Christians in the Orthodox tradition have prayed in this way for centuries.
The idea of a season – and not just one day – is also helpful and we have reason to be grateful to our fellow Christians in the World Council of Churches for thinking of it. In time this Season of Creation will take its place with Advent, Lent and Easter as an intrinsic part of the church’s year. These other seasons are all focused explicitly on the person of Christ but the Season of Creation reminds us of why Christ came among us in the first place. We are living in a world created and cared for by the One who sent his only son to live among us.
Pope Francis speaks of the earth as our sister and our mother and she is crying out ‘because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.’ The season of creation is in part a prayer of gratitude for how we have been blessed by God’s creation, but it is also a cry for help in response to a challenge which has been brought about by human sinfulness.
The Season of Creation ends on 4 October, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, patron of ecology, whose love of creation has inspired not only Catholics but other Christians and many who do not share our Christian faith. His initial conversion took the form of a call from God to rebuild the church of San Damiano. ‘Build up my house, for it is close to falling down.’ Today we are being called to restore a world threatened with disaster.
Edmond Grace SJ
Secretary for Ecology