In light of the ongoing efforts of the various Christian churches throughout the world to celebrate and protect the greatest gift given to humanity, our planet Earth, Christians are called to gather in prayer from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4.
Called the Season of Creation, it’s originally inspired by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Dimitrios I, in 1989, when he declared Sept. 1 a day of prayer for creation in the Orthodox world.
The Orthodox Church begins their church year on Sept. 1 with a commemoration of how God created the world. And we Roman Catholics celebrate the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, the lover of creation and author of the “Canticle of the Creatures,” on Oct. 4. Saint Francis is the patron saint of all those who promote care for creation and ecology.
The proposal to celebrate a Time for Creation during these five weeks was made by the Third European Ecumenical Assembly in Sibiu, Romania, in 2007. In 2008, the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee invited churches throughout the world to observe a Time for Creation through prayers and actions. In 2009, the Anglican Consultative Council called on the churches to “celebrate a liturgical Season of Creation as an integral part of the church’s liturgical year.” In 2015, Pope Francis designated Sept. 1 as a World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation for Roman Catholics throughout the world.
In 2016, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew I released their famous message together for the World Day of Prayer for Creation. It was a strongly worded message to the world stressing the urgency of the ecological crisis unfolding worldwide and the need to take action on climate change.
Once again, Assisi was chosen as the place where prayers were offered for the World Day of Prayer for the Care for Creation. In his general audience last Wednesday, the pope mentioned the need for prayer for creation, saying, “We celebrate in union with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, and with the participation of other churches and Christian communities.” He also mentioned that he was grateful that this year’s celebration is being united with the Season of Creation, saying “I am grateful for the various initiatives organized in different places by churches, Institutes of Consecrated Life, and ecclesial organizations.”
The pope’s invitation was to open to “everyone to unite in prayer, on Sept. 1, for our common home, for the care of our common home!”
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby joined a number of other Christian leaders in a joint letter encouraging participation in the Season of Creation.
Some of the other signatories are Archbishop Job of Telmessos (Orthodox), Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson (Catholic), Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit (WCC), Rev. Dr. Chris Ferguson (Reformed), Bishop Efraim Tendera (Evangelical), Rev. Dr. Martin Junge (Lutheran), Mr. Rudelmar Bueno de Faria (ACT Alliance), and Father Heikki Huttunen (Conference of European Churches).
In their letter they said, “Once every year, from September 1st to October 4th, we as members of the Christian family set aside time to deepen our relationship with the Creator, each other, and all of creation… During the Season of Creation, we join together to rejoice in the good gift of creation and reflect on how to care for it. This season offers a precious opportunity to pause in the midst of our day to day lives and contemplate the fabric of life into which we are woven. As the environmental crisis deepens, we Christians are urgently called to witness to our faith by taking bold action to preserve the gift we share… We invite you to join us on a journey of faith that challenges and rewards us with fresh perspective and deeper bonds of love. United in our sincere wish to protect creation and all those who share it, we join hands across denominations as sisters and brothers in Christ. During this season, we walk together towards greater stewardship of our place in creation.”
This beautiful letter echoes the sentiments of our Holy Father, Pope Francis’ second encyclical in 2015, “Laudato Si’,” “Praise Be to You,” or its subtitle, “On care for our common home.” In it, Pope Francis critiques consumerism and irresponsible development, laments environmental degradation and global warming, as it calls on all people of the world to take “swift and unified global action.”
Let us join all our fellow Christians during these five weeks in prayer for our island home the Earth!
Father Joseph D. Wallace is director, Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs, Diocese of Camden.