By Sister Barbara Jean Franklin, ASC
Consider the word “season.” It’s just an ordinary word until we take it seriously and let it really enter our frame of reference. Used as a noun, “season” often refers to a particular period of time—like spring, summer, winter, fall; or a special time—like the rainy season, the baseball season, the planting season. Related to these types of seasons we have adjectives like seasonal flowers and adverbs like unseasonably warm. Faith traditions have special seasons that help believers focus on particular aspects of the spiritual life—like Advent and Lent, or that center on a particular holiday—like Christmas and Hanukkah. Another related noun is the word “seasoning”—like salt, pepper, herbs, or spices that give additional flavor to food. In this usage, as a verb, we “season” our food. Our engagement with the word in its many uses brings the word to life and into our individual and collective lives. All of these uses of the word “season” come together in a cosmic way as we celebrate the Season of Creation.
The Season of Creation invites us to a theological vision for a world in evolution. It is a season that encompasses all seasons whether we are referring to a particular period of time or to adding a flavorful herb to a meal. While we are always living in the season of Creation, the Christian family unites to focus on prayer and action on behalf of our common home each year from September 1 to October 4 (the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology). The formal acknowledgment of Season of Creation, or Creation Time, dates back to 1989 when the Eastern Orthodox Church proclaimed September 1 as a day of prayer for creation. Other major Christian Churches embraced the idea in 2001 and Pope Francis engaged the Roman Catholic Church in celebrating the Season of Creation in 2015.
The theme for this year is “A Home for All? Renewing the Oikos of God.” According to the Season of Creation Committee, the intent is to help participants develop a new way to see Scripture, life, and Earth all in the Oikos (home) of God and to acknowledge the wisdom of all who help to renew our world as an interconnected and interdependent, global beloved community. This involves both prayer and action.
In addition to communal prayer (and there are many sources for Season of Creation prayers on social media), one might consider a prayer of awareness. In her book, The Hours of the Universe, Ilia Delio suggests that the universe is the new monastery, the place to find God. “Just as in a monastery the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours calls to mind the work of God in our lives, from the gift of creation to the sufferings we bear, so to the new monastery is the cathedral of the universe.” (c.f., p. xvii) Taken seriously, that habit of awareness will extend beyond any one season.
The Season of Creation calls us individually and communally to action on behalf of our common home. Guided by our prayer of awareness, our actions, large and small, must extend beyond the Season of Creation and encompass all seasons and seasonings. We might consider how plant life manifests itself in different ways each season. Our special Lenten practices might include consideration of how our use (or misuse) of everyday things contributes to global warming and maybe even result in a change in our lifestyle on behalf of Earth. The Season of Creation awareness that we develop might influence the gifts we give at Christmas and Hanukkah and the way we package them. A newly developed awareness of the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that herbs enhance the flavor and nutritional value of our food might extend far beyond the Season of Creation timeframe.
If we truly embrace the spirit of the Season of Creation, we will find that it encompasses all the seasons of our lives and can truly make a difference for our common home. Along with St. Francis of Assisi, we might consider Sir Thomas More as a patron saint in our efforts. In the early 1950s, Robert Bolt wrote a play called “A Man for All Seasons” based on the life of Sir Thomas More. More, Chancellor of England under King Henry VIII, was killed because he stood up for truth and right against the unprincipled king. The title of the play is a tribute to More, who was a man of principle in all seasons, in all circumstances. The Season of Creation calls us to be women and men for all seasons, committed to be people of prayer and action who champion all of life in the Oikos of God each day and every day.