The sudden death of a colleague brings a sense of anger, particularly with the nonsense of Francis of Assisi. His Canticle of the Sun tend to appear this time of year at harvest festivals – and never fails to get under the skin. It’s benign stuff, until the penultimate stanza:
Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord,
All praise is Yours, all glory, honour and blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong;
no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.
We praise You, Lord, for all Your creatures,
especially for Brother Sun,
who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
of You Most High, he bears your likeness.
We praise You, Lord, for Sister Moon and the stars,
in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.
We praise You, Lord, for Brothers Wind and Air,
fair and stormy, all weather’s moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.
We praise You, Lord, for Sister Water,
so useful, humble, precious and pure.
We praise You, Lord, for Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night.
He is beautiful, playful, robust, and strong.
We praise You, Lord, for Sister Earth,
who sustains us
with her fruits, coloured flowers, and herbs.
We praise You, Lord, for those who pardon,
for love of You bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace,
by You Most High, they will be crowned.
We praise You, Lord, for Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in their sins!
Blessed are those that She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm.
We praise and bless You, Lord, and give You thanks,
and serve You in all humility.
“We praise you, Lord, for Sister Death” Really? Do we?
I don’t. Nor, I suspect, do those whom I know numb at a sudden loss.
Death was never a sister; death was only ever an enemy; an enemy that can never be a friend, an enemy that could only be destroyed. Who says so? Crusty old Saint Paul, not nearly so attractive as Francis the first Green.
Writing to the church at Corinth, Paul is quite certain death is on the wrong side,
Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
Nothing sisterly there.
It would be a perverse God who sought praise for the evil things in the world; death being among them.