Since 2015 Pope Francis has declared Sept. 1 as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation (commonly known as Creation Day). This had already been established by the Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios of the Orthodox Church since 1989. It opens the Season of Creation, which runs from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4, the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the acknowledged patron of the care for the environment. Since 2001, representatives of several Christian churches, including Catholics, Anglicans, and Orthodox, are urging the faithful to see September as the “Season of Creation” in an effort to raise awareness about our responsibility towards creation.
In his message for this year’s Creation Day, Pope Francis said: “Now is the time to rediscover our vocation as children of God, brothers and sisters, and stewards of creation. Now is the time to repent, to be converted…. Because we have forgotten who we are: creatures made in the image of God, called to dwell as brothers and sisters in a common home.”
The Church calendar is divided into several distinct seasons during which we focus on and celebrate certain moments of salvation history, centered on Jesus Christ. Thus, in Advent we await his glorious coming at the end of time as we recall the expectant waiting for his first coming in history. Christmas is focused on his birth, while in Lent we recall his suffering and his death. Easter is the glorious season of his triumph over death and sin.
But salvation history does not only start at the birth of Jesus. It starts with creation during which the Word of God too was present, as St. John wrote in his Gospel: “He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race” (Jn. 1:2-4). St. Paul wrote: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:15-17)
In the season of Creation, as in all the seasons in the Church calendar, we thank and praise God for his work of grace. We also we see ourselves vis-à-vis this work of God – how unworthy we are – and we resolve to participate more fully in God’s saving action. So in the Season of Creation we praise God for the wonderful world he has made. God was very pleased with his work. “God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good.” (Gen. 1:31)
Unfortunately, we humans have not been good stewards of this wonderfully beautiful world. We have disappointed God’s expectation of us. So in this season we are called to ecological conversion. This is very urgent because we are already in a climate emergency. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on October 2018, we have only till 2030, if it is business as usual – barely 11 years from now – before we reach 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming, a point of no return for the earth as we know it now. Runaway climate change will be upon us with heat waves, super typhoons, super cold spells, unprecedented monsoon rains, droughts and floods all over the planet.
So all of us are called to act now. A change of lifestyle is called upon each of us, which would involve changes in our diet, buying habits, modes of travel, the consumption of water and electricity and the use of such ordinary things as plastics. At the same time we need to lobby government and business to put programs that are eco-friendly and to stop the use of fossil fuel. This will be a hard fight because the biggest business enterprises in the country, and in the world, now are all involved in dirty energy, one way or another, such as agribusiness, transportation, banks, mining, construction and big industries.
But we have no choice. We have only one earth. We have only one home. We need to act now!
September 5, 2019