The Earth Is Pregnant with God

The intuition of St. Francis is that the entire world is a sacrament revealing the presence of God! Here, Franciscan scholars explain how Francis and Angela of Foligno (1248–1309) could come to see such a universal vision of Christ in the created world: 

Francis’s world was so imbued by the goodness of God that he was “aroused by everything to divine love.” [1] . . . Thomas of Celano [1185–1260] states: “Fields and vineyards, rocks and woods, and all the beauties of the field, flowing springs and blooming gardens, earth and fire, air and wind: all these he urged to love of God and to willing service.” [2] Francis truly became a lover of God through the beautiful things of creation. . . .

Many Christ-centered mystics, like Francis, have experienced the profound presence of God in creation. To know Christ in human form is to know God in created reality; to see God in the Eucharist is to see God in creation. The great penitent-mystic, Angela of Foligno, while attending Mass one day and seeing the host elevated, exclaimed:

I beheld and comprehended the whole of creation, that is, what is on this side and what is beyond the sea. . . . And my soul in an excess of wonder cried out: “This world is pregnant with God!” Wherefore I understood how small is the whole of creation—that is, what is on this side and what is beyond the sea, the abyss, the sea itself, and everything else—but the power of God fills it all to overflowing. [3]

The idea of the whole earth “pregnant with God” speaks to us of “Mother Earth,” a nourishing and caring Earth that cries out in labor pains, longing for its fulfillment in God (Romans 8:22). Angela’s vision reminds us that the power of spiritual vision and relatedness is made possible by the power of love in union with Christ. To see God present with the eyes of the heart and to love what is seen requires faith in the risen Christ, truly believing that God is present to us in created reality.

Authors Delio, Warner, and Wood press us to struggle with the implications of such an inclusive understanding of God’s presence during a time of environmental catastrophe: 

Do we really believe that God dwells with us, in our lives and in the natural world of creation? Does the Body of Christ move us to contemplate God in creation? If so, then how can we say “Amen” to receiving the Body of Christ and perpetrate destruction of the environment? There is a disconnect between what we claim to be or rather what we claim to see and what we actually do. It is an alienation of heart and mind that has rendered a desecration of the environment, as if we take the host, the Body of Christ, and continually stomp on it while saying, “yes, so be it!”

[1] Bonaventure, The Life of Blessed Francis, chap. 9, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, The Founder (New York: New City Press, 2000), 596.

[2] Thomas of Celano, The Life of Saint Francis, chap. 29, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, The Saint (New York: New City Press, 1999), 251.

[3] Angela of Foligno, The Book of the Blessed Angela: Memorial, chap. 6, in Angela of Foligno: Complete Works, trans. Paul Lachance (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1993), 169–170.

Ilia Delio, Keith Douglas Warner, Pamela Wood, Care for Creation: A Franciscan Spirituality of the Earth (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2008), 131–132.

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