Reducing our meat eating has long been a part of Lent. But is has become even more important nowadays with the increasing environmental degradation we face. We are part of the choir of all Creation.
“As South Africans we sing when we are happy and we also sing when we are sad to make ourselves feel better” (day of prayer and reflection for the passing of former president Nelson Mandela)
Music is in our souls, our Sunday services almost always involve worship, and this may be led by a choir, a band or an orchestra! In Biblical times too, the psalms were led by a choir. A group of singers from a family or clan would serve as mouthpieces for the whole community – expressing to God the community’s joy, pain or fear.
Psalm 148 radically broadens the circle of who is included in this choir or family. In each line, singers reach out past the boundaries that divide them. Not only the politically important, the wealthy, kings, princes and rulers must sing, but young men and women those without power or influence join in also. Both young and old are included, both women and men. But the Psalm goes beyond human beings, other parts of creation are invite to join the song:
“You heavens; you angels and hosts; you sun, moon, and shining stars;
you highest heavens and waters above the heavens; hey, you sea monsters and all deeps; you fire
and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind; you mountains and hills; you fruit trees and all cedars
over there; you wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds – all of you together,
join in this ecstatic chorus of praise to our Creator” v 3-12
This is the image of an amazing, diverse, praise chorus encompassing the whole web of life – a chorus, a family, that can and should praise God. For God created all parts of the cosmos with love. It is not only the human family that is called to bear witness. A hymn of praise that only includes humans would be a choir without harmony.
St. Basil the Great’s 4th Century contrition laments this sad choir:
“O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, our brothers the animals [and all creatures] to whom thou gavest the earth as their home in common with us. We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of humans with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to thee in song, has been a groan of travail. May we realize that all creatures live not for us alone but for themselves and for thee, and that they love the sweetness of life.”
How tragic would St Basil feel with the way that animals are farmed commercially nowadays.
If we have this vision of all creatures being part of God’s great choir of praise – then what changes should we make in our lifestyle choices?
Adapted from Season of Creation (Anglican Church of Southern Africa)