Sabbath and Creation

I have always thought how appropriate it is that one of the canticles (“little songs”) appointed for our morning prayers on Saturdays is “A Song of Creation: Song of the Three Young Men.” These are verses which appear now in the Apocrypha as a poem ascribed to Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego as they remained unscathed in the “burning, fiery furnace” in the Book of Daniel.

Whether they were originally part of the Hebrew text or a later Greek addition continues to be debated. But there is no doubt that the early Jews did indeed compose many such poems, and the celebration of the created order draws heavily on Psalm 148 and yet has a strikingly contemporary message.

It begins “Glorify the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise him and highly exalt him for ever.” The poem then celebrates the cosmic order, “Glorify the Lord, you angels and all powers of the Lord…heavens and all waters above the heavens…sun and moon and stars of the sky…winter and summer, glorify the Lord…O chill and cold, drops of dew and flakes of snow…glorify the Lord.”

The next secions exalts in the earth and all its creatures, “Glorify the Lord, O mountains and hills and all that grows upon the earth…springs of water, seas and streams…all birds of the air…Glorify the Lord, O beasts of the wild and all you flocks and herds…” And then, almost unexpectedly, “O men and women everywhere, glorify the Lord, praise him and highly exalt him for ever!”

At one and the same moment the poem connects humankind to the rest of the earth and its creatures, and yet also places us at the pinnacle of God’s created order, thus dignifying human nature. The third section hymns the people of God, “…priests and servants of the Lord…spirits and souls of the righteous…you that are holy and humble of heart, glorify the Lord, praise him and highly exalt him for ever.”

I love praying these words on Saturdays (and the Jewish Sabbath) because it connects me in gratitude to the whole created order, appreciating it as God surely did when “resting” on that first “seventh day.” That is certainly part of what sabbath time is supposed to do. On Saturdays…on the weekends…and certainly during summer holidays!

“In the firmament of his power, glorify the Lord, praise him and highly exalt him for ever!”                    


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