Francis of Assisi died. Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone was 45 years old (b. 1181; d. Oct. 3, 1226). His view of himself and the world is an utterly Christian, incarnational view, seeing in all creation the wonderful and sustaining presence of the Divine. The sun and the moon, the earth and the mountains, vegetation and animals and all humanity are bursting with the Spirit of God.
Perhaps this is why Francis and the orders of friars and sisters who bear his name today are so appealing to God’s LGBT children. Having been told by others with a more dualistic outlook that our bodies and desires are merely sources of sin, LGBT people (and all people, really) experience in the flesh the untruth of such assertions. What Francis knew almost eight centuries ago so many of us, our fellow Christians, and especially our Church leaders are still learning.
|St. Francis of Assisi by Nancy Earle, SMIC.|
In most paintings of people waiting for the Holy Spirit they are looking upward, with their hands outstretched or raised up, the assumption being that the Holy Spirit will descend from “up” above. In the Great Basilica in Assisi where St. Francis is buried, there’s a bronze statue of him honoring the Holy Spirit. His posture and perspective are completely different from what we have come to expect. He’s looking down into the earth with expectation and desire! This is the change of perspective that became our alternative orthodoxy—although it should have been mainline orthodoxy! He was merely following the movement of the Incarnation, since Christians believe that the Eternal Word became “flesh” (John 1:14), and it is in the material world that God and the holy are to be found.
Francis recognized and took to the logical conclusion the implications of the Incarnation. If God became flesh in Jesus, then it is in the world, the physical, the animal, in the natural elements, in human sexuality that God must be found. Speak of embodiment, physicality, and the world—use whatever words you want—these are the hiding places and the revelation places of God. This is how Christianity was supposed to change everything. Most of us just kept looking up, when God in Jesus had, in fact, come down. (This is the foundation of Franciscan mysticism.) On this day in 1226, Francis died at sunset and asked to lie naked and exposed on the earth as he died. The friars were embarrassed, but conceded to his wish. Now you know that it made total sense.
From an unpublished talk in Assisi, Italy, May 2012