Faith News

A message from St George parish church


All God’s Creatures

Introduction

Last year I presented a series on the trees of the Bible which ran all through the season of Trinity or Ordinary Time. This year we will engage with the members of the animal kingdom that appear in the Bible.

In this occasional series I may suggest that you to do some additional reading and investigation for yourself and I may not use the most obvious texts.

The list of animals in the account of Creation in Genesis chapter 1 is very familiar but there are other descriptions of creation in different books of the Bible and many more animals appear throughout the text. I will take a very broad approach including living creatures from smallest to largest; virus and gnat to elephant and whale; vertebrates and invertebrates; and various borderline cases. Texts are from the New Revised Standard Version, Anglicized Edition, with the Apocrypha and Deutero Canonical Books. The collection of animals included in this series is not exhaustive and the names for some creatures may differ in other translations.

Do take some time to look at our creation window: the great west rose window in St George’s.

Consider the variety and beauty of the creatures depicted there.

In the song of praise sung by the three young men, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, who were thrown into the burning fiery furnace we find:

The three with one voice praised and glorified and blessed God in the furnace:
“Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our ancestors,
and to be praised and highly exalted for ever.

Bless the Lord, you whales and all that swim in the waters;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord, all birds of the air;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.
Bless the Lord, all wild animals and cattle;
sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.

All who worship the Lord, bless the God of gods,
Sing praise to him and give thanks to him,
For his mercy endures for ever.

                                           [Prayer of Azariah. 28, 29, 57 – 59, 68 (Apocrypha)]

More about dragons

In the second reflection (14.06.21) the dragon was described as one of the strange animals of the Bible. The dragon is portrayed as both a land and sea creature. Rehab is an alternative name for the dragon when speaking of Egypt as an enemy [Is 30. 7]. It acts as a symbol of the forces of evil which God overcame when God quelled the primeval chaos of the Beginning [Gen 1. 2; Ps 74. 12 – 14]. This archetype is seen in many stories world-wide and we are reminded of it with our own St George and the dragon. In the second reflection we discovered that the huge red dragon with many heads represents the forces of evil. It is in combat with the army of heaven [Rev 12].

In Sirach the dragon is matched with a lion. It is preferable to live with either of them than an evil woman! [Sirach. 25. 16].

A Dragon Story

Bel and the Dragon [23 – 41, Apocrypha]

This is a short tale that is part of the story of Daniel.

Daniel, in exile in Babylon, refuses to worship idols. The idol, Bel is made of clay covered with bronze. It is totally inanimate and is easily shown as a fake “god” by Daniel. However there is also another “god” which is a living dragon.

Daniel asserts that he will kill this dragon without a weapon. No-one believes him. Daniel feeds the dragon cakes made of pitch, fat and hair. When the greedy dragon eats the cakes he bursts open and dies. At this the Babylonian priests are furious and insist that Daniel be thrown into the lions’ den.

There follows a similar episode to that with which we are all familiar [Dan 6]. Daniel emerges unharmed from the den of lions after a visit from the prophet Habakkuk, who is carried by an angel and flies in with food for Daniel. When, on the seventh day, the king comes and finds Daniel alive and well, the king recognises the power and sovereignty of God: ‘You are great, O Lord, the God of Daniel, and there is no other besides you!’ [Bel and the Dragon. 41].

This text is sometimes found as chapter 14 of the book of Daniel.

 

 

Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
Maker of all living creatures:
fish in the sea, birds in the air,
and animals on the land.
May we always praise you
for all your beauty in creation.
Blessed are you, O Lord our God,
in all your creatures.
Amen