Posted by: jblevins | August 25, 2009

Orthodox Perspectives on Ecology

Yesterday, the Greek Orthdox Church in America announced that September 1st marked the beginning of the ecclisastical new year.  In addition to that, however, it is the Day for the Protection of Our Natural Environment.  Archbishop Demetrios notes, “For Orthodox Christians, September 1 begins a new liturgical year in which we participate in the life of the Holy Church through Her divine services.  September 1 is also the date that has been designated by our Holy Ecumenical Patriarchate as the Day for the Protection of our Natural Environment.  For more than one reason, the joining of our observance of this Day with the beginning of the Ecclesiastical New Year, is significant, as it guides us in understanding the important relationship between our world created by God and our Orthodox Christian faith.”

Our Orthdox Brothers and Sisters remind us often of the not only uniquely Christian call to care for our environment, but how grounded that call is in the history of our faith – stretching back to the early church Fathers – and that the sacramental nature of our faith is directly connected to our natural world.  Archbishop Demetrios continues, “Second, through the liturgical life of the Church we are not only strenghthened in our journey of life but we also become aware of the great spiritual significance of our natural environment.  This happens through the usage of purely material elements, as the bread and the wine, in the most holy Mystery of the Divine Eucharist which as the Body and Blood of Christ unites us with God Himself.  Here, the spiritual and physical relationship is significant.  We are both physical and spiritual beings, created for life, and blessed with the ability, unique only to human beings, to worship our Creator within a natural environment that not only provides for our basic physical needs, but also enables us to exprerience perfect communion with God.”

These messages are messages for the environmental age in which we find ourselves. Elizabeth Theokritoff, in her new book, Living in God’s Creation: Orthodox Perspectives on Ecology, writes, “For many Orthodox Christians, the environmental challenge to some of our attitidues and ways of life associated with the modern secular West is a welcome wake up call. It is a call to recover the world view implicit in the Christian tradition, and indeed reflected in certain aspects of traditional Christian cultures. This is not to suggest a golden age of Orthodox culture.  It is, however, to suggest that environmental responsibility begins with living our faith in the most mundane details of everyday life.”

This is a message that extends beyond Orthodox Christianity, to all of us.  So take some time this September 1st, and everyday, to remember this call, and see the environmental responsibility, the call to care for Creation, in everything that we do.

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