Magazine article Earth Island Journal

"The Abuse of Nature Is a Sin."(address from the Symposium on the Sacredness of the Environment, November 8, 1997)(transcript)

Magazine article Earth Island Journal

"The Abuse of Nature Is a Sin."(address from the Symposium on the Sacredness of the Environment, November 8, 1997)(transcript)

Article excerpt

Here in this historical city of Santa Barbara, we see before us a brilliant example of the wonder of God's creation. Recently, that God-given beauty was threatened by an oil spill.

The Ecumenical Throne of Orthodoxy today renews its long-standing commitment to healing the environment. We have followed with great interest and sincere concern, the efforts to curb the destructive effects that human beings have wrought upon the natural world. We view with alarm the dangerous consequences of humanity's disregard for the survival of God's creation.

Since 1989, every September 1st -- the beginning of the [Orthodox] ecclesiastical calendar -- has been designated as a day of prayer for the protection of the environment.

Our sin toward the world, or the spiritual root of all our pollution, lies in our refusal to view life and the world as a sacrament of thanksgiving, and as a gift of constant communion with God on a global scale.

We believe that our first task is to raise the consciousness of adults who most use the resources and gifts of the planet. Ultimately, we must perceive our every action as having a direct effect upon the future of the environment. Human beings and the environment form a seamless garment of existence; a complex fabric that we believe is fashioned by God.

The entire universe participates in celebration of life, which St. Maximos the Confessor described as a "cosmic liturgy." We see this cosmic liturgy in the symbiosis of life's rich biological complexities. As human beings, created "in the image and likeness of God" (Gen. 1:26), we are called to recognize this interdependence between our environment and ourselves.

There is also an ascetic element in our responsibility toward God's creation. This asceticism requires from us a voluntary restraint, in order for us to live in harmony with our environment. Asceticism offers practical examples of conservation.

By reducing our consumption -- [called] in Orthodox Theology encratia or self-control -- we come to ensure that resources are left for others in the world [and we] demonstrate a concern for the Third World and developing nations. Our abundance of resources will be extended to include an abundance of equitable concern for others.

Encratia frees us of our self-centered neediness, that we may do good works for others. We do this out of a personal love for the natural world around us. We are called to work in humble harmony with creation and not in arrogant supremacy against it.

Asceticism provides an example whereby we may live simply. Asceticism is not a flight from society and the world, but a communal attitude of mind and way of life that leads to the respectful use, and not the abuse, of material goods. Excessive consumption issues from a world-view of estrangement from self, from land, from life, and from God. Consuming the fruits of the earth unrestrained, we become consumed ourselves, by avarice and greed. Excessive consumption leaves us emptied; out of touch with our deepest self. Asceticism is a corrective practice, a vision of repentance. Such a vision will lead us... to a world in which we give, as well as take from creation. …

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