Toward an Ecology of Transfiguration
Orthodox Christian Perspectives on Environment, Nature, and Creation
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: Fordham University Press
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It is with par tic u lar satisfaction and personal joy that we welcome this publication, being originally the fruit of an innovative conference held from October 25â 28, 2007, in California, at the St. Nicholas Ranch and Retreat Center of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of San Francisco, for the purpose of gathering Orthodox thinkers from a variety of disciplines and range of backgrounds in order to explore scholarly perspectives of our rela-...
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This remarkable volume helps answer a worldly question thatâs interested me for some years: Why has Bartholomew, the Ecumenical Patriarch and spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians worldwide, been such a standout fi gure among religious leaders in his call for environmental care? A Western Christian such as myself can establish an ethic of stewardship from the Catholic or Protestant readings of the Bible, but it must be said that most of ...
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During the past few de cades, the world has witnessed alarming envi-ronmental degradationâ the threat of anthropogenic climate change, the loss of biodiversity, and the pollution of natural resourcesâ along with the widening gap between rich and poor, as well as the increasing failure to implement environmental policies. We are remindedâ in a painful wayâ of this crisis when we learn of the cruel extinction of fl ora and fauna and of ir-...
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One of the most intriguing aspects of Greek patristic thought about nature is the concept of the logoi of beings. Th e logoi are the âinner essencesâ of things, the value and signifi cance they have in the eyes of the Creator rather than in our faulty human estimation. To perceive the logoi in beings is the act known as theÅria phusikÄ, the second of the three stages of the spiritual life distinguished by Evagrius and the tradition that followed ...
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The idea that human beings, as rational, as persons, made âin the image and likeness of God,â are radically set apart from and above all lesser beings is often pointed to, with some justice, as one of the major sources of todayâs degradation of the natural environment. In its extreme form, that idea implies that subhuman beings have no intrinsic purpose or value, and exist only for humans to use for our own ends. Consider, for example, the ...
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This paper sets out to consider some of the ways one of the most emi-nent of the Greek Fathers spoke about the loveliness of the world and to examine what motives lay behind his rhetorical celebration of Cosmic beauty in that much- deliberated elegance of the chosen word. In this in-stance, Gregory of Nazianzus (329â 390; known in the Eastern Christian world always as âTh e Th eologianâ), like many of the other Fathers who rep-...
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When someone reaches insights into creation on the path of his ascetic life, then he is raised up above having prayer set for him within a bound-ary: for it is superfl uous from then onwards for him to put a boundary to prayer by means of (fi xed) times or the Hours; his situation has gone be-yond its being a case of his praying and giving praise when he (so) wants. ...
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I want to do something more in this paperï than simply expound the teaching of St. Maximus the Confessor, for the subjectâ Man and Cos-mosâ is not some arcane bit of teaching from late antiquity, like, for in-stance, St. Maximusâs understanding of the links between the passions and the various internal organs of the human bodyâ liver, kidneys, etc.â though even with such teaching we may have more to learn than we might think at ...
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The church today, confronted by the ecological revolution, is in danger of suï¬ ering just as it did during the technological and other revolu-tions.ï It is in danger of being entirely unprepared, since the eï¬ ective prepa-ration for radical changes in human thought and behavior is neither an easy nor simple pro cess. It demands serious theological adaptation and large- scale upheaval within the church body, and this requires rigorous struggle and ...
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On the Holy Mountain of Athos, the monks sometimes put up beside the forest paths special signposts oï¬ ering encouragement or warning to the pilgrim as he passes. One such notice used to give me par tic u lar plea-Fr. Amphilochios (d. 1970), the geronta or âelderâ on the island of Patmos when I fi rst stayed there, would have been in full agreement. âDo you know,â he said, âthat God gave us one more commandment, which is not recorded ...
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This paper will critically compare the creation theologies of Sergius Bulgakov, Vladimir Lossky, and John Zizioulas. I oï¬ er this critical comparison of the three most infl uential trajectories in contemporary Or-thodox theology to discern whether, in fact, contemporary Orthodox theol-ogy has anything to oï¬ er to the wider, global discussion of Orthodoxyâs In previous work,ï I have argued that, their diï¬ erences notwithstanding, ...
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The subject of environmental issues and Orthodox Christianity does not, typically, bring to mind the names of Fr. Sophrony (Sakharov) or his mentor in the spiritual life, St. Silouan the Athonite. Indeed, even those who knew Elder Sophrony personally or who are familiar with his writing would likely not identify âthe environmentâ as a subject on which he had something unique or especially signifi cant to oï¬ er. Monasticism, the âper-...
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A grain of wheat falls to the earth and decomposes, and is then raised with manifold increase by the spirit of God, who contains all things; by wisdom it is then used by human beings, receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, which is the Body and Blood of Christ. In the same way our bodies, being nourished by it, will be deposited in the earth and decom-...
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A par tic u lar understanding of historical Christianityâs approach to na-ture is now accepted in the academic study of environmental history (here defi ned to mean any account of the man- nature relationship that en-gages the realm of history) and among the general public throughout much of the world. Th e present paper explores this understanding with par tic u lar reference to English- language scholarship, to demonstrate that it depends on ...
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Contributing to the ecumenical statement by the National Council of Churches on the environment, published in the form of an open letter in 2005 and entitled âGodâs Earth is Sacred: An Open Letter to Church and Society in the United Statesâ ( http:// www /nccusa .org /news .14 .02 .05theo-logicalstatement .html), was a natural response for me as an Orthodox theo-logian. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has long assumed an active ...
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The development of ecological awareness and sensitivity in the last years has led to the use of various models of speaking about the relation of the human being to nature.ï Th e prevailing model is that of steward: the hu-man being is the steward of creation. Th is terminology has become wide-spread not only among secular ecologists but also among religious ones, and especially among the latter. We encounter it in almost every reference by ...
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One of the concerns of present- day philosophy is the problem identi-fi ed by Edmund Husserl as âsedimentation.â In the history of human thought, a concept emerges that captures an insight or a new way of looking at things. Th is concept contains a certain density of meaning for those who fi rst come up with it, label it with a name, and incorporate it into their dis-course. Th e term is then communicated in writing to later generations. What ...
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The Apocalypse of St. John has been regarded as the supreme symbol of the decisive cultural shift that occurred with the advent of Christian-ity: a shift from nature to history.ï Th e problem of the environmentâ the vio-lation of nature, its unrestrained exploitation by the human raceâ is judged to be a necessary consequence of the priority that Christianity gave to his-tory, subordinating nature to an eschatological perspective that entailed its ...
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Philosophical thinking has been in large part anthropocentric, in a pe-culiar way: it has regarded man as the center of creation on the basis of his intellect and, more specifi cally, of rational thought.ï In this way, philoso-phy has been the foundation for the intellectual culture and the par tic u lar technological culture known as rationalistic; it is given a practical application in science, and it presumes and encourages a unique and dominant position ...
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My purpose in this paper is to oï¬ er some thoughts by means of an elucidation of this statement by Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, a pioneer in environmental theology. What does it mean that creation will be saved through incorporation in the human being? How are we to understand this incorporation of the world in the human person? Be-fore addressing these questions, perhaps a few words are in order about the ...
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One thing we no longer need to be told is that we are in the throes of a crisis of the most appalling dimensions.ï We tend to call this crisis the ecological crisis, and this is a fair description insofar as its eï¬ ects are manifest above all in the ecological sphere. For here the message is quite clear: our entire way of life is humanly and environmentally suicidal, and unless we change it radically there is no way in which we can avoid cosmic ...
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This paper is based on two fundamental observations.ï First, environ-mental causes might not only be at the root of social and ethnic confl ictâ as a result, for instance, of shortages of water and powerâ but might also provide opportunities for diï¬ erent groups to work together in order to avoid serious crises or indeed catastrophes that may appear other-wise impossible to overcome without broad international collaboration. Sec-...
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Most of us know Sequoia- Kingâs Canyon only as a national park, which part of it has been since 1890, but nearly all of it became a federally designated wilderness area in 1984 under the California Wilderness Act, and it is one of the largest wilderness areas in the continental United States. When I use the term âwilderness,â I mean only such federally desig-nated wilderness areas. Th e 1964 Wilderness Act defi nes them as areas ...
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The early Irish story Tochmarc ÃtaÃne (âTh e Wooing of ÃtaÃnâ), c. 800, describes a spiritual realm that is entered through portals in Neolithic mounds in the landscape, but also in other texts through islands, springs, or encounters in the countryside itself. Th is âOtherworld,â a framework for a number of early Christian Irish and Welsh texts, is always present but not visible to mortals because of Adamâs sin, according to the story. Th e other-...
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The goal of this paper is to establish two claims: fi rst, that ancient Christianity is not based on concepts that permit humans to âabuseâ nature and the environment, and second, that ecol ogy and evolution as sci-entifi c disciplines are tightly linked and that a failure to recognize one or the other as valid will have signifi cant societal impact. Th ese views are synergis-tic: a harmonious relationship between humanity and nature can be founded ...
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Orthodox Christianity can tell us about how to go to heaven but not how the heavens go. Th e Church does not possess special sensible, empirical, scientifi c knowledge (although this can be the case in the instance of great ascetics, true theologians) that can inform us about whether and how much global warming can be attributed to the presence of humans, what the implications of those changes are, what specifi cally should be done to amelio-...
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Hearing âliturgyâ and âcosmologyâ in the same breath is unlikely to strike anyone as odd. We are all familiar with the term âcosmic lit-urgyâ felicitously used (so far as I know, coined) by Hans Urs von Balthasar to describe Maximusâs vision of the world. Here âliturgyâ seems to be used as an analogy for the way the cosmos functions in relation to its Creator. It is a very fertile analogy and one used quite extensively by a number of contem-...
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Transfi guration is at the very core of Orthodox liturgy. It is well known that the notion of theosis as the transfi guring and deifying of believers is the central redemptive thrust of Eastern theology. Th is belief and goal is expressed and made real in liturgical practice. Yet such transfi guring does not apply only to the human person. Rather, the liturgy takes up and trans-forms all of creation, including the very space and time in which it takes ...
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And all of these refer to some slight trace of the divine fragrance, which the whole creation, after the manner of a jar for ointments, imitates within it-All things around us are droplets of the love of Godâ both things animate and inanimate, the plants and the animals, the birds and the mountains, the sea and the sunset and the starry sky. Th ey are little loves through ...
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Some striking similarities have been traced between Irish and Eastern Christianity in the fi eld of theology and spiritual life, with monasticism being the meeting point of these physically distant traditions. Here we will discuss theological theses expressed in early Irish and Greek religious litera-ture of the fi rst Byzantine period in the context of comparative spirituality, with a view to showing the unity of Godâs revelation in both nature and his-...
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I ask for your blessing, because I have nothing to say. I ask for your bless-ing, but I ask your indulgence as well, because I have nothing to give. I wish to thank all of you because I believe this gathering has been holy and sacred. Th at we are all working together and have come to some mutual un-derstanding gives me a great deal of satisfaction. Everyone has helped, and I think we have already identifi ed where our topic is to be found....
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In the Orthodox Church, the core of the prophetic charisma is neither the gift of making apocalyptic statements about impending doom nor the gift of uttering words of encouragement about a resolution to contemporary problems in the future. Th e heart of prophecy consists of an experience of revelation in which the vision of Christ in glory transfi gures the person who beholds Him. Saint John the Th eologian explicitly refers to this when he re-...
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In the Prima Vita of the nineteenth- century Rus sian saint known as Her-man of Alaska, this passage occurs:In the middle of Spruce Island [a tiny island a few miles out to sea from Kodiak, Alaska] a little river runs from the mountain into the sea. Th ere were always large logs of driftwood at the mouth of this river, continuously brought there by storms. In the springtime when the river ...
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Page Count: 464
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Orthodox Christianity and Contemporary Thought