The Green Patriarch  

Posted by Joe Rawls


His All Holiness Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch (to give him his full title) is the worldwide leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church. His nickname "the Green Patriarch" is well-earned due to his heavy involvement in ecological issues. On November 8, 1997 he visited St Barbara's Greek Orthodox church in Santa Barbara, where he overtly declared environmental destruction to be a sin. On this Earth Day, I think it's appropriate to share some excerpts of his address with you.

We believe that Orthodox liturgy and life hold tangible answers to the ultimate questions concerning salvation from corruptibility and death. The Eucharist is at the very center of our worship. And our sin towards the world, or the spiritual root of 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 envision a new awareness that is not mere philosophical posturing, but a tangible experience of a mystical nature...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 a celebration of life, which St Maximos the Confessor described as a "cosmic liturgy". ...In the bread and the wine of the eucharist, as priests standing before the altar of the world, we offer the creation back to the Creator in relationship to Him, and to each other. Indeed, in our liturgical life, we realize by anticipation the final state of the cosmos in the Kingdom of Heaven. We celebrate the beauty of creation and consecrate the life of the world, returning it to God with thanks. We share the world in joy as a living mystical communion with the Divine...

Moreover, there is also an ascetic element in our responsibility towards God's creation. This asceticism requires from us voluntary restraint, in order for us to live in harmony with our environment...

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 may be understood to issue 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...

We are of the deeply held belief that many human beings have come to behave as materialistic tyrants. Those that tyrannize the earth are themselves, sadly, tyrannized...

It follows that, to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin. For humans to cause species to become extinct and to destroy the biological diversity of God's creation; for humans to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate; by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for humans to injure other humans with disease; for humans to contaminate the earth's waters, its land, its air, and its life with poisonous substances--these are sins.

in prayer, we ask for the forgiveness of sins committed both willingly and unwillingly. And it is certainly God's forgiveness which we must ask for causing harm to His own creation.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 22, 2008 at Tuesday, April 22, 2008 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

1 comments

Anonymous  

Great, but if he's so wonderfully "progressive", why doesn't his church ordain women? Or even allow them to visit their Mt. Athos on pilgrimage?
Heck, they don't even allow their bishops to have wives or their other clergy to marry again after their wives have died.
Once he decides to get out of the late Middle Ages he might be more believable.

July 21, 2011 at 11:40 PM

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