Patriarch Bartholomew on the Environment  

Posted by Joe Rawls

His All-Holiness Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch and worldwide leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church, speaks out frequently on ecological issues, pointing out the connections between the environment and Christian theology.  He has in fact been nicknamed the "Green Patriarch" for his outspoken pronouncements on this issue.  An example is found in his article "The World as Sacrament of Creation", a few paragraphs of which
are reproduced below.  Click here for the complete essay. 


...It is unfortunate that we lead our life without noticing the environmental concert that is playing out before our eyes and ears.  In this orchestra, each minute detail plays a critical role.  Nothing can be removed without the entire symphony being affected.  No tree, animal or fish can be removed without the entire picture being distorted, if not destroyed...

...In order to achieve this sacramental vision of creation, human beings are called to practice a spirituality of thanksgiving and self-discipline.  In theological terms, we are called to be "eucharistic" and "ascetic" beings.  In theis way, the Orthodox Church reminds us that creation is not simply our possession or property, but rather a gift from God the Creator, a gift of wonder and beauty.  From the moment of creation, this world was offered by God as a gift to be returned in gratitude and love.

This is precisely how the Orthodox spiritual way avoids the problem of the world's domination by humanity.  For if this world is a sacred mystery, then this in itself precludes any attempt at mastery by human beings.  Indeed, the mastery or exploitative control of the world's resources is identified more with Adam's "original sin" than with God's wonderful gift.  It is the result of selfishness and greed, which arise from alienation from God and an abandonment of the sacramental worldview.  Sin separated the sacred from the secular, dismissing the latter to the domain of evil and surrendering it as prey to exploitation.

Beyond a "eucharistic" spirituality, we are also called to practice an "ascetic ethos," namely self-restraint and self-control, so that we no longer willfully consume every fruit, but instead manifest a sense of frugality from some things for the sake of valuing all things.  Then, we shall learn to care for plants and animals, for trees and rivers, for mountains and seas, for all human beings and the world.  Then, we shall be instruments of peace and life, not tools of violence and death.  Then, everything will assume its divine purpose, as God originally intended the world.

...If the earth is sacred, then our relationship with the natural environment is sacramental.  The "sin of Adam" is precisely his refusal to receive the world as a gift of communion with God and with the rest of creation.  St Paul clearly emphasizes the consequences of the Fall, claiming that "from the beginning till now, the entire creation, which as we know has been groaning in pain" (Rom 8:22), also "waits with eager longing this revelation by the children of God." (Rom 8:19)

However, far too long have we focused--as churches and as theologians--on the notion of sin as a rupture in individual relations with each other or with God.  The environmental crisis reminds us of the cosmic consequences of sin, which are more than merely social or narrowly spiritual.  Every act of pollution is an offense against God as creator.  Repentance implies a radical change of ways and worldview.  Some fifteen years ago, at a conference in Santa Barbara, we declared:

To commit a crime against the natural world is a sin.  To cause species to become extinct and destroy the biological diversity of God's creation; to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing climate change; to strip the earth of its natural forests or destroy its wetlands; to contaminate the earth's waters--all of these are sins.

Society for Eastern Rite Anglicanism  

Posted by Joe Rawls

A little over a month ago, on Holy Cross day, a  new Anglican organization called the Society for Eastern Rite Anglicanism (SERA) was officially launched.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that many people besides me are interested in incorporating Eastern Orthodox spirituality and liturgy into the Anglican tradition.  The brainchild of Fr Justin Cannon of St Giles church in Moraga (Episcopal Diocese of California), SERA's goal is the eventual establishment of a network of worship communities using Eastern Christian liturgies, as well as support for individuals interested in Orthodox forms of contemplative prayer.  I encourage all my readers to check it out.  A link to SERA's website has been included in the "Anglicans" section of the outer sidebar. 

SERA also maintains a very active Facebook page.

Poems of Teresa of Avila  

Posted by Joe Rawls

For Teresa's feast day I share four of her poems.  Some others--in English translation--can be found here


Laughter came from every brick
Just these two words He spoke
changed my life.
"Enjoy Me."
What a burden I thought I was to carry--
a crucifix, as did He.
Love once said to me, "I know a song,
would you like to hear it?"
And laughter came from every brick in the street
and from every pore
in the sky.
After a night of prayer, He
changed my life when
He sang,
"Enjoy Me."

I would cease to be
God dissolved my mind--my separation.
I cannot describe my intimacy with Him.
How dependent is your body's life on water and food and air?
I said to God, "I will always be unless you cease to Be."
And my Beloved replies, "And I
would cease to Be
if you died."

God alone is enough
Let nothing upset you,
let nothing startle you.
All things pass;
God does not change.
Patience wins
all it seeks.
Whoever has God
lacks nothing:
God alone is enough.

Christ has no body
Christ has no body now on earth but yours,

 No hands but yours,
no feet but yours;
Yours are the eyes through which is to look out
Christ's compassion to the world;
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless his people now.

John Wesley on Universal Restoration  

Posted by Joe Rawls

John Wesley (1703-1791), priest of the Church of England and founder of Methodism,  had a wide-ranging theological imagination.  A classical scholar, he was steeped in the writings of the Greek and Latin Fathers.  His notion of "sanctification" is virtually identical with the Eastern Christian concept of theosis.  Another shared interest with the East concerns eschatology, the branch of theology dealing with the end of the present space-time continuum and the start of "the life of the world to come."  Wesley clearly believed that at the eschaton not only human beings would be resurrected.  The entire physical cosmos, including animals and plants, would also be restored in some sense.  A key scriptural text alluding to this is Romans 8: 19-21:  "Indeed, the whole created world eagerly awaits the revelation of the sons of God.  Creation was made subject to futility not of its own accord but by him who once subjected it; yet not without hope, because the world itself will be freed from its slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God." 

Wesley expanded on this and other biblical texts in a sermon excerpted in The Christian Theology Reader, Alister E McGrath ed, second edition, Blackwell 2001, pp 630-631.


But will "the creature", will even the brute creation, always remain in this deplorable condition?  God forbid that we should affirm this; yea, or even entertain such a thought.  While "the whole creation groaneth together" (whether men attend or not), their groans are not dispersed in idle air, but enter the ears of Him that made them.  While His creatures "travail together in pain," he knoweth all their pain, and is bringing them nearer and nearer to the birth, which shall be accomplished in its season.  He seeth the "earnest expectation" wherewith the whole animated creation "waiteth for" that final "manifestation of the sons of God," in which "they themselves also shall be delivered" (not by annihilation; annihilation is not deliverance) "from the present bondage of corruption into" a measure of " the glorious liberty of the children of God"...

A general view of this is given us in the twenty first chapter of the Revelation.  When He that "sitteth on the great white throne" hath pronounced "Behold, I make all things new", when the word is fulfilled, "the tebernacle of God is with men, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God"--then the following blessing shall take place (not only on the children of men; there is no such restriction in the text; but) on every creature according to its capacity....

To descend to a few particulars.  The whole brute creation will then, undoubtedly, be restored, not only to the vigour, strength, and swiftness which they had at their creation, but to a far higher degree of each than they ever enjoyed.  They will be restored, not only to that measure of understanding which they had in paradise, but to a degree of it as much higher than that, as the understanding of an elephant is beyond that of a worm.  And whatever affections they had in the garden of God, will be restored with vast increase; being exalted and refined in a manner which we ourselves are not able to comprehend.  The liberty they then had will be completely restored, and they will be free in all their motions.  They will be delivered from all irregular appetites, from all unruly passions, from every disposition that is either evil in itself, or has any tendency to evil.  No rage will be found in any creature, no fierceness, no cruelty, or thirst for blood.  So far from it that "the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the young lion together, and a little child shall lead them.  The cow and the bear shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like an ox.  They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain" (Isaiah 11: 6-7)....

But though I doubt not that the Father of All has a tender regard for even his lowest creatures, and that, in consequence of this, he will make them large amends for all they suffer while under their present bondage; yet I dare not affirm that he has an equal regard for them and for the children of men.