Daily Prayer Guide

THIS PAGE IS BEING EDITED AT PRESENT JAN 2021


A Course of Daily Theological Reflections on Christian Responsibility for
the Care and Keeping of God’s Creation


The Vision and Spiritual Direction of the Patriarchs and Hierarchs
of the Orthodox Church


Month Eleven November 1-30, 2020

Introduction
We are now eleven months into this reading-a-day series from the Orthodox patriarchs and hierarchs. We have read their statements that show a unified view on creation care, based on Scripture, the Fathers, theology and our current leaders. This “cloud of witnesses” reveals that Orthodox hierarchs are astute in discerning the root causes of our global ecological plight, that the crisis is urgent, and that it results from a lifestyle out of harmony with the earth and particularly out of harmony with God and Jesus Christ.
We also know that we are called to take good care of God’s earth. Nevertheless a chasm exists in Orthodox parishes, and to some extent across all society, between knowing what is right, and living out that truth in our daily lives. That has always been the great human spiritual struggle, but now we face new challenges and urgency.
Our foremost obstacle is that we live within a godless secular culture and to some extent are captive to its worldview. This culture is characterized by consumerism which is composed of a basket of heretical concepts. These include individualism, materialism, secularism, and commercialism, and these are layered upon the ancient sins of pride, greed, envy and lust. Significantly in schools of advertising and salesmanship, these vices
are recognized as the keys to successful product sales. In other words those qualities, once called the deadly sins, are today the pathways to successful mass marketing.
The Church offers solutions to defeat these assaults on our hearts and minds. But we have to understand how and why we are handicapped by this culture. Our hierarchs teach that we must recognize that we each have a calling to serve as “priests of creation.”
If we fail to exercise this calling, we easily fall into a new captivity, certainly more subtle than the historic Ottoman or the communist captivity, yet no less pernicious to the life of the Church and its ability to transmit the blessings of Jesus Christ to the world. Even worse, this captivity is leading to the pollution and collapse of the entire planet.
How do we address this new captivity? What are our tools? What is our vision and strategic plan? Yes, we actually have one! On the following pages, the Orthodox patriarchs, speaking in harmony and one mind, lay out the steps by which we may defeat consumerism. When their individual guidance is connected together, something surprising emerges. They articulate a pathway, even a comprehensive plan and inspired strategy, by which the Orthodox Church is providing spiritual direction for addressing
the pernicious force of consumerism and its product global climate change. Diagram their respective commentaries and there it is! The inspired Orthodox plan for addressing global climate change.
Yours in Christ’s service,
MR – EM – ER – FK


Monday November 2, 2020
Facing the World’s Energy Challenge
There is no single solution to the present energy challenge. We do not have
to sacrifice economic security to assure environmental health. Prudence – the application of moral principle in service to the common good – should guide us to meet immediate needs in such a way as to enhance, not diminish future sustainability. And where there are genuine risks to health and well-being, the principle of precaution should guide our actions.
More investment in renewable energy and fuel efficiency is now a
moral imperative especially because these are technologically feasible and
economically viable. Energy conservation is prudent human action.
These concerns have entirely unprecedented moral urgency in the 21st
century. In its reliance on fossil fuels, American energy policy is a cause of
global climate change. With less than 5% of the world’s population, our
nation is generating more than 22% of greenhouse gas emissions. The United States has a moral responsibility to lead a transition to a new sustainable global energy system. Everything we do to assure safe and sustainable energy domestically must at the same time promote it internationally. We must join in binding international agreements which set energy conservation targets and timetables. Preventing climate change is a preeminent expression of faithfulness to our Creator God. Energy conservation is global leadership and solidarity.
HE Archbishop Demitrios, GREEK ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE OF AMERICA;
HE Metropolitan Philip (Saliba), Archdiocese of North America, ANTIOCHIAN ORTHODOX Church;
HE Metropolitan Christopher, President, Episcopal Council (SCOBA),
SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH IN THE USA AND CANADA;
HE Archbishop Mar Cyril Aphrem Karim, Patriarchal vicar for the eastern U.S.,
SYRIAN ORTHODOX (Malankara) CHURCH OF ANTIOCH;
HB Metropolitan Theodosius, THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA;
Joint statement: “Moral Reflection on Energy Policy and Global Warming,”
February, 2002
Q Why is energy policy a moral and even a spiritual issue?
Q Why, as the bishops say, is Energy conservation “prudent human action”?
Q How has American energy policy been a cause of global climate change?


Tuesday November 3, 2020
The Meaning of Christian Asceticism
Asceticism has been associated with a devaluation of matter for the sake of
‘higher’ and more ‘spiritual’ things. This implies a Platonic view of matter and the body, which is not compatible with the Christian tradition…. Such types of asceticism, involving a devaluation or contempt of the material world, aggravates instead of solves the ecological crisis.
An ‘ecological asceticism’ begins with deep respect for the material creation, including the human body. It builds upon the view that we are not possessors of creation, but are called to turn it into a vehicle of communion, always respecting its possibilities and limitations.
Human beings must realize that natural resources are not unlimited.
Creation is finite and so are the resources that nature can provide. The
consumerist philosophy seems to ignore this truth. We encourage growth and consumption by making ‘necessary’ things which previous generations could easily live without. We need to reconsider our concept of quality of life. Quality does not need quantity to exist. A restriction in our use of natural resources can lead to a life that is happier than the endless competition of spending and acquiring more and more. Qualitative growth must replace the prevailing conception of economic development…. Asceticism must become synonymous with qualitative instead of quantitative progress in society.
All this would involve major redefinitions in political, economic and
social institutions. Such a reorientation of our culture requires the involvement and cooperation of all the factors responsible for forming it. It would require a change in people’s deeper convictions and motivations, since no human being can sacrifice anything without a reason or motive.
HE Metropolitan John of Pergamon, “Production and Consumption,”
April, 1996
Q What is Christian asceticism? Can you explain it?
Q Why is ascesis beneficial and preferable to the consumerist way of life?
Q What is the example that we receive from the life of Jesus Christ?


Wednesday November 4, 2020
The Duty of Every Christian
Every Christian is called to be a steward, protector and “priest” of creation,
offering it by way of doxology to the Creator.
We must recall that climate change is an issue closely related to our
current model of economic development. An economy that ignores human
beings and human needs inevitably leads to an exploitation of the natural
environment. Nevertheless, we continue to threaten humanity’s existence and deplete nature’s resources in the name of short-term profit and benefit. How can we possibly imagine a sustainable development that comes at the expense of the natural environment?
There is always a tangible and local dimension to caring for creation.
Preserving and protecting the natural environment, as well as respecting and serving our fellow human beings. These are two sides of one and the same coin. The consequences of the ecological crisis—which affect, first and
foremost, the socially and economically vulnerable—are a serious threat for social cohesion and integration.
Moreover, there is an intimate link between caring for creation and
worshipping the Creator, between an economy for the poor and an ecology
for the planet. When we hurt people, we harm the earth. So, our extreme
greed and excessive waste are not only economically unacceptable; they are ecologically unsustainable. This is how we must interpret the Lord’s words in the parable of the last judgment: “I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink” (Matt. 25.35).
Dear friends, all of us are called to challenge—but also to change—the
way that we consume in order to learn how to conserve for the sake of our
planet and for the benefit of its people. When we con-serve, we recognize
that we must serve one another. “Con-serving” implies sharing our concern
for the earth and its inhabitants. It signifies the ability to see in our neighbor —and in every other person—the face of every human being and ultimately the face of God. Otherwise, we cannot say that we demonstrate compassion for our planet and our neighbor, or that we really care about the world’s resources and communities.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Athens, June 5, 2018

Q What is a “priest of creation”?
Q In what ways does this apply to you?
Q How are we given tools by God to address consumerism?


Thursday November 5, 2020
Frugality and Simplicity Needed to Face Climate Change
Global Climate Change has been on the Eastern Orthodox Christian
agenda for over twenty five years. In 1989 Ecumenical Patriarch +Dimitrios
began to raise the alarm when he observed “scientists… warn us of the
danger of the phenomena of the greenhouse whose first indications have
already been noted.”
In a letter to the 2013 Warsaw Climate Summit, Ecumenical
Patriarch Bartholomew brought a further cause of climate change into
focus: “Excess consumption.” Humanity’s reckless consumption of earth’s
resources threatens us with irreversible climate change. Burning more fuel
than we need, we contribute to droughts or floods thousands of miles away.
To restore the planet we need a spiritual worldview which cultivates
frugality and simplicity, humility and respect. We must constantly be aware of the impact of our actions on creation. We must direct our focus away from what we want to what the planet needs. We must care for creation. Otherwise, we do not really care about anything at all.
In our efforts to contain global warming, we are demonstrating how
prepared we are to sacrifice our selfish and greedy lifestyles. When will we learn to say: “Enough!”? When will we understand how important it is to leave as light a footprint as possible for the sake of future generations?
HE Archbishop Seraphim of Zimbabwe, Patriarchate
of Alexandria and All Africa, June 18, 2014

Q Why is excess consumption harmful to the world?
Q What is required in our attitudes to restrain consumption?
Q What is our individual responsibility in restraining consumption?


Friday November 6, 2020
The Commandment to “Love the Trees”
On the Holy Mountain of Athos, the monks sometimes put up beside the
forest paths special signposts, offering encouragement or warning to the
pilgrims. One such notice used to give me particular pleasure. Its message was “Love the trees.”
Fr. Amphilochios, the “elder” on the Island of Patmos when I first stayed
there, would have been in full agreement. “Do you know,” he said, “that God gave us one more commandment, which is not recorded in Scripture? It is the commandment ‘love the trees.’ Whoever does not love trees, so he believed, does not love God.” “When you plant a tree,” he insisted, “you plant hope, you plant peace, you plant love, and you will receive God’s blessing.”
An ecologist long before ecology had become fashionable, when hearing
confessions of the local farmers he used to assign to them a penance, the task of planting a tree. During the long summer drought, he himself went round the island watering the young trees. His example and influence transformed Patmos: Photographs of the hillside near the Cave of the Apocalypse, taken at the start of the twentieth century, show bare and barren slopes, where today there is a thick and flourishing wood.
Fr. Amphilochios was by no means the first spiritual teacher to recognize
the importance of trees. Two centuries earlier, St. Kosmas the Aetolian,
martyred in 1779, used to plant trees as he traveled around Greece on his
missionary journeys. In one of his “prophecies” he stated, “People will remain poor, because they have no love for trees.” We can see that prophecy fulfilled today in too many parts of the world.
“Love the trees.” Why should we do so? Is there indeed a connection
between love of trees and love of God? How far is it true that a failure to
reverence and honor our natural environment — animals, trees, earth, fire, air, and water – is also, in an immediate and soul-destroying way, a failure to reverence and honor the living God?
HE Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, “Through Creation to the Creator,”
London, UK, 1996

Q Can you examine the effects of sin on people and the environment?
Q What is necessary to heal this condition?
Q How does the command of the angel in Rev. 7:3 relate to this command?

Saturday November 7, 2020
Humans Need to Regain Their Christian Identity
W e h a v e received with joy your kind invitation to participate in the
International Conference on Orthodox Spirituality with the theme “Man,
Custodian of Creation.” This theme suggests a revival of contemporary thought about the meaning of life in the new conditions of modern civilization, on which depends our future, especially the efforts of the mission of the Church and of our common Christian witness in the modern world.
We, as Christians taught by Holy Tradition and the experience of
the holy Church Fathers, always link this theme with the need for repentance because when man fell, due to his sin, he lost his identity. Because of his tendency toward transgression, man became weak and cannot find strength in himself to return to his Creator. Man accepts God’s love and becomes a being of communication, a being as communion, improving, with all the Saints, his God-likeness. The human becomes a custodian of creation because it is created by the will of God for only one reason – to become one in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:15). The human person is called to protect the work of God’s hands because the deeds of God protect and nurture him. The creation needs God for its very existence as it cannot exist by itself. Man is searching for eternity and he is determined to care for the conjunction of unity and differences.
Love disables divisions while the Spirit assembles all.
We are profoundly hurt by witnessing the divisions in Christian truth
before the modern world which is yearning for spiritual direction and meaning in the mystery of life. We are firmly convinced that the theme for your Conference is for the benefit and joy of all Christians. With these sentiments we greet you cordially, conveying to you and your monastic brotherhood and all the participants of the conference, our prayerful wishes for the grace of God and success in the forthcoming days.
His Beatitude Patriarch Irinej, Metropolitan of Belgrade and All-Serbia,
Serbian Orthodox Church, Letter to Abbot Enzo, August 31, 201

Q How is the fall related to environmental destruction?
Q Why are human beings the protector of God’s works?
Q How can man reclaim his lost identity?


Monday November 9, 2020
Environmental Pollution is Sin
We invite Orthodox Christians to engage in repentance for the way in which we have behaved toward God, each other, and the world.
If human beings treated one another’s personal property the way they
treat their environment, we would view that behavior as anti-social. We would impose the necessary judicial measures to restore wrongly appropriated personal possessions. It is therefore appropriate, for us to seek ethical, legal recourse where possible, in matters of ecological crimes.
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 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 forgiveness of sins committed both willingly and
unwillingly. Thus we begin the process of healing our worldly environment.
We are urging a different and more satisfactory ecological ethic. How
we treat the earth and all of creation defines the relationship that each of us has with God. We must be spokespeople for an ecological ethic that reminds the world that it is not ours to use for our own convenience. It is God’s gift of love to us and we must return his love by protecting it and all that is in it.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Symposium on the Environment,
Santa Barbara, California, November 8, 1997

Q Why does our treatment of the earth define our relationship to God?
Q Why is pollution and defilement of the earth a sin?
Q How much must our lifestyle change if we are to rightly care for God’s earth?


Tuesday November 10, 2020
Christians Must Become Sensitive to Ecological Issues
It is important that [Orthodox] Church members become increasingly
sensitive about environmental issues…. That will be challenging for the
people of the Church, but I think that we have already begun the process.
We have identified one problem as being indifference towards God’s
creation.
One of our tasks is to help the people who come to church become
more aware that a passive attitude or indifference towards ecological issues is wrong, and that they should become more appreciative of the integrity of creation, in other words the integrity of God’s work.
Although it is not reasonable to expect results immediately, at least
we have made a start. Fortunately in the Church we live in hope, and
therefore we have the hope that we shall be more effective in the future.
HB Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, Symposium on The Book of Revelation, Reflections, September 27, 1995

Q Why is sensitivity to ecological issues important?
Q What is insensitivity to ecological issues? Why might this condition arise?
Q How does a person overcome this sort of insensitivity?

Wednesday November 11, 2020
Priestly Asceticism is for All Christians
The ecological problem, at root, is a spiritual issue. Many people dealing with the environment tend to overlook its spiritual aspects. Yet both historically and practically it is impossible to address it without reference to religion and ethics. What motivation can religion offer people facing the ecological crisis?


Here are some suggestions:


Stressing and promoting the idea of the sacredness of creation in all its
aspects, spiritual as well as material.


A human is the Priest of creation as he or she freely turns it into a
vehicle of communion with God and fellow human beings. This means that
material creation is…a sacred gift from God which is meant to foster and
promote communion with God and with others. Such a ‘liturgical’ use of nature by human beings leads to forms of culture which are deeply respectful of the material world while keeping the human person at the centre.


An “ecological asceticism,” if we may coin such a term, begins with deep
respect for the material creation, including the human body, and builds upon the view that we are not masters and possessors of creation, but we are called to turn the creation into a vehicle of communion…. This last point is of paramount importance. Human beings must realize that natural resources are not unlimited. Creation is finite and so are the resources that nature provides for our needs. The consumerist philosophy of life ignores this truth.


Reconsider our concept of quality of life. Quality does not need quantity
to exist. A restriction in our use of natural resources can lead to a happier life than the endless competition of spending and acquiring more and more. Qualitative growth must replace the concept of economic development which is dominated by quantitative statistics. Asceticism must cease to be a notion referring to a class of religious eccentrics and become synonymous with qualitative – instead of quantitative – progress in human societies.
HE Metropolitan John of Pergamon, “Ecological Asceticism: A Cultural Revolution,” April, 1996

Q What does it mean that God’s creation is sacred in terms of human behavior?
Q How would you define ecological asceticism?
Q What does it mean to be a priest of creation?

Thursday November 12, 2020
The Living Symbolism of Creation
The man who takes communion should become a man who sanctifies. The
mystical way in Orthodoxy requires as a necessary stage the contemplation of nature, a vision of “the secrets of the glory of God hidden in things,” to quote a great mystic who was both an Arab and a Christian, Saint Isaac the Syrian.
Another Christian Arab, Maximos the Confessor, interprets this
contemplation as an extension of the eucharist. “Living things,” he said, “reveal themselves as the body of the Lord, and their celestial roots as his ‘blood.’” Man can make his own the interiority of things; he can share in their praise; he can hear it in them; he can make it conscious and vocal in himself. Again, Maximos says, “It is important to gather the spiritual truths, the logoi of all things, and to present them to God as offerings on behalf of creation.”
Yes, for us as monks, as it was for the Fathers of the Church, the world,
and I am quoting St Ephrem the Syrian, “is an ocean of symbols.” St Maximos wrote, “Here he is, the Invisible in visible things, the Impalpable in palpable things. Thus does He gather us into Himself from all things.”
If we think that nature is sufficient, that it can be reduced to blind
processes in a world which is immense and closed, then nature has no meaning and death has the last word…. But ecclesial man, the man-in-Christ, who is consciously an image of God, discovers meaning everywhere. Nothing is closed to him and the world is translucent.
To this symbolic structure of the world there corresponds a symbolic
knowledge; one which detects “verticality” in things, which detects the glory of God, a glory which by definition cannot be grasped, but nonetheless reveals itself to our understanding when we are seized by it. Think of the importance of the notion of “wonder” in the Bible. The symbol gives rise to a form of awareness which is resplendent with its own self-evidence and which cannot be separated from a feeling of tenderness at the beauty and gentleness of God.
HB Patriarch IGNATIUS IV of Antioch, “A Spirituality of Creation,”
Lausanne, Switzerland, March 11, 1989

Q What is the role of symbols in the Church?
Q How does one detect a symbolic “verticality” in all things?
Q What is a symbolic knowledge?

Friday November 13, 2020
What Values Guide Our Energy Choices?
We call on all Americans, and particularly our own leaders and congregants, to consider carefully these values, which should guide our individual energy choices and by which we should judge energy policy options. In securing human well-being by preserving creation and promoting justice, conservation is a personal and a public virtue – a comprehensive moral value – a standard for everything we do to assure energy for a wholesome way of life.
We pray that the wisdom, faith, and solidarity of the American people
will bring us together – at this critical juncture – to redirect our national
energy policy toward conservation, efficiency, justice, and maximum use of
the perennial abundance of clean and renewable energy that our Creator
brought into being by proclaiming, “Let there be light” (Gen 1:3).
“At stake are: the future of God’s creation on earth; the nature
and durability of our economy; our public health and public lands; the
environment and quality of life we bequeath our children and grandchildren.
We are being called to consider national purpose, not just policy.”
His Eminence Archbishop Demitrios, GREEK ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE OF AMERICA;
HE Metropolitan Philip (Saliba), Archdiocese of North America, ANTIOCHIAN ORTHODOX Church;
HE Metropolitan Christopher, President, Episcopal Council (SCOBA);
SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH IN THE USA AND CANADA;
HE Archbishop Mar Cyril Aphrem Karim, Patriarchal vicar for the eastern U.S., SYRIAN ORTHODOX (Malankara) CHURCH OF ANTIOCH;
HB Metropolitan Theodosius, THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA;
Joint statement: “Moral Reflection on Energy Policy and Global Warming,”
February, 2002

Q Why do our energy choices shape the future of God’s creation?
Q How might you respond to this call from the bishops on right energy use?
Q How might the world change if we applied Christian principles to daily life?

Saturday November 14, 2020
Discerning Beauty in Nature and Every Person
According to the sixth century theologian Dionysius the Areopagite, the most fundamental name of God is ‘good.’ This essential good, by the fact of its existence, extends goodness into all things. For Dionysius, what exists is good, and what is good is beautiful.
Dionysius gives us a picture of the universe in which God is the
source of all that is. For Dionysius, perceptible beauty is a dim reflection of the unutterable Beauty of the Creator. It lifts our minds and hearts to its source…. The inanimate world and the world of plants and animals conforms to models that express the will of God, divine paradigms we are unable to perceive directly, but whose mediated presence, we can intuitively perceive.
Mankind alone does not conform to the divine paradigm… and therefore
does not conform to the image of God within. That image is not confined
to his conscience, or his reason…. It is found in the whole of his being. Each
individual human being is a hologram of the universe: everything that is ‘out there’ is also ‘in here.’ Each of us is a microcosm of the whole. That is why we can experience plants and animals as our sisters and brothers, because their existence is implicit in the deeper levels of our being.
Thus our ecological task is to find ourselves in the universe, and find the
universe in us. Our understanding will never reach the depths that are within us. However, we do not have to know everything before we begin to act. The truth of our actions will depend on our conforming to the deep structure of our own nature, and thereby bring our mode of behavior, into conformity with the will of God, which is known to us in part, through the world. All religious traditions have ways of helping their members to do this, and we must use the resources of our traditions for a common goal, a common good.
HG Bishop Basil of Sergievo, Russian Orthodox Church,
Symposium on the Black Sea, September 26, 1997

Q What is beauty?
Q How may beauty become a teacher of personal behavior?
Q What does it mean that each person is a hologram of the universe?

Monday November 16, 2020
Our Prayer for the Restoration of the Earth
The world … is offered to us as a gift by our Creator as an arena of social activity but also of spiritual sanctification in order that we might inherit the creation[which is] to be renewed in the future age. Such has always been the theological position of the Holy Church of Christ, which is why we have pioneered an ecological effort… for the protection of our planet….
Of course, biodiversity is the work of divine wisdom and was not granted
to humanity for its unruly control. By the same token, dominion over the earth implies rational use and enjoyment of its benefits, not destructive acquisition of its resources out of greed. Nevertheless, in our times, we observe an excessive abuse of natural resources, resulting in the destruction of the environmental balance of the planet’s ecosystems and generally of ecological conditions, so that the divinely – ordained regulations upon human existence are increasingly transgressed. For
instance, all of us – scientists as well as religious and political leaders – are witnessing a rise in the atmosphere’s temperature, extreme weather conditions, the pollution of ecosystems on land and sea, and an overall disturbance – sometimes to the point of utter destruction – of the potential for life in some regions of the world.
We are obliged to admit that the causes of these ecological changes are not
inspired by God but initiated by humans. Thus, the invocation and supplication of the Church and us all to God… for the restoration of creation are essentially a petition of repentance for our sinfulness in destroying the world instead of working to preserve and sustain its ever-flourishing resources reasonably and carefully.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, September 1, 2012

Q What is our duty to God regarding care of the environment?
Q What must we do to avoid despoiling the earth?
Q What happens when we fail at this responsibility?

Tuesday November 17, 2020
Intensify Cooperation to Protect God’s Creation
The Orthodox Church appreciates these efforts to overcome the ecological
crisis and calls people to intensive co-operation in actions aimed to protect
God’s creation. At the same time, she notes that these efforts will be more
fruitful if the basis on which man’s relations with nature are built will be
not purely humanistic, but also Christian.
One of the main principles of the Church’s stand on ecological issues
is the unity and integrity of the world created by God. Orthodoxy does not
view nature as an isolated and self-enclosed structure. The plant, animal and human worlds are interconnected.
In the Christian view, nature is not a repository of resources intended
for egotistical and irresponsible consumption. Rather, it is a house in which
man is not the master, but a housekeeper. It is a temple in which he is the
priest serving not nature, but the one Creator. The conception of nature as a temple is based on the principle of theocentrism: God Who gives to all “life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25) is the Source of being. Therefore, life itself in its various manifestations is sacred, being a gift of God. Any encroachment on it is a challenge not only to God’s creation, but also to the Lord Himself.
HB Patriarch Kyrill, Archbishop of Moscow and All-Russia,
Statement of the Russian Orthodox Church on Ecological programs, #4,
June 1, 2012

Q What are the Orthodox theological foundations for action to heal God’s earth?
Q How might a person help protect the earth? List the different ways.
Q What is the practical meaning of each person as a priest of creation?


Wednesday November 18, 2020
Each Person Stands Between Two Realities
Man is a mediator. He is poised between two realities – God and the world.
He shares in both, he is united to both. He cannot live apart from either.
That is the meaning of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The only humanity
that can survive is the new humanity, the humanity that has now been
inseparably, indivisibly united with God in Jesus Christ.
The new humanity is a mediating humanity – a humanity that
reconciles and unites God and the world. It is an incarnate humanity – a
humanity that is an inseparable part of the whole creation and inseparably
united to the Creator.
This is the meaning of the human presence in the cosmos. To be with
the one who unites. To be in Christ, uniting the divine and the human, the
Creator and the creation, the transcendent and the immanent, the spiritual
and the scientific-technological. To enter the mystery of “Christ in us,” yes, in us Christians, but also in us human beings, and in us as an integral part of the whole creation.
The subtle art of image making for the future needs skilled craftsmen
as well as the gift of the Spirit. The various crises of our time should be used neither as occasions for doom-saying pessimism nor as a chance to peddle empty-hope optimism. Every crisis is a judgement, a call to see where things have gone wrong and to seek to set matters right, both within our consciousness and in society.
The environmental crisis, the economic crisis, the crisis of justice, the
crisis of faith…, the crisis of militarism – of all of these are symptoms not only that humanity has yet to become what it has to be, but also that it is on the wrong track.
HE Metropolitan Mar Paulos Gregorios, Syrian (Malankara) Orthodox Church of India, New Delhi, India, 1987

Q What does it mean that humans are mediators?
Q How is a mediating humanity akin to humans as priests of creation?
Q Why are crises messages to society?

Thursday November 19, 2020
Humans are Responsible for the State of the World
All humanity is responsible for the state of nature – God’s creation. Resource depletion, and environmental pollution, amid a rising world population, raise with special urgency the question of concerted efforts by all nations to preserve the biodiversity of life, the diligent use of natural resources, and the prevention of environmental disasters because of human activities.
The Ancestral Fall distorted primordial nature. Scripture testifies “the
creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but by the will of him who
subjected it” (Rom. 8:20). Pollution and destruction of nature are the direct
consequence of human sin, its visible embodiment. Various manifestations of sinful attitudes toward nature are characteristic of consumer society, which emphasizes the main purpose of making a profit. The only way to restore the health of nature is spiritual rebirth of the individual and society, in a true Christian, ascetic, human relation to one’s own needs, curbing the passions in consistent self-restraint.
Guided by God’s commandment to protect the created world (Genesis
2:15), and care for human spiritual and physical health, the Russian Orthodox Church is committed to continue discussion about environmental issues, and to work on this problem in collaboration with all who are concerned about our environment and maintaining a healthy and normal life.
The Russian Orthodox Church, confessing biblical teaching about the
relationship between humans and the world, promotes understanding of the theological and philosophical bases for environmental action. This vision emphasizes the difference between a theocentric worldview and a humanist anthropocentrism, which views the world as a source of “selfish and irresponsible consumption,” and the pagan deification of nature, which
sometimes elevates nature above human beings, and that people should not change or interfere with nature.
HB Patriarch Kyrill and the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, English translation by Olesya Siewers. February 5, 2013

Q Why are humans responsible for the state of the world?
Q How do God’s commands ensure a healthy world?
Q What is the Church’s vision of the created world?

Friday November 20, 2020
The Continuing Work of the Church
I pray from my heart for all the workers and missionaries of the love of
Christ, the Metropolitans and Bishops of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and
All Africa, the Priests through out Africa and our blessed children, Greeks,
Arabs, Africans, Serbs, Russians and Romanians, Bulgarians, Ukrainians and other nationalities, that the Grace of the Most Holy God will strengthen
your lives always.
Now that the new period of Missionary and Catechetical work is about
to start, we are all geared towards sowing and harvesting of the Word of God in the hearts of the people. The evangelization of the nations, the teaching of the people of God regarding the important issues of faith and Christian life, the great problems of the world and society, joblessness, narcotics, diseases, wars, the ecological problem, destruction and pollution of the environment and many others, create in us all a huge problem and an internal need for prayer, strong prayer, so that solutions can be found for all levels.
Having our faith in Christ as a rule, the joy and optimism which stem
from this perspective, we will continue with the “good fight,” we will remain in the battlements and we will all be humble Missionaries of the good and the beautiful, that which our Orthodox Church teaches us, applying the exhortations of St Paul, which is beneficial for us all.
I send to you all the heartfelt Patriarchal blessing of the Apostle Mark
and my Paternal prayer, that the Almighty God “who holds the times and the seasons in His own authority,” may protect and bless the whole world, the blessed and suffering land of Africa, the continent of the future, the crossroads of civilizations, granting health and happiness to all.
His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, Alexandria, Egypt, September 1, 2009

Q How do you understand the work of the Church?
Q How might you participate in this great work?
Q Do you know what the exhortations of Saint Paul involve?


Saturday November 21, 2020
The Ecological Crisis as a Moral Crisis
The ecological crisis demonstrates that we cannot have two ways of looking at the world: religious on the one hand and worldly on the other. We cannot
separate our concern for human dignity, human rights or social justice from concern for ecological preservation and sustainability….
If we value each individual, made in the image of God, and if we value
every particle of God’s creation, then we will care for each other and our world. In religious terms, the way we relate to nature directly reflects the way we relate to God and to our fellow human beings, as well as the way we relate to the biodiversity of creation. At stake is not just respect for biodiversity, but our very survival. Scientists calculate that those most harmed by global warming will be the most vulnerable. It is those living in the typhoon-prone Philippines who are being forced not only to deal with the miseries of flooded homes and prolonged disruption, but to make fundamental changes in their way of life. And there is a bitter injustice about the fact that those suffering the worst ravages have done the least to contribute to it. The ecological crisis is directly related to the ethical challenge of eliminating poverty and advocating human rights.
This means that global warming is a moral crisis and a moral challenge.
The dignity and rights of human beings are intimately and integrally related to the poetry and – we would dare to say – the rights of the earth itself.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Manila, The Philippines, February 26, 2015

Q How can there be unity between our spiritual and material views of the world?
Q How is it that the way we relate to nature reflects on the way we relate to God?
Q Why is global climate change a critical moral problem?

Monday November 23, 2020
An Orthodox Ecological Ethic
The Orthodox ecological ethic goes beyond responsible stewardship.
“Stewardship” is an ethical concept that is accessible to all, even to those
outside the Church. Its themes of responsibility, balance, and prudence are
amenable to common sense…. The best of the secular ecologists reflect the
ideal of stewardship in their statements.
The ideal of stewardship is not enough. The Orthodox ecological
ethic is also ecclesial – and it is this dimension of our ethic that is
especially needed today. What is ecclesial in the Orthodox ecological ethic
is the revelation that man is a source of blessing for the natural world.
Mankind has a priestly role, a eucharistic vocation, in mediating God’s
grace to Creation.
This emphasis is reflected time and again in Orthodox ecclesial life.
The euchologion frequently calls for man’s interaction with the things of
Creation in the Holy Mysteries. Palms and willow branches are blessed on
Palm Sunday. Flowers and herbs are blessed on Transfiguration. Basil and
flowers are blessed at Holy Cross. There are prayers of blessing for new
fields, beehives and orchards and gardens to yield great bounty and harvest.
Through all this blessing, there is the constant theme of man gathering
God’s creatures, and bringing them into higher participation in Grace.
Man is the only creature in Creation that is a person, both body and
soul. Thus, man has the task of harmonizing and uniting the world of the
soul with the world of the body and matter. This is the task of blessing. It
is a task that is comprised of the right use of the world. But it is a task that
calls for man to be transformed…. The Orthodox ecological ethic calls for
nothing less than for the ecologist to pursue the spiritual life.
HE Metropolitan Nicholas of Amisso, Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church,
“Man as Curse or Blessing,” Antiochian Village, June 15, 2002

Q What does Orthodox ecclesial life involve?
Q Why is it that stewardship of creation is not enough?
Q How would you define an Orthodox understanding of the right use of the world?

Tuesday November 24, 2020
The Core of the Orthodox Ecological Ethic
The person who enters a life of repentance, seeking spiritual purification,
will win freedom from the passions that inflame consumerism and other
forms of environmental exploitation. The one who continues in the spiritual life, who seeks illumination, will discern in each creature its logos. He will discern the meaning and purpose that creature has received from God… Finally, the one who seeks first the Kingdom of God and its
righteousness will acquire the Holy Spirit. He will become a conduit for
the presence of grace and God’s Uncreated Energies. The unifying and
restorative energies of God Himself will flow through his life, and will
accomplish much salvation for the created world. Have we not seen this in
the life of St. Sergius of Radonezh? Or in the life of St. Seraphim of Sarov?
The Saint is the image of the Orthodox ecological ethic. The
environment needs now, more than ever, such a source of Divine Grace.
“Creation awaits with eager longing for the sons of God,” St. Paul wrote
in his Epistle to the Romans (8:19). Creation waits for man to take his
rightful role in the natural scheme. For too long, man has been a “curse”
to Creation. It began with Adam and Eve’s destructive declaration of
autonomy at The Fall, and the curse continued through aeons of warfare,
pollution and unbridled waste.
The Orthodox ecological ethic testifies that the long legacy of the
ecological curse can be stopped by the moral freedom of each person. It
can be stopped, and things can be put right again, when a Christian thanks
God for every gift, and prays so that its use may be true to grace. In this
way, and this way only, man can be a blessing, and not a curse.
HE Metropolitan Nicholas of Amisso, Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church,
“Man as Curse or Blessing,” Antiochian Village, June 15, 2002

Q Why are the saints models of the Orthodox ecological ethic?
Q What happens when we bless God’s creation?
Q How may we stop the ancient curse and restore grace?


Wednesday November 25, 2020
The Path of the Saints
The Saints have always taught that no one is saved alone and, therefore, that no one should strive for individual salvation, but for the salvation of the whole world. Such a teaching is affirmed in the environmental field and confirmed by science. This conviction constitutes an essential aspect of the environmental ethos, required both of believers who rely on the precepts of faith and of those who wish to establish an ethos based on reason.
This concern for the salvation of all humanity and the preservation
of all creation is translated into a merciful heart and sensitive attitude, so
characteristically described by the seventh-century ascetic, Abba Isaac
the Syrian. We are responsible not only for our actions, but also for the
consequences of our interventions. After all, no responsible ruler leaves the growth of one’s people unplanned and to the mercy of fate. Rather, a wise ruler assumes appropriate measures for the people’s growth in accordance with specific goals.
As ruler of creation, humanity is obliged to plan for its preservation
and development. This requires the recruitment of scientific knowledge and involves the respect of all life, especially of the primacy of human life. It is precisely such a vision that also constitutes the fundamental criterion for any environmental ethos.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Symposium on the Adriatic, June 6, 2002

Q Why is it that we are not saved alone, but collectively?
Q What is our Christian vision of creation and how does this relate to salvation?
Q How does saving the creation relate to saving our own souls?

Thursday November 26, 2020
Asceticism and Self-Sufficiency
Orthodox Christians have learned from the Church Fathers to restrict and
reduce our needs as far as possible. In response to the ethos of consumerism we propose the ethos of asceticism, namely an ethos of self-sufficiency to what is needed. This does not mean deprivation, but rational and restrained consumption as well as the moral condemnation of waste. “So if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (1 Tim. 6.8), as the Lord’s Apostle urges us. And after the multiplication of the five loaves and the satisfaction of five thousand people, excluding women and children, Christ Himself ordered His disciples to collect the remainder “so that nothing would be lost” (John 6.12).
Unfortunately, contemporary societies have abandoned the application of
this commandment, surrendering to wastefulness and irrational abuse to satisfy vain desires of prosperity. However, such conduct can be transformed for the sake of creating resources and energy by more appropriate means.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Letter on the Annual Day of
Prayers for Creation, September 1, 2015

Q What is an ethos of asceticism?
Q How is it applied?
Q How does a person make the break from consumerism into asceticism?

Friday November 27, 2020
The Orthodox Christian Ecological Ethic
The Orthodox Christian ecological ethic protests against the consumerist
ethic. The truth of “dominion” in the Holy Tradition is clear: man was
given primacy in Creation; but he was given primacy with the responsibility of stewardship.
A good steward uses the resources of his Master, but he does not
merely “consume.” A good steward is careful to protect the things of his
Master’s house: he protects against destruction and decay. He would never
permit pollution, rainforest burning, extinction of entire species. He would
be alarmed by global warming, ozone depletion, and the loss of wetlands.
We say this while believing firmly in the primacy of man in God’s
creation. We cannot agree with radical environmentalists who oppose
human dominion… some of them go so far as to oppose any human place
within the environment….
It should be self-evident that such an ethic [as consumerism] is
utterly foreign to Christian piety. Christians, by their very nature,
should recoil from such a wanton manifestation of the passions of pride,
avarice and gluttony. Unfortunately we have become so habituated to
this ethic that we no longer recoil. We no longer find it foreign. Why is
it that we are not insulted, as we should be, when we are called –
everyday – “consumers”?
HE Metropolitan Nicholas of Amisso, Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church,
Antiochian Village, June 15, 2002

Q What is a right Christian attitude toward the world?
Q Why is the consumerist attitude to the world wrong?
Q During our holidays how should we apply our Christian ethic?

Saturday November 28, 2020
The Human Duty to Sanctify the World
God has not allowed humanity to be a mere spectator or an irresponsible
consumer of the world and of all that is in the world. Indeed, humanity is
called to assume the task of being primarily a partaker and a sharer in the
responsibility for everything in the created world. Having been endowed
from the beginning with “the image of God,” humanity is called to
continual self-transcendence so that in responsible synergy with God the
Creator, each person might sanctify the entire world, thus becoming a
faithful “minister” and “steward.”
It is clear that the concepts of minister and steward exceed by far the
contemporary accepted ideal of a person called “an ecologist,” not having
any further qualifications…. Just by becoming God’s minister and steward
over all of creation, does not mean that man simply prospers or is happy in
the world…. The main and lasting benefit of these qualifications is that by
using the world in a pious manner, humanity experiences the blessed
progression from the stage of “God’s image” to that of “divine likeness,” in
the same way that all the other good elements of the universe are
transformed, by the grace of God and even without human intervention,
from the stage of “potentiality” stage to that of “actuality” in fulfillment of
the pre-eternal plan of the entire divine economy….
Addressing the faithful of the Church and every person of goodwill
with these pious thoughts, we wish worthily and in a manner pleasing to
God to invite and encourage every person, and above all the faithful, to
constantly watch over his or her fellow human beings and the world, for
the benefit of us all and for the glory of the Creator.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Message on the Day of
Prayers for Creation, September 1, 1992

Q What is human purpose in relation to creation?
Q How does being in the image of God relate to the sanctification of the world?
Q How are we to watch over the world for the benefit of all?

Monday November 30, 2020
U.S. Bishops Statement on Climate Change (part one)
As Church leaders, it is our responsibility to speak to this condition [of global climate change] as it represents a grave moral and spiritual problem.
We wish to emphasize the seriousness and urgency of the situation.
To persist in a path of excess and waste, at the expense of our neighbors and beyond the capability of the planet to support the lifestyle responsible for these changes, is not only folly; it jeopardizes the survival of God’s creation… In the end, not only is it sinful; it is no less than suicidal.
But there is hope. Society can alter its behavior and avoid the more
serious consequences of climate change. To do this, we must work together
to reduce the way that we have exploited the earth’s resources, especially
fossil fuels. As Americans, we comprise barely 4% of the world’s people, yet
consume over 25% of its resources and energy. Justice and charity for our
neighbors demand a more frugal, simple way of living in order to conserve
the fruits of creation.
In order to make the required changes, we are called to pray for a
change in our personal attitudes and habits, in spite of any accompanying
inconvenience. Such is the depth of metanoia or repentance. The issue is not merely our response to climate change, but our failure to obey God. We must live in a manner that is consistent with what we believe and how we pray…. At minimum, this means caring about the effect of our lives upon our neighbors, respecting the natural environment, and demonstrating a willingness to live within the means of our planet. Such a change will require reduction in our consumption of fossil fuels as well as acceptance of alternative energy sources such as solar or wind power, and other methods that minimize our impact upon the world. We can do these things, but it will require intentional effort from each of us. …
HE Archbishop Demitrios, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America;
HE Metropolitan Philip (Saliba), Archdiocese of North America, Antiochian Orthodox Church; Church;
HE Metropolitan Christopher, President, Episcopal Council (SCOBA), Serbian Orthodox Church;
HE Archbishop Mar Cyril Aphrem Karim, Patriarchal vicar for eastern U.S., Syrian Orthodox Church;
HB Metropolitan Theodosius, The Orthodox Church in America (OCA);
Declaration on “Global Climate Change: A Moral and Spiritual Challenge,” adopted unanimously by the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), May 23, 2007.

Q Why is climate change a serious issue?
Q How can it be addressed?
Q What can and should you do?

Tuesday December 1, 2020
U.S. Bishops Statement on Climate Change (Con’t – part two)
Nevertheless, we cannot stop there. We must also learn all that we can about the emerging situation of climate change. We must set an example in the way we choose to live, reaching out and informing others about this threat.
We must discuss with fellow parishioners and – since climate change is
not only an issue for Orthodox Christians –– we must raise the issue before
public officials and elected representatives at the city, state and national levels.
We are all responsible for this situation, and each one of us can do something to address the problem.
In each generation, God sends some great tests that challenge the life and
future of society. One of the tests… is whether we will be obedient to the
commands that God has given us by exercising self-restraint in our use of energy, or will we ignore those commands and continue to seek the comforts and excesses that over-reliance on fossil fuels involves.
At every Divine Liturgy, we pray for seasonable weather. Let us enter
into this prayer and amend our lives in whatever ways may be necessary to
meet the divine command that we care for the earth as the Lord’s. If we can do this, if we can render our lives as a blessing rather than a curse for our neighbors and for the whole creation, then, God willing, we may live and flourish. This is not an optional matter. We will be judged by the choices we make. The Scriptures bluntly tell us that if we destroy the earth, then God will destroy us (Revelation 11:18).
Let us all recall the commands of God regarding our use of the earth.
Let us respond to the divine commandments so that the blessings of God
may be abundantly upon us. And let us responsibly discern the right, holy and proper way to live in this time of change and challenge. Then we shall “perceive everything in the light of the Creator God” (St. John Climacus, Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 4,58).
HE Archbishop Demitrios, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America;
HE Metropolitan Philip (Saliba), Archdiocese of North America, Antiochian Orthodox Church; Church;
HE Metropolitan Christopher, President, Episcopal Council (SCOBA), Serbian Orthodox Church;

Q.How many commands can you count in this two page statement from our bishops?
Q.What will it take to apply all of these directives?
Q.How will you share thIs message about Orthodox theology and climate change?


January Introduction
This creation care study course presents the public statements
of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew together
with other Orthodox patriarchs and hierarchs in an easy to use format.
This daily study program is designed for Orthodox Christians, but
all people may benefit from reflection on the depth, the beauty and
intricacy of the ancient Christian vision of human responsibility for
the care and keeping of God’s good earth.
There are two guiding principles in this method of presenting the teachings of
Eastern Christianity: First, “Let the patriarchs and bishops be your teachers in the
faith.” Second, let God’s will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” If the faithful will
do this much, we can extend the life of the Church into the life of the world.
The format is simple and designed to fit busy schedules. Review just one page
of readings per day. Examine the attached study questions. Do this six days per
week. No lesson is provided for Sunday.
As you read each daily entry, know that reading the text is only the initial layer of
understanding. To go deeper, pray to understand WHY a particular reading is an
element of Christian faith and HOW it can be integrated into your daily life.
When you begin, start with a simple prayer for insight and inspiration. Then read
the text for the day and examine the questions that follow. You can summarize your
response in the refection section at the end of each day’s reading or on a separate sheet
of paper.
The readings are deliberately short and contain only a few paragraphs. The
reflection questions are basic, but important as they allow for integration of the
message. These reflections are critical as this is where readers may encounter new
insights which can expedite the acquisition of fresh inspirations and expanded vision.
This simple process of daily readings can help priests and theologians as well
as novices, catechumens, and everyone in between to absorb the gospel message of
Christian responsibility for God’s creation.
Yours in service to God’s good earth,
Fred Krueger
editor

First Monday
The Joy of Genuine Thanksgiving

When Paul, the Apostle to the Nations, advised the Thessalonians to “give
thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18), he also counseled them to “always
rejoice, and pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:16-17), thus demonstrating that
thanksgiving as prayer and everlasting joy go together and coexist inseparably.
Truly, the one who gives thanks experiences the joy that comes from
the appreciation of that for which he or she is thankful, and from the overabundance
of joy they turn toward the Giver and Provider of the good things
received in grateful thanksgiving.
Conversely, the person who does not feel the internal need to thank the
Creator of all the good things of this very good world, but ungratefully and
egocentrically receives them – when the person is indifferent toward the one
who provided these good things and thus worships the impersonal creation
rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25), that person does not feel the deep joy
of receiving the gifts of God, but only sullen and animalistic satisfaction.
Such a person is given over to irrational desires, to covetousness, and to
“robberies from injustice” (Isaiah 61:8) that are despised by God. As a result,
that person will be deprived of the sublime, pure, and heavenly joy of the one
who gives thanks gratefully.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Letter, September 1, 1999

Q.How often should Christians be thankful?
Q.What does personal experience show are the byproducts of thankfulness?
Q.Why is a person without thankfulness often without heavenly joys?

First Tuesday
Taking Care of the Earth

It is a source of sincere joy to us that … young people are able to raise awareness
about environmental concerns and promote the caretaking of the earth….
It has become evident that the consequences of our environmental crisis will
directly affect and impact the generations to come.
It has taken the adult generation a long time to realize how destructive
our selfish lifestyle has been for the earth and just how depleting our arrogant
ways have proved for its resources…. The younger generation has grown up
during these years of turmoil. You have learned by osmosis, appreciating …
the importance of a simple life for the survival of the planet….
Yet today, we cannot take for granted our caretaking of the environment.
Jesus Christ spoke of birds in the sky; today oil slicks wash them ashore.
He referred to the beauty of the flowers in the fields; today chemicals and wars
leave entire lands barren. Christ mentioned fruit in the parables that He used;
today the lifestyles of the rich are supported by the crops of the poor. He could
assume that foxes had homes; today so many of our fauna do not survive.
Christ multiplied loaves of bread and fishes to feed the hungry; today 800
million people worldwide, many of them young children, are clinically
undernourished.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Ustein Monastery, Norway, June 30, 2004

Q.Can you name some of the environmental problems in your area?
Q.What are the human consequences of these problems now and in the future?
Q.How might a simpler way of living reduce a person’s impact on the earth?

First Wednesday
The Orthodox Church and Ecological Problems

All of humanity is responsible for the state of nature – God’s creation.
Resource depletion and environmental pollution amid rising world
populations raise this issue with special urgency for all nations to preserve
the diversity of life, the diligent use of natural resources and the prevention
of environmental disasters provoked by human activities.
The original fall resulted in a distortion of the primordial nature.
Scripture testifies to this: “the creation was subjected to futility, not
willingly, but by the will of him who subjected it” (Rom. 8:20). Pollution
and destruction of nature – a direct consequence of human sin – [become] its
visible embodiment. Various manifestations of the sinful attitude toward
nature, characteristic of modern “consumer society,” places the main purpose
of [human life as] making a profit. The only possibility to restore the health
of nature is the spiritual rebirth of the individual and society, in a true
Christian, ascetic man’s relation to their own needs, curbing the passions,
and consistent self-restraint….
Guided by God’s commandment about keeping the created world
(Genesis 2:15), and caring for its spiritual and physical health, the Russian
Orthodox Church is committed to participate in discussion of environmental
issues, to work in this field, and to participate in collaboration with all who
are concerned about environmental thinking in maintaining health and a
normal life.
HB Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow and All Russia,
translation from Russian, Moscow, Russia, February 4, 2013

Q.What is the right and proper Christian way for humans to live on earth?
Q.How might a deeper inward change of heart correct one’s lifestyle?
Q.What is required to “regain humility” and thereby recognize our limitations?

First Thursday
Before the Altar of Creation

Everything that lives and breathes is sacred and beautiful in the eyes of God.
The whole world is a sacrament. The entire created cosmos is a burning bush
of God’s uncreated energies. And humankind stands as a priest before the
altar of creation, as microcosm and mediator.
Such is the true nature of things; or, as an Orthodox hymn describes it,
“the truth of things,” if only we have the eyes of faith to see it….
Each person is morally obliged to refrain from pollution and
destruction of the environment.

HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, May 24, 1999

Q.How do humans stand before the altar of creation as a “priest of creation”?
Q.As ‘priests of creation,’ what attitudes and duties inform our behavior?
Q.Why is refraining from pollution of God’s earth part of each person’s duty?


First Friday (or January 6th)
The Blessing of the Waters

In the Orthodox Church the Baptism of our Lord in the waters of the Jordan
River constitutes the second most significant feast of the liturgical cycle
after the celebration of the Resurrection. The hymns of that day proclaim:
The nature of waters is sanctified, the earth is blessed, and the
heavens are enlightened and so that by the elements of creation,
and by the angels, and by human beings, by things both visible and
invisible, God’s most holy name may be glorified.
The implication for Christians is that Jesus Christ assumed human flesh in
order to redeem and sanctify every aspect and detail of this world. This is why, on
this day each year, Orthodox Christians will reserve and bottle a portion of the
blessed water, with which they subsequently return and bless their homes and
families, offices and spaces, gardens and animals.
The breadth and depth of the Orthodox cosmic vision implies that
humanity is only one part of this magnificent epiphany. In this way, the natural
environment ceases to be something that we observe objectively and exploit
selfishly; instead it becomes a celebration of the profound interconnection and
essential interdependence of all things, what St. Maximus the Confessor in the
7th century called a cosmic liturgy…. Thus the future of this planet assumes
critical importance for the kingdom of heaven.
In blessing the waters, we proclaim our belief that environmental
protection is a profoundly moral and spiritual problem that concerns all of us.
The initial and crucial response to the environmental crisis is for each of us to
bear personal responsibility for the way that we live and for the values that we
treasure and the priorities that we pursue. To persist in the current path of
ecological destruction is not only folly. It is a sin against God and creation.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Manaus, Brazil, July 16, 2006

Q.Why does the blessing of water lead to a respectful regard for creation?
Q.How are conservation and compassion intimately connected? Explain.
Q.How are people and creation connected in the great cosmic liturgy?

First Saturday
An Obligation of Love for the Future

The new element which elevates the ecological problem to a level
above that of the plagues of Pharaoh is the irreversible character of
many of the catastrophes that are now occurring.
HAH, Symposium of the Black Sea, September 26, 1997
The Orthodox Church, following Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition, accepts that
God created the world ‘very good,’ and that the poor functions of nature are a
result of human disobedience to the correct path and way of life shown by God.
Today’s technological development has invited unusual environmental
aggravations, reaching far beyond the point of their origin. These [include]
atmospheric, sea and water pollutants, radioactive pollutants, global warming of
the atmosphere, toxic substances into the food chain, and others.
Regardless of how small each person’s contribution to [this] condition
may be, individual behavior may seriously worsen or better the situation.
On account of this, we do not consider the attempt to sensitize the common
opinion for the care of the natural environment to be in vain, but rather
beneficial.
Keeping the environment clean and proper for life is an obligation of love
toward our fellow persons who are directly touched by these problems and a
providential responsibility for the future of our values and children. This
responsibility of love… urges us to consider the protection of the environment
as a serious concern for us, which is not motivated by a pagan worship of nature,
but from a deep respect and love toward our Creator and our fellow man.
HAH, Manila, The Philippines, February, 2000

Q.How does Scripture guide us in our relationship to the environment?
Q.Why is a clean environment a responsibility for every person?
Q.How does love of God relate to love and care for the earth?

Second Monday
The Whole Creation Belongs First to God

In order to respect God’s creation we must become conscious that everything
in the world belongs to God who created it. Consequently, we humans are
under no circumstance proprietors of God’s creation, but people who accept his
commandments, that is, the rules of His management. Hence, we become
conscious that we have a serious responsibility for environmental protection,
which is associated directly with the respect, which we all owe to the Creator,
that is, to God.
Hence, the whole of creation, our planet and whatever exists on it, is
God’s wider habitation. Man, as an inseparable part of this habitation of God,
must be protected in every way…. The same applies to every part of creation.
In this way we show special reverence to the Creator. Under no circumstances
may man create an opposition with his environment; that is, the wider space of
nature in which he lives.
We must not fall victims to the new times where unfortunately many
people from inhuman arrogance and the unacceptable issues of colonization
and the inconceivable lack of control over the industrial revolution and the
unjust exploitation of man by his fellow human beings, see nature as their
adversary and enemy which they should besiege, pillage, conquer and rudely
rape, changing her … into a huge cemetery….
HB Patriarch Theodoros II, Pope of Alexandria
and All Africa, Alexandria, Egypt, Sept. 8, 2012

Q.What is a right human relationship to nature?
Q.How do we show special respect for God by the way we live?
Q.Is your city in right relationship to God? How might that condition be corrected?

Second Tuesday
Mobilizing a United Effort for the Earth

We call upon all of you, beloved brethren and children in the Lord, to take
part in the titanic and ‘righteous battle’ to alleviate the environmental crisis,
and to prevent the even worse results that derive from its consequences.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, 2010
Christians must call upon humanity to come together in a united effort
for the safeguarding of the earth and for its revitalization…. Yes, let us
call humanity to a common task, drawn by the love of man as the image
of God and of the universe as the creation of God.
It will be a common task if all Christians take part in it and share
their experience and their hope, those of the West and those of the East,
those of the North and those of the South….
Christians will act by giving a cosmic dimension to their prayer,
their hearing of the Word, their sacramental life, and their asceticism.
Christians will act by example, showing the cultural, social and ecological
richness of traditional ascetic values when they open out onto history.
Here, I am thinking above all of the voluntary limitation of our desires
and needs along with a profound sympathy for all life.”
HB Patriarch +Ignatius IV of Antioch, March 12, 1989

Q.What is the “righteous battle” regarding the environmental crisis?
Q.What is the common task to which HB Patriarch Ignatius IV refers?
Q.How can Orthodox Christians put their asceticism into action?

Second Wednesday
As Priests before the Altar of the World

At the heart of the relationship between man and environment is the relationship
between human beings. As individuals, we live not only in vertical relationships to
God, and horizontal relationships to one another, but also in a complex web of
relationships that extend throughout our lives, our cultures and the material
world. Human beings and the environment form a seamless garment of
existence; a complex fabric that we believe is fashioned by God.
People of all faith traditions praise the Divine, for they seek to understand
their relationship to the cosmos. The entire universe participates in a 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. These
complex relationships draw attention to themselves in humanity’s self-conscious
awareness of the cosmos.
As human beings, created “in the image and likeness of God” (Genesis
1:26), we are called to recognize this interdependence between our environment
and ourselves. In the bread and 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.
HAH, Santa Barbara, November 8, 1997

Q.What are vertical relationships and what are our horizontal relationships?
Q.How and why do humans have a sacred responsibility for the creation?
Q.How do we offer creation back to God? Why might we do this?

Second Thursday
Treat Creation with Love and Respect

Just as every human life is a gift from God, to be treated with love and respect,
so too is all the rest of Creation – which is why the Orthodox Church has also
been a leading voice for healing the environment.
What can Orthodox Christianity contribute to the movement to protect
the environment? We believe that through our unique liturgical and ascetic
ethos, Orthodox spirituality can provide moral and ethical direction toward a
new awareness about the planet.
Our sin toward the world – 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….
Our first task is to raise the consciousness of adults who most use the
resources and gifts of the planet. Ultimately, it is for our children that we must
perceive our every action in the world as having a direct effect upon the future
of the environment…. 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.
HAH, Washington, DC, November 3, 2009

Q.What is the Orthodox ascetic ethos?
Q.How would you define ascetic behavior?
Q.Why is ascesis valuable for every person?


Second Friday
Climate Change in the Arctic

The climatic changes taking place in the Arctic and the contamination of parts
of its food chain are an accurate and unavoidable image of human thoughtlessness.
If there is one single message in all the information which we have
received during our symposium [on the Arctic], it is this: ‘time is short.’
The ice of the Arctic is shrinking at a frightening pace. That is what we
are told by scientists, that is what we are told by Greenlanders who know the
ice better than anybody. If all the ice in Greenland melts, the consequences for
Greenland and the world could be devastating: a Biblical catastrophe in the
most literal sense.
As Orthodox Christians, we use the Greek word “kairos” to describe a
brief moment in time which has eternal significance. When Our Lord Jesus
Christ began his preaching, he declared that a decisive moment, a kairos (Mark
1:14), had arrived in the relationship between God and mankind.
For the human race as a whole, there is now a kairos…. We will either
act in time to protect life on earth from the worst consequences of human
folly, or we will fail to act.
On behalf of all of us, on behalf of our Greenlandic hosts and on behalf
of all the people, allow me to offer up a public prayer: ‘May God grant us the
wisdom to act in time.’
HAH, Greenland, September 12, 2007

Q.What does the word “kairos” mean? How does it apply to our time?
Q.What are some of the changes to climate now taking place?
Q.What do you think that it means to “act in time”?


Second Saturday
Prayers for Preservation of the Natural Environment

In our times, we observe an excessive abuse of natural resources, resulting in the
destruction of the planet’s ecological conditions, so that the divinely-ordained
regulations of human life on earth are increasingly transgressed. For instance, all
of us – scientists, as well as religious and political leaders – are witnessing a rise in
the atmosphere’s temperature, extreme weather conditions, the pollution of
ecosystems on land and in the sea, and an overall disturbance of the potential for
life in some regions of the world.
We are obliged to admit that the causes of the aforementioned ecological
changes are not inspired by God, but initiated by humans. Thus, the invocation
of the Church to God as the Lord of all for the restoration of creation are
essentially a petition of repentance for our sinfulness in destroying the world
instead of preserving and sustaining its resources reasonably and carefully.
When we pray to God for the preservation of the environment, we are
imploring God to change the mindset of the powerful, enlightening them not to
destroy the planet’s ecosystem for profit and short term interest. This concerns each
of us as we all generate small ecological damage in our capacity and ignorance.
In addressing this appeal, we pray that our gracious Lord… will speak to
the hearts of everyone so that we may respect the ecological balance that He
offered in His wisdom and goodness, so that we and future generations will enjoy
His gifts with thanksgiving and glorification.
May this divine wisdom, peace and power, which created and sustains and
guides all creation in its hope for salvation in the kingdom, always maintain the
beauty of the world and the welfare of humanity, leading all people of good will
to produce fruitful works toward this purpose. And we invoke His grace and
mercy on all of you, particularly those who respect and protect creation. Amen.
HAH, The Phanar, September 1, 2012

Q.How do humans cause the disfigurement and destruction of creation?
Q.What must we do to correct this problem?
Q.How can we see our personal responsibility for this destruction?

Third Monday
Reuniting the Creation Under Jesus Christ

Cosmology is a form of knowledge which is given to us in Christ by the Holy
Spirit. “The mystery of the Incarnation of the Word,” wrote St. Maximos the
Confessor, “contains within itself the whole meaning of the created world.”
If this is so, it means that everything has been created by and for the
Word, as the Apostle Paul says in Colossians 1:16-17. The Word is the
archetype of all things, and all things find in him their consummation, their
“recapitulation.” The Gospel ought to be preached “to all the creatures,”
according to the Epistle to the Colossians, and the Church in this vision is
nothing other than the creation reunified with God through Christ….
In this perspective the Fathers maintain that the historical Bible gives us
the key to the cosmic Bible. In this they are faithful to the Hebrew notion of
the Word, which not only speaks, but creates: God is “true” in the sense that
his word is the source of all reality, not only historical, but also cosmic
reality…. That is why, as St. Maximos says, we discover, or rather the Gospel
discovers for us, that on the one hand, the Word “hides himself mysteriously
in … created things like so many letters,” and on the other hand, “he…
expresses himself in the letters, symbols and sounds of Scripture.” Precisely in
the transfiguration of Jesus do the shining garments signify the words of the
Bible and the body of the earth. Both are illumined by God’s grace. The
relationship between Scripture and the world corresponds to that of the soul
and the body: he who has in Christ a spiritual understanding of the first will be
given a profound understanding of the second.
HB Patriarch +Ignatius IV of Antioch, Zurich, Switzerland, March 10, 1989

Q.What is cosmology?
Q.What is the ‘Logos,’ referring to what HB calls the Incarnation of the Word?
Q.How does this relate to the created world?

Third Tuesday
Orthodox Christianity is Profoundly Ecological

While most of us are aware of the ecological crisis around us, few of us realize
that our Orthodox faith is profoundly concerned with ecology on the highest
order.
Indeed, if we actually tried to live our faith, we would be the foremost
ecologists as well.
HE Archbishop Lazar Puhalo, Serbian Orthodox Church in Canada,
Synaxis magazine, Chilliwack, British Columbia, December, 1989
Taking action against climate change should not be understood as a
financial burden, but as an important opportunity for a healthier
planet, to the benefit of all humanity and particularly of those
states whose economic development is lagging behind.
The urgency of the situation and the progress of science and
technology pave the way for a low-carbon global economy, the
development of renewable energy sources and the aversion of
further deforestation. We all need to collaborate, in order to make
sure that our children will be able to enjoy the goods of the earth,
which we bequeath to them.
HAH, Bangkok, Thailand, Sept 28, 2009

Q.Why should Orthodox Christians be concerned about global climate change?
Q.What are the implications of failing to address this problem?
Q.How may the individual person address climate change?


Third Wednesday
For the Restoration of the Divine Harmony

We [pray] that a proper environmental ethos may prevail for the restoration
of the divine harmony in our universe…. Our Church regards the
sensitization of its faithful in relation to the natural environment and in
regard to the development of inter-religious dialogue as a central and
essential part of its ministry of solidarity and co-existence.
HAH, Oslo, Norway, June 12, 2002
We Orthodox Christians are called to offer service to humanity
without expectation of anything in return, and also, to be examples
for others to do the same.
Christ tells us to do good, to practice virtue, to practice
virtuous works, to love our enemies — not just to love our friends.
Christ also calls us to be teachers and guides through example, to
serve God’s created order — whether we serve as priest or lay person.
HAH, New York, New York, October 26, 2009

Q.What is an environmental ethos?
Q.What are the virtues? Why are they essential for transformation?
Q.How does practice of the virtues relate to the Divine Harmony?

Third Thursday
We Share a Common Responsibility for the Earth

A special emphasis must be put on the spiritual and religious aspect [of
improving the environment]….
One will meet ecological concerns from a religious point of view if
one takes into account the words of Genesis which witness the spirit of
God in creation.
It is in this sense that the Romanian people emerged in history as a
Christian people, understanding God as a Sun that sends out light, life and
love, the uncreated energies, over the whole of creation….
Both God’s transcendence beyond creation and his immanence in
creation are very important for the efforts we make for preserving the
integrity of the environment.
HB Patriarch Teoctist, Romanian Orthodox Church,
Constanta, Romania, September 25, 1997

Q.What does it mean to meet ecological concerns from a religious perspective?
Q.What are the teachings in Genesis that shape an Orthodox concern for creation?
Q.How is it that we all bear responsibility for ecological destruction?

Third Friday
Integrating Theology with Our Practice

As Orthodox Christians, we must admit our failure to integrate our theology
with our practice…. The challenge requires a more urgent response by the
Church. Our response, however, is fraught with difficulties and barriers because
we are captive to a mentality of consumption and greed that is foreign to
Orthodox Christianity and contradictory to the spirit of communion and
generosity. Instead, we are called to participate in the “cosmic liturgy” of
creation (St. Maximus the Confessor), where “everything that breathes praises
the Lord” (Psalm 150:1).
We all recognize that we can no longer desecrate God’s creation. What
we refuse to do is take the next step that is required of us as priests of creation,
which entails consecrating creation to the Creator. Avoiding desecration is only a
partial response to the ecological crisis; accepting and advocating consecration is
the fulfillment of our divine mandate to “serve and preserve the earth” (Gen.
2:15). Such a sanctification and offering to God of “His own of His own, on
behalf of all and for the sake of all” (From the Divine Liturgy) also unleashes a
transformative potential and restorative capacity for healing and wholeness.
However, in order to heal the earth, we must purify our hearts and
transform our habits. Every act of defilement on the body of creation is
ultimately contempt for the Body of Christ. Whereas when we demonstrate
respectful consideration for the earth’s natural resources, then we can also begin
to discern the perspective of the kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven” (From the
Lord’s Prayer).
HE Archbishop Elpidophoros, New York City, NY, September 1, 2019

Q.How might we better integrate our theology with our lifestyles?
Q.What does it mean to consecrate creation back to God?
Q.Reflect on what it would mean to transform our hearts and habits?


Third Saturday
The Meaning of Sacrifice

Sacrifices will have to be made by all. Unfortunately, people normally
perceive sacrifice as loss or surrender. Yet, the root meaning of the word
has less to do with “going without” and more to do with “making sacred.”
Just as pollution has profound spiritual connotations, related to the
destruction of creation when disconnected from its Creator, so too sacrifice
is the necessary corrective for reducing the world to a commodity to be
exploited by our selfish appetites.
When we sacrifice, we render the world sacred, recognizing it as a
gift from above to be shared with all humanity – if not equally, then at
least justly. Sacrifice is ultimately an expression of gratitude (for what we
enjoy) and humility (for what we must share).
HAH, Washington, DC, November 4, 2009

Q.What is a sacrifice?
Q.How does sacrifice make something sacred?
Q.What are consequences of sacrifice for the world?

Fourth Monday
An Immediate Duty for Orthodox Christians

We are all bound together by a deep concern and an active interest in the issues
of the physical environment. …
Various people, both within Albania as well as abroad, wonder and ask
me why the Orthodox Church of Albania, which only a decade ago lay in total
ruins, and which even today continues to have urgent inner needs, is so
intensely involved in ecological projects. The answer is simple. An interest in
the creation is an immediate duty for those who feel they have benefitted from
God; it is a consequence of an Orthodox self-consciousness.
The horizon of Orthodoxy does not comprise only humankind. She has
an immediate interest for the entire creation. Since the disturbance of the
physical environment’s equilibrium intensifies due to the careless actions of
human beings, the Orthodox Church considers it her duty to invigorate – within
her members and society in general – a sensitivity for the creation that suffers
the worst exploitation of man’s greed; to limit the consumer hysteria with a
temperate “self-control” that forms an inseparable component of “the fruits
of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22), and to cultivate an effective respect for the
physical environment, stressing unceasingly that this is the work of the Triune
God, who reveals the sacredness and liturgical role that all creatures have.
His Beatitude Archbishop ANASTASIOS, Primate, Albanian Orthodox Church,
Durrës, Albania, June 6, 2002

Q.How and why are we all bound together in a concern for the environment?
Q.How broad is the horizon of Orthodox Christian concern?
Q.Why do so many people develop an insatiable greed for acquisition?


Fourth Tuesday
These Actions are Sinfu
l
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 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 things are sins.
Thus we begin the process of healing our worldly environment which
was blessed with Beauty and created by God. Then we may also begin to
participate responsibly, as persons making informed choices in both the
whole of creation, and within our own souls.
HAH, Georgetown University, November 3, 2009

Q.Why are offenses against the natural world sinful?
Q.What does repentance involve for this type of sin?
Q.How do we address sins in the structure of society, such as polluting substances?


Fourth Wednesday
Pollution and Poverty are Connected

Orthodox theology recognizes the natural creation as inseparable from the
identity and destiny of humanity, because every human action leaves a lasting
imprint on the body of the earth.
Human attitudes and behavior toward creation directly impact on and
reflect human attitudes and behavior toward other people. Ecology is
inevitably related to economy; our global economy is simply outgrowing the
capacity of our planet to support it. At stake is not just our ability to live in a
sustainable way, but our very survival. Scientists estimate that those most hurt
by global warming in years to come will be those who can least afford it.
Therefore, the ecological problem of pollution is invariably connected to the
social problem of poverty; and so all ecological activity is ultimately measured
and properly judged by its impact and effect upon the poor, as the Lord
Himself warns us in Matthew, chapter 25.
It is clear that only a cooperative and collective response – by religious
leaders, scientists, political authorities and financial corporations – will
appropriately and effectively address these critical issues of our time.
HAH, Utrecht, The Netherlands, April 24, 2014

Q.How are economy and ecology related to each other?
Q.Why is the global economy outgrowing the ability of the planet to support it?
Q.How might the Church support a cooperative response to this problem?

Fourth Thursday
Correcting Our Vision of the World

We have repeatedly stated that the crisis that we are facing in our world is
not primarily ecological. It is a crisis concerning the way we perceive the
world. We are treating our planet in a selfish, godless manner precisely
because we fail to see it as a gift inherited from above; it is our obligation
to receive, respect and return this gift to future generations. Therefore,
before we can effectively deal with problems of our environment, we must
change the way we regard the world. Otherwise, we are simply dealing with
symptoms, not with causes. We require a new heavenly worldview if we are
to desire “a new earth” (Rev. 21.1).
This is the source of our optimism. The natural environment –– the
forest, water and land –– belongs to all generations. Your generation is
entitled to a better, brighter world; a world free from degradation, violence
and bloodshed; a world of generosity and love. It is the selfless love for our
children that will show us the path to the future. And it is your generation
that will initiate the changes in lifestyle to secure this future. May God bless
you in this sacred struggle.
HAH, Moscow, Russia, May 26, 2010

Q.What is a sacred vision of the world? How is this vision sustained?
Q.If everyone in the world lived as you live, could the world survive?
Q.What must change for the world to become free of pollution and degradation?


Fourth Friday
The Orthodox Ecological Ethic

At the outset we should state that there certainly is an Orthodox Christian
ecological ethic. It is an ethic that is not an option for Orthodox faithful. It is
not a mere theological “specialty” [for] those who have reasons to be interested.
The Orthodox ecological ethic proceeds directly from our doctrine. Saint
Cyril of Jerusalem said, “the method of godliness consists of two things – pious
doctrines and virtuous practice.” Without any doubt, virtuous practice demands
right attitude and action toward the environment….
The Orthodox Christian ecological ethic is ecclesial: it proceeds from our
life in the Church,… and it is comprehensible only within the context of the
Church. Here is where distinctions exist between our ecclesial ethic and the
ecological ethics we find in secular society.
Within the Orthodox Church, how is the environment viewed? Is it a
great reservoir of untapped riches, waiting to be exploited for profit? Should we
view the environment as a living, almost divine being? Or is the environment
God’s Creation, where man is set with a profound, symbiotic relationship, and a
definite, holy purpose?
Of course, the question begs preference for the latter. It should be
obvious from Holy Tradition that the environment is better understood as
Creation, and that man is not a separate entity, independent from the rest of
nature.
We in the Orthodox Church see Creation as the foundational concept by
which we understand all environmental issues. It is the fact that a creature is
created that gives that creature meaning, value and purpose. This is true
whether that creature is a human person, an animal, an insect, a tree, or an
astronomical body. It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of creation as
foundational concept. It means that we must accept the reality of every creature
as meaningful. In our Orthodox ecological ethic, we insist that man adopt a
humbler, more honest and scientific outlook, in which he seeks to discern
meaning in Creation.
HE Metropolitan Nicholas of Amisso, Primate, American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox
Church, The Antiochian Village, Ligonier, Pennsylvania, June 15, 2002

Q.How is the word “creation” different from the word “environment”?
Q.What is different about concern for God’s creation and environmentalism?
Q.Why is every creature in some way “meaningful”?


Fourth Saturday
The Book of Nature

Nature is a book, opened wide for all to read and to learn. Each plant, each
animal, and each micro-organism tells a unique story, unfolds a wonderful
mystery, relates an extraordinary harmony and balance, which are
interdependent and complementary.
The same dialogue of communication and mystery of communion is
detected in the galaxies, where the countless stars betray the same mystical
beauty and mathematical inter-connectedness. We do not need this perspective
in order to believe in God or to prove His existence. We need it simply to
breathe; we need it for us simply to be. This is why, in the seventh century,
St. Maximus the Confessor (580-662) spoke of a “cosmic liturgy.”
How unfortunate it is that we lead our life without even noticing the
environmental concert that is playing out before our very eyes and ears. In this
orchestra, each minute detail plays a critical role, and every trivial aspect
participates in an essential way. No single member – human or otherwise – can
be removed without the entire symphony being deeply affected. No single tree or
animal can be removed without the entire picture being profoundly distorted, if
not destroyed. Is it any wonder that Orthodox theology underlines the
sacredness of the natural environment and our responsibility for its preservation?
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Utrecht, The Netherlands, April 24, 2014
The mystical way in Orthodox Christianity requires, as a necessary
stage, the contemplation of nature.
HB Patriarch +Ignatius IV of Antioch,
Zurich, Switzerland, March 10, 1989

Q.How might a person learn to discern spiritual lessons from the natural world?
Q.Why does Orthodox theology underline the sacredness of the natural world?
Q.How much do you observe the natural concert playing out around you?


Fifth Monday
Orthodox Christian Spirituality

The word “spirituality” is unknown in the language of Scripture and Tradition.
It has become a vague term of mere convenience.
While recognizing the value and insights of secular psychology and the
contemporary culture of therapy, these disciplines are incomplete, reductive,
and in some cases, antithetical to the healing traditions of the Church.
Orthodox spirituality does not exist in a vacuum. It presupposes Orthodox
doctrine and ecclesiology…. It is intimately bound up with the sacramental and
liturgical life of the Church. Any attempt to practice it apart from active
participation in that life is to cut it off from its living and life-giving roots.
Orthodox spirituality is liturgical, sacramental and eucharistic. Outside
the experience of the Liturgy, it is impossible to understand the spirituality of
the Orthodox Church…. It must be stressed that Orthodox spirituality is by
nature ascetic and monastic. Dying to the world, the monastic person lives for
Christ and for others. Unless we become dead to the world, and to the things in
the world (1 Jn 2:15), how shall we live the “life that is hidden in Christ” (Col
3:3). We must die to this world, so that we may live in God, as St. Symeon the
New Theologian says.
HAH, Baltimore, Maryland, October 23, 1997
:
Q.What is the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church?
Q.How does “dying to the world” relate to how we live as Christians?
Q.Why does maintaining a clean environment relate to this “spirituality”?


Fifth Tuesday
A Most Urgent Question

Care of the environment constitutes a most urgent question for each and every
human person. … Man takes from the natural world not only that which is
necessary…, but he often seeks to satisfy false needs…. Twenty percent of
humanity consumes eighty percent of the world’s wealth and accounts for an
equal percentage of the world’s ecological catastrophes.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, June 25, 1997
The modern world is unfortunately plagued by a crisis that cannot be
reduced to inter-personal relations, but extends to the relationship
between humanity and the natural environment… Therefore, the
Church cannot remain idle before the crisis that affects humanity in
relation to the natural environment. It is our obligation to assume every
possible initiative… so that our own flock may become aware of the
demand for respect toward creation by avoiding any abuse or irrational
use of natural resources….
HAH, October 10th, 2008
The care for and protection of Creation constitutes the responsibility of
everyone on an individual and collective level.
HAH, June 5, 2009

Q.Why is care for God’s creation (i.e., the environment) an urgent question?
Q.What are the consequences of disregarding this issue?
Q.How might you step beyond conventionality into a more complete life in Christ?


Fifth Wednesday
Missionaries for the Protection of the Earth

With firm faith in the Pantokrator and Creator of all creation, we Orthodox
Christians are called to carry out the work of an evangelist and missionary with
regard to the protection of creation.
HAH, August 26, 2015
It will take no less than a high-profile crusade by religious leaders and
civil society to force change…. We must persistently remind our political
leaders that there is no way of endlessly manipulating our environment
that comes without cost or consequence. There is no doubt in our mind
that this is a movement as critically urgent and as morally imperative as
any campaign for fundamental human and civil rights.
HAH, Halki, June 18, 2012

Q.What is a missionary with regard to the protection of creation?
Q.How could this effort become a global crusade by religious leaders?
Q.What are the costs of abusing the earth? What are the benefits of earth healing?

February Introduction

This February edition of our creation care reading program focuses on
the public statements of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and other
Orthodox patriarchs and hierarchs as they address our human duty to
care for God’s creation. These statements focus on how to extend the
life of the Church into the life of the world.

This theme of respect and holy regard for God’s creation has gone missing
in many Orthodox parishes. This reading program seeks to remedy this omission by highlighting the theological commentary from our top hierarchs as they instruct us in our Christian responsibility to take good care of God’s earth.

In this reading program we began by emphasizing two principled themes:
(1) “Let the Orthodox patriarchs become your teachers.” and
(2) “A reading a day to keep consumerism away.”
These two concepts – the intentional reading and absorption of the teachings by our top Orthodox hierarchs combined with a rhythmic daily focus on their public statements will strengthen Christian disciples so that the application of our theology becomes better integrated into the habitual behavior of daily life. This is how a person may grow in Christ – through a step by step process of prayer, reading and application. This lays a foundation for spiritual growth and transformation. Next, we add a third theme, a practical phrase often repeated by ship captains.
(3) “Steady as you go.” This phrase implies prayer, discipline, regularity, and steadiness of focus. If you wish to grow in Christ, intentionality is essential. The fathers teach that “tears” bring transformation. Tears mean that we mourn over past behavior and seek repentance, so strongly, that commitment to a more virtuous behavior and transformation result.

To facilitate this process, these readings from our patriarchs and bishops offer vision, theology, direction and motivation toward right living in a new and changing world. Besides, research and experience both show that the best way to embrace new behavior is to repeat and repeat a particular activity. In this way these readings offer a path to transformation. This allows us to absorb the mind of the Church as taught by our top hierarchs, and this in turn can reshape our thinking and behavior.
The Reading-a-Day editorial team
ES – EM – MR – FK

First Monday

The Vision Which Connects

What does preserving the planet have to do with saving the soul? It is commonly assumed that climate change and the exploitation of nature’s resources are matters that primarily concern politicians, scientists and technocrats…. Nevertheless, there are no two ways of looking at either the world or God. There is no distinction between concern for human welfare and concern for ecological preservation. The way we relate to nature as creation directly reflects the way we believe in God as Creator of all things. The sensitivity with which we handle the environment mirrors the sacredness that we reserve for the divine. Moreover, scientists estimate that those most hurt by global warming in the years to come, are those who can least afford it. According to the Gospel of St. Matthew, the questions that will be asked of us at the final moment of accountability will not be about our religious observance but on whether we fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, comforted the sick, and cared for captives. …
We are all in this together. Our planet unites us in a unique way. While we
may differ in our conception of the origins or purpose of our world, … surely we can all agree on our responsibility and obligation to protect its natural resources – which are neither limitless nor negotiable – for future generations. It is not too late to respond…. We could steer the earth toward our children’s future. Yet we can no longer afford to wait…. We have a choice to make. The time to choose is now. HAH, Warsaw, Poland, November 14, 2013 Q.How is the saving of souls and the saving of the planet related?
Q.What is human responsibility to God for the care of the earth?
Q.What should guide Christians in our response to ecological problems?

First Tuesday

Compassion for Every Part of Creation

To be cared for by God and to care for God’s creation entail having compassion for every living being and for every living thing. A compassionate heart, writes a seventh-century mystic, St. Isaac the Syrian: “Burns with love for the whole of creation – for human beings, for birds and beasts, for all of God’s creatures.” So we need to be compassionate, which is to say full of passion and full of concern for every detail of God’s creation. If we remain indifferent to humanity’s injustice against the earth and its resources, if we are not involved in the correction of the abuse we cause to our planet, then we do not properly reflect God’s care and concern for us and the whole world.
There are no excuses for our lack of interest and involvement. In our
age, the information is readily at hand. We know the facts; the statistics are
alarming. We can no longer remain apathetic to the cry of the poor and “the groaning of creation” (Rom. 8.22). As we well know, we are – all of us – so profoundly and intimately involved in and interconnected with each other’s destiny. So we must choose to care.
Moreover, receiving care obliges us to provide care. Caretaking is a circle:
of what we have received, we are called to give. We cannot hope to be nurtured by the environment if we do not nurture this environment in an intimate way. Therefore, in addition to compassion, we must recognize the importance of community. Far too long have we limited our understanding of community, reducing it to include only human beings. It is time that we extend this notion to include the living environment, to animals and to trees, to birds and to fishes. Embracing in compassion all people as well as all animal and inanimate creation brings good news and fervent hope to the whole world. HAH, International Conference, Istanbul, June 30, 2004 Q.How can one acquire a compassionate heart?
Q.What is the relationship between God’s care for us and our care for the world?
Q.Why are humans obliged to care for the world?

First Wednesday

Humanity’s Place Between God and Creation

Only when man accepts the teaching of our Church, that the Creator of all
things is God, can he love the whole of Creation and protect it. Man, as the crown of creation, has a special place on our planet. Man is invited by God to continue the work of creation, and simultaneously to look after it, to take care of it and to push for its advancement to whatever protects it as far as its survival is concerned. Hence God, in the first book of the Old
Testament, the book of Genesis, invites the first man, Adam, to give names to the animals and to all things. This symbolic Biblical reference shows precisely our responsibilities to the whole of God’s creation.
In order to respect God’s creation we must become conscious of the fact
that everything in the world belongs to God who created it. Consequently, we human beings are, under no circumstance, the proprietors of God’s creation. Rather we are people who accept his commandments – His management. Hence, what is created… leads us to awe and respect. We become conscious of the fact that we have a serious role to act for the protection of the environment, which we all owe to the Creator, that is, to God. For this reason, the ecological problem is connected to the problem of
abuse of God’s creation, which is “the house of God.” Hence, the whole of
creation, the entire environment, our planet and whatever exists on it is in this sense, God’s wider habitation in which there exists and lives God’s divine creation. Man, as an inseparable part of this wider habitation of God, must be protected in every way, his dignity and his human rights. The same applies to every part of creation. In this way, we show, special reverence to the entity of the Creator, the Three Divine Entities of the Triad God – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. HE Archbishop Seraphim of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola,
Patriarchate of Alexandria and All-Africa, September 1, 2019 Q.How does love of God relate to the keeping of the commandments? Q.What does it mean that humans are the “crown of creation”?
Q.How is God’s creation also “the house of God”?

First Thursday

Responsibility for the World’s Future

We, along with all the rest of humanity are responsible for the future of our
planet and for human life on this planet. … For example, scientists expect
that in the coming decades the average temperature on the surface of the
earth will increase by several degrees. This will result in the melting of polar ice, the raising of the sea level, greater rainfall and floods in colder regions, and more drought and deserts in warmer regions…. Accordingly, any incident of pollution in one region of the atmosphere is shared throughout the world…. The consequences of a polluting action
eventually will affect every person throughout the world, including the
responsible perpetrator, as well as a boundless number of innocent victims.
It is impossible for perpetrators to protect themselves from the consequences of their actions, and it is impossible to know who will ultimately be the victims of such actions. However, humanity as a whole is damaged by every such action….
Similarly, we would like to emphasize the worldwide effect of every
change in the spiritual attitude and conduct of each and every citizen in
regard to the environment; we must conclude that every effort to change
the attitude of citizens, even if it appears to have only limited efficacy,
has profound significance for the environment. HAH,Kathmandu, Nepal, November 15, 2000 Q.Why should the people today care about the future of the earth?
Q.How is pollution of the planet a spiritual issue?
Q.What should a faithful Christian’s responsibility be in this situation?

First Friday

Hope through Personal Responsibility

Our effort over the last two decades has been to promote dialogue and
cooperation among various disciplines and faiths, contributing to global
awareness and discerning changes in attitude and lifestyle related to the
ecological crisis…. We are convinced that any real hope of reversing climate change and addressing environmental pollution requires a radical transformation of the way we perceive and treat our planet…. All of us are frustrated with the stubborn resistance and reluctant advancement of earth-friendly policies and practices.
Permit us to propose that perhaps the reason for this hesitation and
hindrance may lie in the fact that we are unwilling to accept personal
responsibility and demonstrate personal sacrifice. In the Orthodox Christian tradition, we refer to this “missing dimension” as ascesis , which could be translated as abstinence and moderation, or – better still – simplicity and frugality. The truth is that we resist any demand for self-restraint and self-control. HAH, Halki, Turkey, June 12, 2012

Q.What does it mean to assume personal responsibility for the earth?
Q.Why is there resistance to change that might improve our situation?
Q.How do self-restraint and self-control relate to care for the planet?

First Saturday

Custodians of Creation
We, as Christians, taught by the Holy Tradition and by the experience of the
Holy Church Fathers, link always the mentioned [conference] theme “Man –
Custodian of Creation” with the need of repentance. When man fell, due to his sin, he lost his identity. Because of his tendency toward transgression, man became weak and cannot find in himself strength to go back to his Creator.
Man accepts God’s love and becomes a being of communication, a being as
communion, improving, with all the Saints, his God-likeness. So man becomes the custodian of the creation which is created by the will of God for the only reason – to become one in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1, 22-23; 4,15). The human being is called to protect the work of God’s hands because the deeds of God protect [nurture] him. The creation needs for its existence God, as it cannot exist by itself. Man is searching for eternity and he is determined to care for the conjunction of unity and differences. Love
disables divisions, while the Spirit assembles all.
We are profoundly hurt by the divisions in witnessing the Christian
truth before the modern world which is yearning for spiritual direction and the meaning of the mystery of life. We are firmly convinced that the theme for the 20th International Conference in Your monastery is for the good, benefit and joy of all Christians.
His Beatitude Irinej, Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgarde-Karlovci and Patriarch of Serbia, August 31, 2012

Q.What does it mean that at the Fall humans lost their identify?
Q.How are humans custodians of creation?
Q.Why do you think there are divisions in the Christian world?

Second Monday

The Spirit of Liturgy
If we are guilty of relentless waste, it is because we have lost the spirit of
liturgy and worship. We are no longer respectful pilgrims on this earth; we
have been reduced to careless consumers or passing travelers.
How tragic it would be, for us all, if we were simply to pass through
the Amazon, like the indifferent priest in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
We must be responsible and responsive citizens of the world; we must be
careful and caring pilgrims in this land. If we are not in fact moved to
compassion, bandaging the wounds of the earth, assuming personal care, and contributing to the painful costs, then we might easily be confronted with the question, which of these do you resemble: the Good Samaritan or the indifferent priest?
The liturgy guides us to a life that sees more clearly and shares more
fairly, moving away from what we want as individuals to what the world
needs globally. This in turn requires that we move away from greed and
control and gradually value everything for its place in creation and not simply its economic value to us, thereby restoring the original beauty of the world, seeing all things in God and God in all things.
HAH, Manaus, Brazil, July 14, 2006

Q.What is the key lesson in the parable of the Good Samaritan?
Q.Why is wasting things of the earth wrong?
Q.How does the liturgy encourage us to respect creation?


Second Tuesday

Responsibility for the Health of the Planet
Esteemed dignitaries and fellow participants, perhaps for the first time in the history of our world, we recognize that our decisions and choices immediately impact the environment. Today, we are able to direct our actions in a caring and compassionate way. It is up to us to shape our future; it is up to us to choose our destiny. Breaking the vicious circle of ecological degradation is a choice with which we are uniquely endowed, at this crucial moment in the history of our planet.
This conference is a golden opportunity for us to recognize the unique
role of every individual and every organization, in order that we may respect those more vulnerable in this situation, and in order that we may be prepared to assume responsibility for the health of our planet, an issue of critical significance and urgency.
HAH, Manaus, Brazil, July 14, 2006

Q.How might your actions harm the earth and cause ecological degradation?
Q.How might you respect or harm people far away through your actions?
Q.In what ways by your actions can you respect people far away?


Second Wednesday

The Divine Economy

Every product we make and enjoy (from the paper we work with, to
processed meat and the soy beans that sustain its industry), every tree we
fell, every building we construct, every road we travel, definitively and
permanently alters creation. At the basis of this alteration –– or perhaps we
should characterize it as abuse –– of creation is a fundamental difference
between human, natural, and divine economies.
In the Orthodox tradition, the phrase “divine economy” is used to
describe God’s extraordinary acts of love and providence toward humanity
and creation. “Economy” is derived from the Greek word “oikonomia,”
which implies the management of an environment or household (oikos),
which is also the root of the word “ecology” (oikologia).
Let us consider, however, the radical distinction between the various
kinds of economy. Our economy tends to use and discard; natural economy
is normally cyclical and replenishes; God’s economy is always compassionate and nurturing. Nature’s economy is profoundly violated by our wasteful economy, which in turn constitutes a direct offence to the divine economy. The prophet Ezekiel again recognized this abuse of the natural eco-systems when he observed: Is it not enough to feed on good pasture? Must you also trample the rest with your feet? Is it not sufficient to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? (34,18).
HAH, Manaus, Brazil, July 14, 2006

Q.How is God’s natural economy different from the financial economy?
Q.How can we bring God’s natural replenishing economy into our lives?
Q.How might we apply the Prophet Ezekiel’s principle in our lives?


Second Thursday

Perspective on the Ecological Crisis from Russia
The ecological crisis compels us to review our relationship with the
environment. Today the concept of man’s dominion over nature and
the consumer attitude toward it has been increasingly criticized.
The awareness that contemporary society pays too high a price for
the blessings of civilization has provoked opposition to economic
egotism. Thus, attempts are made to identify the causes of damage
to the natural environment.
At the same time, a system of protection is being developed
and economic policies are being reviewed; technologies which are
power-saving are being created and waste-free plants which can fit
into the natural circulation [of the environment].
Ecological ethics are being developed and public awareness is
emerging that speaks against the consumer way of life, demanding
that the moral and legal responsibility for the damage inflicted on
nature be enhanced. This ethic is also introducing ecological
education and training and calls for joined efforts in protecting the
environment on the basis of broad international co-operation.
His Beatitude Kyrill, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia,
“The Russian Orthodox Social Concept,” June 1, 2012
Q.What are the causes of damage to the environment?
Q.How do we develop a vigilance for the preservation of nature?
Q.What are environmental ethics? How do they help protect the environment?


Second Friday

The Purpose of Human Existence

The purpose of human existence is for us Christians to imitate the way of
existence of the Trinitarian God; to come to communion with this God
and to live eternally with Him in love However, in order to achieve this goal, we must go through society
and love our fellow human beings. The way toward theosis (or
divinization) is ascetic discipline, which occurs through purification from
passion and the practice of love. Such ascetic discipline is expressed in
manifold ways, but its basic and fundamental way of expression is
philanthropy.
For us Christian Orthodox, philanthropy derives from our unity
with God and consequently with all humanity. The unity of each person
with all humanity implies the acceptance that every human being is
entitled to participate equally in the divine gifts of creation.
HAH, Istanbul, March 3, 2013

Q.What are the implications of our human purpose in terms of society?
Q.How may a person come to communion with God?
Q.Why are you entitled to participate in the divine gifts of creation?


Second Saturday

Our Original Privilege

To imagine a world that functions in beauty and harmony, balance and purpose, in accordance with the overflowing love of God, is to cry out in wonder with the Psalmist, “How great are Your works, O Lord; In Wisdom you have made them all.” Our original privilege and calling as human beings lies precisely in our ability to appreciate the world as God’s gift…. Our original sin with regard to the natural environment lies – not in any legalistic transgression, but – precisely in our refusal to accept the world as a sacrament of communion with God and neighbor. We have been endowed with a passion for knowledge and wisdom, which open before us boundless worlds of the microcosm and the macrocosm, and present us with boundless challenges of creative action and intervention. … Then, we are able to embrace all – not with fear or necessity, but with love and joy. Then, we care for the plants and the animals, for the trees and the rivers, for the mountains and the seas, for all human beings and the whole natural environment. Then, we discover joy – rather than inflicting sorrow – in our life and in our world. Then, we are creating instruments of life and not tools of death. Then, creation on the one hand and humanity on the other hand, the one that encompasses and the one that is encompassed, cooperate and correspond. Then, they are no longer in contradiction or in conflict. Then, just as humanity offers creation in an act of priestly service and sacrifice to God, so also does creation offer itself in return as a gift to humanity. Then, everything becomes an exchange, an abundance, and a fulfillment of love. It is our sincere hope that our hearts may receive and return the natural environment to the Divine Creator with gratitude. It is our fervent prayer that our hands may minister to this divine gift of the environment in a celebration of thanksgiving. Amen.
HAH, Presentation of the Sophie Prize, Oslo, Norway, June 12, 2002

Q.How is the world a sacrament of communion with God?
Q.What does HAH say is our original calling?
Q.What does HAH say is our original sin with regard to the environment?


Third Monday

A Sacramental Relationship

If the earth is sacred, then our relationship with the natural environment is
sacramental; that is to say, it contains the seed and trace of God. In many ways, 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’s Letter to the
Romans emphasizes the consequences of the Fall, observing that “from the
beginning till now, the entire creation, which as we know has been groaning in pain” (Rom. 8.22), “awaits with eager longing this revelation by the children of God” (Rom. 8.19). It is from this fundamental belief in the sacredness and beauty of creation that the Orthodox Church proceeds to articulate the concept of transfiguration.
This emphasis of Orthodox theology on personal and cosmic metamorphosis is especially apparent in its liturgical feasts. The Feast of Christ’s Transfiguration, celebrated on August 6th, highlights the sacredness of all creation, which offers a foretaste of the final resurrection and restoration of all things in the age to come. The Homilies of St. Macarius underline this connection between the
Transfiguration of Christ and the sanctification of human nature:
“Just as the Lord’s body was glorified, when he went up the (Tabor)
mountain and was transfigured into glory and into infinite light …
so, too, our human nature is transformed into the power of God,
being kindled into fire and light” (St. Macarius, Homily XV, 38).
HAH, Utrecht, The Netherlands, April 24, 2014

Q.What does it mean to see the world as a gift of communion with God?
Q.In what ways do we inherit the sin of Adam and Eve?
Q.How can we overcome that ancestral sin and find genuine communion with God?


Third Tuesday

Humans Have a Eucharistic Role in Earth

The experience of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been one of continuity
and stability through centuries of global change. At one time, our
Patriarchate was co-terminus with the boundaries of the Roman Empire.
Today, as the 270th successor to the First-Called Disciple, Saint Andrew,
our domain is a ministry of spiritual leadership, but our Center is in the
same topos we have known from the Apostolic Age. Our mission embraces
Orthodox Christians on every continent….
In the teaching of our Church, nature is perceived as being full of
the glory of God, even though it groans with the rest of creation, awaiting
the revelation of our redemption (cf. Romans 8:22-23).
Humankind is seen as the nexus of creation, the point of
convergence that mediates the cosmos, which was created as “very good,”
for the glory of God.
Humanity has a meditative, and indeed, a eucharistic role in
exercising dominion over the earth. This is a far cry from domination,
and the exploitation which has characterized the technologically capable,
post-industrialist era.
HAH, World Affairs Council, Los Angeles, Calif, November 7, 1997

Q.Why do we say that nature is full of the glory of God?
Q.How do humans have a “eucharistic role” in their exercise of dominion?
Q.What does this mean? How might you exercise this aspect of faith in your life?


Third Wednesday

The Liturgy Teaches Us How to See

The liturgy, the Eucharistic assembly of the Church, provides for us a
mystical basis for a broader, spiritual worldview. This worldview is neither a political plan nor an economic strategy. It is essentially a way of reflecting on what it means to perceive the world through the lens of the soul.
Seeing clearly is precisely what the liturgy teaches us to do. It enables
us to hear new sounds and behold new images. It creates in us a mystical
appreciation and genuine affection for everything that surrounds us. The
truth is that we have been inexorably locked within the self-centered confines of our own individual concerns with no access to the world beyond us. We have violated the sacred covenant between ourselves, our world, and our God and now this is being reflected around the world.
The liturgy restores this covenant; it reminds us of another way and
of another world. It provides for us another means of comprehension and
communication. The liturgy is the eternal celebration of the fragile beauty of this world. It is this fragile beauty that brings us all together as a global
community, but this fragility also makes the world susceptible to our actions.
HAH, World Health Organization, May 30, 2008

Q.What can a person learn from the Divine Liturgy?
Q.How does the Liturgy teach us how to see?
Q.How does the Liturgy bring us all together?


Third Thursday

The True Nature of the Ecological Crisis
It is imperative that the true nature of the ecological crisis be understood.
The relationship between individuals or communities and the environment
can never be detached from their relationship with God. When man “turns
his back on the Creator’s plan, he provokes a disorder which has inevitable
repercussions on the rest of the created order” (Message from Pope John Paul II for the 1990 World Day of Peace, #5).
Ecological irresponsibility is at heart a moral problem – founded upon
an anthropological error – which arises when man forgets that his ability
to transform the world must always respect God’s design of creation
(cf. Centesimus Annus, 37).
Precisely because of the essentially moral nature of the [ecological]
problem, it is proper that religious, civic and political leaders, alongside
expert representatives of the scientific community, confront the
environmental challenges….
Similarly, solutions to this problem will necessarily involve acts of
solidarity which transcend political divisions or unnecessarily narrow
industrial self-interests.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, “Message before
HH Pope John Paul II,” Vatican City, May 27, 2003

Q.Why is ecological responsibility a moral issue?
Q.How can development happen and still respect God’s design for creation?
Q.Why must solutions to this problem involve a solidarity in society?


Third Friday

A Crusade for the Environment
Just how many of us examine the foods that we consume, the goods that we
purchase, the energy that we waste, or the consequences of our privileged
living? How often do we scrutinize the choices that we make, whether as
individuals, as institutions, as parishes, as communities, as societies, and even as nations?
More importantly, how many of our Orthodox clergy are prepared to
assume leadership on issues concerning the environment? How many of our parishes and communities are prepared to materialize the knowledge that we have accumulated by practicing ecologically-sensitive principles? In an age when the information is readily available, there is no excuse for ignorance or indifference.
Today, more than any other time, we are in a unique position. We stand
at a crossroads, at a point of choosing the cross that we have to bear. For,
today, we know the ecological and global impact of our decisions and actions, irrespective of how minimal or insignificant these may be.
It is our sincere hope and fervent prayer that in the years ahead, more
and more of our Orthodox faithful will recognize the importance of a crusade for our environment, which we have so selfishly ignored. This vision, we are convinced, will only benefit future generation by leaving behind a cleaner,
better world. We owe it to our Creator. And we owe it to our children.
HAH, Letter on the Day of Prayers for Creation, September 1, 2004

Q.What does it take to assume leadership on ecology issues?
Q.What is involved in helping a parish to “go green”?
Q.How is society now at a crossroads, as HAH relates?


Third Saturday
Original Sin and the Environment

To imagine a world that functions in beauty and harmony, balance and
purpose, in accordance with the overflowing love of God, is to cry out in
wonder with the Psalmist, “How great are Your works, O Lord; You have
fashioned all things in wisdom.”
Our original privilege and calling as human beings lies precisely
in our ability to appreciate the world as God’s gift to us. And our
original sin with regard to the natural environment lies – not in any
legalistic transgression, but – precisely in our refusal to accept the world
as a sacrament of communion with God and neighbor.
We have been endowed with a passion for knowledge and wisdom,
which open before us boundless worlds of the microcosm and the
macrocosm, and present us with boundless challenges of creative action
and intervention.
HAH, Oslo, Norway, June 12, 2002

Q.What is wonder? How can a person cultivate and encounter it?
Q.What does it mean to refuse the world as a sacrament of communion?
Q.How can the world become a sacrament of communion?


Fourth Monday
Learn from the Saints of the Church

It is crucial that we learn from the early Fathers and Mothers of the Church, that we embrace the mind of the early Church by immersing ourselves in the spirit of the Christian classics.
At the same time, we should turn our attention to the future, to the
age to come, toward the heavenly kingdom… an eschatological vision offers a way out of the impasse of provincialism and confessionalism.
HAH, Koympari, Crete, October 7 2009
Within the unimpaired natural environment, humanity
discovers spiritual peace and rest; and in humanity that
is spiritually cultivated, and that possesses the grace of God
and inner peace, nature recognizes its Lord and companion.
The Orthodox Church has always encouraged humanity to
respect the works of God, while the saints are considered
the best friends of creation.
HAH, Sydney Town Hall, Australia, November 26, 1996

Q.What can we learn from the lives and writings of the saints?
Q.What can Christians learn from nature?
Q.Why are the saints called “the best friends of creation”?


Fourth Tuesday
A Moral and Spiritual Problem

Climate change and environmental pollution affect everyone. While the data may be variously debated, the situation is clearly unsettling. To take but one example: dramatic increases of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere – largely due to fossil fuel burning – are causing global warming and in turn leading to melting ice caps, rising sea levels, the spread of disease, drought and famine.
The European heat-wave of 2003 could be unusually cool by 2060,
while the 150,000 people that the World Health Organization conservatively estimates are already dying annually due to climate change will be but a fraction of the actual number….
Religious leaders throughout the world recognize that climate change
is much more than an issue of environmental preservation. Insofar as it is
human-induced, it is a profoundly moral and spiritual problem. To persist in the current path of ecological destruction is not only folly. It is no less tha suicidal, jeopardizing the diversity of the very earth that we inhabit, enjoy
and share. It has rightly been described as a sin against God and creation.
After all, a handful of affluent nations account for two thirds of global GDP
and half of all global carbon dioxide emissions.
Ecological degradation also constitutes a matter of social and economic
justice. For those who will most directly and severely be affected by climate
change will be the poorer and more vulnerable nations (what Christian
Scriptures refer to as our “neighbor”) as well as the younger and future
generations (the world of our children and of our children’s children). Those of us living in more affluent nations either consume or else corrupt far too much of the earth’s resources.
HAH, Aichi, Japan, September 20, 2005

Q.How is climate change a sin against God and creation?
Q.What is the means by which humans are the cause of climate change?
Q.How can these problems be avoided?


Fourth Wednesday
Acknowledge the Consequences of Our Choices

While many of us in more affluent societies unfortunately cannot comprehend the consequences of climate change due to our comfortable, if not complacent and complicit circumstances, the more vulnerable among us… fully understand the dire situation as they witness the rising sea levels consume their home and threaten their survival.
Still, we are all called constantly to remember that what we put into our
waters is as harmful as what we take out of the oceans. The way that we pollute our oceans – whether intentionally through non-biodegradable waste or else inadvertently through precipitation – is as destructive as our practices of overfishing and harvesting of particular fish populations in a manner faster than they can naturally reproduce.
Moreover, basic human rights are also at risk when we do not protect the
oceans. The way we defile the oceans is plainly reflected in the way we exploit their resources, which in turn is directly related to the way we treat our fellow human beings, particularly the more marginalized and less fortunate of our brothers and sisters.
Nonetheless, if we have created the dire conditions that we now face, we
are equally accountable for and capable of remedying the health of our
environment. Each of us can and must appreciate the way in which our
individual and collective lifestyles impact the environment; we can and must acknowledge the harmful consequences of our material choices; indeed, we can and must assume responsibility for positive and permanent change.
HAH, Message for World Oceans Day, June 8, 2015

Q.What is required to respect the environment?
Q.How can we remember to have a responsible relationship to the world?
Q.Is a person responsible for unintended destructive impacts upon the earth?


Fourth Thursday
Preserve Creation from Harm

According to the Church Fathers, a merciful heart will not only seek the
heavenly kingdom and sense that it has no abiding city here on earth; it
also cannot tolerate any harm to animals and plants, even to the inanimate
elements to nature…. Such a spirit should characterize every Christian.
We do not limit our expectations to this world; nor do we abandon
our pursuit of the heavenly reality, namely the divine kingdom. Instead,
we recognize that the way that leads to the heavenly Jerusalem goes through the keeping of the divine commandments during our temporary sojourn in this world. Therefore, we are careful to keep the original commandment to preserve creation from all harm, both for our own sake and for the sake of our fellow human beings.
In any case, respect for the material and natural creation of God, as
well as indirectly for all people who are affected by the environment, reveals sensitivity in human attitudes and conduct that should be characteristic of every Christian.
HAH, Day of Prayer for the Environment, September 1, 1997

Q.Which of the commandments about creation are we expected to keep?
Q.Why does respect for creation reveal our attitude about God?
Q.What specific things show respect for the creation?


Fourth Friday
Orthodox Christianity Faces the Modern World

Although the time we have been on the planet is insignificant in the context of the life of the planet, we have reached a defining moment….
Having struggled for centuries to escape the tyranny of hunger, disease,
and want, the technological advances of the last century have created the
illusion of us being in control of our destiny as never before. We have cracked the code of DNA, we can create life in test tubes, we can genetically modify crops, we can put men on the moon – but we have lost our balance, externally and within…. The explosion of knowledge has not been accompanied by an increase in wisdom. Only wisdom could make us realize that the Creation is an interdependent, undivided whole, not an assemblage of isolated, unrelated parts…. Even the smallest human intervention in the natural order by human action, can have – and does have – long term effects on the planet.
In addition to seeking balance between ourselves and our environment,
we need to find balance within ourselves, reassessing our values as well as
what is valuable. Let us remember, we all have our part to play, our sacred
responsibility to the future. And let us remember that our responsibility grows alongside our privileges…. Our decisions, personal and collective, determine the future of the planet.
As we… explore the challenges faced by local communities, let us search
for solutions from the perspective of Faith, mindful that we are all in the same fragile boat of life – that we are living defining moments in history, and that we are living them together in Truth, in Love, in Hope and above all, in Responsibility.
HAH, New Orleans, Louisiana, October 21, 2009

Q.Has the modern world changed the way people relate to God? What is different?
Q.How is wisdom different in comparison to knowledge? How is wisdom acquired?
Q.How can Orthodox Christianity provide solutions to modern problems?


Fourth Saturday
Putting our Own Houses in Order

Africa is the continent least responsible for global warming, yet bearing the
most detrimental consequences, while also being the least equipped to cope with the changes. Harvest cycles in Ethiopia and other parts of eastern and southern Africa are shortening, leading to further food insecurity for the world’s poorest people. Elevated temperatures create incalculable increase in the range of vector-borne diseases and lack of clean water.
Populations affected by fatal diseases, such as malaria, schistosomiasis,
dengue fever and cholera, are rising dramatically. Even a conservative estimate indicates the number of people impacted by flooding could increase from 1 million (in 1990) to 70 million (by as early as 2080)….
Faith communities must first put their own houses in order; their
adherents must embrace the urgency of the issue. This process has already
begun throughout the world, although it must be expanded and intensified.
Religions realize the primacy of the need for a change deep within people’s
hearts. They are also emphasizing the connection between spiritual
commitment and moral ecological practice. Faith communities are well-placed to take a long-term view of the world as God’s creation. In theological jargon, that is called “eschatology.” Moreover, we have been taught that we are judged on the choices we make.
HAH, Aichi, Japan, September 20, 2005

Q.How might Orthodox Christians embrace the urgency of the climate issue?
Q.What does this require in specific terms and actions?
Q.What does moral ecological practice involve?


Fifth Monday
Love God, Love the Creation

Our love for nature does not seek to idolize it; rather, our love for it stems
from our love for the Creator who grants it to us. This love is expressed
through offering in thanksgiving of all things to God, to whom we, having
been reconciled through Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:19), enjoy also our
reconciliation with nature.
Without our reconciliation with God, the forces of nature find
themselves in opposition to us. We already experience consequences of
this and are subjected to them. Therefore, in order to avert the escalation
of evil and to correct that which may already have taken place, and in
order to suspend the penalty, we are obligated to accept the fact that we
need to be accountable consumers of nature and not arbitrary rulers of it.
We must also accept the fact that, in the final analysis, the demand placed
on nature to use its powers to destroy our fellow man, whom we might
consider useless, will result in our facing the same consequences.
HAH, The Phanar, September 1, 1998
We invite you to join… in pledging to protect the oceans as an act of devotion….If we love God, we must love His creation.
HAH, Stockholm, Sweden, June 7, 2003

Q.How do we express our love of God in relation to the earth?
Q.What does it mean to be “accountable consumers of nature”?
Q.What is the relation between God and the creation?

March


First Monday
Sacrificing Selfishness

The natural environment was created by God to be friendly and of service to the needs of humankind. However, owing to Man’s original disobedience, the natural harmony and balance of the environment was disrupted and due to persistent disobeying of God’s commandments, it continues to disrupt, leading to total disarray and disharmony.
Therefore, the prayer that we offer up to the Lord for the protection of
the natural environment should first of all be a prayer for the repentance of humans, who through misjudged, thoughtless, and sometimes arrogant actions directly or indirectly provokes most, not to say all, natural catastrophes.
Our Lord who taught us the Lord’s Prayer, includes in it a promise that
accompanies a request “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who
trespass against us.” This has a broader meaning. Our prayer should be
accompanied by a corresponding sacrifice, mainly a sacrifice of our selfishness and arrogant pursuits, which demonstrate our insolent attitude towards the Creator and His wisely stipulated natural and spiritual laws. This change of attitude is called repentance. Only if our prayer to God for the protection of the environment is accompanied by a corresponding repentance, will it be effective and welcomed by God.
Therefore, beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord, let us reconsider our
lives and let us repent for everything we do mistakenly and against the wise laws of God, in order to be heard by Him, begging His kindness to maintain the natural environment, friendly and undamaged for humankind.
HAH, The Phanar, September 1, 2003

Q.What is repentance?
Q.How does it apply to our habitual behavior that involves earth and society?
Q.Does society also need to repent of actions that defile the creation?


First Tuesday
Reuniting the Universe Under Jesus Christ

Cosmology is a form of knowledge which is given to us in Christ by the Holy
Spirit. “The mystery of the Incarnation of the Word,” wrote St. Maximus the
Confessor, “contains within itself the whole meaning of the created world. He
who understands the mystery of the Cross and the Tomb knows the meaning
of all things, and he who is initiated into the hidden meaning of the
Resurrection understands the purpose for which God created everything from
the very beginning.”
If this is so, it means that everything has been created by and for the
Word, as the Apostle says (Colossians 1:16-17), and that the meaning of this
creation is revealed to us in the re-creation effected by the same Word taking
flesh, by the Son of God becoming the son of the earth….
In this perspective the Fathers maintain that the historical Bible gives us
the key to the cosmic Bible. In this they are faithful to the Hebrew notion of
the Word, which not only speaks, but creates: God is “true” in the sense
that his word is the source of all reality, not only historical, but also cosmic
reality…. That is why, as St. Maximos says, we discover, or rather the Gospel
discovers for us, that on the one hand, the Word “hides himself mysteriously
in created things like so many letters,” and on the other hand, “he… expresses
himself in the letters, symbols and sounds of Scripture.”
HB Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch, Zurich, Switzerland, March 10, 1989

Q.What is Christian cosmology?
Q.What is the ‘Logos,’ referring to what HB calls the Incarnation of the Word?
Q.How does this relate to the created world?


First Wednesday
For the Sanctification of the World

The Church of Christ has had to cope with many problems which are
prominent in our contemporary world. The crisis facing ecology is one such
problem that has grave moral implications for all humankind.
Orthodoxy watches with great anxiety the merciless trampling down
and destruction of the natural environment caused by human beings with
extremely dangerous consequences for the very survival of the natural world
created by God.
In view of the present situation the Church of Christ cannot remain
unmoved…. The role of humanity as the priest of creation is clearly
shown in liturgical theology. We are able to reshape and alter the world.
The vocation of humanity, as shown in liturgical theology, is not to
dominate and exploit nature, but to transfigure and hallow it. In a variety of
ways – through the cultivation of the earth, through craftsmanship, through
the writing of books and the painting of icons – humanity gives material
things a voice and renders the creation articulate in praise of God.
We must attempt to return to the proper relationship with the Creator
and creation in order to ensure the survival of the natural world. We are
called to bear some of the pain of creation as well as to enjoy and celebrate it.
That means to perform Liturgia extra muros, the Liturgy beyond, or outside,
the walls of the church, for the sanctification of the world.
HG Bishop Irineu [Pop], Romanian Orthodox Church, Iraklion, Crete, 1991

Q.Why is the Orthodox Church concerned about ecological problems?
Q. How is the world sanctified?
Q.What is the role of priests and parishioners in this task?


First Thursday
A Spirituality of Thanksgiving

In order to achieve a 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 this 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.
HAH, Moscow, May 26, 2010

Q.What is the purpose of being thankful?
Q.Why is it that the earth is never entirely one’s own private property?
Q.How do Orthodox reconcile secular laws about private property with our theology?

First Friday
Responsibility for Future Generations

We should hand [the material world] … on to the
generations that come after us… enhanced and with
greater capacity for supporting life.

His Beatitude Patriarch +Maxim, Bulgarian Orth. Church, 1997
In the years ahead, more and more of our Orthodox faithful will recognize
the importance of a crusade for our environment, which we have so
selfishly ignored.
This vision… will benefit future generation by leaving behind a
cleaner, better world. We owe it to our Creator. And we owe it to our
children.

HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Day of Prayers for Creation, 2004

Q.Why should we today assume responsibility for future generations?
Q.What is different in the world today from the world of the past?
Q.What does this responsibility mean in practical terms?


First Saturday
The Whole World is a Living Sacrament

Everything that lives and breathes is sacred and beautiful in the eyes of God.
The whole world is a sacrament. The entire created cosmos is a burning bush
of God’s uncreated energies. And humankind stands as a priest before the
altar of creation, as microcosm and mediator. Such is the true nature of things,
or, as an Orthodox hymn describes it, “the truth of things,” if only we have the
eyes of faith to see it.
We know that this vision has been blurred; the image has been marred
by our sin. For we have presumed to control the order of things, and have
therefore destroyed the hierarchy of creation. We have lost the dimension of
beauty and have come to a spiritual impasse where everything that we
touch is invariably distorted or even destroyed.
Nevertheless, through the divine Incarnation our sight is once
again restored and we are once more enabled to discern the beauty of
Christ’s countenance “in all places of His dominion,” and “in the least
of our brothers and sisters” (Gen. 25:40).
HAH, Santa Barbara, California, November 8, 1997

Q.What is beauty?
Q.Why does HAH call the world “a living sacrament”?
Q.If the divine vision of creation is blurred, what is human responsibility for this?


Second Monday
An Ecological Ethic is Necessary for Christians

There certainly is an Orthodox Christian ecological ethic. It is an ethic that is
not an option for Orthodox faithful. It is not a mere theological “specialty”
for those who have academic and professional reasons to be interested.
The Orthodox ecological ethic proceeds directly from our doctrine.
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem said, “the method of godliness consists of two
things – pious doctrines and virtuous practice.” Without any doubt, virtuous
practice demands right attitude and action toward the environment, for our
Holy Tradition demands nothing else.
As such, the Orthodox Christian ecological ethic is ecclesial: it proceeds
from our life in the Church, the Body of Christ … and it is ultimately
comprehensible only within the context of the Church. Here is where the
main distinctions exist between our ecclesial ethic and the ecological ethics we
find in secular society.
HE Metropolitan Nicholas of Amisso, Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church,
Antiochian Village, June 15, 2002

Q.What is our Orthodox ecological ethic? How would you summarize it?
Q.What is the Orthodox doctrine of creation?
Q.What sort of lifestyle should emerge from our Orthodox theology?


Second Tuesday
An Ethic of the Environment

We have reached a point in technological development where we must learn
to say “No!” to technologies with destructive side effects. We are in dire need
of an ethic of technology.
In the Orthodox Church, we profess and confess that God’s spirit is
“everywhere present and fills all things” (From a Prayer to the Holy Spirit).
However, we must also begin to embrace a worldview that declares and
demonstrates the biblical conviction that “the earth is God’s and everything
in it” (Psalm 23.1), so that we may refrain from harming the earth or
destroying the life on it. We have been gifted with unique resources of a
beautiful planet. However, these resources of underground carbon are not
unlimited—whether they are the oil of the Arctic or the tar sands of Canada,
whether they are the coal of Australia or the gas in Eastern Europe.
Moreover, with regard to nuclear energy specifically, we cannot assess
success or sustainability purely in terms of financial profit—the disasters at
Three Mile Island (1979), Chernobyl (1986), and Fukushima (2011) have
amply demonstrated the human, financial, and ecological cost. Nor, indeed,
can we ignore the other problems of nuclear power, such as waste disposal
and vulnerability to terrorist attacks.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, April 26, 2016

Q.What is an ethic of the environment?
Q.What is the ethic and message in this passage?
Q.How might this ethic be applied?

Second Wednesday
Our First Task

We paternally urge all the faithful of the world to admonish themselves
and their children to respect and protect the natural environment.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch +Dimitrios, September 1, 1989
Our first task is to raise the consciousness of adults who most use the resources
of the planet. Ultimately, it is for our children that we must perceive our every
action… as having a direct effect on the future of the environment….
As individuals, we live not only in vertical relationships to God,
and horizontal relationships to one another, but also in a complex web of
relationships that extend throughout our lives, our cultures and the material
world. Human beings and the environment form a seamless garment of
existence; a complex fabric that we believe is fashioned by God….
In the bread and 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 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. Thus it is that we offer the fullness of creation at the Eucharist, and
receive it back as a blessing, as the living presence of God. …
We are called to work in humble harmony with creation and not in
arrogant supremacy against it…. We lovingly suggest to all the people… that
they help one another understand the myriad ways in which we are related
to the earth and to one another. In this way, we may begin to repair the
dislocation many people experience in relation to creation.
HAH, Santa Barbara, California, Nov 8, 1997

Q.How do we work in humble harmony with creation?
Q.In what ways can you help others understand how we are to relate to the earth?
Q.Why do you think our first task is to raise the awareness of adults?


Second Thursday
Man: A Curse or a Blessing on God’s Creation?

How should Orthodox view the environment? Is it a great reservoir of
untapped riches, waiting to be exploited for profit? Or is it an
untouchable sanctuary, where nothing should be used? Should we view
the environment as a living, almost divine being? Or is the environment
God’s Creation, where man is set with a profound, symbiotic
relationship, and a definite, holy purpose?
It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of creation as a
foundational concept. It means that we must accept the reality of
every creature as meaningful.
Nothing exists as a chance encounter. Each creature is created
by God to exist, conceptualized from eternity and realized in time.
God alone gives meaning to His Creation. In our Orthodox ecological
ethic, we insist that man adopt a humbler, more honest and scientific
outlook, in which he seeks to discern meaning in Creation.
HE Metropolitan Nicholas of Amisso, Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church,
Antiochian Village, June 15, 2002

Q.What is the Orthodox vision of creation?
Q.How important is our understanding of creation in Orthodox theology?
Q.What is the role of humility in our Orthodox worldview?


Second Friday
Every Person a Priest of God’s Creation

In the Orthodox Church, behind whose tradition lie long battles
against ancient Greco-Roman paganism, a spirituality involving a
deep respect for nature is strongly conditioned by the view that
nature acquires sacredness only in and through the human person.
This gives humanity decisive importance and responsibility.
A human is the Priest of creation as he or she freely turns it into a
vehicle of communion with God and fellow human beings. This
means that material creation is not treated as a means of obtaining
pleasure and happiness for the individual, but as a sacred gift from
God which is meant to foster and promote communion with God
and with others.
Such a ‘liturgical’ use of nature by human beings leads to
forms of culture which are deeply respectful of the material world
while keeping the human person at the center.
HE Metropolitan John of Pergamon, “Production
and Consumption,” April, 1996

Q.Why do Orthodox Christians respect nature?
Q.How is the human person a Priest of Creation? In practice what does this mean?
Q.How may creation serve as a means of communion with God?


Second Saturday
The Care of Creation is Our Spiritual Task

The human is on Earth, not as a stranger who came to receive a monetary
profit, but as a careful owner who cultivates the earth for future
generations and takes care not only of his own profit, but also of the good
of his neighbors and those far off.
Moreover, the care and protection of the Creation of God in all its
beauty and harmony is not only our practical task, but also a spiritual and
religious duty, a fulfillment of the commandment of God and a trail of
moral feeling.
The Black Sea region has suffered from many sad consequences
through an unreasonable selfish use of nature and this has been especially
dramatic in our century.
Today we must understand the need to work together for the
transfiguration of this wonderful piece of land, for the improvement of the
condition of the Black Sea, the pearl of our planet….
HB Patriarch +Alexiy of Moscow and All Russia,
Yalta, Crimea, September 24, 1997

Q.How is the care for creation our spiritual task on earth?
Q.What is necessary for a right caring of the earth?
Q.How do we correct wrong habits from the past?


Third Monday
Programs of Practical Action are Needed

Our attention must be given to developing programs of practical application.

HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, 1994
Tree-planting initiatives must be undertaken…. Groups of students can
cultivate gardens, while others can care and tend to forest regions. Along
with lectures, seminars should be organized intended on enlightening
students concerning planting procedures, gardening and similar activities.
Groups of children in secular, parochial and catechetical schools may
adopt vegetable or flower gardens, forested regions, church compounds,
abandoned properties, farm regions cultivated for the common good, or
areas with natural beauty which they will care for on a voluntary basis.
Their example can sensitize their parents and elders who can then be
motivated to do likewise.

HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, 1994


Let us begin here and now to plant trees, both material and noetic, which
will perhaps require many decades before they grow to full maturity – trees
beneath whose shelter in the future, not only we, but also our children, our
grandchildren and great-grandchildren, will be able to sit with security and
eucharistic joy.

HE Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, 2002

Q.Why should the faithful plant trees?
Q.What are some practical activities that you might recommend for action?
Q.How is care of creation best taught through practical programs?


Third Tuesday
Sin Against the Environment

The ecological crisis is a spiritual problem. The proper relationship between
humanity and the earth or its natural environment has been broken with the
Fall both outwardly and within us, and this rupture is sin. The Church must
now introduce in its teaching about sin the sin against the environment, the
ecological sin. Repentance must be extended to cover also the damage we do
to nature both as individuals and as societies. This must be brought to the
conscience of every Christian who cares for his or her salvation.
The rupture of the proper relationship between humanity and
nature is due to the rise of individualism in our culture. The pursuit of
individual happiness has been made into an ideal in our time. Ecological sin is
due to human greed which blinds men and women to the point of ignoring
and disregarding the basic truth that the happiness of the individual depends
on its relationship with the rest of human beings. There is a social dimension
in ecology which the Encyclical [Laudato Si!] brings out with clarity.
The ecological crisis goes hand in hand with the spread of social injustice.
We cannot face successfully the one without dealing with the other.
Ecological sin is a sin not only against God, but also against our
neighbor. And it is a sin not only against the other of our own time but also –
and this is serious – against future generations. By destroying our planet in
order to satisfy our greed for happiness, we bequeath to future generations a
world damaged beyond repair with all the negative consequences that this
will have for their lives. We must act, therefore, responsibly towards our
children and those who will succeed us in this life.
HE Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, June 18, 2015

Q. What is individualism?
Q.What is environmental sin? Can you name some examples?
Q.Why should Christians care about the future?


Third Wednesday
Love God’s Creation

Regard yourselves as being responsible before God for every creature and treat
every thing with love and care.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch +Dimitrios, 1990
The Orthodox Church proposes two central concepts, namely
compassion and community. An essential element of caretaking is
compassion, which is the very experience and expression of caretaking.
To be cared for by God and to care for God’s creation entail showing
compassion for every living being and for every living thing. “A
compassionate heart,” writes a seventh-century mystic, St. Isaac the
Syrian, “Burns with love for the whole of creation – for human beings,
for birds and beasts, for all of God’s creatures.”
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, June 30, 2004
Let us proceed with much love toward the natural world that surrounds us…
In the end, people protect only that which they truly love.
HB Archbishop Anastasios, Albanian Orthodox Church, 2002

Q.Why should we treat everything with ‘love and care’?
Q.How does one acquire a compassionate heart? What inhibits the heart?
Q.What benefits derive from a loving heart?


Third Thursday
Our Spiritual and Religious Duty

The human being is on earth, not as a stranger who came to receive a
monetary profit, but as a careful owner who cultivates the earth for future
generations and takes care not only of his own profit, but also of the good
of his neighbors and those far off.
Moreover, the care of protecting the Creation of God in all its
beauty and harmony is not only our practical task but also a spiritual and
religious duty, a fulfillment of the commandment of God and a trail of
moral feeling.
The Black Sea region has suffered from many sad consequences
of an unreasonable selfish use of nature and this has been especially
dramatic in our century.
Today we must understand the need to work together for the
transfiguration of this wonderful piece of land, for the improvement of the
condition of the Black Sea, the pearl of our planet….
HB Patriarch +Alexey II, Russian Orthodox Church, Yalta, Russia, September 24, 1997

Q.What is our human purpose on earth?
Q.How do we achieve success in our sojourn on earth?
Q.What does the Orthodox Church say is our spiritual and religious duty?


Third Friday
Proceed into Stronger and More Effective Actions

We wish to add one simple observation which is already known to
everyone, namely that the destructive deterioration of the environment is
taking on multiple and threatening dimensions. Therefore, we must not be
content with verbal protests, but instead we proceed to continuously
stronger and more effective actions, each from their own part and position.
For, pollution is dangerously spreading and rapidly increasing.
Indeed, quite possibly, and God forbid, according to the
calculations of the experts, quite probably, pollution will become
impossible to control. We cannot remain idle.
May the enlightenment of the Paraclete always shine in your
steps and in your actions within the course of your research and study, for
your own benefit and for that of all your fellow human beings and the
whole natural world.
HAH, The First International Symposium,
Island of Patmos, September 22, 1995

Q.Why does pollution of God’s creation continue to spread?
Q.What is our responsibility to address this social form of sin?
Q.Why are we spiritually and morally responsible for this development?


Third Saturday
A Moral and Spiritual Perspective

Environmental protection is a profoundly moral and spiritual problem that
concerns us all. The initial and crucial response to the environmental crisis is for each
of us to bear personal responsibility for the way we live and for the values that we
treasure and the priorities that we pursue. To persist in the current path of
ecological destruction is not only folly. It is a sin against God and creation.
HAH, Ecum Patriarch Bartholomew, Manaus, Brazil, July 16, 2006
The care of protecting the Creation of God in all its beauty and harmony
is not only our practical task but also a spiritual and religious duty, a
fulfillment of the commandment of God and a trail of moral feeling.
Today we must understand the need to work together for the
transfiguration of this wonderful piece of land, for the improvement of
the condition of the Black Sea, the pearl of our planet….
HB Patriarch +ALEXEY II, Russian Orth. Church
Yalta, Crimea, September 24, 1997
Theological reflection on anthropology and cosmology is even more important
now because the problems of man and the environment with which we are
confronted, are increasingly taking on a global dimension.
In the Church of Antioch, we currently experience these particular
problems in a very urgent manner…. Following the example of St. Maximos
the Confessor, the prophet of the relationship between man and the cosmos,
and the defender of the full humanity of the Word, we persist in proclaiming
and living the love of Christ, which is capable of transforming every human
endeavor. We do so within the effervescence of the Arabic and Islamic world,
in spite of many wounds which have not yet healed.
HB Patriarch +Ignatius IV of Antioch, September 8, 2012

Q.Why should Christians care for the earth and its future?
Q.How do we accomplish this?
Q.What is our goal in this activity?


Fourth Monday
Excess Consumption as a Cause of Climate Change

Global Climate Change has been on the Eastern Orthodox Christian
agenda for over twenty five years. In 1989 Ecumenical Patriarch +Dimitrios
began to raise the alarm when he observed “scientists… warn us of the
danger of the phenomena of the greenhouse whose first indications have
already been noted….”
In a letter to the 2013 Warsaw Climate Summit, Ecumenical
Patriarch Bartholomew brought a further cause of climate change into
focus: “Excess consumption.” Humanity’s reckless consumption of earth’s
resources threatens us with irreversible climate change. Burning more fuel
than we need, we contribute to droughts or floods thousands of miles away.
To restore the planet we need a spiritual worldview which
cultivates frugality and simplicity, humility and respect. We must
constantly be aware of the impact of our actions on creation. We must
direct our focus away from what we want to what the planet needs. We must
care for creation. Otherwise, we do not really care about anything at all.
In our efforts to contain global warming, we are demonstrating
how prepared we are to sacrifice our selfish and greedy lifestyles. When will
we learn to say: “Enough!”? When will we understand how important it is
to leave as light a footprint as possible for the sake of future generations?
HE Archbishop Seraphim of Zimbabwe, Patriarchate
of Alexandria and All Africa, June 18, 2014

Q.Why is excess consumption harmful to the world?
Q.What is required to restrain consumption?
Q.What is our individual responsibility in restraining consumption?


Fourth Tuesday
A Good God Gives Us a Good World

The world was created “very good” in order to serve the mind of God and the
life of humanity. However, it does not replace God; it cannot be worshiped in
the place of God; it cannot offer more than God appointed it to offer. The
Orthodox Church prays that God may bless this creation in order to offer
seasonable weather and an abundance of fruits from the earth. It prays that
God may free the earth from earthquakes, floods, fires, and every other harm.
In recent times, it has also offered supplications to God for the
protection of the world from destruction caused by humanity itself, such as
pollution, war, over exploitation, exhaustion of waters, changes in
environmental conditions, devastation, and stagnation.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate does not however rely only on
supplication to God to improve the situation. Starting from God, as it is always
proper to do, the Ecumenical Patriarchate works intensely in every possible
way to alert everyone to the fact that the greed of our generation constitutes a
sin. This greed leads to the deprivation of our children’s generation, in spite of
our desire to bequeath to them a better future.
HAH, Kathmandu, Nepal, November 15, 2000

Q.In what ways can we see and know that the world is good?
Q.Why do people corrupt and pollute the world?
Q.What is the solution to our human tendency to corrupt and pollute the world?


Fourth Wednesday
The Earth Is the Lord’s and the Fullness Thereof (Part One)

During the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, there
developed a notion and then a theology of man’s dominance over and
ownership of the earth. Even the creation narrative was re-interpreted as giving
man a purely utilitarian ownership of the earth.
While this desire to dominate the earth predates these two
extraordinary developments in human society, it had previously been necessary
only to accommodate oneself to a certain amount of self-control, such as
irrigation. It was these two events, one on the level of the mind and the other on
the level of our action, that made it possible for us to carry out such domination.
Nevertheless, in the [Mosaic] Law we are taught that all the land
belonged to God and that portions were divided among the tribes to be held in
trust and used for their needs. And as the embodiment of their responsibility to
cultivate an ability to respond, like the Lord, with care, God even went so far as
to give a sabbath to the land, so that it might be rested and resuscitated. From
this it is clear that God cares for the earth and desires that it be sustained. It is
equally clear that the earth does not belong to us, rather we belong to it. Not
only are we an integral part of the ecosystem, but at the end of our lives the
earth will reclaim us and return us to her bosom.
God made us from the dust of the earth and He also breathed into us
the spirit of life. We are, therefore, both of heaven and of earth. In a manner of
speaking, we share in the image of the two natures of Jesus Christ, and so are
invited to cultivate the sanctification of our incarnate way of being.
HE Archbishop LAZAR, Serbian Orthodox Archdiocese of Canada,
Carlton University, Ottawa, Ontario, July 18, 2007

Q.How do you think we acquired a utilitarian view of the world?
Q.What is the purpose of the call to take dominion of the earth?
Q.How might we participate is sustaining the earth?


Fourth Thursday
The Earth Is the Lord’s and the Fullness Thereof (Part Two)

The Apostle Paul tells us that all of creation fell together with man, and that it
has been redeemed together with man….
The purpose of man is not simply to worship God, but to serve as a
point of unity for all that exists. Man alone consists in the spiritual, the
material and the intellectual, and he is therefore a microcosm of the whole
universe, both the visible and the invisible. We have the capacity through our
worship to serve creation as God loves creation. “Ortho-doxa” is more than
“right worship”; it also indicates the correct understanding of worship. Such
ortho-doxa, or right worship with a correct understanding, makes it possible for
us to serve creation with blessing and healing.
There is no relationship with our Lord and Saviour where there is not
blessing…. There is no cultivation, but only a stripping away (a kind of spiritual
strip mining), no healing but only harm. Man should have fulfilled this vocation as
a unifying element in nature, for he is not only its crown, but also the microcosm
of creation. This vocation could only be fulfilled through unselfish love and the
absence of egotism. This would have constituted a proper use of his energies.
The fall constitutes a proclivity to habitually misuse our energies, not
the loss of them. Christ healed this misuse through His perfect humanity, in
whom perfect human nature is expressed, making unity with God and the cosmos
again possible for human beings – a unity which Christ realized for us in His
perfect humanity with complete divinity. Human nature, restored in Him, now
has the ability to make proper use of its energies. This proper use is manifested
in the Church, His Body, even if Church members often fall short of it.
Understanding this is necessary for us to understand the complexities
of the Incarnation of God. Jesus Christ as Incarnate Word recapitulated our
nature and became the new Adam in order to correct our failures, complete our
calling, fulfil our purpose and therefore deliver not only us, but the whole
cosmos from bondage to corruption.
HE Archbishop LAZAR, Serbian Orthodox Archdiocese of Canada,
Carlton University, Ottawa, Ontario, July 18, 2007

Q.How much can you identify that humans lost because of the Fall?
Q.What in the concept of Ortho-doxy allows us to serve creation?
Q.How might we restore a right use of our human energies?


Fourth Friday
The Earth Is the Lord’s and the Fullness Thereof (Part Three)

In the beginning – in the creation – man fit into the ecosystem in perfect
balance. Had he truly acquired the knowledge of good and evil as a gift from
God in the fullness of time, he could have maintained that balance. However,
having accepted from Satan a counterfeit of that knowledge, man’s
relationship with the cosmos became counterfeit.
The fact that the human race has come so close to destroying the
ecosystem upon which its life depends makes it clear that humanity has
misunderstood not only its own Being, but its relationship with the earth,
with the universe, with God, and even with itself. These misunderstandings,
not forming ourselves on that which is foundational to creation – the
Creator’s love and affection – always come hand in hand. We misunderstand
both our own being and creation, including the whole of the universe and
God, in one and the same act. This set of misunderstandings, born of selfcentered
egotism, is a major aspect of what Christ came to earth to heal.
It is important to remember that self-centered egotism is not
something most people are able to see and understand about themselves, but
it is deeply embedded in their whole way of putting their understanding of
the world together. It is a fundamental misrepresentation of self, world and
God and the only way we can untie this knot is by coming to know how it
began and shedding the light of Christ on this unconscious orientation…
HE Archbishop LAZAR, Serbian Orthodox Archdiocese of Canada,
Carlton University, Ottawa, Ontario, July 18, 2007

Q.How much can you name of what humans lost because of the Fall?
Q.What in the concept of Ortho-doxy causes us to serve creation?
Q.What does it take to restore a right use of our human energies?


Fourth Saturday
The Earth Is the Lord’s and the Fullness Thereof (Part Four)

“Thou shalt love [cherish and nourish] thy neighbor
as thyself” … and he, wishing to justify himself, replied,
“and who is my neighbor?”
This is the second half of Christ’s great “moral imperative.” It is often
described as a “command,” but I would like to think of it as the truest form
of morality. What is shocking to me is that so many people, many of them
in positions of political and economic power, so callously disregard the
welfare of their own children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, in
their reticence to make a little lower profits or adjust our over-heated
lifestyle, our so called “standard of living.” Yet, surely, our own children
and grandchildren are our neighbors.
Even if we turned to a radical ecologically sound lifestyle today, we
would still leave the next several generations with a depleted agriculture, an
insufficient supply of fresh water and large areas of formerly food producing
land in a state of desiccation and ruin. The earth came to us as a sacred trust,
and we will pass it on in such a condition. As a whole, our generation will not
respond to the current crises in an appropriate manner because our entire
socio-economic structure is based on harsh competition for short term profits.
Our current “standard of living” in North America is based on a self-centered
and egoistic measure. It does not reflect the lifestyle of the lower middle class
and the poor, but that of the upper income levels in Canada and America.
We ask what can we few Orthodox Christians do in the face of such
huge problems. Aside from our prayers and our struggle for salvation, we can
offer spiritual and social leadership in a sound process of education and action
which is based in Scripture and the moral imperative of Jesus Christ, rather
than the dreamy new-age romanticism that has dominated much of the
ecology movement…. Glory to Jesus Christ!
HE Archbishop LAZAR, Serbian Orthodox Archdiocese of Canada,
Carlton University, Ottawa, Ontario, July 18, 2007

Q.Who may we count as our neighbor?
Q.What is deficient in the secular ecological vision?
Q.What can single individuals do to be part of the solution to ecological problems?


Fifth Monday
A Universal Human Responsibility

In our time, more than ever before, there is an undeniable obligation for all to
understand that environmental concern for our planet does not comprise a
romantic notion of the few. The ecological crisis, and particularly the reality of
climate change, constitutes the greatest threat for every form of life in our
world. Moreover, there is an immediate correlation between protection of the
environment and every expression of economic and social life.
For our Orthodox Church, the protection of the environment as
God’s creation is the supreme responsibility of human beings, quite apart from
any material or other financial benefits that it may bring. The almighty God
bequeathed this “very beautiful” world (Gen. 1.26) to humanity together with
the commandment to “serve and preserve” it….
According to the theological understanding of the Orthodox Christian
Church, the natural environment is part of Creation and is characterized by
sacredness…. Thus we call everyone to a more acute sense of vigilance for the
preservation of nature and all creation.
HAH Ecum. Patriarch Bartholomew, The Phanar, June 5, 2009
In our [Bulgarian] community the harmful exploitation of nature, the
creation of God, is no longer tolerated. It is incumbent on us to use the
material world which God has entrusted to us in a beneficial way [and]
not to exploit it mercilessly. We should hand it on to the generations
that come after us, not as a wasteland, but enhanced and with a greater
capacity for supporting life.
HB PATRIARCH +MAXIM, Primate, Bulgarian Orth. Church
Varna, Bulgaria, September 26, 1997

Q.Why should humans should take good care of the earth?
Q.How do we develop a vigilance for the preservation of nature?
Q.What are some specific ways that we can do this?


Fifthg Tuesday
The Meaning of Christian Asceticism

Asceticism has been associated with a devaluation of matter for the sake of
‘higher’ and more ‘spiritual’ things. This implies a Platonic view of matter
and the body, which is not compatible with the Christian tradition…. Such
types of asceticism, involving a devaluation or contempt of the material
world, aggravates instead of solves the ecological crisis.
An ‘ecological asceticism’ begins with deep respect for the material
creation, including the human body. It builds upon the view that we are
not possessors of creation, but are called to turn it into a vehicle of
communion, always respecting its possibilities and limitations.
Human beings must realize that natural resources are not unlimited.
Creation is finite and so are the resources that nature can provide. The
consumerist philosophy seems to ignore this truth. We encourage growth
and consumption by making ‘necessary’ things which previous generations
could easily live without. We need to reconsider our concept of quality of
life. Quality does not need quantity to exist. A restriction in our use of
natural resources can lead to a life that is happier than the endless
competition of spending and acquiring more and more. Qualitative growth
must replace the prevailing conception of economic development….
Asceticism must become synonymous with qualitative instead of
quantitative progress in society.
All this would involve major redefinitions in political, economic
and social institutions. Such a reorientation of our culture requires the
involvement and cooperation of all the factors responsible for forming it.
It would require a change in people’s deeper convictions and motivations,
since no human being can sacrifice anything without a reason or motive.
HE Metropolitan John of Pergamon, “Production and Consumption, April, 1996

Q.What is Christian asceticism? Can you explain it?
Q.Why is ascesis beneficial and preferable to the consumerist way of life?
Q.What is the example that we receive from the life of Jesus Christ?

April Introduction
During Great Lent, Christians are called to follow our Lord Jesus Christ onto the cross.
This allows us to participate to some extent in His Resurrection at Pascha.
This year, wherever we live, Lent will be different because we are facing a worldwide
epidemic of the corona virus. This means that the manner in which we experience
the cross in our Lenten journey will have a unique set of dimensions.
Parishes and parishioners are already facing drastically new conditions with
neighbors who may be fearful of infection and suffering from anxiety about illness or
even a painful death. Food shortages are already emerging in some areas. How can we
provide charity and help under these conditions? Church services are being interrupted
and in many communities cancelled. How do we become more self-sufficient in our own
prayers? This is a test that many of us are or will shortly be facing. As we pray for
guidance, it will arrive in many forms and from different directions.
Already from across the Orthodox Church we are learning of novel ways to
respond. From the Ukrainian Bishops in the USA we receive a prayer of healing that all
of us may use. See https://ukrainianorthodoxchurchusa.com/news_200310_1.
From the far-off tiny Church of Georgia, we hear that His Holiness Patriarch Ilya
has been given a vision on how to address this new coronavirus. He tells us to fear not!
See his vision related at https://Orthochristian.com/129044.html
From the monks of Mount Athos we are invited to pray the Jesus Prayer every
evening at 10:00 PM local time to restrain the impact of this worldwide epidemic.
From His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew we have a special letter
of guidance and direction that applies to us all. (See April 2, below).
From parishes small and large we learn of shelter for the homeless, food for the
hungry and guidance for those who may be sick, stressed or facing some other need.
What we don’t yet have, but what these readings from Church hierarchs are
steering us toward is a genuine Orthodox Christian way of life, i.e., a Christian culture.
What appears to be guidance on ecologically conscious living should also be recognized as
a gateway into a whole Orthodox way of life. These writings from patriarchs and bishops
provide vision and direction on our Christian responsibility to shape a lifestyle that is
harmoniously connected to God and neighbor and harmless living. Their guidance gives
direction for how to live in the modern world and the new earth that is now emerging.
Yours in service to God’s good earth,
EM – MR – EC – FK
editors


First Monday
The Great Challenge of Our Generation

As Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has written: “Climate change affects
everyone. Unless we take radical and immediate measures to reduce
emissions stemming from unsustainable excesses in the demands of
our lifestyle, the impact will be both immediate and alarming.”
Therefore, each parish and every individual should seek out ways
of practicing prayer and care for God’s creation by applying the fundamental
principles of scripture, theology and tradition with regard to our relationship
with the natural environment by considering changes in our attitudes and
habits with regard to food and travel, by reducing consumption of fossil
fuels and choosing alternative sources of energy with regard to lighting and
heating, as well as by raising and promoting awareness with regard to the
divine gifts of water and air.
Every parish and community is invited and encouraged to open a
fruitful dialogue on this challenge of our generation.
HE Archbishop Elpidophorus, Protocol No. 22/19, September 1, 2019

Q.What is global climate change?
Q.Why is climate change a significant issue for Orthodox Christians?
Q.How might members of a parish address climate change?

First Tuesday

Message Regarding COVID-19

The voice of the Church cannot be silent in such times. Our words… take the form we have learned through the ages: through the liturgy and through instruction, with encouragement and consolation…. We entreat you to respond faithfully and patiently to all the difficult but necessary measures proposed by health authorities and nations. Everything is being done for our protection, for our common good, to contain the spread of this virus. Our liberation from this distress depends entirely on our cooperation.

Perhaps some have felt that these measures undermine or harm our faith. However, that which is at stake is not our faith – it is the faithful. It is not Christ – it is our Christians. It is not the divine-man – but human beings. Our faith is a living faith, and there is no exceptional circumstance that can limit or suppress it. What must be limited and suppressed in these extraordinary circumstances are gatherings and large congregations of people. Let us remain in our homes. Let us be careful and protect those around us.

We see our neighbors suffering from the consequences of the virus, while others have already fallen and departed from among us. Our Church hopes and prays for the healing of the sick, for the souls of the departed, and for courage and strength to the families of the afflicted. This trial, too, shall pass. The clouds will clear, and the Sun of Righteousness will eliminate the deadly effect of the virus. But our lives will have changed forever.

This trial is an opportunity for us to change for the better. In the direction of establishing love and solidarity. Beloved children in the Lord, may the blessing of the Lord, through… the All-Holy Mother of God, accompany us in our journey, transform our voluntary isolation into genuine communion, and become our prayer and destination to appreciate the meaning of this, so that we may return to that which is true [and] pleasing to God! Have courage! And may God be with us! HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, The Phanar, March 19, 2019

Q How can this COVID-19 trial be an opportunity for us to change for the better? Q How might the coronavirus epidemic change our lives? Q What will it take for the changes we make now to endure into the future?

First Wednesday

Responses to the Coronavirus Epidemic

We are in a special situation while facing a great problem, which is not only our problem but the problem of the whole world – the appearance of the coronavirus. I invite all our faithful to be disciplined and to accept everything that is proposed and to implement that in their life for their own interest. Life is the greatest gift of God that we must preserve. Let us be disciplined, let us listen to what expert people suggest…. HB Patriarch Irinej of Serbia, Belgrade, March 15, 2020

Be courageous, my brothers! Our Most Holy Lady Theotokos gives us hope! God created our planet with so much love and He will not abandon it. Be courageous and stay strong! HB Patriarch Theodore II of Alexandria and All-Africa, Metropolis of Memphis, at prayers for protection from the deadly coronavirus, March 21, 2020

It is time to seek refuge in the privacy of our homes, until the wrath of this plague is past. HE Teofan, Archbishop of Iasi, Metropolitan of Moldova and Bucovina, Iasi, Romania, March 18, 2020

Turn every house into a small church and pray, asking for the immense grace and mercy of God on mankind. Abide by the self-protection measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Our Church is with you and by your side. She loves all of you and prays for you all. We act responsibly because we love, not because fear knocks at our door. We are looking forward, praying, to Easter. And then the whole Creation will shine in the light of Resurrection, joy, hope. Take courage, my brothers, The Lord is with you. HE Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens, March, 2020

After each liturgy, the faithful will not be allowed to kiss the cross [or] holy icons, which must be cleaned systematically with disinfectant solution. With regard to Holy Communion, the Holy Mysteries of Christ should be offered and the spoon should be wiped after each partaker with a cloth impregnated with spirits (with regular refreshing the impregnation)…. The priests, the abbots and abbesses of the monasteries must adhere strictly to hygiene rules and disinfect their hands during the day at least once every two hours…. HB Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus, March 23, 2020 Saturday April 4, 2020

Another Type of Fasting In an age of technology we should extend our fasting rules to include technology in order to gain spiritual peace during Lent. At least during the beginning of Lent, us let try to be less dependent on cell phones, social networks, and email accounts, lest the anxiety, which they throw at us, get inside us. Technology can be a blessing, but it also has a very subtle reverse dimension, because of the way it fragments our thinking to a large degree. We become so dependent on technology that it becomes very difficult for us to break away. I think it is necessary, in the world in which we live, to embrace such a type of fasting, a media quarantine. Fasting is a sacrifice and I think it is a sacrifice to give up our phone. It would be very beneficial to detach ourselves as much as possible from those things that do not bring us peace. HG Bishop Ignatie of Huşi, Sunday Sermon, Romanian Orthodox Church, March 1, 2020

Q Why do Orthodox Christians fast? Q What benefits emerge from fasting? Q How might a fast from technology become beneficial?

First Thursday

Voluntary Restraint in the Use of Material Goods

We should consider every act through which we abuse the world as having an immediate negative effect upon the future of our environment in which our posterity will live. The way in which we face our environment reflects the way we behave toward one another. It reflects upon the way in which we relate to our children, those born and those who are yet to be born. Human beings and the environment form a seamless garment of existence. Humans are created as spiritual beings in which resides the image of God (Genesis 1:26). Our bodies are created from material nature, the dust of the earth. Interconnectedness between our nature and our environment lies at the center of our liturgy.

The asceticism of the Orthodox Church requires voluntary restraint regarding the use of material goods, leading to a harmonious symbiosis with the environment. We are required to practice restraint. When we curb our desire to consume, we guarantee the existence of treasured things for those who come after us and ensure the balanced functioning of the ecosystem. Restraint frees us from selfish demands so that we may offer what remains at the disposal of others. Avarice, which has its roots in the lack of faith and making of a god out of matter, we consider idolatry. Restraint is an act of self-control and confidence in God, but it is also an act of love. This willful asceticism is not only required of anchorite monks; it is required of all Orthodox Christians according to the measure of balance. Asceticism is not negation, but a reasonable and tempered utilization of the world. His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, New York City, NY,November 13, 2000

Q How is our relationship to the environment related to our interaction with people? Q In what ways does the liturgy connect our nature to our environment? Q Why can asceticism be understood as an act of love? Reflections

First Friday

Facing a Global Climate Emergency

Climate change is a result of greed, inequality and wanton destruction of God’s Earth, the repercussions of which are felt by all, most especially by the poor. We are in the midst of a climate emergency…. The world is nowhere near meeting emission reduction targets and the latest IPCC report highlights that “only with rapid and far-reaching” transitions in the world economy, on a scale and at a rate without historical precedent, can the 1.5º climate [goal] be achieved. It is therefore a time to reconcile ourselves with creation through concrete repentance and urgent action. … During this critical and trying time, we acknowledge …this current crisis and affirm ourselves as prophetic witnesses. Jesus has given us a choice between God and mammon and for those who choose to obey, we have no choice but to pursue Justice (Micah 6:8). His Eminence Seraphim, Metropolitan of Zimbabwe and Angola, Patriarchate of Alexandria and All-Africa,, December 3, 2019

Q How is global climate change a result of greed and inequality? Q What does it mean that we are in the midst of a climate emergency? Q What is prophetic witness? Q How is justice a dimension of this witness?

First Saturday

Unite to Combat Climate Change World

Environment Day, celebrated on 5th June every year, is the main method of the United Nations to make people aware of the worldwide environmental demolition and to attract the action of various political and human resources. The day’s agenda gives a human face to environmental issues. It empowers people to becoming active agents of sustainable and equitable development; to promote an understanding that communities are pivotal to changing attitudes toward environmental issue; and to advocate partnerships which ensure all nations and peoples enjoy a safer and more prosperous future. World environment day is a popular event with colourful activities such as street rallies, bicycle parades, concerts, essay and poster competition in schools, tree planting as well as recycling and cleaning up campaigns. The theme of this year’s environment day is thought provoking “Your Planet Needs You – Unite to Combat Climate Change!”

We in Kerala are worried about the weak and sporadic rains in this season of normally heavy and incessant downpour. It is explicitly felt that the rhythm and balance in nature is disturbed. Although climate change can seem complex, there are a variety of simple actions that individuals and communities can take to make a difference. A few of the actions which we can employ are energy conservation, education programmes to create awareness, planting trees, using less petrol vehicles and recycling projects. I exhort all Church members to observe the day with seriousness and learn to go back to the nature. A simple, natural and unsophisticated lifestyle is the best cure for these maladies. Let us join our hands to save our planet. Let us all unite to combat climate change and make this planet a commodious dwelling place for the posterity. His Beatitude Metropolitan Paulose Mar Milithios, The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, (aka The Indian Orthodox Church), March 22, 2010

Q How is global climate change a result of greed and inequality? Q What does it mean that we are in the midst of a climate emergency? Q What might you do in your community to address climate change?

Second Monday

“Sub-Creators” in the Image of God

We human beings… are called to continue and to extend the mystery of Christ’s Transfiguration on the mountain. As Metropolitan John of Pergamon has affirmed, “the distinctive characteristic of the human is not so much that we are a logical animal, but rather that we are an animal that is creative.” Endowed as we are with freedom and self-awareness, entrusted with the power of conscious choice – “sub-creators” formed in the image of God the Creator, living icons of the living God – we have the capacity not merely to manufacture or produce but to create, to set our personal seal upon the environment, to reveal new meanings within nature: in a word, to transfigure. Through our creative powers, through science, technology, craftsmanship and art, we enlarge the radiance of the transfigured Christ, revealing in all material things the glory that is latent within them. That is precisely what we are seeking to achieve through all our ecological initiatives. HE Metropolitan Kalistos of Diokleia, Symposium on the Adriatic Sea, June 9, 2002

Q What does His Eminence mean by the concept of “Sub-Creators”? Q How may we reveal the glory latent within material nature? Q How are these concepts part of the Church’s ecological initiatives?

Second Tuesday

Our Huge Responsibility to Save our Planet

In order to respect God’s creation we must become conscious that everything in the world belongs to God who created it. Consequently, we humans are under no circumstance proprietors of God’s creation, but people who accept his commandments, that is, the rules of His management. Hence, we become conscious that we have a serious responsibility for environmental protection, which is associated directly with the respect, which we each and all owe to the Creator, that is, to God. Hence, the whole of creation, our planet and whatever exists on it, is God’s wider habitation…. Man, as an inseparable part of this habitation of God, must be protected in every way…. The same applies to every part of creation. In this way we show special reverence to the Creator. Under no circumstances may man create an opposition with his environment; that is, the wider space of nature in which he lives. We must not fall victims to the new times where unfortunately many people from inhuman arrogance and the unacceptable issues of colonization and the inconceivable lack of control over the industrial revolution and the unjust exploitation of man towards his fellow human beings, see nature as their adversary and enemy which they should besiege, pillage, conquer and rudely rape, changing her… into a huge cemetery…. HB Patriarch Theodoros II, Pope of Alexandria and All-Africa, Alexandria, Egypt, September 8, 2012

Q Can you summarize human responsibility to God for the care of the earth? Q What are consequences of failure to observe these responsibilities? Q How are the duties of a custodian different from those of an owner?

Second Wednesday

Responsibility to Steward the World

The world around us has changed. This is a simple, but true statement and it relates to a fact that cannot be denied. Advancements in medicine, science, and technology have reshaped how we live, work and interact in our daily reality; and in so many ways these advancements have benefitted and enhanced our earthly existence. However, we must acknowledge that they come with a cost. As we look around us, we notice that the economic engines that drive our country, as well as the world economy, are causing a greater number of people to live in large urban areas, rather than rural locations where they lived in the past. These large concentrations of humanity result in people living farther away from the sources of their food, greater consumption of natural resources, and the build up of pollution of our land, water and air. Moreover, with the world population now topping seven billion, one must wonder how many people our planet can really sustain. When we read the first and second chapters of Genesis, we see that the description of the earth is truly beautiful. This gift alone is reason enough for us to what to preserve what God has given to us, not to mention that it is the earth that sustains our physical needs. Beyond this, however, it is clear that God not only intended for us to be users of the planet, but He also bestowed on us the responsibility to be its stewards. HE Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, Open letter, August 2019

Q How do the advancements in technology change our lives? Q What is the difference between a user and a steward of the planet? Q Is population an issue for Orthodox Christians? Q Why?

Second Thursday

Our Spiritual and Religious Duty

The human being is on earth, not as a stranger who came to receive a monetary profit, but as a careful owner who cultivates the earth for future generations and takes care, not only of his own profit, but also of the good of his neighbors and those far off. Moreover, the care of protecting the Creation of God in all its beauty and harmony is not only our practical task but also a spiritual and religious duty, a fulfillment of the commandment of God and a trail of moral feeling. The Black Sea region has suffered from many sad consequences of an unreasonable selfish use of nature and this has been especially dramatic in our century. Today we must understand the need to work together for the transfiguration of this wonderful piece of land, for the improvement of the condition of the Black Sea, the pearl of our planet…. HB Patriarch +Alexey II, Primate, Russian Orthodox Church Yalta, Russia, September 24, 1997

Q What does it mean to live on earth and care for the good of future neighbors? Q Why is protecting God’s Creation our spiritual and religious duty? Q How can we Orthodox work together in peace and harmony?

Second Friday

Respect and Holy Regard for Animals For members of the Orthodox Church an icon is not to be regarded in isolation, simply as a picture on a religious subject…. Much more significant is the fact that an icon exists within a specific context. It is part of an act of prayer and worship, and divorced from that context, it ceases to be authentically an icon. The art of the icon is par excellence a liturgical art. If Orthodox icons depict not only humans, but animals, does this not imply that the animals have an accepted place in our liturgical celebration and our dialogue with God? We do not forget that, when Jesus withdrew to pray for forty days in the wilderness, he had the animals as his companions: “He was with the wild beasts” (Mark 1:13). What the icon shows us – that the animals share in our prayer and worship – is confirmed by the prayer books used in the Orthodox Church. It is true that, when we look at the main act of worship, the Service of the Eucharist, we are at first disappointed; for in its two chief forms – the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom and that of St Basil the Great – there are no direct references to the animal creation. Yet, when we pray “for the peace of the whole world,” this surely includes animals. As one commentator puts it, “We pray for the peace of the universe, not only for mankind, but for every creature, for animals and plants, for the stars and all of nature.” HE Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain, Iasi, Romania, January, 2019 Q What does Orthodox theology tell us about respect for animals? Q How are Christians supposed to view icons? Q What do icons teach us about how to view the world?

Second Saturday

Living Simply
Dear friends,
If we do not live more simply, we cannot learn to share. And if
we do not learn to share, then how can we expect to survive? This
may be a fundamental religious and spiritual value. Yet it is also a
fundamental ethical and existential principle.
Each of us is called to draw a distinction between what we want and
what we need, or – more importantly – what the world needs. Greed and
gratification reduce the world to a survival of the fittest; whereas generosity
and gratitude transform the world into a community of sharing.
We are invited to pursue a way of sacrifice – not a sacrifice that is
cheap, but a sacrifice that is costly. As King David once said: “I will not
offer to the Lord my God a sacrifice that costs me nothing” (Second
Samuel 24.24). We must be prepared to make sacrifices – material and
financial – that are genuine and even painful. And in this regard, whether
we like it or not, more is demanded from the rich than from the poor.
HAH, Halki Theological School, June 18, 2012

Q.How are sharing and survival connected?
Q.Why is sacrifice a virtue?
Q.How can sharing transform the world?

Third Monday
The Long Journey from the Head to the Heart

Sacrifice is primarily a spiritual issue and less an economic one. Similarly,
in speaking of the environmental crisis, we are referring to an issue that
is not technological or political, but ethical. The real crisis lies not in the
environment but in the human heart. The fundamental problem is to be
found, not outside, but inside ourselves, not in the ecosystem, but in the
way we think. Without a revolutionary change within ourselves, all our
conservation projects will ultimately remain insufficient and ineffective.
We know what needs to be done and we know how it must be done.
Yet, despite the information at our disposal, unfortunately very little is
done.
It is a long journey from the head to the heart; and it is an even
longer journey from the heart to the hands. We … will explore ways and
means to bridge the unacceptable gap between theory and practice, between
ideas and life.
HAH, Halki, Turkey, June 12, 2012

Q.How is the real crisis of the environment primarily in the human heart?
Q.What do the words “revolutionary change within ourselves” mean to you?
Q.How do we in daily activity change the attitudes of our hearts and mind?

Third Tuesday
The Transforming Blessing of the Holy Spirit

Without the Holy Spirit:
God is far away,
Christ stays in the past,
The Gospel is a dead letter,
The Church is simply an organization,
Authority a matter of domination,
Mission a matter of propaganda,
Liturgy is no more than an evocation,
Christian living a slave morality.
But with the Holy Spirit:
The cosmos is resurrected and groans with the birth-pangs of the Kingdom,
The risen Christ is there,
The Gospel is the power of life,
The Church shows forth the life of the Trinity,
Authority is a liberating service,
Mission is a Pentecost,
The liturgy is both memorial and anticipation,
Human action is deified.
HB Patriarch Ignatius IV (Hazim), Statement to the Fourth Assembly of the
World Council of Churches, Antiochian Orthodox Church, July 20, 1968

Q.Why is the health and life of the Church dependent upon the Holy Spirit?
Q.What is necessary for the Holy Spirit to enliven your own life?
Q.How is our Lord Jesus Christ connected to the Holy Spirit?

Third Wednesday
The Order of All Things is Troubled

The order of all things is troubled. Nature’s forces are explored and
exploited in ways unsuitable to the harmony of the natural order. Nature is
assaulted by human egocentric will. The uniqueness and sanctity of the
human person is directly threatened. And all of humanity, coerced by the
uncontrolled powers of haughty reason and the incurable weaknesses of
moral and spiritual conduct, is moving along the precipitous edge of a
yawning abyss.
In view of such changes and developments toward the unforeseeable
future, it is necessary to seek out the prophetic charisma of the Church
through the invocation of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter of our life and of
the entire world. Moreover, this, not in order for us to disclose whatever
human beings may be planning, or to forecast their consequences or to make
known what only God has established by His own authority (Acts 1.7).
Christian young people do not limit themselves to the claim of
respect for human rights. They also advocate another aspect of what is right,
namely, human responsibility and duty, for without the latter the former
proves equally inhuman, as much as its violation does. They advocate, as
well, the notion of justice as mercy and the restoration of all things to a
condition of harmony, that is to say, the transcending of transactional
justice with a justice that combines collectively all virtues.
HAH, The Millennial Youth Conference,
Istanbul, Turkey, June 18, 2000

Q.How are the forces of nature being exploited?
Q.Why is it necessary to seek out the prophetic charisma of the Church?
Q.What is the role of Christian youth in the notion of “justice as mercy”?


Third Thursday
Christ Brings Healing to the World

The Resurrection of Christ grants to faithful Christians the certainty – and to
all humanity the possibility – of transcending the adverse consequences of
natural calamity and spiritual perversity.
Nature rebels when the arrogant human mind endeavors to tame its
boundless forces endowed by the Creator to its seemingly insignificant and
inactive elements. In considering from a spiritual perspective the grievous
natural phenomena that plague our planet repeatedly and successively in
recent times, we acknowledge that these are inseparable from the spiritual and
ethical deviation of humanity. The signs of this deviation – such as greed,
avarice, and an insatiable desire for material wealth, alongside an indifference
toward the poverty endured by so many as a result of the imbalanced
affluence of the few – may not be clearly related to the natural occurrences in
the eyes of scientists. Yet, for someone examining the matter spiritually, sin
disturbs the harmony of spiritual and natural relations alike. For, there is a
mystical connection between moral and natural evil; if we wish to be liberated
from the latter, we must reject the former.
Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, the new Adam and God, constitutes the
model for the beneficial influence of a saint on the natural world. For Christ
healed physical and spiritual illness, granting comfort and healing to all
people, while at the same time bringing calm and peace to stormy seas,
multiplying five loaves of bread to feed the five thousand, thereby combining
the reconciliation of spiritual and natural harmony.
If we want to exert a positive impact on the current negative natural
and political conditions of our world, then we have no other alternative than
faith in the Risen Christ and fulfillment of his saving commandments.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Pascha Letter, 2011

Q.How may humans enter into and participate in the transfiguration of the earth?
Q.How is the earth defiled by human action?
Q.How do we understand Jesus Christ as a model for our own lives?

Third Friday
Reading the ‘Signs of the Times’

In many parts of the world, indigenous cultures have been undermined by
seductive images from the supposedly civilized world, propagating the idea
that happiness is only to be found in consuming more and more material
products.
For better or worse, we are living in an age when the destinies of
all human beings and all human communities are ever more closely
intertwined. Patterns of behavior and consumption in one corner of the
globe can affect the lives and livelihood of people who live at the other
extremity of the earth.
This new proximity, this closeness, need not be a bad thing if we
learn to read the “signs of the times” (Matthew 16:3). To some degree, we
are all drawn closer by a common experience of fear and suffering as the
consequences of climate change are felt in different ways. At a time when
climatic emergencies of many different kinds are affecting the lives of
hundreds of millions of people, we have no moral choice but to “bear one
another’s burdens” as the New Testament (Galatians 6:2) enjoins us.
HAH, Ilulissat, Greenland, September 7, 2002

Q.How have indigenous cultures been undermined by the modern world?
Q.How is all human destiny intertwined in the current age?
Q.What are the signs of our times?

Third Saturday
The Starting-Point for an Environmental Ethic

The Orthodox Church assumes as its starting point for an environmental ethos
the teaching of the Bible…. Let us concentrate on the biblical account of the
relationship between humanity and the creation. The first noteworthy point is
the restriction placed on the first-created not to consume a certain fruit.
Beyond serving as a basis for Christian asceticism, this commandment
indicates environmental significance a the authority granted to humanity over
nature is not absolute. While humanity was created to rule over earth, its rules
are subject to restrictions ordained by the Creator. Trespassing against these
rules results in fatal consequences. Today we witness death approaching because
of trespassing against limits that God has placed on our proper use of creation.
A second point is that the gift of paradise to the first-created was
accompanied by the commandment and responsibility of humanity “to work it
and preserve it.” Working and preserving constitute an active responsibility.
Therefore, any passivity or indifference toward environmental concerns cannot
be regarded as proper.
A third point is that the consequences of the transgression of the
first-created [the Fall] had cosmic implications, producing thorns and thistles
in the environment. This rebellion incurred the corruption and destruction of
the ecological balance, which continues to this day, whenever we violate the
commandment of preservation and abstinence, proceeding instead to misuse
and abuse of the earth.
Finally, we should observe that the Creator took special care during the
great Flood, so that through Noah, the plants, the clean animals useful to
humanity as well as the unclean ones that appeared of no consequence, should
be preserved from extinction. This divine concern constitutes a vindication of
our interest in the survival of those species that are vulnerable to extinction.
HAH, Symposium of the Adriatic, June 6, 2002

Q.What is the purpose of an environmental ethic?
Q.How would you describe each of the biblical principles that HAH lists?
Q.Can you name other biblical principles not listed in this collection?

Fourth Monday
Developing a Spiritual Worldview

Humanity’s reckless consumption of earth’s resources threatens us with
irreversible climate change. Burning more fuel than we need, we contribute
to droughts or floods thousands of miles away.
To restore the planet we need a spiritual worldview that cultivates
frugality and simplicity, humility and respect. We must constantly be aware
of the impact of our actions on creation. We must direct our focus away from
what we want to what the planet needs. We must care for creation.
Otherwise, we do not really care about anything at all.
In our efforts to contain global warming, we are demonstrating how
prepared we are to sacrifice our selfish and greedy lifestyles. When will we
learn to say: “Enough!”? When will we understand how important it is to
leave as light a footprint as possible for the sake of future generations?
It is not too late to respond. We can still steer the earth toward a
suitable future for our children. But we can no longer afford to wait. Together
with our political leaders we must act with urgency. Deadlines can no longer
be postponed; indecision and inaction are not options. We have choices to
make. The time to make a commitment to heal the earth is now.
HE Archbishop Seraphim of Zimbabwe, On Global Disruption, June, 2014

Q.What is a spiritual worldview?
Q.Why is it essential to develop a spiritual worldview?
Q.How are frugality, simplicity, humility, and respect involved?

Fourth Tuesday
Promoting the Path of Sacrifice

Dear friends, If we do not live more simply, we cannot learn to share.
And if we do not learn to share, how can we expect to survive? This may be
a fundamental religious and spiritual value. Yet it is also a fundamental
ethical and existential principle.
Each of us is called to draw a distinction between what we want and
what we need, or – more importantly – what the world needs. Greed and
gratification reduce the world to a survival of the fittest; whereas
generosity and gratitude transform the world into a community of sharing.
We are invited to pursue a way of sacrifice – not a sacrifice that is
cheap, but a sacrifice that is costly. As King David once said: “I will not
offer to the Lord my God a sacrifice that costs me nothing” (2 Samuel
24.24). We must be prepared to make sacrifices – material and financial –
that are genuine and even painful. And in this regard, whether we like it or
not, more is demanded from the rich than from the poor.
HAH, Halki, Turkey, June 12, 2012

Q.What is the difference between wants and needs?
Q.Distinguish between cheap and costly sacrifice? Which do you choose?
Q.Why does HAH say we must be prepared to make sacrifices?


Fourth Wednesday
Conservation and Compassion

There is a close link between the economy of the poor and the warming of
our planet. Conservation and compassion are intimately connected. The web
of life is a sacred gift of God ― ever so precious and ever so delicate. We
must serve our neighbor and preserve our world with both humility and
generosity, in a perspective of frugality and solidarity alike.
Faith communities must undoubtedly put their own houses in order;
their adherents must embrace the urgency of the issue. This process has
already begun, although it must be intensified. Religions realize the primacy
of the need for a change deep within people’s hearts. They are also
emphasizing the connection between spiritual commitment and moral
ecological practice.
Faith communities are well-placed to take a long-term view of the world
as God’s creation. In theological jargon, that is called “eschatology.” Moreover,
we have been taught that we are judged on the choices we make. Our virtue
can never be assessed in isolation from others, but is always measured in
solidarity with the most vulnerable. Breaking the vicious circle of economic
stagnation and ecological degradation is a choice, with which we are uniquely
endowed at this crucial moment in the history of our planet.
HAH, Address before the World Council of Churches, August 12, 2005

Q.Is there a link between the economy of the poor and global warming?
Q.How are spiritual commitment and moral ecological practice connected?
Q.Why is solidarity with the most vulnerable virtuous?

Fourth Thursday
Man Made Disasters

Man-made disasters, which have been assuming an increasingly menacing
scope as civilization is developing, reflect what is happening inside the human
soul. Without a profound spiritual analysis of the role Man plays in the
Universe such disasters cannot be prevented.
Many people have failed to learn the lessons of the Chernobyl
catastrophe that mankind has been treating the land, water and air, and the
entire environment merely as a consumer.
It is impossible and not worthwhile to try and stop the development of
science and technology. But people will not be guaranteed against tragedies
similar to the one that occurred twenty-five years ago if they do not learn to
use the natural materials and the technical achievements of civilization wisely,
with care for each other and everything God has created.
[Scientific and technological development] cannot be non-ethical. It
must be combined with devotion to the eternal moral standards and the ideals
of mutual respect and love. This is the guarantee of a worthy future for our
people and the world as a whole.
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All-Russia,
“Chernobyl is God’s Punishment,” April 27, 2011

Q.Why are man made disasters a reflection of the human soul?
Q.How does the Chernobyl disaster exemplify seeing the environment as a consumer?
Q.Why is scientific and technological development an ethical issue?

Fourth Friday
All In the Same Boat

In the Arctic, melting glaciers are threatening the way of life of traditional
hunters. In our home region of southern Europe, we have seen an alarming
combination of heat waves, drought, fires and also floods. Scientists inform us
that these phenomena are connected.
When we visited Brazil last year, the region was still recovering from a
highly unusual drought. Brazilian scientists told us that illegal deforestation
was leading to a decrease in rainfall and making fires more common. Fires and
deforestation in Brazil are among the many factors which are altering the
climate, and hence the environment, here on the northern edge of the earth.
These linkages ought to bring home to every nation and every community
how closely involved it is with every other nation and community. It should be
more obvious now than ever that no state or ethnic group or economic class can
hope to advance its own interests indefinitely at the expense of the remainder
of mankind. To restate a simple truth which has guided all of our floating
symposia on Religion, Science and the Environment, “we are all in the same
boat.”
HAH, Nuuk, Greenland, September 9, 2007

Q.How are traditional ways of life being threatened?
Q.Why are melting glaciers and droughts in Southern Europe related?
Q.How can mankind advance it’s collective interests?


Fourth Saturday
A Grieving Earth

The holy hymnographer Joseph presents the earth as grieving and protesting
voicelessly for the many evils with which we burden her.
If this holy hymnographer thought back then that the pollution of earth
by humankind would cause the wrath of God today, humanity in its entirety
should all the more realize our ultimate destructive behavior against the
creation of God.
Certainly, the earth was created well-equipped to offer shelter to the
human beings and was ordered by God to cover their needs. However, we do
not draw from earth’s resources what we need in moderation, so that we allow
its productive ability to remain sound and intact; instead we are depleting her
natural resources.
The aforementioned holy hymnographer Joseph personifies earth,
which, addressing man, complains that the Master of humankind and
God whips her instead of him, for God wants to spare the human being; the
earth, however, bemoans her suffering due to humankind’s mistakes and cries
to people: “Come to your senses and appease God in repentance.”
HAH, Day of Prayer for Creation, September 1, 2005

Q.Why is the earth grieving and protesting?
Q.Why is it important to preserve the productive ability of the earth?
Q.How do human being come to their senses?

Fifth Monday
A Lost Identity

We as Christians, taught by the Holy Tradition and by the experience of the
Holy Church Fathers, link always the mentioned theme with the need of
repentance because when man fell, due to his sin, he lost his identity.
Because of his tendency toward transgression, man became weak and
cannot find in himself strength to go back to his Creator. Man accepts
God’s love and becomes a being of communication, a being as communion,
improving, with alI the Saints, his God-likeness.
So man becomes the custodian of the creation which is created by the
will of God for the only reason – to become one in Jesus Christ (Ephesians
1, 22-23; 4,15).
The human being is called to protect the work of God’s hands
because the deeds of God protect [nurture] him. The creation needs for its
existence God, as it cannot exist by itself. Man is searching for eternity and he
is determined to care for the conjunction of unity and differences. Love
disables divisions, while the Spirit assembles all.
His Beatitude Patriarch Irinej, Metropolitan of Belgrade and
All-Serbia, Serbian Orthodox Church, August 31, 2012

Q.How is the fall related to environmental destruction?
Q.Why are human beings the protector of God’s works?
Q.How can man reclaim his lost identity?

May Introduction
Christ is risen! This May edition of the creation care reading-a-day program again
emphasizes the statements of Orthodox patriarchs and hierarchs as they address
the Christian duty to care for God’s creation. This is an essential part of our biblical
heritage which has grown weak under the influences of American consumerism,
individualism, materialism and secularism. These ancient Christian ecological
teachings are critical for an ability to do on earth “as it is in heaven,” a phrase
which we declare in every liturgical service. Nevertheless a streak of resistance
persists to this Orthodox responsibility to care for God’s creation.
A review of Scripture may help correct this deficiency. The Holy Bible provides a
comprehensive view of human responsibility to God. Scripture and observation make
clear that humans have three great relationships – to God, to neighbor and to the earth.
But teaching about this third relationship has become weak in recent centuries.
In the Old Testament this threefold responsibility is obvious. For instance, in just
the first five books of the Bible, Jewish rabbis number each of God’s commands. They
count exactly 615 commands from God of which exactly 200 are requirements and
prohibitions regarding a right relationship to the earth and the environment.
In the New Testament a higher theme emerges of the transfiguration of creation,
following Jesus’ Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. We learn more about ascesis and a
eucharistic responsibility. Subsequently care for the earth was integrated into traditional
society. In Old World Orthodox cultures, Christians embraced respect for the earth
because this was integrated into the structure and design of traditional society.
Today we who are Orthodox in America live in a culture formed by a Protestant
vision of God “up in heaven,” but not down on earth. Thus the respect for creation that
characterized traditional society has faded. In its place we encounter a materialist vision
that makes it difficult for Christians to remember God’s presence “everywhere present
and filling all things.” This lack of a guiding spiritual vision about the earth affects all of
us, but especially young adults. Thus, young people particularly need direction on how to
live rightly in the world and how to be thankful for God’s presence “filling all things.”
We may pray to live on earth “as it is in heaven” at every liturgical service, but that
alone does not mean we know how to translate theology into action so that we respect
the earth as we might. Thus these readings from our top hierarchs becomes important.
Yours in service to God’s good earth,
LM – MR – EC – FK
The reading-a-day editorial team

First Monday
Reuniting the Universe Under Jesus Christ

Cosmology is a form of knowledge which is given to us in Christ by the Holy
Spirit. “The mystery of the Incarnation of the Word,” wrote St. Maximos the
Confessor, “contains within itself the whole meaning of the created world. He
who understands the mystery of the Cross and the Tomb knows the meaning
of all things, and he who is initiated into the hidden meaning of the
Resurrection understands the purpose for which God created everything from
the very beginning.”
If this is so, it means that everything has been created by and for the
Word, as the Apostle says in Colossians 1:16-17, and that the meaning of this
creation is revealed to us in the re-creation effected by the same Word taking
flesh, by the Son of God becoming the son of the earth….
In this perspective the Fathers maintain that the historical Bible gives us
the key to the cosmic Bible. In this they are faithful to the Hebrew notion of
the Word, which not only speaks, but creates: God is “true” in the sense that
his word is the source of all reality, not only historical, but also cosmic
reality…. That is why, as St. Maximos says, we discover, or rather the Gospel
discovers for us, that on the one hand, the Word “hides himself mysteriously
in created things like so many letters,” and on the other hand, “he… expresses
himself in the letters, symbols and sounds of Scripture.”
HB Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch, Zurich, Switzerland,
March 10, 1989

Q.What does the term ‘cosmology’ mean?
Q.How much can you explain what is called ‘the Incarnation of the Word’?
Q.How does this relate to the created world?

First Tuesday
A Call to Protect God’s Creation

The Orthodox Church appreciates these efforts to overcome the ecological
crisis and calls people to intensive co-operation in actions aimed to protect
God’s creation. At the same time, she notes that these efforts will be more
fruitful if the basis on which man’s relations with nature are built will be
not purely humanistic, but also Christian.
One of the main principles of the Church’s stand on ecological issues
is the unity and integrity of the world created by God. Orthodoxy does not
view nature as an isolated and self-enclosed structure. The plant, animal and
human worlds are interconnected.
In the Christian view, nature is not a repository of resources intended
for egotistical and irresponsible consumption. Rather, it is a house in which
man is not the master, but a housekeeper. It is a temple in which he is the
priest serving not nature, but the one Creator. The conception of nature as a
temple is based on the principle of theocentrism: God Who gives to all “life,
and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25) is the Source of being. Therefore,
life itself in its various manifestations is sacred, being a gift of God. Any
encroachment on it is a challenge not only to God’s creation, but also to the
Lord Himself.
HB Patriarch Kyrill, Archbishop of Moscow and Patriarch of All-Russia,
Statement of the Russian Orthodox Church on Ecological programs, $4 June1 2012


Q.What are the Orthodox Christian foundations for action to heal God’s earth?
Q.How might a person help protect the earth? List the different ways.
Q.What is the practical meaning of each person as a priest of creation?

First Wednesday
An Awakening to our Problems is Essential

Unless everyone is made sensitive to the harmful character of [polluting]
actions, it is almost impossible for any endeavor for the improvement of the
[environmental] situation to succeed.
Religion can inspire the behavior of every individual or even mass
movements; and it is able to transmit and spread the necessity and benefit of
these behaviors.
This sense of a common fate, which is the polar opposite of the
widespread individualistic and self-interested perception which is short-sighted
in its appreciation of the world, is a basic teaching of the Christian faith, and
especially of Orthodoxy.
Let us seek … to energize the feelings of inertia about responsibility for
the common good which we find in individuals and in whole peoples.
We call on every conscience to awaken! We invite you to a virtual
apostolic commission to spread the word about the necessity for a common
confrontation of these problems. The grace of God be with you all.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Trabzon, Turkey,
September 20, 1997

Q.How do people awaken to the seriousness of ecological problems?
Q.Why should every Christian become sensitive to these issues?
Q.What does it mean to have an apostolic commission to spread the word?

First Thursday
The Human Role in the Cosmos

Man is a mediator. He is poised between two realities – God and the world.
He shares in both, he is united to both. He cannot live apart from either.
That is the meaning of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The only humanity
that can survive is the new humanity, the humanity that has now been
inseparably, indivisibly united with God in Jesus Christ.
The new humanity is a mediating humanity – a humanity that
reconciles and unites God and the world. It is an incarnate humanity – a
humanity that is an inseparable part of the whole creation and inseparably
united to the Creator.
This is the meaning of the human presence in the cosmos. To be with
the one who unites. To be in Christ, uniting the divine and the human, the
Creator and the creation, the transcendent and the immanent, the spiritual
and the scientific-technological. To enter the mystery of “Christ in us,” yes, in
us Christians, but also in us human beings, and in us as an integral part of the
whole creation.
The subtle art of image making for the future needs skilled craftsmen
as well as the gift of the Spirit. The various crises of our time should be used
neither as occasions for doom-saying pessimism nor as a chance to peddle
empty-hope optimism. Every crisis is a judgement, a call to see where things
have gone wrong and to seek to set matters right, both within our
consciousness and in society.
The environmental crisis, the economic crisis, the crisis of justice, the
crisis of faith…, the crisis of militarism – of all of these are symptoms not only
that humanity has yet to become what it has to be, but also that it is on the
wrong track.
HE Metropolitan Mar Paulos Gregorios,
Syrian Orthodox Church of India,
New Delhi, India, 1987

Q.What does it mean that humans are mediators?
Q.How is a mediating humanity akin to humans as priests of creation?
Q.Why are crises messages to society?

First Friday
Message for Earth Day

Every day is an opportunity to celebrate “the earth as the Lord’s and that all
who dwell therein belong to the Lord” (Psalm 24.1). Every day is a reminder of
our vulnerability and solidarity. In fact, more than ever, we are reminded of
our responsibility to the earth and each other in light of that interdependence
between the earth and its inhabitants. The ecological responsibility and the
respect of the sacredness and the beauty of every human person, of the elderly
and the disabled, the poor and the marginalized, the sick and the suffering, are
today the universal categorical imperative for the whole humanity.
In recent weeks, with the alarming spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19),
we have been painfully reminded of the interconnection among human beings
throughout the world. So we are obliged to reflect further on the urgency of
our response to issues that are increasingly gathering momentum and
threatening our survival.
Crisis is a moment of clear and definitive judgment. The COVID-19 crisis
is a moment of truth and assessment of our respect for the precious gifts that
we have received and been entrusted with by God. Over the past decades, we
have declared that when we are isolated from God, we also exploit the planet’s
resources. Indeed, we have repeatedly associated such behavior against God’s
creation with sin. Like us, the earth too is suffering from isolation and
alienation. “The whole of creation is groaning with labor pains to this day…
eagerly longing for… its liberation by the children of God” (Romans 8.19–22).
This time of uncertainty has taught us to care for one another. Will we also
learn, at last, to mitigate our impact on the environment?
As a result of the ecological disruption created by the global coronavirus,
Earth Day will be celebrated electronically this year throughout the world. How
paradoxical that the earth continues to inspire, instruct, and invite us toward a
restored covenant with creation. How will we respond? Our prayer is that this
critical moment will be for us an occasion for renewal and redemption, for
liberation and transformation, as well as for inspiration and illumination.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Earth Day 2020,
April 21, 2020
Q.What is the spiritual foundation for the celebration of Earth Day?
Q.Can you name some of the issues which threaten human survival?
Q.How might this epidemic become a new inspiration in our treatment of the earth?

First Saturday
Why Ecology is a Spiritual Issue

The ecological problem is, at root, a spiritual issue. Many people dealing with
it tend to overlook its spiritual aspects. And yet both historically and from
the practical point of view it is impossible to address it without reference to
religion and ethics. …
A human is the Priest of creation as he or she freely turns it into a
vehicle of communion with God and fellow human beings. This means that
material creation is not treated as a means of obtaining pleasure and
happiness for the individual, but as a sacred gift from God which is meant to
foster and promote communion with God and with others.
Such a ‘liturgical’ use of nature by human beings leads to forms of
culture which are deeply respectful of the material world while keeping the
human person at the centre.
by HE Metropolitan John of Pergamon, “Production and Consumption,”
April, 1996

Q.Why is the ecological problem a spiritual issue?
Q.Can you explain what are the duties of a priest of creation?
Q.How does a sense of the sacred in nature lead to a liturgical sense about nature?

Second Monday
Energy Conservation and Climate Justice

In light and wind, in land and water, energy resources are abundant gifts for
human well-being from our Creator God. Because we are called to “till and to
tend the garden” (Gen 2:15), we have a moral obligation to choose the safest,
cleanest and most sustainable sources of energy to protect and preserve God’s
creation. Energy conservation is faithful stewardship.
Humans have a choice of priorities for the future. By depleting energy
sources, causing global warming, fouling the air with pollution, and poisoning the
land with radioactive waste, a policy of increased reliance on fossil fuels and
nuclear power jeopardizes health and well-being for life on Earth.
On the other hand, by investing in clean technology, renewable energy,
greater vehicle fuel efficiency and safer power plants, we help assure sustainability
for God’s creation and God’s justice. Energy conservation is intergenerational
responsibility….
Energy policy must be an instrument of social and economic justice here
and abroad. The first beneficiaries of a new energy policy should be “the least
among us,” the low-income, the vulnerable, and the sick to whom we can provide
assistance with high energy bills, inexpensive mobility through expanded mass
transit, cleaner air by reducing pollution from power plants, and lower gasoline
prices through strict monitoring of oil companies for price-gouging. Energy
conservation is justice for all peoples and nations.
There is no single solution to the energy challenge. We do not have to
sacrifice economic security to assure ecological health. Prudence – the application
of moral principle in service to the common good — should guide us to meet
immediate needs in such a way as to enhance, not diminish future sustainability.
HE Archbishop Demitrios, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America;
HE Metropolitan Philip, Archdiocese of North America, Antiocian Orthodox Church;
HE Metro. Christopher, President, Episcopal Council of SCOBA, Serbian Orthodox Church;
HE Archbishop Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim, Patriarchal, Syrian Orthodox (Malankara) Church of Antioch;
HB Metropolitan Theodosius, primate, Orthodox Church in America (OCA);
“Moral Reflection on Energy Policy and Global Warming,” Joint declaration, February 2002

Q.Why should Orthodox Christians be concerned about global climate change?
Q.How does Christianity shape our attitude toward energy use?
Q.How is there a connection between energy conservation and justice?

Second Tuesday
Creation as an Integrated Whole

Orthodoxy’s rich creation theology rests on the assumption that the entire
cosmos is an integrated whole….
Orthodoxy’s understanding of the human being as person, and as a
microcosm of the cosmos, assumes that humanity is existentially meaningful
only through the free and conscious engagement in relation with others. The
Ecumenical Patriarchate is committed to transforming the human condition.
Our vision of freedom and relationality is consistent with U.N. efforts
at transforming post-conflict situations, by restoring the torn fabric of
individual and community life.
The Orthodox Church transcends linguistic, ethnic and national
divisions. Our Holy Orthodox Church is modeled on the Trinitarian
principle of unity in diversity, whereby heterogeneity and uniqueness are
fundamental aspects of our humanity. …
We exhort you, to take up the responsibility which has been given to
us by God, our Creator, to collectively renew our commitment to restoring
the peace, justice and integrity of all creation. We ask you to consider the
creative gifts of the Orthodox Christian community as a resource for change.
HAH, United Nations Luncheon, New York City, NY,
October 27, 1997

Q.What does it mean that the human is a microcosm of the cosmos?
Q.How does the term “unity in diversity” reflect the Orthodox Church?
Q.How may we play a role in restoring justice, peace and integrity within creation?

Second Wednesday
Respect for the Animals

From time to time we realize that everything is from God, the animals, the
plants, the earth, the celestial planets, and we are humbled before God and
thankful for his creation….
It is traditional for us as Orthodox to have a good relationship with
the animals. Our theology is favorable to the animals. We have never
tolerated violence, but we have never said anything because I think it
was not seen as necessary. Now, however, we see more and more the ill
treatment of animals and it is true, it is time that we in the Church said
something. Before there did not seem the need, but it is different now.
In the context of Cyprus we can do more and we should do more.
Now when we see instances of violence or people bring us information, we
must do something about it.
It is true that many of our teachings do not get through to the
people, but this is true of many other things as well as the animals. It
has to do with the nature of the individual person; some will listen
and understand, while others will go their own way, against the teachings.
If you are a good Christian, you will love the animals and they will love you
back. There are many books showing this through the lives of the early saints.
You cannot find a holy man who has mistreated animals….
Let me be clear. Animals are the creation of God. We should treat
them with respect and not be cruel to them. What kind of soul they may
have has no part of that discussion. We should not be involved in this
type of argument as it only serves to confuse what should be very clear.
We should not be cruel to animals. We should treat them with love.
HE Metropolitan Isaias of Tamasou and Orinis, Orthodox Church of Cyprus,
Interview with Presbytera Christina Nellist, March 4, 2014

Q.Why should Christians respect animals?
Q.How would you describe an Orthodox Christian attitude toward animals?
Q.Do you know how the saints treated animals? What does that teach us?

Second Thursday
The Continuing Work of the Church

From my heart I pray for all the workers and Missionaries of the love of
Christ, the Metropolitans and Bishops of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and
All Africa, the Priests through out Africa and our blessed children, Greeks,
Arabs, Africans, Serbs, Russians and Romanians, Bulgarians, Ukrainians and
other nationalities, that the Grace of the Most Holy God will strengthen
your lives always.
Now that the new period of Missionary and Catechetical work is about
to start, we are all geared towards sowing and harvesting of the Word of God
in the hearts of the people. The evangelization of the nations, the teaching of
the people of God regarding the important issues of faith and Christian life,
the great problems of the world and society, joblessness, narcotics, diseases,
wars, the ecological problem, destruction and pollution of the environment
and many others, create in us all a huge problem and an internal need for
prayer, strong prayer, so that solutions can be found for all levels.
Having our faith in Christ as a rule, the joy and optimism which stem
from this perspective, we will continue with the “good fight,” we will remain
in the battlements and we will all be humble Missionaries of the good and the
beautiful, that which our Orthodox Church teaches us, applying the
exhortations of St Paul, which is beneficial for us all.
I send to you all the heartfelt Patriarchal blessing of the Apostle Mark
and my Paternal prayer, that the Almighty God “who holds the times and the
seasons in His own authority,” may protect and bless the whole world, the
blessed and suffering land of Africa, the continent of the future, the crossroads
of civilizations, granting health and happiness to all.
His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa,
In the Great City of Alexandria, September 1, 2009

Q.What is the work of the Church?
Q.How can you participate in this great work?
Q.Do you know what the exhortations of Saint Paul involve?

Second Friday
The Experience of an Explosion of Love

Saint Isaac the Syrian and the Russian writer Fyodor Doestoyevskiy share
a common focus on love. Both declare that love is truth. St. Isaac is widely
respected because he speaks the truth bluntly and leaves his message to
work within us. St. Isaac speaks to anyone who is genuinely struggling.
He writes with a respect for those who are small and humble. His message
is that man can learn to enjoy stillness while living on earth. His goal is to
liberate each person from the cycle of corruption, to break down the
barriers that block spiritual progress. In this way Orthodoxy leads to a
glorious experience of theophany. …
This is also a message that Doestoyevskiy imparts. There is a deep,
indisputable connection, a spiritual kinship, between St. Isaac and Fyodor
Doestoyevsky. We might say that Doestoyevskiy is a St. Isaac in the
world.… Love and truth are connected. Out of silence, a radiation of
spirit, of consciousness, takes place. … The denying of one’s self leads to
salvation.
In prayer monks can sometimes experience an explosion of love.
This opens and reveals a vision that God is present everywhere and in all
things. When we experience how God fills all things with his life and love,
a ministry of service to the whole world comes into focus.…
His Eminence Archimandrite Vasileios, former abbot, Iveron Monastery,
Mount Athos, Greece, June 28, 2013

Q.Why is love also truth?
Q.How is love related to God?
Q.Why is service to creation also a form of service to God?

Second Saturday
The Challenge of Restoring Balance

The time we have been on the planet is insignificant in the life of the planet,
yet we have now reached a defining moment in our story. We have expanded
human dominion over nature to the point where limits to our survival are being
reached. We have lost half of the world’s great forests to the demand for timber
and conversion to agriculture….
Irrigation for agriculture takes 70% of global demand for water, and –
almost unimaginably – some of the world’s greatest rivers are so depleted by
human influence that they no longer flow to the sea; and those that do, carry all
the chemical fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides and waste materials they have
collected…. Desertification is increasing on land at the same time that the fish
stocks of the oceans are depleted by over exploitation; and those that remain are
being poisoned by toxic materials dumped carelessly in their habitat.
The dilemmas we face are created by human beings. Having struggled
to escape hunger, disease, and want, technological advances have created the
illusion of us being in control of our destiny as never before. We have cracked
the DNA code; we can genetically modify crops, we can put men upon the
moon – but we have lost our balance, externally and within.
The explosion of knowledge has not accompanied an increase in wisdom.
Only wisdom could make us realize that the Creation is an interdependent,
undivided whole, not an assemblage of isolated, unrelated parts that can be
eliminated, replaced or modified as we see fit.
In addition to seeking balance between ourselves and our environment,
we need to find balance within ourselves, reassessing our values as well as what
is valuable. Let us remember that whoever we are, we all have our part to
play, our sacred responsibility to the future. And let us remember that our
responsibility grows alongside our privileges; we are more accountable the higher
we stand on the scale of leadership.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, “Symposium on the Mississippi River:
Restoring Balance,” New Orleans, Louisiana, October 21, 2009

Q.What is wisdom?
Q.How is wisdom different from knowledge?
Q.What are the qualities that allow for a right human relationship to God’s earth?

Third Monday
Reintegrating Science and Religion

By the end of the 20th century, science and technology have acquired such
influence that it has become the decisive force in the life of civilization. At the
same time, despite Christianity’s initial impact on the formation of scientific
activity, under secular influences, they have led to serious fears and real
problems. The ecological crises which have hit the modern world challenge the
path forward. The scientific and technological level of civilization is such that
criminal actions of a small group can cause a global disaster in which even the
highest forms of life will perish irrevocably.
From a Christian perspective, these consequences arise because of the
false principle underlying contemporary scientific and technological
development. This principle requires that technological development should
not be restricted by ethical or religious requirements. With this freedom
scientific development finds itself at the mercy of human passions, including
vanity, pride and thirst for the greatest possible comfort. This frustrates the
spiritual harmony of life with negative consequences. Therefore, to ensure
normal human life it is now necessary as never before to restore the lost link
between scientific knowledge and religious, spiritual and moral values. The
need for this link is conditioned by the fact that a considerable number of
people believe in the omnipotence of scientific knowledge….
Mikhailo Lomonosov rightly wrote that science and religion “cannot
come into conflict… unless someone excites strife in them out of conceit and
desire to show off one’s ingenuity.”
St. Philaret of Moscow expressed a similar idea: “Faith in Christ is not in
conflict with true knowledge, because it is not in union with ignorance.”
Noteworthy is the incorrectness of opposing religion to a scientific worldview.
Only religion and philosophy can fulfil the function of worldview, which
no scientific knowledge is capable of assuming.
HB Patriarch Kyrill, Archbishop of Moscow and Patriarch of All-Russia,
“Russian Orthodox Church on Ecological programs,” June 1, 2012

Q.How do ecological crises challenge the path forward?
Q.How can religion and science be in harmony?
Q.What is “the lost link” between scientific knowledge and moral values?

Third Tuesday
A Bridge-Building Pathway

Nobody, not a religion, not a nation, not a state, not science and technology,
can face the contemporary world’s unforeseen challenges alone. In our present
day and age, we must promote cooperation and mutual trust. Building bridges
is the way to our common future.
Religions are diminishing their capacity to contribute to the precious
culture of solidarity because of their antagonism and wide-spread
fundamentalistic tendencies. The way to overcome these difficulties is the
unwavering commitment of religions to peace in the world and to interreligious
dialogue. To succeed in this task, together with the sensibilization of
consciences, a stronger mobilization on the action-level is needed.
The credibility of religions today depends on their attitude towards the
protection of human freedom and dignity, as well as on their contribution to
peace. Peace between cultures and nations cannot be reached without the
efforts of religions and without dialogue and peace between religions. It was in
this spirit that our Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, established a sincere
dialogue with Judaism and Islam nearly three decades ago, with remarkable
results in mutual understanding, peaceful coexistence and cooperation.
Religions can fanaticize people, they can divide and foster hatred and
violence. But, they are also able to humanize people and to support and
empower their struggle for freedom, justice and reconciliation. We must work
constantly and consciously, so that the contemporary, yet ambiguous, “return
of God” and “renaissance of religion” will not become a return of war, conflict
and violence in the name of God and of religion, but a return of the “God of
peace” and the rebirth of the “culture of solidarity.”
HAH, Eurasian Economic Summit,
April 5, 2017

Q.Why in our contemporary world must we cultivate cooperation and mutual trust?
Q.Why do some religions cause a fanaticism in their believers?
Q.How should different religions relate to each other?


Third Wednesday
Globalization and Economic Inequality

The problem of social and economic inequality is one of the most pressing
and at the same time one of the most complex problems of the modern world.
Millions of people eke out a pitiful existence, suffering from malnutrition,
disease, various forms of discrimination and the degradation caused to the
environment. These problems become more acute as the world economy and
technological growth become globalized.
Globalization creates advantages for a small number of people and
risks for a huge part of the earth’s population. Economists admit that the
opening of markets in developing countries has mainly benefitted wealthy
countries and has brought about an increase, not a reduction, of the gap
between the wealthy and the poor countries.
The overriding principle of modern economic culture is profiteering,
the resolution of one’s objectives and the realization of one’s interests at the
expense of others. Humanistic values, which have at their root Christian
principles, have been devalued. An economy built on the cultivation of
hedonism is by definition immoral. Immoral too is humanity’s rapacious
attitude towards the natural environment, which suffers from the insatiable
appetite of a man of the consumer world.
We must remember that material benefits by themselves do not make
us happy. Moreover, a concentration solely upon material well-being leads to
moral degradation. Christ warns us: “Take care! Be on guard against all kinds
of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions”
(Luke 12:15). The Church calls us to treat wealth as God’s gift which is given
to humans not so much for themselves, but for the benefit of their neighbors.
Those who obtain profit should be made aware that a great responsibility rests
upon them – to be attentive to the needs of other people, to help eradicate
economic injustice in society, and thus fulfill the will of God.
HE Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, The Russian Orthodox Church,
Budapest Forum for Christian Communicators,
September 6, 2019

Q.What is globalization?
Q.Why is it that material wealth cannot satisfy?
Q.How does material wealth become a test of one’s spiritual life?


Third Thursday
Prayers Are Solicited for Peace

In the Church of Antioch, we are currently experiencing ecological and social
problems in a very urgent manner. At the heart of the Arab world there seems
now, more than ever before, a searching for more democratic social structures
together with issues related to freedom and human dignity. These goals now
challenge our conscience and compel us to ever deeper reflection.
In this highly confrontational context, we commit ourselves to a more
eloquent testimony to the power of the Gospel of Jesus, the comforter…. It is
in this humble fidelity to the life-giving spirit, stronger than the death that
surrounds us, we pray the Lord to bless your meeting.
In addition, we ask you to offer prayers more fervently for a Middle
East that is shaken by devastating waves of violence, so that the resurrected
Lord may teach the way of the future, the ways of peace, in which love
triumphs over hate, freedom over slavery, and dignity over humiliation.
HB Ignatius IV, Patriarch, The Church of Antioch
Damascus, Syria, September 8, 2012

Q.How do prayers help to reduce violence and suffering?
Q.Why does love triumph over hate in the end?
Q.What are the qualities which bring peace to society?

Third Friday
Avoid the Evil of Pollution

We know that pollution of the environment can have repercussions far away
from the point at which the pollution takes place….
Allow me to remind you of the ancient Greek philosopher Herodotus
according to whom there was once a people which considered the rivers to be
sacred and polluting them to be a sacrilege. Perhaps those who demythologize
ancient beliefs may regard such a concept as superstition. However, this belief
is preferable to the unscrupulous and irresponsible dumping of harmful
substances into the rivers, temporarily relieving those who selfishly pollute the
river, but harming their fellow humans who will use it.
Therefore, we must acquire a moral code higher than the one used by
such crude people and learn to respect humanity, accepting as a basic principle
that it is morally unacceptable to burden others with our wastes. This is the
only way to ensure that the Danube, the longest river of this region, becomes a
road of life for all….
This is the deeper reason why our humble person, whose mission is
the Christian education and sanctification of the Orthodox faithful, has
wholeheartedly sponsored the present series of ecological symposia. As the
Church Fathers teach, the root of all evils is selfishness and the highest
expression of virtue is selfless love. It is not permitted for faithful Christians
who are seeking sanctification to remain indifferent to the effects of their acts
on their fellow humans. The sensitivity of their conscience must be increased
so that they are not indifferent even to the indirect consequences of their acts.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, “The Danube,
A River of Life,” Passau, Germany, October 17, 1999

Q.Why is pollution of the environment harmful?
Q.What are some consequences of pollution?
Q.How may a person increase the sensitivity of his or her conscience?

Third Saturday
Through Creation, We See God’s Love and Wisdom

The primary purpose of our interest for the protection of the environment is
our concern for humanity in our own time and in future generations. Of course,
we are not indifferent toward the preservation of natural elements that are
endangered. Indeed, we see in them God’s love and wisdom. Therefore, out
of respect for God, we consider it a duty of our love toward Him to preserve
His creation, which bears witness to His goodness.
Our attitude toward the whole of creation is influenced by our faith in
God and our love toward Him and His works, and especially toward our
fellow human beings. We see the entire world as an expression of the
goodness that characterizes the Supreme Being.
We know that everything that exists has a reason for its existence.
Nevertheless, we also believe that the original harmony of every being in the
universe has been disrupted through the intervention of the human will,
which has rebelled against it. The only way in which a complete harmony can
exist in accordance with the original divine plan is if the human will embraces
and voluntarily submits to this plan.
HAH, Oslo, Norway, June 12, 2002

Q.Why is it a duty to protect the environment?
Q.How is the entire natural world an expression of the goodness of God?
Q.What is the original divine plan for the world?


Fourth Monday
On the Edge of Global Ecological Disaster

The Orthodox Church, aware of her responsibility for the fate of the world, is
deeply concerned about the problems generated by contemporary civilization.
Ecological problems occupy a prominent place among them. Today the face of
the Earth has been distorted on a global scale. Its bowels are being damaged as
are its soil, water, air, fauna and flora. Nature which surrounds us serves as the
life support system for humanity. Man however is no longer satisfied with its
diverse gifts, but exploits whole ecosystems without restraint.
Human activity has acquired an ability to affect global processes and
these powers increase constantly due to the accelerated development of
science and technology. Industrial wastes which pollute the environment,
bad agricultural technology, the destruction of forests and topsoil — these
suppress biological activity and cause a steady shrinking of the biological and
genetic diversity of life. Limited and irreplenishable mineral resources are being
exhausted; drinking water supplies are being reduced. A great many harmful
toxic substances have become present in the biosphere, which are not naturally
part of the earth’s circulation and accumulating. The ecological balance has
been violated. Man now has to face the emergence of pernicious processes in
nature, including the failure of its natural reproductive power.
All this happens against a background of unprecedented and unjustified
growth of public consumption, especially in the most highly developed
countries, where the search for wealth and luxury has become a norm of life.
This situation obstructs a just and fair distribution of natural resources, which
are common human property. The consequences of the ecological crisis are
proving painful, not only for nature, but also for man. As a result, the entire
Earth finds itself on the verge of global ecological disaster.
HB Patriarch Alexiy II of Moscow and All-Russia, “Declaration on the
Social Policy of the Russian Orthodox Church,” Nr. 13, 2000

Q.Why do humans allow the pollution and degradation of the earth?
Q.How can we join together to stop pollution and defilement of the land?
Q.What are the consequences of failure to stop pollution?

Fourth Tuesday
Pray for the Natural Environment

When we pray to God for the preservation of the natural environment, we
are ultimately imploring God to change the mindset of the powerful in the
world, enlightening them not to destroy the planet’s ecosystem for reasons
of financial profit and ephemeral interest.
In praying for the natural environment, we are praying for personal
repentance for our contribution – smaller or greater – to the disfigurement
and destruction of creation, which we collectively experience regionally and
occasionally through the immense phenomena of our time.
HAH, September 1, 2012
[Therefore] we call upon all to be vigilant and to take every
necessary avenue in order to save and protect God’s creation.
HAH, September 26, 1995

Q.What is the best way to pray for the environment?
Q.When do you pray for the healing of the earth?
Q.How might you declare that mistreatment of nature is a sin?

Fourth Wednesday
Man as Custodian of Creation

As Christians, taught by Holy Tradition and the experience of the Holy
Church Fathers, we always link the theme of Man, Custodian of Creation,
with the need of repentance.
When man fell due to his sin, he lost his identity. Because of his
tendency toward transgression, man became weak and cannot find in himself
strength to go back to his Creator. Man accepts God’s love and becomes a
being of communication, a being of communion, improving, with all the
Saints, his God-likeness.
So man becomes the custodian of creation which is created by the will
of God for the only reason – to become one in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:22-
23; 4,15). The human is called to protect the work of God’s hands because
the deeds of God protect [or nurture] him. The creation needs God for its
existence as it cannot exist by itself.
Man is searching for eternity and he is determined to care for the
conjunction of unity and differences. Love disables divisions, while the Holy
Spirit assembles all.
We are profoundly hurt by the divisions in witnessing the Christian
truth before the modern world which is yearning for spiritual direction and
the meaning of the mystery of life. We are firmly convinced that the chosen
theme for the 20th International Conference in your monastery is for the
good, benefit and joy of all Christians. With these sentiments We would like
to greet you cordially, conveying to you, to your monastic brotherhood and to
all the participants of the conference Our prayerful wishes for the grace of
God and success in the forthcoming days of demanded, responsible but
sublime sessions and inter-Christian prayerful assembly.
HB Irinej, Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgarde-Karlovci and
Patriarch of Serbia, Letter to Fr. Enzo Bianchi, August 31, 2012

Q.What changed because of the Fall of Adam and Eve?
Q.How did human identity become distorted in the Fall?
Q.Why is repentance essential for the restoration of our original identity?

Fourth Thursday
A Merciful Heart

According to the Church Fathers, a merciful heart will not only seek the heavenly
kingdom and sense that it has no abiding city here on earth, seeking instead the
heavenly city; it also cannot tolerate any harm to animals and plants, indeed
even to the inanimate elements to nature. Such a person recognizes a value in
nature, too, a relative value given by God Himself who created it.
Such a spirit should characterize every Christian. We do not limit our
expectations simply to this world; nor do we abandon our pursuit of the heavenly
reality, namely the divine kingdom. Instead, we recognize that the way that leads
to the heavenly Jerusalem goes through the keeping of the divine commandments
during our temporary sojourn in this world. Therefore, we are careful to
keep the original commandment to preserve creation from all harm, both for our
own sake and for the sake of our fellow human beings.
In any case, respect for the material natural creation of God, as well as
indirectly for all people who are affected by the environment, reveals a sensitivity
in human attitudes and conduct that should be characteristic of every Christian.
By contemplating the balance, harmony, and beauty of creation, humanity
is lifted to a sense of wonder at the supreme perfection of the divine Creator…
Respect for the material and natural creation of God… reveals a sensitivity in
human attitudes and conduct that should be characteristic of every Christian.
HAH, Day of Prayer for the Environment
September 1, 1997

Q.How can a person cultivate a merciful heart?
Q.Why should such a heart and spirit characterize every Christian?
Q.What are the primary biblical teachings that relate to care for God’s creation?

Fourth Friday
We Must Protect Creation

Today the maternal sea is polluted, the heavens are rent, the forests are
being destroyed and the deserts are increasing. We must protect creation.
Better yet, we must embellish it, render it spiritual and transfigure it
because Christianity has this responsibility.
In the East especially Christianity has not loved the earth enough.
Orthodoxy knows that the earth is sacred, but for too long our history
has been plagued with hostility, even captivity, and this has prevented
her from giving definition to this intuition, from bringing forth this
knowledge into the culture and the course of current affairs. Today she
ought to try to do it for the sake of participation. This will not happen
without cost. The cost is the “small change” of revolution, the only
revolution that counts, that is, a revolution of the spirit.
But nothing will be done unless there is a general conversion of
men’s minds and hearts. In the Bible men’s hearts and mind are the same
thing. Nothing will happen unless our personal and liturgical prayer, our
sacramental life, our asceticism regain their cosmic dimension.
HB Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch, Zurich, Switzerland,
March 10, 1989

Q.Why must Christians protect creation?
Q.What does it take for a conversion of hearts and mind to take place?
Q.How can we regain the cosmic dimension to our asceticism and sacramental life?

Fourth Saturday
Honoring the Creation of the World

We live in critical times…. But our calling is truly ecumenical! We are
committed to extending the love of God to every human person and
indeed to all creation….
We offer this service, not because it is timely or popular, but
because our relationship to the natural world is directly correlated to
our relationship with our fellow human beings who inhabit it. As we
honor and respect the image of God in every human face, we must
also honor the “creation of the world, by which the invisible things of
[God] are clearly seen… even His eternal power and Godhead”
(Romans 1:20).
HAH, Washington, DC, November 3, 2009
At the creation of the world, the Lord’s voice and original command that
“nature may have its own laws remain in our world so that it is able to
generate and bear fruit for all time” (Basil the Great, On the Hexaemeron
IX PG 29.96) also guarantees the earth’s sustainability. So the earth will
continue to generate and bear fruit if it is permitted to adhere to its
own natural order and if we, as its inhabitants, live according to the
commandments and laws of God, abiding by and practicing them. Then
He alone “will give rain in its season, and the land shall yield its produce,
and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit . . . And we shall eat our
bread to the full and live securely in our land. And He will grant peace in
the land” (Leviticus 26.4-5).
HAH, September 1, 2013

Q.Why do we honor and recognize the creation of the world?
Q.What does it mean that we now live in “critical times”?
Q.What does behavior look like that honors the creation?

Fifth Monday
Avoiding Greed and Exceeding Our Need

St. John Chrysostom, urges: “In all things, we should avoid greed and exceeding
our need” (Homily 37 on Genesis) for “this ultimately trains us to become crude
and inhumane” (Homily 83 on Matthew), “no longer allowing people to be
people, but instead transforming them into beasts and demons” (Homily 39 on
1 Corinthians).
Therefore, convinced that Orthodox Christianity implies discarding
everything superfluous and that Orthodox Christians are “good stewards of
the grace of God” (1 Peter 4.10), we conclude with a message from a classic
story, from which everyone can reasonably deduce how uneducated, yet
faithful and respectful people perceived the natural environment and how it
should be retained pure and prosperous:
In the Sayings of the Desert Fathers of the Sinai, it is said about a monk
that eight hungry Saracens once approached him for food, but he had nothing
to offer them because he survived on raw, wild capers, whose bitterness could
kill even a camel. However, upon seeing them dying of extreme hunger, he said
to one of them: “Take your bow and cross this mountain. There, you will find a
herd of wild goats. Shoot one of them, whichever one you desire, but do not
shoot another.” The Saracen departed and, as the old man advised, shot one of
the animals. But when he tried to shoot another, his bow immediately snapped.
So he returned with the meat and related the story to his friends.
HAH, June 5, 2010

Q.Why does greed condition a person toward becoming crude and inhumane?
Q.In what ways does consumerism encourage us to acquire more than we need?
Q.What does the story of the monk in the Sinai desert teach us?

Fifth Tuesday
The Orthodox Cosmic Vision

The breadth and depth of the Orthodox cosmic vision implies that humanity
is a part of a “theophany,” which is greater than any individual. As St.
Maximus states: “Human beings are not isolated from the rest of creation.
They are bound by their very nature to the whole of creation.” Thus, in The
Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky urges:
Love all God’s creation, the whole of it and every grain of sand.
Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love
the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will soon
perceive the divine mystery in things.
HAH, Moscow, Russia, May 26, 2010
What is required is an act of repentance and a renewed attempt to
view ourselves, one another, and the world around us within the
perspective of the divine design for creation….
HAH, The Common Declaration of
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope John Paul II,
Venice, Italy, June 10, 2002

Q.What are the implications of the Orthodox vision of creation?
Q.How should this vision shape our behavior?
Q.Why does His All-Holiness call for repentance in how we have used creation?

July Introduction
The month of July finds the Orthodox Church in the season of Pentecost.
This is a time of reaching out to the larger society, of extending the life of
the Church into the life of the world. Historically, this was a time when
new missionaries departed for the far flung corners of the world. Consistent
with this missionary outreach, we follow that example and reflect on how to
extend Orthodox theology into modern concerns so that we can discern right
from wrong in the complexities of complex current issues.
The world of 2020 faces new challenges that threaten life, health and stability
into the future. Any failure to engage issues such as toxics in the food chain, plastics in
the ocean, fossil fuels causing soaring heat levels, or new intensities of drought, growing
populations juxtaposed alongside declining food supplies – these conditions all contain
serious if not deadly implications for a stable future. Despite the need to engage these
potentially lethal conditions, church leaders do not always provide guidance or direction
on how Orthodox theology addresses these critical issues. Nevertheless the very
existence of these conditions represents an implied call for prayer and renewed efforts
to discern solutions, what we might discern as “new wine out of the old wine skins.”
Here we encounter an interesting irony. We already can taste this new wine if we
listen more intently to the inspired commentary of our top hierarchs. They are often out
in front, on the cutting edge of the descent of the Holy Spirit articulating applications
of Orthodox theology to the great issues of our day. But we too seldom seek out or
listen to their voices as they chart a path into the future.
A further irony is that the Orthodox Church has far and away the most developed
theology of creation across all Christianity. Somehow, we fail to pay attention to this
aspect of our theology or listen to the ecological direction that our patriarchs and top
bishops provide. Instead, it seems many parishes ignore these messages and fail to take
advantage of the gift of guidance and direction that is freely offered to us. Why is this?
Hopefully this month’s collection of readings from our patriarchs and
bishops can awaken recognition of how much direction we have that applies to the
changes we must make to fit our faith into the challenges of the modern world.
It is no longer sufficient to remain content with 19th century commentary for
the challenges of the 21st century. Our principles may be timeless, but application
is always contemporary. Because the worldly context of these principles is always
in flux, so must we all be alert to the changing applications of our faith
Yours in Christ’s service
EC – LM – MR – FK


Wednesday July 1, 2020
Beauty in Nature and in Every Person
According to the sixth century theologian Dionysius the Areopagite, the most
fundamental name of God is ‘good.’ This essential good, by the fact of its
existence, extends goodness into all things. For Dionysius, what exists is good,
and what is good is beautiful.
Dionysius gives us a picture of the universe in which God is the
source of all that is. For Dionysius, perceptible beauty is a dim reflection of the
unutterable Beauty of the Creator. It lifts our minds and hearts to its source….
The inanimate world and the world of plants and animals conforms to models
that express the will of God, divine paradigms we are unable to perceive
directly, but whose mediated presence, we can intuitively perceive.
Mankind alone does not conform to the divine paradigm… and therefore
does not conform to the image of God within. That image is not confined to
his conscience, or his reason…. It is found in the whole of his being. Each
individual human being is a hologram of the universe: everything that is ‘out
there’ is also ‘in here.’ Each of us is a microcosm of the whole. That is why we
can experience plants and animals as our sisters and brothers, because their
existence is implicit in the deeper levels of our being.
Thus our ecological task is to find ourselves in the universe, and find the
universe in us. Our understanding will never reach the depths that are within
us. However, we do not have to know everything before we begin to act. The
truth of our actions will depend on our conforming to the deep structure of our
own nature, and thereby bring our mode of behavior, into conformity with the
will of God, which is known to us in part, through the world. All religious
traditions have ways of helping their members to do this, and we must use the
resources of our traditions for a common goal, a common good.
HG Bishop Basil of Sergievo, Russian Orthodox Church,
Symposium on the Black Sea, September 26, 1997

Q.What is beauty?
Q.How may beauty become a teacher of our behavior?
Q.What does it mean that each person is a hologram of the universe?

2Thursday July 2, 2020
A Call to Unite in a Great Common Effort
Christians must call upon humanity to unite in a common effort for the
safeguarding of the earth, and also for its revitalization. Even the most
secularized of societies need to recognize that an understanding of
transcendence amidst the materiality of the world is necessary, and that
without this understanding, there can be no proper distinction between the
realms of society and religion.
Asceticism is also necessary as a basis for that profound sympathy
with nature which is often experienced by today’s youth, who have no
other way toward the mysterious other than the beauty of the world. This
sympathy may prove to be the last barrier remaining against barbarism and
against the destruction of the animal and plant world.
To asceticism there needs to be joined what I call “creative
exorcism.” We need to exorcize the undeclared but invasive totalitarianism
of a limitless technology. This in no way means a discrediting or limiting of
scientific research. On the contrary, it means fighting … to make it more
open and attentive to a larger divine reality. It means to fight… against the
Promethean temptation to construct the world as a closed totality in which
man would be the little god.
His Beatitude Patriarch +Ignatius IV, Antiochian Orthodox Church,
Lucerne, Switzerland, March 12, 1989

Q.Can people from different religious backgrounds cooperate and work together?
Q.What is this concept of creative exorcism? Reflect on its meaning.
Q.Why is asceticism necessary to make the changes in human behavior?

Friday July 3, 2020
Challenges Facing Spiritual Maturity and Growth
In our efforts for the preservation of the natural environment, we must ask
ourselves some difficult questions about our concern for other human beings
and about our way of life and daily habits.
Just how prepared are we to sacrifice our excessive lifestyles – as
societies and as individuals – in order for others to enjoy the basic right to
survive? Or, at least, just how committed are we to working so that all
people may have sufficient resources, so that no person suffers from poverty
or hunger or unemployment? What are we prepared to surrender in order to
learn to share? When will we learn to say: “Enough!”?
How can we direct our focus away from what we want to what the
world and our neighbor need? Do we honestly do all that we can to leave as
light a footprint as possible on this planet for the sake of those who share it
with us and for the sake of future generations?
If we constantly emphasize our freedom, then we must remember that
caring is also one of the fundamental choices we are free to make. Do we,
therefore, choose to care? If not, then we are denying our prerogative, indeed
our very nature as human beings. If we do not choose to care, then we are not
simply indifferent onlookers; we are in fact active aggressors. If we are not
allaying the pain of others, and only see or care about our own interests, then
we are directly contributing to the suffering and poverty of our world. Where
do we stand? Where do you stand?
His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew,
Athens, Greece, September 29, 2007

Q.What prevents personal participation in environmental action?
Q.Is humanity ready for the sacrifice needed to begin substantive change?
Q.If everyone in the world lived like you, the reader, would it be better or worse?

Saturday July 4, 2020
War, Peace and the Armaments Industry
War and how it causes pollution is yet another tragedy in our world.
The main factors are not due to religious conflict. In the case of Bosnia,
I believe that those responsible for the tragedy, they were educated in an
atheistic system, and used religion as oil for their own fires.
Religion is once again the victim in this story just as many innocent
people are also victims of all these violent initiatives. The Orthodox Church
has said many times that there is a real crime against innocent people being
perpetuated here and the only thing we can do is to protest, to give voice to
the voiceless, and to plead with the leaders of this tragedy, who do not speak
for or represent religion, not to use religion to fuel the situation.
HB Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, Symposium on The Book of Revelation,
Private reflections, September 27, 1995
I would agree with what was just said. I would simply add
that this is one area where I would welcome a far clearer and
more explicit witness by the churches in general, and by the
Orthodox Church in particular. This is in the area of peace,
warfare and the arms industry. We need to have a much
more dynamic witness than we have now in favor of efforts
towards peace.
HE Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), Symposium on The Book of Revelation,
Private response in dialogue, September 27, 1995

Q.How might religion exert more influence over the causes of war?
Q.How does the Orthodox Church view issues of war and peace?
Q.Why is it that parishes seldom discuss the moral issues underlying war and peace?

5Monday July 6, 2020
Entering Sacred Space and Sacred Time
God does not only appear to Moses [on Mount Sinai], but He also issues a
practical command: “Remove the sandals from your feet.” According to
Greek Fathers such as St. Gregory of Nyssa, sandals or shoes – being made
from the skins of dead animals – are something lifeless, inert, dead and
earthly, and so they symbolize the heaviness, weariness, and mortality that
assail our human nature as a result of the Fall. “Remove your sandals,” then,
may be understood to signify: Strip off from yourself the deadness of
familiarity and boredom; free yourself from the lifelessness of the trivial, the
mechanical, the repetitive; wake up, open your eyes, cleanse the doors of
your perception, look and see!
And what happens to us when in this manner we strip off the dead
skins of boredom and triviality? At once we realize the truth of God’s
next words to Moses: “The place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
Set free from spiritual deadness, awakening from sleep, opening our eyes both
outwardly and inwardly, we look upon the world around us in a different
way. Everything appears to us new and strange … inexpressibly rare, and
delightful, and beautiful.
We experience everything as vital and living, and we discover the
truth of William Blake’s dictum , “Every thing that lives is Holy.”
So we enter the dimensions of sacred space and sacred time. We discern
the great within the small, the extraordinary within the ordinary, “a world in
a grain of sand … and eternity in an hour,” to quote Blake once more. This
place where I am, this tree, this animal, this person to whom I am speaking,
this moment of time through which I am living: each is holy, each is unique
and unrepeatable, and each is therefore infinite in value.
HE Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, “Through Creation to the Creator,”
London, UK, 1996

Q.Why does God instruct Moses to take off his sandals?
Q.Where can a person find holy ground in today’s world?
Q.What does it mean for Christian behavior that each thing is infinite in value?

6Tuesday July 7, 2020
Recognizing the Dangers of Environmental Pollution
Technological development has invited unusual environmental aggravations,
reaching far beyond the point of their emission. These include atmospheric,
sea and water pollutants, radioactive pollutants, destruction of the ozone,
global warming of the atmosphere, the penetration of indissoluble toxic
substances into the food chain, and others…. If we look closer at these
things we shall affirm that each of us is able to do something for either the
betterment or the worsening of the situation.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate has undertaken an effort to sensitize
those responsible leaders, as well as ordinary citizens, to the seriousness of
the problem…. Keeping the environment clean and proper for life is an
obligation of love toward our neighbors who are directly touched by these
problems and a responsibility for the future of our children.
This responsibility of love urges us to consider the problem of the
protection of the environment as a serious concern, which is not motivated
by a pagan worship of nature, but from a deep respect and love toward our
Creator and our fellow man.
HAH, Speech to Metropolitan Nikitas of Hong Kong,
Manila, The Philippines, April 20, 2000

Q.What is the root cause of our many environmental problems?
Q.How is love a way to change behavior and solve environmental problems?
Q.Why do humans have a responsibility of love toward our neighbors?


Wednesday July 8, 2020
Destruction of Creation Perverts Christian Ethics
The exploitation and destruction of creation constitute a perversion and
distortion of the Christian ethos…, but also our anti-ecological conduct is an
offense to the Creator and a transgression of his commandments, that is
ultimately working against the authentic destiny of the human person.
The Holy and Great Church of Christ continues to champion the
eco-friendly dynamic of our Orthodox faith, emphasizing the Eucharistic
purpose of creation, the response of the faithful as “priest of creation” in an
effort to offer it unceasingly to the Creator of all, as well as the principle of
asceticism as the response to the modern sense of gratification. Indeed,
respect for creation belongs at the very core of our Orthodox Tradition.
We are especially disturbed by the fact that, while the ecological
crisis is constantly escalating, humanity has become oblivious to the
global appeals for radical change in our attitude toward creation. It is
obvious that the resulting devastation of the environment is a direct
consequence of a specific model of economic progress, which is
indifferent to its ecological repercussions. The short-term benefits in
the rise of living standards in some parts of the world simply
camouflage the irrationality of abuse of creation.
The unrestrained commerce of globalization goes hand-in-hand
with the development of science and technology, which despite
manifold advantages is accompanied by an arrogance and abuse of
nature. Modern humanity knows this but acts as if unaware. We know
that nature is not restored and renewed endlessly; yet we ignore the
negative implications of “trading” in the environment. This explosive
combination of unrestrained commerce and science – increases the risks
threatening the integrity of creation and humankind.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew,
September 1, 2017

Q.What is the Eucharistic purpose of creation?
Q.What does it mean that each person serves as a priest of creation?
Q.How does a person demonstrate respect for God’s creation?

Thursday July 9, 2020
The Challenge of Cultural Captivity
In response to the threats of our age, the tradition of the Church demands
“a radical change of attitude and conduct.” In response to the ecological
crisis, it proposes a spirit of asceticism, frugality and abstinence.
Therefore, we underline the connection between ecological and
social issues, as well as their common roots that lie in the “imprudent
heart” that is fallen and sinful…. When material possessions dominate
our heart and mind, then our attitude toward our fellow humans and
toward creation inevitably becomes possessive and abusive. In biblical
terms, the “bad tree” always “produces evil fruit” (Matthew 7.17).
Furthermore, by extension, we would underline that respecting creation
and other people shares the same spiritual source and origin, namely our
renewal in Christ and spiritual freedom….
What is also apparent is that the solution to the multi-faceted
contemporary human crisis – namely, the crisis facing human culture and
the natural environment – demands a multi-dimensional mobilization
and joint effort. Much as every other vital problem, the underlying and
interconnected ecological and social crisis cannot possibly be addressed
without inter-Christian and inter-religious collaboration. Therefore,
dialogue becomes the fertile ground for promoting existing ecofriendly
and social traditions to stimulate environmental and communal
discussion, while at the same time initiating a constructive criticism of
progress understood exclusively in technological and economic terms.
In closing, we reiterate the inseparable nature of respecting creation
and humanity, and we call upon all people of good will to undertake the
good struggle for the protection of the natural environment and the
establishment of solidarity.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Day of Prayer
for the Creation, September 1, 2017

Q.How are ecological and social issues often connected?
Q.Why is dialogue on cultural issues important for parish members?
Q.How might parishes or individual Christians engage with other Christians?

Friday July 10, 2020
Regaining Christianity’s Cosmic Dimensions
“Man is an animal called to become God,” said one of the Fathers of the
Church. And that is why the Word became flesh: to open to us, through the
holy flesh of the earth transformed into the Eucharist, the path to deification.
But man has wanted to make himself divine by means of his own
powers; he wants to build a tower of Babel and not to welcome the New
Jerusalem. He has wanted to make of the world his prey, to be its tyrant and
not its king and priest. He has made for himself, out of the potential
transparency of all things when restored in Christ, the mirror of Narcissus.
Today that mirror is breaking up. The maternal sea is polluted, the
forests are being destroyed and the deserts are increasing. We must protect
creation. Better yet, we must embellish it, render it spiritual and transfigure it
because Christianity has this responsibility. In the East especially Christianity
has not loved the earth enough. Orthodoxy knows that the earth is sacred, but
for too long our history has been plagued with hostility, even captivity, and
this has prevented her from giving definition to this intuition, from bringing
forth this knowledge into the culture and the course of current affairs. Today
she ought to try to do it for the sake of participation. This will not happen
without cost. The cost is the “small change” of revolution, the only revolution
that counts, that is, a revolution of the spirit.
But nothing will be done unless there is a general conversion of men’s
minds and hearts. In the Bible men’s hearts and mind are the same thing.
Nothing will happen unless our personal and liturgical prayer, our sacramental
life, our asceticism regain their cosmic dimension.
HB Patriarch +Ignatius IV, Antiochian Orthodox Church,
“A Theology of Creation,” Lecture before the Swiss Protestant Churches,
Zurich, Switzerland, March 10, 1989

Q.What is the path to deification?
Q.How are we to protect creation?
Q.How are Christians to bring forth a knowledge of the sacred in creation?


Saturday July 11, 2020
A “Housekeeper” Entrusted with the Earth’s Riches
From a Christian perspective, nature is not a repository of resources intended
for egotistic and irresponsible consumption, but nature is a house in which
man is not the master, but the housekeeper, and a temple in which he is the
priest, serving not nature, but the one Creator….
Relations between man and nature were broken in pre-historic times
because of his Fall and alienation from God. Sin that was born in man’s soul
damaged not only him, but also the surrounding world (cf. Romans 8:19-22).
The first human crime was reflected in nature like in a mirror. The seed of sin,
having produced an effect in the human heart, gave rise to “thorns and thistles,”
as Holy Scripture testifies (Genesis 3:18). The full organic unity that existed
between man and the world around him before the fall (Genesis 2:19-20) was
made impossible.
Now in their consumer relations with nature, human beings have begun
to be more often guided by egotistic motives. They began to forget that the
only Lord of the Universe is God (Psalm 23:1), to Whom belongs “the heaven
and the earth also, with all that is therein” (Deuteronomy 10:14), while man,
as Saint John Chrysostom put it, “is only a housekeeper” entrusted with the
riches of the earth. These riches, namely, “the air, sun, water, land, heaven, sea,
light, stars,” as the saint remarks, God “divided in equal measure among all as
if among brothers.”
Dominion over nature …to which man is called (Genesis 1:28), does not
mean an all-permissiveness within God’s design. It means only that man bears
the image of the heavenly Housekeeper and as such he should express, according
to Saint Gregory of Nyssa, his royal dignity, not in domination over the world
or violence towards it, but in “dressing” and “keeping” the magnificent
kingdom of nature for which he is responsible before God.
HB Patriarch Alexiy II of Moscow and All-Russia, “Declaration on the
Social Policy of the Russian Orthodox Church,” Nr. 13, 2000

Q.Are the two ideological tendencies opposed?
Q.Why is the second more correct?
Q.Why is it important to sensitize the nations?

Monday July 13, 2020
A Crusade for the Environment
When it comes to the proper theological reflection, there is no doubt that our
Orthodox Church has a great deal to contribute to the contemporary debate
concerning ecology. We are able to draw upon the depth and wealth of our
Scriptural and Patristic heritage to contribute positively and constructively to
the critical issues of our time. Where, however, as Orthodox Christians, we
reveal our greatest vulnerability lies in the practice of our theory.
Just how many of us examine the foods that we consume, the goods
that we purchase, the energy that we waste, or the consequences of our
privileged living? How often do we take time to scrutinize the choices that we
make on a daily basis, whether as individuals, as institutions, or as parishes?
More importantly, just how many of our Orthodox clergy are prepared
to assume leadership on issues concerning the environment? How many of our
Orthodox parishes and communities are prepared to materialize the knowledge
that we have accumulated in recent years by practicing ecologically sensitive
principles in their own communities?
In an age when information is readily available to us, there is surely no
excuse for ignorance or indifference. Nevertheless, today, we stand at a
crossroads, at a point of choosing the cross that we have to bear. For, today,
we know fully well the ecological and global impact of our decisions and
actions, irrespective of how minimal or insignificant these may be.
Recent unusual fluctuations in temperature, typhoons, earthquakes,
violent storms, the pollution of the seas and rivers, and the many other
catastrophic actions for man and the environment ought to be an obvious
alarm for something to be done with human behavior.
It is our sincere hope and fervent prayer that in the years ahead, more
and more of our Orthodox faithful will recognize the importance of a crusade
for our environment…. This vision will only benefit future generation by
leaving behind a cleaner, better world. We owe it to our Creator. And we owe
it to our children.
HAH, Day of Prayer for Creation, September 1, 2016
Q.Why do we Orthodox have trouble being true to our ecological theology?
Q.What correction is needed for Orthodox to embrace our ecological responsibilities?
Q.What sins are involved in a failure to fulfill our duty to God to care for the earth?


Tuesday July 14, 2020
Climate Change: A Moral and Spiritual Challenge
It should be clear to all of us that immediate measures must be taken to
reduce the impact of these changes to the world’s climate. If we fail to act
now, the changes that are already underway will intensify and create
catastrophic conditions.
A contributing root cause of these changes to our climate is a lifestyle
that contains unintended, but nevertheless destructive side effects. It may be
that no person intends to harm the environment, but the excessive use of fossil
fuels is degrading and destroying the life of creation. Moreover, the impact of
our thoughtless actions is felt disproportionately by the poorest and most
vulnerable, those most likely to live in marginal areas. By our lack of awareness,
then, we risk incurring the condemnation of those who “grind the face of the
poor” (Isaiah 3.15). As Church leaders, it is our responsibility to speak to this
condition inasmuch as it represents a grave moral and spiritual problem.
Therefore, we wish to emphasize the seriousness and the urgency of the
situation. To persist in a path of excess and waste, at the expense of our
neighbors and beyond the capability of the planet to support the lifestyle
directly responsible for these changes, is not only folly; it jeopardizes the
survival of God’s creation, the planet that we all share. In the end, not only is
it sinful; it is no less than suicidal.
But there is hope. Society can alter its behavior and avoid the more
serious consequences of climate change. To do this, however, we must work
together to reduce the way that we have exploited the earth’s resources,
especially its fossil fuels. As Americans, we comprise barely 4% of the world’s
people; yet we consume over 25% of its resources and energy. Justice and
charity for our neighbors demand a more frugal, simple way of living in order
to conserve the fruits of creation. …
The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States,
“Global Climate Change: A Moral and Spiritual Challenge,” declaration by SCOBA,
May 23, 2007

Q.What measures can be taken now to reduce the impacts of climate change?
Q.How does the typical American lifestyle contribute to global climate change?
Q.Why is continuation on our present path folly?

Wednesday July 15, 2020
A Definition of Human Purpose in Life
We are servants, each in our own ways, and although we offer different
kinds of service, in different arenas… It is our responsibility as human
beings, as persons, to be stewards of God’s created order….
The Greek term “oikonomos” resonates beyond Orthodox
Christianity. As “keepers/masters of our house— oikos,” we are all called to
be sensitive to the greatest risk to the survival of our planet—namely, the
dramatic changes in our climate, in our environment. Orthodox Christians
understand the meaning of being stewards — oikonomoi — and we reach
out our hands to you, diplomats and world leaders — to embrace the
richness of this language, and to work together with all the Orthodox
Christians around the world to set the example of respecting, nurturing,
and preserving God’s created order.
As Orthodox Christians we are called to offer service to humanity
without expectation of anything in return, and also, to be examples for
others to do the same.
HAH, United Nations, New York City, October 26, 2009

Q.What does it mean that we are to be “servants of God’s created order”?
Q.How are servants expected to function?
Q.What does it require to set a proper example for others?


Thursday July 16, 2020
The Ecological Crisis is a Spiritual Problem
The ecological crisis is essentially a spiritual problem. The proper relationship
between humanity and the earth was broken with the Fall, both outwardly
and within us, and this rupture is sin. The Church must now introduce in
its teaching about sin, the sin against the environment, “the ecological sin.”
Repentance must be extended to cover also the damage we do to nature as
individuals and as societies. This must be brought to the conscience of every
Christian who cares for his or her salvation.
The rupture of the proper relationship between humanity and nature
is due to the rise of individualism in our culture. The pursuit of individual
happiness has been made into an ideal in our time. Ecological sin is due to
human greed which blinds men and women to the point of ignoring and
disregarding the basic truth that the happiness of the individual depends on
its relationship with the rest of human beings. There is a social dimension in
ecology…. The ecological crisis goes hand in hand with the spread of social
injustice. We cannot face successfully the one without dealing with the other.
Ecological sin is a sin not only against God, but also our neighbor.
And it is a sin not only against the other of our own time but also – and this
is serious – against future generations. By destroying our planet to satisfy our
greed for happiness in the present time, we bequeath to future generations a
world damaged beyond repair with all the negative consequences that this
will have for their lives. We must act, therefore, responsibly towards our
children and those who will succeed us in this life. All this calls for what we
may describe as an ecological asceticism.
HE Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, Commentary on Encyclical Laudato Si’
Vatican City, Rome, June 18, 2015

Q.How does the Church teach about ecological sin?
Q.What effect does individualism have upon our culture?
Q.What are the outward and inward dimensions of the Fall?

Friday July 17, 2020
Asceticism as a Step Toward Transformation
The great figures of the Christian ascetical tradition were all sensitive to
the suffering of all creatures. The equivalent of a St. Francis of Assisi is
abundantly present in the monastic tradition of the East. There are accounts
of the lives of the desert saints which present the ascetic as weeping for
the suffering or death of every creature and as leading a peaceful and
friendly co-existence even with the wild beasts. This is not romanticism.
This springs from a loving heart and the conviction that between the natural
world and ourselves there is an organic unity and interdependence that makes
us share a common fate just as we have the same Creator.
Asceticism is an unpleasant idea in our present culture, which measures
happiness and progress with the increase of capital and consumption. It
would be unrealistic to expect our societies to adopt asceticism in the way St.
Francis and the Desert Fathers of the East experienced it. But the spirit and
the ethos of asceticism can and must be adopted if our planet is to survive.
Restraint in the consumption of natural resources is a realistic attitude
and ways must be found to put a limit to the immense waste of natural
materials. Technology and science must devote their efforts to such a task.
HE Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon, “Commentary on Encyclical Laudato Si!”
Vatican City, Rome, June 18, 2015

Q.Why does an invisible unity exist between each person and the natural world?
Q.How does holiness lead to sensitivity and care for the earth and its creatures?
Q.How does personal transformation lead to the transfiguration of creation?


Saturday July 18, 2020
The Cosmological Dimension of Sin
For Orthodoxy, sin has a cosmological dimension and impact. The theology
of the Orthodox Church recognizes the natural creation as inseparable from
the identity and destiny of humanity, inasmuch as every human action leaves
a lasting imprint on the body of the earth. Moreover, human attitudes and
behavior towards creation directly impact on and reflect human attitudes and
behavior toward other people, especially the poor.
Ecology is inevitably related to sociology and economy, and so all
ecological activity is ultimately measured and judged by its effect upon the
underprivileged and suffering of our world. The ecological problem is
essentially a sociological one.
In Christian theology we use the term metanoia, which means a shift of
the mind, a total change of mentality. This is important, because of the fact
that during the last century, a century of immense scientific progress, we
experienced the biggest destruction of the natural environment. It seems that
scientific knowledge does not reach the depth of our soul and mind. Man
knows; and yet he still continues to act against his knowledge. Knowledge did
not cause repentance, but it brought up cynicism and other obsessions.
HAH Ecumical Patriarch Bartholomew, Izmir University,
February 9, 2015

Q.How are ecology and sociology connected?
Q.What is the role of metanoia in addressing the ecological problem?
Q.Why is scientific knowledge of itself not a solution to the ecological crisis?


Monday July 20, 2020
Earth Healing Through a Spiritual Methodology
Ecological sin is sin because it defaces God’s creation, even as sin defaces
the image of God granted to every human person. In fact, personal sin, in its
most ontological sense, precedes ecological sin, even as intention precedes
action.
Orthodox Christians see the world as belonging to God, and being
under the stewardship of human persons. And we shall give an account for
our stewardship. As the human persons are redeemed from sin and brought to
life in the light of God’s love, so shall the world be set aright….
The human person and the created world are inextricably intertwined,
even dependent on one another. Since the first and ultimate purposes of
humankind are to love (both God and our neighbor as ourselves), then it is
only in the context of this love that we shall be able to discover the ways and
means to find healing for the natural world, as well as the proper, spiritual
and eucharistic/meditative use of the created order.
The human person is created to be the mediator of creation, the bridge
between the spiritual and material world. It is in the very composite nature of
the human person that this transcendent function is imbedded. Although
contrary to a secular point of view, the solutions to the ecological failures of
the modern age are found in a spiritual methodology. In other words, a failure
of love separated the reality of the human person from living in the created
world as in a Paradise, and it is only through the triumph of love – the Love
Incarnate that hung upon the Holy Cross – that readmits us into the
possibility of gaining Paradise again.
HE Metropolitan Nicholas of Amissos, Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church,
Public Statement to President Bush at The White House,
Washington, DC, May 20, 2002

Q.What is ecological sin? Can you name some examples?
Q.What does it mean that the human is a mediator of creation?
Q.How does the Orthodox Church promote healing of the world?

Tuesday July 21, 2020
Let Us Love One Another
This common purpose unites all humanity as all the waters of the world are
united. In order to save a sea, we must save all the rivers and oceans. God
created heaven and earth as a harmonious totality. Consequently we have to
face creation as a harmonious and interdependent whole. For us at the
Ecumenical Patriarchate, the term ecumenical is more than a name: it is a
world view and a way of life.
The Lord fills His creation with His Divine Presence in a continuous
bond. Let us work together so that we may renew the harmony between
heaven and earth, so that we may transform every detail and every element of
life. Let us love one another. With love, let us share with others everything we
know and especially that which is useful to educate godly persons so that they
may sanctify Gods creation for the glory of His holy Name.
As a symbol to remind us of this responsibility in which each of us
must do our part so that we may keep our natural environment as it has been
handed down to us by God, we present you with this piece of parchment with
the inscription from the Holy Scripture of God’s order to the first people
placed in the Garden of Eden, which was to work and keep the garden. This is
also our message addressed to every human being. Let every person work to
produce material goods from nature, but let him also keep its integrity and
keep it harmless as God commanded human beings to do.
HAH Ecumical Patriarch Bartholomew, Katmandu, Nepal,
November 16, 2000

Q.Why do we need to see creation as a unified and harmonious whole?
Q.How do we help restore the harmony between heaven and earth?
Q.How do we preserve the integrity of God’s good creation?

August Introduction
August is the month when the Orthodox Church celebrates Christ’s Transfiguration.
In Scripture the Transfiguration occurs before the Crucifixion and this prefigures Christ’s
Resurrection and Second Coming. Thus, during Christianity’s first millennium, this
feast was celebrated before the time of his Crucifixion. In our day, the liturgical calendar
still retains some of this connection, because it occurs forty days before the Elevation of
the Holy Cross, thus reminding us that “Christ’s death is intimately connected to the
glory of the Transfiguration, because Christ is glorified through his death” (John 12:23).
For perspective, every Feast of the Church must be more than simple commemoration.
Each in its own way informs our lives and vitalizes our spiritual striving. As we celebrate
Christ’s Transfiguration, we recall that this event not only reveals his divinity, but also
prefigures what awaits the entire cosmos – including us – at the end of time.
We discern the cosmic dimensions of this feast in several ways. First, as Christ prays,
He shines from within, his face is as bright as the sun, and his garments glow with Light.
Thus, Creation too is lifted and filled with uncreated Light. Second, the three apostles
have their eyes and senses opened to witness Christ’s glory. Third, Moses and Elijah,
representing the law and the prophets, appear on either side, showing how the historical
manifestations of God in the Old Testament are fulfilled in Christ’s Transfiguration.
Fourth, Christ’s Transfiguration reveals the ultimate destiny of humanity for we,
along with all creation, are transformed and glorified in the splendor and Light of God.
This is an intimation of the transformed state in which Christians shall appear at
the culmination of the world, and to some extent, even before.
Fifth, according to the Greek Fathers, a Christian wisdom-knowledge of creation,
grounded in prayer and contemplation, and manifested in ethically-informed acts, leads
to a transformed consciousness and a transfigured world. This calls the faithful into
awareness of a sacred earth stewardship which becomes sacred cosmology in action for
the earth that consecrates every part of creation back to its Creator-Source. In this way
we are all priests of creation with a duty to care for God’s holy earth.
The Divine Liturgy on this day concludes with the blessing of grapes and other
fruits, representing our blessing of the fruits of creation and invoking the eventual
transfiguration of all things in Christ. This act signifies the flowering of creation in
Christ where all will be transformed in and by the glory of the Lord. This blessing
recognizes the teaching of the Church Fathers that the whole world is a living sacrament.
This feast thus serves as a call for each Christian to strive toward illumination by the
light of Christ and to enter into a loving and caring relationship with the earth, all of
which is to be transformed and transfigured into the Kingdom of God.
Yours in service to God’s good earth,
MR – ER – CB – EM – FK

Wednesday July 22, 2020
The Creation as a Living Gift from God
The creation is a living gift from God to all, a marvelous expression of divine
love and wisdom.
Through the human encounter with nature, a realization of the divine
becomes manifest. In our own personal life, the vast wilderness of the
Egyptian desert and its beauty have long been a cherished place for prayer
and contemplation. For this reason we continue to spend one-half of each
week at our residence at the Monastery of Saint Bishoy in Wadi El-Natrun.
The life of our Church not only encourages an appreciation of nature,
but places a duty upon all people to protect the environment and to prevent
its every increasing destruction.
His Holiness Pope Shenuda III, Coptic Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria,
Monastery of Saint Bishoy, Wadi El-Natrun, Egypt, January, 2003
The ecological problem is one of exhaustion in nature, pollution of
natural resources, annihilation of forests, utilization of dangerous
natural forces such as nuclear energy, and the production of new
synthetic substances which do not exist in nature and cannot be
decomposed biologically.
On the basis of this, I have come to the conclusion that the
ecological problem is, actually, theological and religious in nature,
that it is a problem of faith and religious activity – of orthodoxy and
orthopraxis. There must be a radical change in the practical lives of all
humanity, a new environmental ethic which seeks the integrity of
creation in all its forms.
HE Metropolitan Damaskinos of Switzerland, “The Ecological Problem,”
Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, March, 1990

Q,Why does wild nature teach us about God?
Q.How does the life of the Church instruct us in appreciation of nature?
Q.What sort of changes are necessary for Christians to live in harmony with nature?


Thursday July 23, 2020
Ultimate Conclusions
Christianity has thrust man forward with a mission to explore the universe,
from the atom to the galaxy. Since the calling of Abraham and through the
life-giving Cross, the world can no longer close in on itself; a tension about its
ultimate conclusion now penetrates and runs through it. Science and modern
technologies have developed in this openness, in this adventure born of a
departure toward we know not where, born of the fool-like love of a God who
has made us free by dying like a slave on the Cross.
Today the earth no longer encloses man in her stifling and fecund
maternity. Man has broken the umbilical cord. He can separate himself from
her, travel through the stratosphere, sojourn in space, even walk on the moon
and send probes out to Mars.
What then will the earth be for him? An object, a collection of things,
or a reservoir of resources which was long thought to be inexhaustible but
now appears threatened by limits, imbalances, and even death. In parts of
Europe and even in places quite near here the forest is dying of acid rain.
Why and how have we come to this? Christianity stripped the world of its
ancient sacred character, but this was in order to make it holy. Has
Christianity betrayed its cosmic mission? Has it given up, abdicated its
mission and withdrawn?
HB Patriarch +Ignatius IV, Antiochian Orthodox Church,
Lucerne, Switzerland, March 12, 1989

Q.How has Christianity fostered science and technology?
Q.How has mankind broken the umbilical cord?
Q.Why does it appear Christianity has abdicated its mission?


Friday July 24, 2020
Our Huge Responsibility to Save our Planet
In order to respect God’s creation we must become conscious that everything
in the world belongs to God who created it. Consequently, we humans are
under no circumstance proprietors of God’s creation but people who accept his
commandments, that is, the rules of His management. Hence, we become
conscious that we have a serious responsibility for environmental protection,
which is associated with the respect, which we all owe to our Creator God.
Hence, the whole of creation, our planet and whatever exists on it, is
God’s wider habitation…. Man, as an inseparable part of this habitation within
God, must be protected in every way…. The same applies to every part of
creation. In this way we show special reverence to the Creator. Under no
circumstances may man create an opposition with his environment….
We must not fall victims to inhuman arrogance and the unacceptable issues of
colonization and the lack of control over industrial processes and the unjust
exploitation of man towards his fellow human beings, and thus see nature as
their adversary and enemy which they should besiege, pillage, conquer and
rudely rape, changing her … into a huge cemetery….
Our Church does not view nature and the environment as adversaries,
but as that reality in which we ourselves belong. Thus we become conscious
that we are all part of nature and consequently by protecting Nature we
protect ourselves. That is the safe course for our survival.
As Christians, we should respond to our huge responsibilities to save our
Planet, so that we can provide a united front in our great peaceful battle for
survival. This effort begins with the degree to which we are prepared to
struggle … for the reign of justice in the world as the only means which will
lead us to in live within God’s real peace. May God bless you!
HB Patriarch Theodoros II, Pope of Alexandria and All Africa,
September 8, 2012

Q.Why do so many Christians fail to protect God’s creation?
Q.What does it mean to be victimized by “lack control over industrial processes?
Q.How does the Orthodox Church honor and respect the natural world?

Saturday July 25, 2020
Symbols of Hope for a More Harmonious World
We come from many cultures and peoples, tribes and tongues, nations and
faiths. Yet we share a common concern for the future of the planet and the
quality of human life and relationships throughout the earth.
The root of the English word “symbol” lies in the Greek notion of
bringing together fragments of truth in order to achieve a more profound
understanding than would otherwise be available through mere analysis.
Symbols help us to comprehend the relations between our sometimes
fragmentary and fugitive perceptions of reality. They have the power to
communicate in a way that itself generates energy. Two such symbols have
been entrusted to our generation. These are the “cloud” and the “globe.”
For the first time in history, by unraveling some of the forces which lie
at the heart of creation, we have acquired the power to destroy all human life
on the planet. By the same act, the world community is under threat. The
work, which lies ahead for all those who love life, is to translate this world
community, which exists as an object under threat, more and more into a
subject of promise and hope.
HAH Ecum. Patriarch Bartholomew, “Revelation and the Environment,”
September 22, 1995

Q.What role might cultural diversity play in ecological awareness?
Q.Why are “symbols” an important tool in teaching about religion?
Q.How might the world community become a subject of promise and hope?

23Monday July 27, 2020
A Life-Creating and Enhancing Tradition
Patriarch +Demetrios reaffirmed that the monastic and ascetic traditions of
the Orthodox Church have important insights for us. These traditions develop
a sensitivity toward the suffering and beauty of all creation. “Love all God’s
creation,” urged Dostoevsky, “the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love
every leaf and every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love
everything. If you love everything you will perceive the divine mystery in
things.”
It is a life-creating tradition, which beckons all to become a new creation
in Christ, by being born of “water and spirit” (John 3.5), so that all matter, all
life, may become sanctified. In order for sanctification or theosis [deification]
to become real, there must be a metanoia, a conversion or changing of the
mind, reflective of the sanctity of tears.
It is not a mere poetic coincidence, that a contemporary Christian poet
describes the rivers, seas and oceans as “a gathering of tears,” bearing witness
to humanity’s adventure and struggling journey. So too, the Fathers of the
desert considered “the baptism of tears” as a lofty blessing empowering all
men and women who seek “to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Tim.
2.4). Therefore, instead of asking for wisdom and strength and holiness, the
angels of the desert asked for tears of repentance in their sojourn and struggle
for salvation.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, “Revelation and the Environment,”
Island of Patmos, Greece, September 22, 1995

Q.How would a love of all God’s creation affect the ecological crisis?
Q.Why is repentance a necessary first step toward healing the earth?
Q.How does human transformation relate to a healing of the world?


Tuesday July 28, 2020
Glory and Suffering Go Together
In Christ’s life as in the life of the Christian, glory and suffering go together.
Moreover, during the actual moment of his Transfiguration, what Jesus speaks
about with Moses and Elijah is precisely his coming “exodus” or departure at
Jerusalem, that is to say, his imminent death (Luke 9:31).
From this and from much else in the New Testament, it is clear that in
Christ’s earthly experience, light and darkness, joy and sorrow, are intimately
connected…. What is true of Christ is true also of each Christian.
It is only through the willing acceptance of suffering that we can come
to understand the meaning of glory. To be a Christian is to share, at one and
the same time, in the self-emptying and sacrifice of the Cross, and in the
overwhelming joy of the Transfiguration and the Resurrection. To be
transfigured with Christ does not mean that we escape all suffering; it means
that we are to find transfiguration in the suffering. The transfigured Christ
offers not a way around, but through. This teaching about suffering and glory,
indeed, is in no way limited to Christianity. The other great faiths affirm the
same, each in its characteristic way.
All this needs to be applied to our ecological work, whether for our own
or for future generations. There can be no transformation of the environment
without self-denial, no fundamental renewal of the cosmos without voluntary
sacrifice. In Christ’s words, “Truly, truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls
into the ground and dies, it remains just a single grain. But if it dies, it bears
much fruit” (John 12:24). Gain comes through loss, life through death,
transfiguration through cross-bearing.
HE Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, “Safeguarding the Creation
for Future Generations,” June 8, 2002

Q.What is the meaning of the word “glory”?
Q.What is the meaning of the cross for ordinary Christians?
Q.How does the cross relate to our ecological work?


Wednesday July 29, 2020
Facing the Threats of our Age
In response to the threats of our age, the tradition of the Church
demands “a radical change of attitude and conduct.” In response to the
ecological crisis, it proposes a spirit of asceticism, “frugality and
abstinence.” In response to our “greed,” it calls for “the deification of
our needs and attitude of acquisition.”
When material possessions dominate our heart and mind, then
our attitude toward our fellow human beings and toward creation
inevitably becomes possessive and abusive. In biblical terms, the “bad
tree” produces “evil fruit” (Matthew 7.17).
Furthermore, by extension, we would underline that respecting
creation and other people share the same spiritual source and origin,
namely our renewal in Christ and spiritual freedom. Just as
environmental destruction is related to social injustice, so too an ecofriendly
attitude is inseparable from social solidarity.
HAH, Letter on the Day of Prayers for Creation,
September 1, 2017

Q.How can a person overcome the domination of possessions and their side-effects?
Q.What is an eco-friendly attitude?
Q.How does our attitudes impact those around us and even the creation itself?


Thursday July 30, 2020
Responding to the Human Crisis
The solution to the multi-faceted contemporary human crisis – the
crisis facing human culture and the natural environment – demands a
multi-dimensional mobilization and joint effort. Much as every other
vital problem, the underlying and interconnected ecological and
social crisis cannot possibly be addressed without inter-Christian and
inter-religious collaboration. Therefore, dialogue becomes the fertile
ground for promoting existing eco-friendly and social traditions in
order to stimulate environmental and communal discussion, while at
the same time initiating a constructive criticism of progress
understood exclusively in technological and economic terms at the
expense of creation and civilization.
We reiterate the inseparable nature of respecting creation and
humanity, and we call upon all people of good will to undertake the
good struggle for the protection of the natural environment and the
establishment of solidarity.
May the Lord and Giver of all good things, through the
intercessions of the all-blessed Mother of God, grant all of you “a
burning within your hearts for all creation” and “a stirring of love and
good works” (Hebrews 10.24).
HAH, Letter on the Day of Prayers for Creation,
September 1, 2017

Q.What do you believe will be necessary to overcome our ecological problems?
Q.How might we accomplish this?
Q.What is your personal responsibility before God in this global challenge?

27Friday July 31, 2020
The Impacts of Climate Change are Proliferating
We stand against a background of grave pronouncements from scientists
about the consequences of climate change for every living thing on earth.
Global hunger has re-emerged on the world stage with a greater sense of
urgency. How will we feed the world’s people? We see how climate change
acts as a “threat multiplier” by interacting with food insecurity, economic
weakness and the ever growing pressure of population….
As the distinguished speakers before us have made clear, climate change
fundamentally threatens the ability of the Earth’s ecosystems to meet the
needs of present and future generations. Adverse climate change poses a
serious threat to food security through erratic rainfall patterns and decreasing
crop yields, its impacts on natural systems, resources, infrastructure and labor
productivity may reduce economic growth and exacerbate poverty….
The potential impacts of climate change proliferate before us. We hear
of air and water pollution, of global warming and the threatened extinction of
numerous animal and plant species. Human suffering in the poorest countries
increases; nowhere is this shown more vividly than in Africa, where global
warming and human interference with ecosystems have brought a new threat
to Africa’s water and all who depend on it. Pasture land gives way to desert at
an accelerating pace. Lake levels fall, animal and bird migrations change, fish
stocks dwindle. River waters grow polluted and aquifers are drained for
‘development.’ The predicted rise in ocean levels threatens to submerge
Africa’s coastal cities (including Alexandria). The evidence and statistics are
indeed alarming. How should we react?
HAH, “Climate Change, Human Security and Development Cooperation,”
May 30, 2008

Q.Why is global climate change a threat to the future stability of society?
Q.What is our individual responsibility before this threat?
Q.How should parishes and individuals respond to this looming disaster?

August Introduction
August is the month when the Orthodox Church celebrates Christ’s Transfiguration.
In Scripture the Transfiguration occurs before the Crucifixion and this prefigures Christ’s
Resurrection and Second Coming. Thus, during Christianity’s first millennium, this
feast was celebrated before the time of his Crucifixion. In our day, the liturgical calendar
still retains some of this connection, because it occurs forty days before the Elevation of
the Holy Cross, thus reminding us that “Christ’s death is intimately connected to the
glory of the Transfiguration, because Christ is glorified through his death” (John 12:23).
For perspective, every Feast of the Church must be more than simple commemoration.
Each in its own way informs our lives and vitalizes our spiritual striving. As we celebrate
Christ’s Transfiguration, we recall that this event not only reveals his divinity, but also
prefigures what awaits the entire cosmos – including us – at the end of time.
We discern the cosmic dimensions of this feast in several ways. First, as Christ prays,
He shines from within, his face is as bright as the sun, and his garments glow with Light.
Thus, Creation too is lifted and filled with uncreated Light. Second, the three apostles
have their eyes and senses opened to witness Christ’s glory. Third, Moses and Elijah,
representing the law and the prophets, appear on either side, showing how the historical
manifestations of God in the Old Testament are fulfilled in Christ’s Transfiguration.
Fourth, Christ’s Transfiguration reveals the ultimate destiny of humanity for we,
along with all creation, are transformed and glorified in the splendor and Light of God.
This is an intimation of the transformed state in which Christians shall appear at
the culmination of the world, and to some extent, even before.
Fifth, according to the Greek Fathers, a Christian wisdom-knowledge of creation,
grounded in prayer and contemplation, and manifested in ethically-informed acts, leads
to a transformed consciousness and a transfigured world. This calls the faithful into
awareness of a sacred earth stewardship which becomes sacred cosmology in action for
the earth that consecrates every part of creation back to its Creator-Source. In this way
we are all priests of creation with a duty to care for God’s holy earth.
The Divine Liturgy on this day concludes with the blessing of grapes and other
fruits, representing our blessing of the fruits of creation and invoking the eventual
transfiguration of all things in Christ. This act signifies the flowering of creation in
Christ where all will be transformed in and by the glory of the Lord. This blessing
recognizes the teaching of the Church Fathers that the whole world is a living sacrament.
This feast thus serves as a call for each Christian to strive toward illumination by the
light of Christ and to enter into a loving and caring relationship with the earth, all of
which is to be transformed and transfigured into the Kingdom of God.
Yours in service to God’s good earth,
MR – ER – CB – EM – FK

Saturday August 1, 2020
Humans as Custodians of Creation
As Christians we should find ways to work together to protect the Creation
of God. Our Planet is the common residence for the whole of Humanity.
It’s true that people in past times never managed to destroy our
planet while living here for thousands of years, but now the most recent
generations have managed to do this. The present risk of our planet being
changed into a dangerous hot-house without ventilation constitutes a visible
threat for all of us, like the plants of an enclosed hot-house which at stages
wither, dry-up and die, unless we take active steps today.
Only when man accepts the teaching of our Church, that God is the
Creator of all things, can he love the whole of Creation and protect it. Man
as the crown of God’s creation has a special place on our planet. Man is
invited by God to continue the work of creation, and simultaneously to look
after it, to take care of it and to push for its advancement to whatever
protects it as far as its survival is concerned. Hence God, in the first book of
the Old Testament, namely in the book of Genesis, invites the first man,
Adam, to give names to the animals and to all things. This symbolic Biblical
reference shows precisely our responsibilities to the whole of God’s creation.
HB Patriarch Theodoros II, Patriarch of Alexandria and All-Africa,
September 8, 2010

Q.How well can you summarize human responsibility to God for care of the earth?
Q.What are the consequences of failure to observe this responsibility?
Q.How are the duties of a custodian different from those of an owner?


Monday August 3, 2020
Sensitizing the Conscience
It is our duty of love towards our fellow human beings to sensitize the
conscience of everyone. For, the indifference of each one of us toward our
neighbor and the consequences of our actions has led to the current critical
situation of the excess pollution of the seas as well as of many regions of
the land. This indifference has disturbed the ecosystems and in many cases
caused their destruction, with unfavorable results for humankind, such as
the destruction of fisheries and agriculture in some places, the pollution of
the atmosphere and waters by toxic materials, and other reversals of the
natural environmental balance, which is necessary for the regular and
healthy life of humanity.
From the Christian perspective, it is unethical to be indifferent
toward the increasingly negative repercussions of our actions, simply
because each of them has a small impact on the situation. Experience has
shown that, beyond a certain degree of self-purification, the environment
cannot recover its natural condition and is gradually dying.
We are obliged to become conscious of the truth concealed in the
teaching of the Apostle Paul that we all constitute one body, and when one
member suffers, all members suffer together. Any form of individualism,
which leads us to care only for ourselves, is anti-Christian. We who believe
in Christ have to live the truth that we are all one body, that we all have a
common interest, and that we must seek not only our own, but also the
interests of every person (Phil. 2,4).
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral,
Helsinki, Finland, June 6, 2003

Q.What is the human conscience?
Q.How is it shaped?
Q.How might a person become more sensitive to the voice of conscience?


Tuesday August 4, 2020
Each Orthodox is Called to Traditional Principles
On August 6, 1945, humanity exploded the most powerful instrument
of destruction with the atomic bomb, which created the brightest light ever
created by man and which brought violent death to hundreds of thousands of
people. In total contrast to this event of devastation, for centuries the Church
has celebrated on August 6th, the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For it was on Mount Tabor that he revealed himself as the uncreated Light of
the World, Who brings life to all humanity.
Certainly, this is an extreme example, however, the juxtaposition of
these two events provides a lens through which we see the influence human
beings can have over God’s creation. More so, we can apply this lens to the
choices, large and small, that we encounter in our everyday lives. Do we
choose means that are in any way destructive to address the needs, wants,
and challenges of life, or do we focus on the transformative power that Christ
provides to sustain us?
Saint Peter prophesizes, concerning the return of the Lord, that we are
awaiting new heavens and a new earth. As we do so in this world, which has
become very secular and consumeristic, it is the calling of each Orthodox
Christian to become increasingly faithful and devoted to our traditional
principles. Anticipating the coming perfection of all His creation, for our
perpetual blessedness, let us respect and protect our present environment, for
the benefit of humankind and for His greater glory.
HE Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, Greek Orth Archdiocese of America,
Open Letter, August 2019

Q.What are the traditional principles of the Orthodox Church?
Q.How can Christians go about avoiding anything destructive in the way we live?
Q.What things can Orthodox Christians do to protect the environment?


Wednesday August 5, 2020
The Transfiguration of Creation
The Feast of the Transfiguration is supremely important for Orthodox
Christians, for it points towards the eventual fate of us all. The light which
Jesus shone on Mt Tabor is the uncreated light of God himself, a
manifestation of theosis or deification. Not only will all the just be deified
at the end of time, but the entire physical cosmos will be set free from
corruption and decay.
Here, in a shrouded manner, is revealed to us all of the greatness, all the
significance, not only of man, but of the material world…. And if we seriously
and attentively accept what is revealed here, we must change as profoundly as
we can our attitude toward everything visible, toward everything tangible; not
only toward humanity, but toward everything around us that is physically
perceptible, tangible, and visible… Everything is called to become the place of
indwelling of the Lord’s grace; everything is called to be at some time, drawn
into that glory and to shine forth with that glory.
And it is granted unto us people to know that; and not only to know
that, but to be co-workers with God in the illuminating of Creation…. Through
human faith, the matter of this world is separated out, matter which through
man’s lack of faith, had been handed over to corruption, death and destruction,
is set apart by the miracle of Transfiguration and Theophany. Through our
faith, it is separated from this corruption and death, and is given over to God
Himself, is accepted by God, and in God it fundamentally becomes a new
creation…
Let us think about this; we are not called to enslave nature, but rather
to free it from the prison of corruption and sin and death, to free it and to
bring it back into harmony with the Kingdom of God. Therefore let us treat all
created matter, all of the visible world, thoughtfully, with respect, and let us be
in the world Christ’s co-workers, so that the world might achieve its glory and
through us, all of creation might enter into the joy of the Lord.
HE Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom), Russian Orthodox Church,
Diocese of Sourozh, London, UK, 1973

Q.What happens at Christ’s transfiguration?
Q.Why do the Apostles Peter, James and John fall asleep?
Q.What are the lessons of the Transfiguration for us today?


Thursday August 6, 2020
The Feast of the Transfiguration
Today, we celebrate the beautiful and bountiful presence of God’s energies
that radiate in all of creation.
Today’s hymns and icons reveal the effect of God’s transfiguration
and illumination upon the whole creation. Because salvation and healing
are not just spiritual enterprises; they are also material events. Every
part and every particle of this world is elevated and embraced, lifted up and
enlightened by God’s power and presence. This means, as St. Ephraim the
Syrian writes: “Wherever you turn, you will see a symbol of God; wherever
you look, you can read the handwriting of God.”
As you know, our patriarchal involvement in promoting awareness on
creation care began many years ago and continues with the organization of
regular ecological summits on an international level and the establishment of
critical alliances with important institutions In all that we do and say, we
strive for an inter-religious and inter-disciplinary approach. Precisely because
we are convinced that we can only achieve change when we work together,
moved by the inspiration of God that created this universe and our planet out
of love, and motivated by the preservation and protection of our world for the
sake of future generations.
Of course, this world is not just a gift from God; it is a challenge for
humanity. We have come to learn the truth that we have mistreated the
natural environment and its resources. The consequences are plain and
painful. They are evident in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food
we consume, the emotional and physical problems we face in our health, but
also in our relationships with each other on the local, regional, national and
global levels.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Feast of the Transfiguration,
Island of Halki, August 6th, 2015

Q.How is the Feast of the Transfiguration a celebration of God’s energies in creation?
Q.How do you understand the world as a “challenge for humanity”?
Q.Why is it that we can only achieve change when we work together?

Friday August 7, 2020
Extending the Mystery of the Transfiguration
Within the entire Gospel story, the Transfiguration of Christ stands out as
the ecological event par excellence. … Let us reflect on the significance of
Christ’s Transfiguration. It shows that matter can be transfused into spirit.
It shows us how material things – not only Christ’s face, hands and feet, but
also his clothes; and not only the body of Christ, but also those of the three
disciples upon whom the rays of light fall; and not they alone, but likewise the
grass, trees, flowers and rocks of the mountain-side which share in the radiance
from Christ – all these can be transformed, rendered luminous, filled with
translucence and glory. The Transfiguration reveals the Spirit-bearing
potentialities of all material things.
Christ, so the event on Mount Tabor makes clear, came to save not
only our souls, but also our bodies. Moreover, we humans are not saved
from but with the world. In and through Christ – and, by virtue of Christ’s
grace, in and through each one of us – the whole material creation, as Saint
Paul expresses it, “will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain
the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).
We human beings, in other words, are called to continue and extend
the mystery of Christ’s Transfiguration on the mountain. As Metropolitan
John of Pergamon has affirmed, the distinctive characteristic of the human is
not so much that we are a logical animal, but rather that we are an animal
that is creative. Endowed with freedom and self-awareness, entrusted with the
power of conscious choice – as “sub-creators” formed in the image of God,
living icons of the living God – we have the capacity not merely to
manufacture or produce but to create, to set our personal seal upon the
environment, to reveal new meanings within nature: in a word, to transfigure.
Through our creative powers, through science, technology, craftsmanship
and art, we enlarge the radiance of the transfigured Christ, revealing in all
material things the glory that is latent within them. That is precisely what we
are seeking to achieve through all our ecological initiatives.
HE Metropolitan Kallistos [Ware] of Diokleia,
Ravenna, Italy, June 6, 2002

Q.How is Christ’s transfiguration an ecological event?
Q.What does Christ’s Transfiguration teach us?
Q.What might it mean to “enlarge the radiance” of the Transfiguration?


Saturday August 8, 2020
Transfiguration or Disfiguration
If nature is not transfigured, she becomes disfigured. Today we are threatened
by barbarism and by the suicide of all mankind. By barbarism I mean the
transformation of technology into destiny…, into an inevitable, death-like
fatality. The fatality of doing all that we can, without first questioning the
consequences…. As for the suicide of mankind, we are beginning to realize
that it is possible, what with Chernobyl and the determination of the great
financial organizations to destroy the forests of the Amazon….
Only the highest of forces, that of the spirit, and then that of spirit
united with the heart, to use the language of the Orthodox tradition, can face
up to the challenge of technology. Asceticism is necessary to fight against the
instinct of possession, of blind power and a flight into hedonism….
Asceticism is also necessary as a basis for that profound sympathy with
nature which is often experienced by today’s youth, who have no other way
into the mysterious other than the beauty of the world. This sympathy may
prove to be the last barrier remaining against barbarism and against the
destruction of the animal and plant world.
Michel Sollogoub, a French economist and an Orthodox of Russian
descent, wrote, “the frenetic pursuit of the goods of this world secured for us
a life marked by anxiety in the face of illness and death; the multiplicity of
sensations produced by music or television causes us to forget the horror of
nothingness; our neighbor is a competitor on his way to becoming an enemy,
while nature becomes merely a means to satisfy our desires and our thirst for
domination.” Asceticism therefore is indispensable if we are to achieve that
limitation of needs which will make it possible for us both to respect better
the earth, its rhythms and the life which belongs to it, and to bring into
operation the necessary sharing on a planetary scale.
His Beatitude Patriarch +Ignatius IV, Antiochian Orthodox Church,
“The Responsibility of Christians,” Lecture at the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches,
Lucerne,Switzerland, March 12, 1989

Q.What is asceticism?
Q.How is it learned?
Q.Why is asceticism important in the life of Christians?

8Monday August 10, 2020
The Quest for Peace
The experience of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been one of continuity and
stability through centuries of global change. At one time, our Patriarchate was
co-terminus with the boundaries of the Roman Empire. Today, as the 270th
successor to the First-Called Disciple, Saint Andrew, our domain is a ministry
of spiritual leadership, but our Center is in the same topos we have known
from the Apostolic Age….
For Orthodox Christians, peace is not merely the cessation of hostilities.
There is an ontological basis for peace, and that is love. Love of God, love of
neighbor, love of the stranger, indeed, love of one’s enemy, has existential
impact in the phenomenal world.
Anywhere and everywhere we are able, as a religious leader, to advance
the fundamental principles of faith traditions which they hold in common, we
increase the possibilities for love. These potentialities manifest themselves as
tolerance, respect, and even admiration.
When we proclaim, as we did in the Bosporus Declaration, that ‘a crime
in the name of religion is a crime against all religion,’ we have begun to set in
place, the girders of the bridges that build unity out of diversity. Religious
faith must be seen by temporal powers, as an advocate of reconciliation, and
an instrument for peace.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew,
World Affairs Council, Los Angeles California, Nov 7, 1997

Q.What is peace? How is it tied into the nature of God?
Q.What does it mean to be at peace with the earth?
Q.What is the basis for affirming that pollution is a crime against religion?


Tuesday August 11, 2020
The Root Cause of Human Caused Disasters
Human-caused disasters, which have been assuming an increasingly menacing
scope as civilization is developing, reflect what is happening inside the human
soul. Without a profound spiritual analysis of the role man plays in the
universe such disasters cannot be prevented.
Many people fail to learn the lessons of the Chernobyl catastrophe
that mankind has been treating the land, the water and the air, and the entire
environment merely as a consumer.
It is impossible and not worthwhile to try and stop the development
of science and technology. But people will not be guaranteed against tragedies
similar to the one that occurred twenty-five years ago if they do not learn to
use the natural materials and the technical achievements of civilization wisely,
with care for each other and everything God has created.
[Scientific and technological development] cannot be non-ethical.
It must be combined with devotion to the eternal moral standards and the
ideals of mutual respect and love. This is the guarantee of a worthy future for
our people and the world as a whole.
HB Patriarch Kyrill, Archbishop of Moscow and
All-Russia, April 26, 2011

Q.Why are human caused disasters a reflection of the human soul?
Q.How does the Chernobyl disaster exemplify seeing the environment as a consumer?
Q.Why is scientific and technological development an ethical issue?


Wednesday August 12, 2020
Climate Change Affects Everyone
The young people and coming generations have a right to a peaceful
enjoyment of the natural environment whose integrity is cruelly violated
to the great detriment of humanity. Ecological disasters, biological
transformations and changes, and many other forms of abusive conduct
of man over against divine creation and order, menace the survival
itself of both humanity as well as that of the animal and plant
kingdoms.
HAH, Istanbul, Turkey, June 18, 2000
Although the data regarding climate change is sometimes debated, the
seriousness of the situation is generally accepted. Climate change affects
everyone. Unless we take radical and immediate measures to reduce
emissions stemming from unsustainable ― in fact unjustifiable, if not simply
unjust ― excesses in the demands of our lifestyle, the impact will be both
alarming and imminent.
Climate change is much more than an issue of environmental
preservation. Insofar as human-induced, it is a profoundly moral and
spiritual problem. To persist in the current path of ecological destruction is
not only folly. It is no less than suicidal, jeopardizing the diversity of the
very earth that we inhabit, enjoy and share.
Climate change constitutes a matter of social and economic justice.
For those who will most directly and severely be affected by climate change
will be the poorer and more vulnerable nations (what Christian Scriptures
refer to as our neighbor) as well as the younger and future generations (the
world of our children, and of our children’s children).
HAH, Message to World Council of Churches, August 12, 2005

Q.Why do young people have a right to a peaceful natural environment?
Q.How does climate change affect everyone?
Q.Why is climate change a moral and spiritual problem?


Thursday August 13, 2020
God Entrusted the Earth to Human Care
HE Archbishop Lazar (Pohalo), from the Serbian Orthodox Church in Canada, writes
the following in the Canadian Orthodox Missionary, 1989, in an article titled, “Living in
the 20th Century.”
God gave man a clear responsibility for the condition of the earth.
If Orthodox Christians are the most exact followers of God and
His commandments, then Orthodox Christians have the greatest
responsibility for their attitudes and actions with regard to the
condition of the earth and its atmosphere.
Remember, God entrusted the earth to our care. He did not give us a
license to destroy it, but we are. Each one of us will have to give an account to
God for our stewardship over His creation. To sin against the ecology of our
earth is to sin against our neighbor and against all mankind. We will surely
have to answer to God for that.
While most of us are aware of the ecological crisis around us, few
of us realize that our Orthodox faith is profoundly concerned with
ecology on the highest order. Indeed, if we actually tried to live our
faith, we would be the foremost ecologists as well.
HE Archbishop Lazar, Serbian Orthodox Church, Synaxis magazine,
Chilliwack, British Columbia, December, 1989.

Q.Why do Orthodox Christians have a greater responsibility to care for the earth?
Q.Why do humans pollute the earth?
Q.What must change to correct this terrible tendency?

Friday August 14, 2020
Climate Change: More Than Environmental Protection
Religious leaders throughout the world recognize that climate change is
much more than an issue of environmental preservation. Insofar as it is
human-induced, it is a profoundly moral and spiritual problem.
To persist in the current path of ecological destruction is not only
folly. It is no less than suicidal, jeopardizing the diversity of the very earth
that we inhabit, enjoy and share. It has rightly been described… as a sin
against God and creation. After all, a handful of affluent nations account for
two thirds of global GDP and half of all global carbon dioxide emissions.
Ecological degradation also constitutes a matter of social and economic
justice. For those who will most directly and severely be affected by climate
change will be the poorer and more vulnerable nations (what Christian
Scriptures refer to as our “neighbor”) as well as the younger and future
generations (the world of our children, and of our children’s children). Those
of us living in more affluent nations either consume or else corrupt far too
much of the earth’s resources.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew,
Aichi, Japan, September 20, 2005

Q.How does science know that climate change is caused by human activity?
Q.Why is accommodating climate change a sin against God?
Q.What does it take for Christians to reduce their level of consumption?


Saturday August 15, 2020
Voluntary Restraint in the Use of Material Goods
We should consider every act in which we abuse the world as having an
immediate negative effect upon the future of our environment in which our
posterity will live. The way in which we face our environment reflects the way
we behave toward one another. It reflects upon the way in which we relate to
our children, those born and those who are yet to be born.
Human beings and the environment form a seamless garment of
existence. Humans are created as spiritual beings in which resides the image
of God (Genesis 1:26). Our bodies are created from material nature, the dust
of the earth. Interconnectedness between our nature and our environment lies
at the center of our liturgy….
The asceticism of the Orthodox Church requires voluntary restraint
regarding the use of material goods, leading to a harmonious symbiosis with
the environment. We are required to practice restraint. When we curb our
desire to consume, we guarantee the existence of treasured things for those
who come after us and ensure the balanced functioning of the ecosystem.
Restraint frees us from selfish demands so that we may offer what remains at
the disposal of others. Avarice, which has its roots in the lack of faith and
making of a god out of matter, we consider idolatry. Restraint is an act of
self-control and confidence in God, but it is also an act of love. This willful
asceticism is not only required of anchorite monks; it is required of all
Orthodox Christians according to the measure of balance. Asceticism is not
negation, but a reasonable and tempered utilization of the world.
HAH, New York City, NY, November 13, 2000

Q.What does the term “voluntary restraint” mean?
Q.What is its purpose?
Q.How does asceticism become an act of love?


Monday August 17, 2020
We are Called to Cherish the Environment
It is clear that environmental problems stem from human egotism. Seeking
to live as comfortably as possible, to consume as much as possible, people
exhaust natural resources without thinking about the consequences.
In pursuit of momentary profit, human beings make the planet ever
less suitable for life and trample upon God’s creation – nature, thus
distorting the design of the Heavenly Creator for the world and ever more
strongly enslaving their spirit to flesh. Such a rapacious attitude to nature
today dooms the generations to come to deprivations. Therefore, the
principal cause of the ecological crisis is precisely the crisis of people’s
moral responsibility.
As the Bible tells us, God took the man, and put him into the
Garden of Eden to dress it and keep it (Gen. 2:15). We are called to
cherish the environment in the awareness of our responsibility for it before
the Creator. Let the voices of our communities help us in this endeavor
and may the present work of the Joint Commission serve the cause of the
common witness of Christians and Muslims to the importance of
preserving our home, the Earth, safe and intact.
His Beatitude Kyrill, Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia,
Russian-Iranian Dialogue Commission,
Teheran, Iran, May7, 2018

Q.How does egotism relate to environmental problems?
Q.What are the spiritual causes of environmental problems? Can you name them?
Q.How might a person cherish the environment?


Tuesday August 18, 2020
A Liturgical View of the World
Orthodox theology believes stewardship of creation is marked by a profound
sense of justice and moderation. It underlines the priority of human beings as
thankful to God for the gift of creation and as frugal in life with the resources
of creation. In brief, it describes human beings as “Eucharistic” and “ascetic.”
This means that the whole of material creation is properly perceived and
preserved through the eyes of the liturgy. Each believer is called to celebrate
life in a way that reflects the words of the Divine Liturgy: “Thine own from
Thine own, we offer to Thee, in all and for all.”
Let us reflect briefly on these two words: “eucharistic” and “ascetic.”
The implications of the first word are quite easily appreciated. The term
derives from the Greek word eucharistia, meaning “thanks” and is understood
also as the deeper significance of liturgy. In calling for a “eucharistic spirit,”
the Orthodox Church reminds us that the created world is not simply our
possession, but rather a gift of wonder and beauty. Therefore, the proper
response, upon receiving such a gift, is to accept and embrace it with
gratitude and thanksgiving. The abuse of this gift is identified with Adam’s
“original sin,” which is the result of selfishness and greed.
The Eucharistic use of the world is exactly opposite from consumerism’s
utilization of the world. To consume literally means to spend, to exhaust. In
the mindset of consumerism the “goods” are just mere objects. They do not
bear a particular sacredness, neither do they relate to the Creator and sustainer
of all. With the cutting of and independence of things from God, we lose the
meaning of the ‘other’ as our neighbor, who is now experienced as a
competitor, since he or she claims the same things. That is how the meaning
of community (koinonia), as well as the idea that man is a communicant
(koinonos) is lost, and therefore we return to the war of all against all (bellum
omnium contra omnes).
HAH, Faith and the Environment,” Utrecht,
The Netherlands, April 24, 2014

Q.What is a eucharistic view of the world?
Q.How does this cultivate a sacred sense of the world?
Q.How then should we be living to counter the consumer mentality?


Wednesday August 19, 2020
A World Without Hunger
Concern for ecological issues is directly related to concern for social justice and
for world hunger. A Church that neglects to pray for the natural environment
is a Church that refuses to offer food and drink to a suffering humanity. At the
same time, a society that ignores the mandate to care for all human beings is a
society that mistreats the very creation of God….
The terms “ecology” and “economy” share the same etymological root.
Their common prefix “eco” derives from the Greek word oikos, which signifies
“home” or “dwelling.” It is unfortunate that we have restricted the application
of this word to ourselves, as if we are the only inhabitants of this world.
The fact is no economic system – no matter how technologically or socially
advanced – can survive the collapse of the environmental systems that support
it. This planet is indeed our home; yet it is also the home of everyone, as it is
the home of every animal, as well as of every form of life created by God. It is a
sign of arrogance to presume that we human beings alone inhabit this world.
Indeed, it is also a sign of arrogance to imagine that only the present
generation inhabits this earth.
In our efforts to preserve the natural environment, how prepared are we
to sacrifice our greedy lifestyles? When will we learn to say: “Enough!”? When
will we learn that treating all people in a just manner is more beneficial than
charitable acts of good will? Will we direct our focus away from what we want
to what the world needs? We may offer bread to the hungry – indeed, we may
feel a sense of self-gratification in so doing – but when will we work toward a
world that has no hunger? Moreover, do we endeavor to leave as light a
footprint as possible on this planet for the sake of future generations?
There are no excuses today for our lack of involvement. We have the
information in abundant details; the statistics are readily available and
alarming. We must choose to care. Otherwise, we do not really care.
HAH, Faith and the Environment,” Utrecht, The Netherlands, April 24, 2014

Q.Why should we pray for the alleviation of world hunger?
Q.What should we do to create a world that is beyond hunger? What is necessary?
Q.How do we prepare for the future in our lives today?


Thursday August 20, 2020
The Challenge of Transformation
Over the last two decades, the Ecumenical Patriarchate has made the
preservation of the natural environment a priority of its spiritual and
pastoral ministry. The transformation of the heart and of the community
is integrally linked with the healing of the earth. The relationship between
the soul and its Creator, as well as among human beings, inevitably involves
a balanced relationship with the natural world.
The way we treat each other is reflected in the way we treat our
planet, just as the way we respond to other people is mirrored in the
way we respect the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we
consume. In turn, moreover, our protection of the natural environment
reveals the measure of authenticity in our prayer and worship.
For whenever we narrow religious life to our own concerns, we
overlook the prophetic calling of the church to implore God and to invoke
the divine Spirit for the renewal of the whole polluted cosmos. Indeed, the
entire cosmos is the space within which transformation is enacted.
When we are transformed by divine grace, we can properly discern
the injustice in which we are active participants and not merely passive
observers. When touched by the grace of God, we weep for the “dis-grace”
that we have caused by failing to share the resources of our planet.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, “Transformation Calls for Metanoia,”
Porto Alegre, Brazil, January 26, 2006

Q.How is a person transformed?
Q.What does the term ‘metanoia’ mean?
Q.Why must we share the resources of the planet?

Friday August 21, 2020
Climate Change as a Moral and Spiritual Problem
Religious leaders throughout the world recognize that climate change
is much more than an issue of environmental preservation. Insofar as it
is human-induced, it is a profoundly moral and spiritual problem.
To persist in the current path of ecological destruction is not only
folly. It is no less than suicidal, jeopardizing the diversity of the very earth
that we inhabit, enjoy and share. It has rightly been described … as a sin
against God and creation. After all, a handful of affluent nations account
for two thirds of global GDP and half of all global carbon dioxide
emissions.
Ecological degradation also constitutes a matter of social and
economic justice. For those who will most directly and severely be affected
by climate change will be the poorer and more vulnerable nations (what
Christian Scriptures refer to as our “neighbor”) as well as the younger and
future generations (the world of our children, and of our children’s
children). Those of us living in more affluent nations either consume or
else corrupt far too much of the earth’s resources.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Aichi, Japan, September 20, 2005

Q.What is economic justice?
Q.How does economic justice relate to global climate change?
Q.Why do American’s consume more resources than people in other countries?


Saturday August 22, 2020
Orthodox Theology Applied to the Environment
Ecological problems are worldwide. Pollution of the environment is not limited
by national boundaries, since its consequences effect all living beings. It does
not only concern this generation, but also those to come. Our planet is one
in common and the violation of nature in a certain part of the world has
unpreventable effects on the rest of the planet.
Orthodoxy’s interest and theology concerning the protection of the
environment and its spirituality really differ from contemporary deep ecology.
The difference lies not so much in the level of desire to preserve and to protect
the natural resources of the world, which should be the priority of all human
beings…. It lies primarily in the worldview that is presented. The difference
may be detected less in the way we perceive the end result, which must
certainly be sought and achieved by everyone and for the sake of everyone.
Rather, it is discerned as the starting-point of our attitudes and actions.
Orthodox theology believes stewardship of creation is marked by a
profound sense of justice and moderation. It underlines the priority of human
beings as thankful to God for the gift of creation and as frugal in life with the
resources of creation. In brief, it describes human beings as “eucharistic” and
“ascetic.” This means that the whole of material creation is properly perceived
and preserved through the eyes of the liturgy. Each believer is called to
celebrate life in a way that reflects the words of the Divine Liturgy:
“Thine own from Thine own, we offer unto Thee, in all and for all.”
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew,
Utrecht, The Netherlands, April 24, 2014

Q.What does it mean in Orthodox theology that humans are “eucharistic” beings?
Q.How are they also ascetic in behavior?
Q.How does the Divine Liturgy shape the behavior of the faithful?


Monday August 24, 2020
Respecting the Life of the World
It is with great anguish and grief that we observe the increasing ill-treatment
and continuous abuse of the natural environment, the rivers, the seas, and the
different kinds of animals that live therein.
The extreme weather phenomena, the increase in temperature, the
inconsiderate exploitation of the natural resources, the ill-treatment of the
animals and many other offenses, are actions that compose the tragic abuse of
the environment from humans around the world. The disturbing of the natural
order and harmony, originally from the failure of our forefathers in Eden, is
achieving worrying proportions with unknown consequences. “The whole
creation in all its parts groans as if in the pangs of childbirth (Romans 8:22),
because of unending human greed.
The church has always called for people to respect natural resources
and to use them with prudence. The Church’s belief emanates from its
inspirational cosmic teachings that the environment belongs to everybody and
its destruction will affect all people as a unit and each one separately.
The Holy Metropolis of Tamasos and Orinis calls its members to
respect, to love and become guardians and protectors of the natural and
animal environment , not only because it is a divine commandment, but also
for their own benefit. This is why it is introducing a department for the
protection of the environment and is appointing a special priest as a
coordinator of its actions and is planning seminars for the education of clergy
and other officers as well as organized activities and discussions to promote
the protection of the natural environment and the animal kingdom.
HE Metropolitan Isaias of Tamasou and Orinis, Orthodox Church of Cyprus,
Public Announcement to the Church, September 24, 2014

Q.Why should Orthodox Christians respect animals and nature?
Q.How often have you heard the Church’s mandate to respect nature in your parish?
Q.Why isn’t this call more prominent in the Orthodox Church?


Tuesday August 25, 2020
Faith and Science in Cooperation
In the early days of our endeavor, many people were puzzled by the links we
were trying to establish. Religious people were relatively indifferent or even
hostile to science. Many scientists and ecologists could see little relationship
between their world and the world of faith.
Now, as those connections have become more obvious, there is hardly
a religious leader in the world who is not preoccupied by the problems of
pollution and climate change. And this is the reason why we have among
us today distinguished representatives of many faiths. As more and more
people realize, religion and environmental science are both concerned with
ultimate matters, with the final destiny of mankind, the earth and the whole
of creation.
Scientists tell us that the Arctic is a stark and vivid reflection of
the state of the planet as a whole. The ecological misdeeds committed by
societies further south, such as chemical contamination or nuclear radiation,
are clearly visible in parts of the Arctic environment. When we visit this
island or sail along its coast, we cannot hide our eyes, either from the beauty
of God’s creation or from the changes which human folly has already caused,
and may cause in the future, to this pristine place. Nor can we avoid
pondering the terrible consequences for the remainder of the world, if
glaciers continue to melt and sea-levels continue to rise.
HAH, Ilulissat, Greenland, September 7, 2007

Q.Can religion and science find cooperation?
Q.Why are some religious people indifferent or hostile to science?
Q.How are religion and science both concerned with ultimate matters?

Wednesday August 26, 2020
Access to Water as a Christian Issue
While conflict and persecution are reasons for the current displacement of
millions of people, the lack of access to basic services such as potable water is
a major reason for the forced migration and evacuation of populations from
the Middle East and Northern Africa. Such displacement places additional
pressure on host communities in neighboring countries – especially in Europe.
Of course, establishing superficial connections between water scarcity and
migration are not always helpful and may even lead to incorrect policy
responses. Nevertheless, water scarcity should be acknowledged as one of
several factors contributing to migration.
However, unless we appreciate the danger – indeed, we might even
describe it as “the sin” – of refusing to share the planet’s natural resources,
we will increasingly face severe challenges and conflicts. It is, therefore, up to
us – and all of you – to pay close attention to these connections and advocate
for access to clean water for every human being.
The respect for human dignity and the integrity of creation… will be a
main criterion of humanity’s cultural standards and achievements… for
generations to come. This is why our commitment to protect the natural
environment has always been connected to social justice and respect for
human rights. The example of water as an inherent good, its access as a human
right and its sacredness by religions – together with human migration due to
climate change and violence – reveal the deeper dimension of our problems in
the world, and demand an urgent and unanimous response, which cannot
succeed without the contribution of world religions and their collaboration
with politics and economy, science and technology. Let us act, then, and not
put off for tomorrow what can be done today!
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew,
22nd Eurasian Economic Summit,
Istanbul, February 7, 2019

Q.Why is water availability a religious issue?
Q.How does Christianity understand the issue of the privatization of water?
Q.How might a parish – or individual Christians – address an issue of this sort?


Thursday August 27, 2020
Blessing Creation to Respect God’s Handiwork
The prophet Ezekiel recognized this abuse of natural ecosystems
when he observed: Is it not enough to feed on good pasture?
Must you also trample the rest with your feet? Is it not sufficient
to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your
feet? (Ezekiel 34:18).
HAH, Manaus, Brazil, July 14, 2006
In blessing the waters of the great Amazon, we proclaim our belief that
environmental protection is a profoundly moral and spiritual problem that
concerns all of us. The initial and crucial response to the environmental
crisis is for each of us to bear personal responsibility for the way that we
live and for the values that we treasure and the priorities that we pursue.
To persist in the current path of ecological destruction is not only
folly. It is a sin against God and creation.
HAH, Manaus, Brazil, July 16, 2006

Q.Why is protection of the environment a moral and spiritual issue?
Q.How are we all personally responsible for the environmental crisis?
Q.Why is environmental degradation and pollution sins against God?


Friday August 28, 2020
The Challenge of Living More Simply
Dear friends, If we do not live more simply, we cannot learn to share. And if
we do not learn to share, then how can we expect to survive? This may be a
fundamental religious and spiritual value. Yet it is also a fundamental ethical
and existential principle.
Each of us is called to draw a distinction between what we want and
what we need, or – more importantly – what the world needs. Greed and
gratification reduce the world to a survival of the fittest; whereas generosity
and gratitude transform the world into a community of sharing.
We are invited to pursue a way of sacrifice – not a sacrifice that is
cheap, but a sacrifice that is costly. As King David once said: “I will not offer
to the Lord my God a sacrifice that costs me nothing” (Second Samuel 24.24).
We must be prepared to make sacrifices – material and financial – that are
genuine and even painful. And in this regard, whether we like it or not, more
is demanded from the rich than from the poor.
HAH, Halki Theological School, June 18, 2012

Q.What is the value of simple living? What principles are involved?
Q.Why is sacrifice a virtue?
Q.How can sharing transform the world?


Saturday August 29, 2020
Restoring an Orthodox Worldview
We have repeatedly stated that the crisis that we are facing in our world
is not primarily ecological. It is a crisis concerning the way we envisage or
imagine the world.
We are treating our planet in an inhuman, godless manner
precisely because we fail to see it as a gift inherited from above; it is our
obligation to receive, respect and in turn hand on this gift to future
generations. Otherwise, the unquenchable greed of our generation will
constitute a mortal sin resulting in destruction and death. This greed in
turn will lead to the deprivation of our children’s generation, in spite of
our desire and claim to bequeath to them a better future.
Ultimately, it is for our children that we must perceive our every
action in the world as having a direct effect upon the future of the
environment.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew,
Foreword, Witness for the Earth, April 12, 2011

Q.What does it require to sense and recall that God is in and vitalizing all things?
Q.Why do we so easily forget this sacred vision of creation?
Q.What would the world be like if we remembered our vision of God in all things?


Monday August 31, 2020
Stewards of the Environment
Beloved brothers and spiritual children: Use the natural environment as
its stewards and not as owners. Acquire an ascetic ethos, bearing in
mind that everything in the natural world, whether great or small, has
importance for the life of the world, and nothing is useless or
contemptible.
Regard yourselves as being responsible before God for every
creature and treat everything with love and care.
Only in this way shall we be able to prevent the threatening
destruction of our planet and secure a physical environment where
life for the coming generations of humankind will be healthy and
happy….
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch +Dimitrios, September 1, 1990

Q.What is a steward of the environment? What actions are involved?
Q.How can we be responsible before God for every creature?
Q.How might the full application of stewardship prevent destruction of the planet?

September Introduction
The first day of September inaugurates the Church’s liturgical calendar.
Every year since 1989 the “New Year” opens with prayers for the health
and protection of God’s creation. This beginning of the Church New
Year with a focus on the environment parallels the sequence in the Book of
Genesis which opens with the creation of the world and articulates the
foundational principles and guidelines for right human behavior.
This edition of daily readings highlights the importance of September 1st as the
Orthodox day of prayer for creation. It deliberately adds a focus on global climate
change. At this time in 2020, many of us are intensely concerned about avoiding
infection from Covid-19 and the sickness this virus could bring upon us. But let us recall
that this virus is small, even tiny, in comparison to what peer reviewed science tells us
regarding the far larger impacts which climate change will bring upon our world. Yet
incredibly most parishes ignore this far larger challenge to human health and life.
A further irony in our present situation is the predicament of Africa. That
continent has done little to cause the climate problem, yet its citizens are impacted far
more than any other part of the world with intense drought, excessive heat and food
shortages. At the same time its parishes are doing far more to address this problem than
parishes in wealthy countries. But the climate impacts which they are now experiencing
are becoming more widespread and will soon be knocking on our doors.
To guide Christians through these impending climate challenges, because this is
emerging in our midst now, the Book of Revelation provides pertinent guidance. Notice
first that when the plagues which the Apostle John describes begin to pour down upon
the earth, all of these plagues occur to the land, air, water and creatures, meaning that
these plagues are of an ecological nature. In the midst of these plagues the angel of God
suddenly appears, and what does this angel declare? He says, “Hurt not the earth,
neither the seas nor the trees…” (Rev. 7:3). If we could observe and apply the angel’s
command, this would end virtually all of the world’s social and ecological problems.
How important is this? For perspective, this is so serious that when the Book of
Revelation describes the Judgement, only one criterion is cited: The angel of God bluntly
declares, “those who destroy the earth, God will destroy!” (Rev. 11:18). This should
serve as a wake up call to all who minimize ecological concern. The question then arises,
how does this account juxtapose with the Gospel of Matthew? There Jesus says, “As you
did to the least of these my brethren, you do unto me.” The obvious conclusion is that
this second scenario is a mercy. If you fail with your neighbor, this is a second chance, a
form of grace. What did you do to the earth?
Yours in service to God’s good earth,
The OFT Editorial Team
EM – MR – CB – ER – FK

Tuesday September 1, 2020
Prayers for Environmental Protection
Our Holy Church always prays to God for the preservation and protection
of the environment. He reminded us through the Holy Bible that if the
human wants to live in balance, peace and health in this world, he must
respect and value the environment as a divine creation, and not abuse this
great gift of God, but demonstrate in practice his sincere gratitude.
The Holy Church declares that man cannot be autonomous from the
rest of creation, nor can he exist without it. Therefore, when he protects
the environment, he protects himself.
The Lord has placed man in the world as king and priest of creation
to work the works of light and love, and not to destroy God’s creation
through misuse.
The Saints of our Church also put forward environmental awareness,
such as Saint Luke of Mount Stirion, who took care of the trees and the
plants. Saint Cosmas of Aetolia used to say that people will remain poor
for not showing love for the trees.
The Church continues to respect the environment in words and deed
as a divine creation, through the establishment of September 1st as a day of
prayer for the environment….
We wish this year’s celebration of the day to awaken the consciences
of all, so that we can appreciate and respect the divine creation and through
it the Poet and Creator of all.
HE Archbishop Ieronymos, Greek Orthodox Church,
Message on World Environment Day,
Athens, Greece, June 4, 2020
Q
Why do Christians respect and protect the environment?
If we fail in this responsibility, what happens?
As priests of God’s creation, what are our duties toward the world?
Reflection
2
Wednesday September 2, 2020
Prayers on the First Day of the Church Calendar (part 1)
The abuse by contemporary man of his privileged position in creation and
of the Creator’s order to him “to have dominion over the earth” (Genesis
1.28) has already led the world to the edge of apocalyptic self-destruction,
either in the form of natural pollution which is dangerous for all living
beings, or in the form of the extinction of many species of the animal and
plant world, or in other forms.
Scientists and other men of learning warn us of the danger, and
speak of phenomena which are threatening the life of our planet, such
as the “phenomena of the greenhouse” whose first indications have already
been noted.
In view of this situation, the Church of Christ cannot remain
unmoved. It constitutes a fundamental dogma of faith that the world was
created by God the Father, who is confessed to be “Maker of heaven and
earth and of all things visible and invisible.”
According to the great Fathers of the Church, Man is the prince
of creation, endowed with the privilege of freedom. Being partaker
simultaneously of the material and the spiritual world, he was created in
order to refer back creation to the Creator, in order that the world may be
saved from decay and death. …
Ecumenical Patriarch +Dimitrios, Encyclical on Protection of the Environment,
September 1, 1989
Q
Why is it necessary for Christians pray for the health of the world?
How well can you explain the theology underlying this requirement?
What does it mean that humans have abused their privileged position on earth?
Reflection
3
Thursday September 3, 2020
Prince of Creation
On September 1, 1989, the late Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios issued the
first message from the Ecumenical Throne on the environment. [Since that
time] the Church seeks to remind us, as Mary reminded Martha, of the one
needful thing – life and unity with Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In that statement Patriarch Demetrios reminds us that the holy fathers
of the Church teach that “Man is the prince of creation, endowed with the
privilege of freedom. Being partaker simultaneously of the material and the
spiritual world, he was created in order to refer creation back to the Creator
in order that the world may be saved from decay and death.”
In St. Ephrem the Syrian’s work “Hymns on Paradise,” we are given
yet another guide to how we might come into that unity and life in Christ.
St Ephrem tells us that God’s two witnesses, or pointers, are, “Nature, through
man’s use of it, [and] Scripture, through his reading it.”
As the summer draws to a close… let us, being reminded by the
pointers to Christ as mentioned by St Ephrem, take a moment to turn to the
one needful thing in praise, worship and thanksgiving for the creation and all
the blessing bestowed upon us by our merciful Creator.
It is my prayer that the parishes, Sunday Schools, Youth Groups and
other organizations of the Orthodox Church in America will take up this time
around September 1st to celebrate the Day of Prayer for the Creation.
HB Metropolitan Tikhon, Primate, The Orthodox Church in America
(OCA), Day of Prayer for Creation, September 1, 2015
Q
What are the ways that a person may celebrate this day of prayers for creation?
What actions might parishes take to demonstrate concern for creation?
What are the responsibilities of an Orthodox Christian to the creation?
Reflection
4
Friday September 4, 2020
A Lost Sense of the Sacred in Creation (Part 2)
Unfortunately, in our day under the influence of an extreme rationalism and
self-centeredness, man has lost the sense of the sacredness of creation and acts
as its arbitrary ruler and rude violator. Instead of the eucharistic and ascetic
spirit with which the Orthodox Church brought up her children for centuries,
we observe today a violation of nature for the satisfaction of basic human needs,
but of man’s endless and constantly increasing desires of lust, encouraged by
the prevailing philosophy of the consumer society.
But creation “groans and travails in all its parts” (Romans 8.22), and
is now beginning to protest at its treatment by human beings. Man cannot
infinitely and at his pleasure exploit the natural sources of energy. The price of
his arrogance will be his self-destruction, if the present situation continues.
In full consciousness of our duty and paternal spiritual responsibility,
we, together with the Sacred and Holy Synod surrounding us, declare the first
day of September a day on which, on the occasion of the Feast of Indiction, is
the first day of the ecclesiastical year, prayers and supplications are offered…
for all creation – to be the day of “the protection of the environment.”
Therefore, we invite through this our Patriarchal Message the entire
Christian world to offer together with the Mother Great Church of Christ [the
Ecumenical Patriarchate] every year on this day prayers and supplications to
the Maker of all, both as thanksgiving for the great gift of creation and as
petitions for its protection and salvation. At the same time we paternally urge
the faithful of the world to admonish themselves and their children to respect
and protect the natural environment, and on the other hand all those who are
entrusted with the responsibility of governing the nations to act without
delay, taking all necessary measures for the protection and preservation of the
natural creation. HAH Ecumenical Patriarch +Dimitrios,
Encyclical on Protection of the Environment,
September 1, 1989
Q
How is the term creation different from that of the world’s environment?
What is required to restore a sacred sense of creation?
What is our individual responsibility for the care and keeping of the earth?
Reflection
5
Saturday September 5, 2020
The Challenges of the Future
When we focus on what the church is doing about a particular problem,
we must always remember that the church is not just the bishops, priests,
deacons and those with a leadership role. The church is all those who
participate in the eucharistic community. There already is a growing
sensitivity towards these issues among many lay people in the church.
Furthermore, we began to discuss this issue of the integration of creation
many years ago. Lay people played a decisive role in this. Scientists on the
frontiers of environmental research and those who make decisions in political
and economic life have been spokesmen for the Church just as much as
Church leaders….
The Book of Revelation has a strong element of realism when it puts
emphasis on the battle with demonic powers. This is not an easy story, it is a
real battle with victims, martyrs and heroes.
God is the Alpha and the Omega, the One who is, who was, and who is
to come. This is what gives us hope. God is not the God of the past, but the
God of eternity. This idea is repeated again and again. At the end of the Book
[of Revelation] there is victory, and the song of the new creation. The message
is one of hope, but only after going through all these battles, tragedies
and difficulties. I believe that keeping these eschatological and universal
perspectives in mind is the key to understanding our present in a realistic
way. It is most important in order to maintain this hope, to act in the local
situation while at the same time keeping the eschatological and the universal
perspectives in mind. In doing so we will be taking part in the concrete battle
of the century.
HB Archbishop Anastasios of Albania,
Patriarchal Symposium on The Book of Revelation, Private reflections,
September 27, 1995
Q
How does dealing with principalities and powers relate to ecological problems?
Why do you think His Eminence calls the Book of revelation a message of hope?
Why is hope in the promises of God part of our ecological remembrance?
Reflection
6
Monday September 7, 2020
Climate Change Affects Everyone
Although the data regarding climate change is sometimes debated, the
seriousness of the situation is generally accepted. Climate change affects
everyone. Unless we take radical and immediate measures to reduce emissions
stemming from unsustainable ― in fact unjustifiable, if not simply unjust ―
excesses in the demands of our lifestyle, the impact will be both alarming
and imminent.
Climate change is much more than an issue of environmental preservation.
Insofar as human-induced, it is a profoundly moral and spiritual problem.
To persist in the current path of ecological destruction is not only folly. It is
no less than suicidal, jeopardizing the diversity of the very earth that we
inhabit, enjoy and share.
Climate change constitutes a matter of social and economic justice. For
those who will most directly and severely be affected by climate change will be
the poorer and more vulnerable nations (what Christian Scriptures refer to as
our neighbor) as well as the younger and future generations (the world of our
children, and of our children’s children).
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew,
Water Issues, August 12, 2005
Q
Why do young people have a right to a peaceful and clean environment?
How does climate change affect the current generation of people?
Why is climate change a moral and spiritual problem?
Reflection

Tuesday September 8, 2020
Awakening an Ecological Christian Consciousness
Orthodox theologians may have expressed concern about ecological problems
more than other churches, but… for the moment, environmental concern is
still very much an initiative or attitude taken by the leadership of the church.
I’m afraid it has not yet really reached the congregations and become part of
our theology.
I think we are still at the beginning of the process. As an example, in
the Orthodox Church we still have not absorbed the idea that there is such a
thing as sin against the environment. If we asked the average faithful
Orthodox if he thought he had sinned that day by polluting the street, I doubt
that he would think of it as a sin. We still have much work to do in the
Orthodox Church in encouraging awareness of environmental issues.
We have to learn… that the world is a living organism which is
entrusted to us so we can cultivate it in order to return it back to its Creator.
All these things will have to become part of our religious education. We
ourselves have to enter into this process of education, because we do not tend
to preach on these matters very much. These themes must become part of our
theology, which at the moment does not really deal with them. The Christian
Churches need to take the message of the Apocalypse very seriously with
reference to these issues, and we should be trying to introduce these things
into the consciousness of our faith.
HE Metropolitan John of Pergamon, Symposium on The Book of Revelation,
Reflections in Conversation, September 27, 1995
Q
Has a practical concern for God’s creation reached your parish yet?
Why is harmony between God, humanity and creation important?
How do bring greater emphasis to this issue in the local parish?
Reflection
8
Wednesday September 9, 2020
How is Climate Change a Threat to Life in our World?
In our time, more than ever before, there is an obligation to understand that
environmental concern for our planet does not comprise a romantic notion of
the few. The ecological crisis, and particularly the reality of climate change,
constitutes the greatest threat for every form of life in our world.
For our Orthodox Church, the protection of the environment as God’s
creation is the supreme responsibility of human beings, quite apart from any
material or financial benefits that it may bring. The almighty God bequeathed
this “very beautiful” world (Gen. 1.26) to humanity along with the command
to “serve and preserve” it. Yet, the correlation of this divine mandate for the
protection of creation to every aspect of economic and social life, ultimately
enhances the global effort to control the problem of climate change by
introducing ecological concerns into every aspect of life….
According to the theological understanding of the Orthodox Christian
Church, the natural environment is part of Creation and is characterized by
sacredness. This is why its abuse and destruction is a sacrilegious and sinful
act, revealing prideful despise toward the work of God the Creator.
Humanity, too, is part of Creation. Our rational nature, as well as the
capacity to choose between good and evil, bestow upon us certain privileges as
well as responsibilities. Unfortunately, human history is filled with numerous
examples of misuse of these privileges, where the use of natural resources has
been transformed into irrational abuse and, often, complete destruction,
leading occasionally to the downfall of great civilizations. Indeed, the care for
and protection of Creation constitutes the responsibility of everyone on an
individual and collective level….
HAH, Message for June 5, 2009
Q
Why is climate change the greatest threat to every form of life on earth?
How does peer reviewed science affirm this?
How is human experience also affirming this?
Reflection
9
Thursday September 10, 2020
The Root Cause of Ecological Disasters
It is not God, but man who causes contemporary plagues, which attack his
well being, since “he is the most disastrous of the disasters” as an ancient
tragedy puts it. Thus, if we want to improve the conditions of the material
and psychological life of humanity, we are obliged to recognize and to respect
the natural order, harmony and balance, and to avoid causing disarray in the
natural powers, which are released when the cohesive bond of the universal
harmony, especially of the ecological one, is audaciously overturned.
Nature was placed by God at the service of man, on the condition that
man would respect the laws that pertain to it and work in it and protect it
(cf. Gen. 2:15).
On this particular day, which has been dedicated by the Mother Church
to prayer for the natural environment, we supplicate the Lord to restore with
his divine and almighty power the natural order wherever human audacity has
overturned it, so that humanity might not suffer the tragic consequences of
unlawful violations of nature by human actions. We all share responsibility
for such tragedies, since we tolerate those immediately responsible for them
and accept a portion of the fruit that results such an abuse of nature.
Consequently, we need to ask for God’s illumination so that we may come
to understand the limit between the use and the abuse of nature and never
trespass it.
We wholeheartedly wish that God reveals this to each one of us and
gives us wisdom and strength not to trespass it.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew,
Message for September 1st, 2001
Q
How does pollution of the environment arise?
Why is the defilement of God’s creation a sin?
Can you trace the line between cause in humans and the impact on creation?
Reflection
10
Friday September 11, 2020
Pray to Protect Nature from Human Calamities
On a number of occasions during the ecclesiastical year the Church prays
that God will protect humanity from natural catastrophes: earthquakes,
storms, famine and floods. But today we see the reverse. On September 1st,
the day devoted to God’s handiwork, the Church implores the Creator to
protect nature from calamities of human origin, calamities such as pollution,
war, exploitation, waste and secularism.
It may seem strangely paradoxical that the body of believers, acting
vicariously for nature, beseeches God for protection against itself, its own
actions. But from this perspective the Church, in its wisdom, brings before
our eyes a message of deep significance, one which touches upon the central
problems of fallen humanity and its restoration. This is the problem of the
polarization of individual sin against collective responsibility.
Scripture tells us that if one member of the body is infirm, the entire
body is also affected (1 Cor. 12:26). There is, after all, solidarity in the
human race because, being made in the image of the Trinitarian God,
human beings are interdependent and co-inherent. No man is an island.
We are “members of each other” (Eph. 4:25) and so any action, performed
by any member of the human race, inevitably affects all other members.
Consequently, no one falls alone and no one is saved alone. According to
Dostoevsky’s Starets Zosima in “The Brothers Karamazov,” we are each of us
responsible for everyone and everything.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Day of Prayer for Environment,
September 1, 1994
Q
How are we each responsible for the problems of the world?
Why does human sin infect nature? How does this take place?
What does HAH mean when he says that we are members of each other?
Reflection
11
Saturday September 12, 2020
Revisioning the Human Role in Creation
The chariot of human development has gained momentum, but seems to be
running amok without a charioteer. No one seems able to stop it or get it
back on course. We know that consumerism is bad, but what can we do
except go on consuming more and more? We know that the gap between the
rich and the poor is widening, but what can we do except live with our guilt
and lend an occasional hand to the poor?
The affairs of the world are largely in the hands of people who are
expert at making money, waging war, and playing politics. Our age is
characterized by the absence of true charisma among the leadership of the
nations and churches of the world…. We know that our vision of reality is
defective because of too much reliance on science and technology, but what
alternatives can we develop? This sense of powerless is paralyzing….
One clue as to what causes the fog and dims our eyesight is our
conception of the relation between God and man and the world, and our
understanding of what role humanity plays between God and the world….
Essentially man is a mediator. He is poised between two realities – God
and the world. He shares in both. He cannot live apart from either. That is
the meaning of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The only humanity that can
survive is the new humanity, the humanity that has now been inseparably,
indivisibly united with God in Jesus Christ. This new humanity is a mediating
humanity – a humanity that reconciles and unites God and the world.
HE Metropolitan Mar Paulos Gregorios, Orthodox Church of India
(Malankara Orthodox Church of Syria), 1987
Q
How are we all responsible for the problems of the world?
Why does human sin reach out and infect nature? How does this take place?
What does HE mean when he says that we are members of each other?
Reflection
12
Monday September 14, 2020
Restoring the Vision of God in All Things
It has become painfully apparent that humanity, both individually and
collectively, no longer perceives the natural order as a sign and a sacrament
of God, but rather as an object of exploitation. There is no one that is not
guilty of disrespecting nature, for to respect nature is to recognize that all
creatures and objects have a unique place in God’s creation.
When we become sensitive to God’s world around us, we grow more
conscious also of God’s world within us. Beginning to see nature as a work of
God, we begin to see our own place as human beings within nature. The true
appreciation of any object is to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Sin alone is mean and trivial, as are most of the products of a fallen
and sinful technology. But it is sin that is at the root of the prevailing
destruction of the environment. Humanity has failed in what was its noble
vocation: to participate in God’s creative action in the world. It has
succumbed to a theory of development that values production over human
dignity and wealth over human integrity. We see for example delicate
ecological balances being upset by the uncontrolled destruction of animal
and plant life or by a reckless exploitation of natural resources. It cannot be
over-emphasized that all of this, even if carried out in the name of progress
and well-being, is ultimately to mankind’s disadvantage.
HAH, September 1, 1994
Q
Can you explain how sin is at the root of environmental destruction?
Why has modern society valued production over human dignity?
How does the Christian Church understand the concept of progress?
Reflection
13
Tuesday September 15, 2020
The Global Increase in Wildfires
Recently, our planet has witnessed extreme heatwaves and wildfires throughout
the world—from the rainforests of the Amazon and desert regions of Africa, to
the Arctic and far away countries from Spain to Siberia. Month after month,
we have experienced record temperatures and unprecedented heatwaves,
resulting in the destruction of millions of acres and the disruption of millions
of people. And the intensity of these fires is progressively increasing and
intensifying, mandating critical and commensurate changes on our part.
Scientists warn us about the threat of such fires to the world’s
ecosystems, which are becoming increasingly jeopardized and vulnerable.
The impact of these fires could reverberate for generations, affecting soil,
infrastructure, and human beings. Trees are vital for the soil, for our survival
and for our soul. Trees are not simply valuable for their aesthetic beauty or
commercial benefit, but essentially for our defense against climate change.
Planting more trees is certainly commendable, but cutting down less trees is
perhaps the most compelling response to global warming.
While the global wildfire crisis may not entirely be a consequence of
climate change, the calamitous events that the world is now experiencing
undoubtedly sound the alarm about the urgent and dire repercussions of a
rising level of carbon emissions. Therefore, such extreme phenomena compel us
to consider the fragility of nature, the limited resources of our planet, and the
unique sacredness of creation….
We pray for all those threatened or afflicted by the fires in all corners
of our world. We call all of the faithful and all people of good will to consider
carefully how we live, what we consume, and where our priorities lie, using the
words of the Divine Liturgy: “Let us pay attention! Let us stand with awe!”
His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew,
“Statement on Global Wildfires,” August 24, 2019
Q
What are the consequences of global climate change on society?
Why is an increase in forest fires an early sign of global climate change?
Can you name the root causes for the rise of climate change around the world?
Reflection

Wednesday September 16, 2020
The Earth is Being Defiled
The Orthodox Church, aware of her responsibility for the fate of the world, is
deeply concerned about the problems of contemporary civilization.
The face of the Earth has been distorted on a global scale. The air,
water, soils, and fauna and flora are damaged. Nature has been almost fully
involved in the life support of man who is no longer satisfied with its diverse
gifts, but exploits without restraint entire ecosystems. Human activity
constantly expands due to the accelerated development of science and
technology. The pollution of the environment by industrial wastes, bad
agricultural technology, the destruction of forests and top-soil — all these
result in the suppression of biological activity and the shrinking of the genetic
diversity of life. Mineral resources are being exhausted; and drinking water
supplies are being reduced. Many harmful substances have appeared, and
entered into the biosphere where they accumulate. The ecological balance has
been violated. Man now has to face the emergence of pernicious processes in
nature, including the failure of its natural reproductive power.
All this happens against a background of an unprecedented and
unjustified growth of public consumption, especially in the most developed
countries, where the search for wealth and luxury has become accepted as
normal. This situation obstructs the just distribution of natural resources,
which are common human property. The ecological crisis is proving painful not
only for nature, but also for man as organically integral to it. As a result, the
Earth finds itself on the verge of a global ecological disaster.
HB Patriarch Kyrill of Russia, “The Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church,”
June 1, 2012
Q
Why is the Orthodox Church concerned about ecological problems?
Can you name some of the effects of environmental degradation in your area?
Why are natural resources the common property of all people?
Reflections
15
Thursday September 17, 2020
Ascesis is Essential to Address Climate Change
Our effort over the last two decades has been to promote dialogue and
cooperation among various disciplines and faiths, contributing to global
awareness and discerning changes in attitude and lifestyle related to the
ecological crisis.
We are convinced that any real hope of reversing climate change
and addressing environmental pollution requires a radical transformation
of the way we perceive and treat our planet…. Many of us have witnessed
positive changes over the last decade. Nevertheless, all of us are deeply
frustrated with the stubborn resistance and reluctant advancement of
earth-friendly policies and practices.
Permit us to propose that perhaps the reason for this hesitation
and hindrance may lie in the fact that we are unwilling to accept personal
responsibility and demonstrate personal sacrifice.
In the Orthodox Christian tradition, we refer to this “missing
dimension” as ascesis, which could be translated as abstinence and
moderation, or – better still – simplicity and frugality. The truth is that we
resist any demand for self-restraint and self-control.
However, dear friends, if we do not live more simply, we cannot
learn to share. And if we do not learn to share, then how can we expect to
survive? Each of us is called to draw a distinction between what we want
and what we need, or – more importantly – what the world needs. Greed
and gratification reduce the world to a survival of the fittest; whereas
generosity and gratitude transform the world into a community of sharing.
His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
Halki Theological School, June 18, 2012
Q
What attitudes will most help us address global climate change?
Why is asceticism a key Orthodox virtue? How does it address climate change?
What other qualities help us to engage the big issue of global climate change?
Reflection
16
Friday September 18, 2020
Sacrifice is Essential to Address Climate Change
We are invited to pursue a way of sacrifice – not a sacrifice that is cheap, but a
sacrifice that is costly. We must be prepared to make sacrifices – material and
financial – that are genuine and even painful. And in this regard, whether we
like it or not, more is demanded from the rich than from the poor.
Of course, sacrifice is primarily a spiritual issue and less an economic
one. Similarly, in speaking of the environmental crisis, we are referring to an
issue that is not technological or political, but ethical. The real crisis lies not in
the environment but in the human heart. The fundamental problem is to be
found not outside but inside ourselves, not in the ecosystem, but in the
way we think. Without a revolutionary change within ourselves, all our
conservation projects will ultimately remain insufficient and ineffective.
We know what needs to be done and we know how it must be done. Yet,
despite the information at our disposal, unfortunately very little is done. It is a
long journey from the head to the heart; and it is an even longer journey from
the heart to the hands.
It will take no less than a high-profile crusade by religious leaders and
civil society to force change among our political leaders. We must persistently
remind our political leaders that there is no way of endlessly manipulating our
environment that comes without cost or consequence. There is no doubt in our
mind that this is a movement as critically urgent and as morally imperative as
any campaign for fundamental human and civil rights.
His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
2012 Halki Summit, June 18, 2012
Q
How are sacrifice and ascesis related?
Why is sacrifice another essential Orthodox quality?
How does the cross relate to the idea of sacrifice?
Reflection
17
Saturday September 19, 2020
A Seven Year Orthodox Climate Action Plan
Excerpts from the environmental plan for the dioceses and parishes
of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and All-Africa (part 1of 2)
From the African Continent, the cradle of humankind, we solemnly pledge to
the peoples of the world and the generations that will surely inherit this Earth
that we are determined to ensure that our collective hope for sustainable
development is realized.
The Patriarchate of Alexandria shares in the sensitivity and concern
of those who are anxious about the increase in pollution of the natural
environment due to human activity. The Church considers this pollution as sin
and calls upon all human beings to repent.
The Patriarchate of Alexandria, through His Beatitude Theodoros II, calls
upon the Holy Metropolitan Archdioceses and Dioceses to undertake projects
and local initiatives that lead to a reconsideration of the value of all Creation.
Each Metropolitan Archdiocese and Diocese is requested to undertake
planning for the implementation of projects on a local parish level.
Examples include:
• Projects of recycling
• Saving on energy within ecclesiastical buildings
• Encouraging responsible use of water.
• Encouraging less-frequent use of motor vehicles.
• The encouragement of parish activities and programmes which support
youth in their protection of the environment….
In all ecclesiastical activities of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the
Metropolitan Archdioceses and Dioceses are called upon to organize meetings
to examine issues from theology to science that pertain to the environment.
According to Christian instruction regarding resource use, every effort should be
made toward the satisfactory use of energy.
His Beatitude Theodoros II, Patriarch
of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All-Africa,
and the Synodal Committee on Protection of the Environment, 2009
Q
Why does poor Africa excel over rich American parishes in ecological programs?
How does your parish teach or demonstrate concern for God’s creation?
How well do you personally understand Christian responsibility for the earth?
Reflection
18
Monday September 21, 2020
Lessons from the Book of the Apocalypse (part 1)
We have to learn from the Book of the Apocalypse, what I call a liturgical
outlook, namely that the world is a living organism which is entrusted to us
so we can cultivate it in order to return it back to its creator. All these things
have to become part of our religious education.
We ourselves have to enter into this process of education, because
we do not tend to preach on these matters very much at all. They must
become part of our theology, which at the moment does not really deal with
them. Christian Churches need to take the message of the Apocalypse very
seriously with reference to these issues, and we should be trying to introduce
these things into the consciousness of our faith….
The church must educate its people to behave responsibly toward
the environment. I do not think that we gain very much by [protesting and
speaking out on specific issues] because the real problem goes much deeper.
Our communities and our societies have lost this liturgical part of
[daily] life, and this is part of the problem. We must somehow recover this…..
HE Metropolitan John of Pergamon, Patriarchal Symposium on The Book of Revelation,
Island of Patmos, September 27, 1995
Q
How can the Church teach its members to overcome the consumer mentality?
Why does a terrible deficiency exist in how parishes teach about God’s creation?
How might this failure be corrected?
Reflection
19
Tuesday September 22, 2020
Lessons from the Book of the Apocalypse (part II)
Our communities and societies have lost this liturgical part of [daily] life, and
this is part of the problem. We must somehow recover this. The only thing
that worries me is that, in order to have an effective ritual, you need a
community to apply it, and I think communities today are diluted. We do
not have communities in the old sense any longer – we have individuals and
groups with various interests of their own. All this, to my mind, points to the
necessity of recovering the community of the church as a community which
has a cultural role to play. If we do that, then the ritual will become effective,
otherwise it will just be a folklore which people will go to watch, but which
will have little effect on their lives.
The Book of the Apocalypse gives us the hope that there will always
be at least a small remnant of people who will behave in the right way. Their
optimism derives from their faith in God, but also from their faith in what we
call in the all logical language ‘the community of sense,’ the knowledge that
there will always be people who will think differently. In the typical Orthodox
ascetic tradition we will all have a share in universal sin, our own and the sin
of others.
Every monk is always conscious that he bears the sins of others, not
simply his own sins. This is exactly what is happening in ecological terms.
We are all called to bear the sinfulness of humanity as a whole and it is for
that reason, in repentance and in the vicarious behaviors, that I work to keep
my environment clean on behalf of all those who pollute it. This sort of ethic,
which comes from the Book of the Apocalypse, is an important part of the
ethos that we need today.
HE Metropolitan John of Pergamon, Patriarchal Symposium on The Book of Revelation,
Island of Patmos, September 27, 1995
Q
What does it mean to have a parish which is also community?
What has caused parishes to become gatherings of primarily individuals?
How is it that we all bear the ecological sins of humanity?
Reflection
20
Wednesday September 23, 2020
The Restoration of a Lost Identity
We as Christians, taught by Holy Tradition and by the experience of the
Holy Church Fathers, link always the theme of man as custodian of creation
with the need for repentance. When man fell, due to his sin, he lost his
identity. Because of his tendency toward transgression, man became weak
and cannot find in himself sufficient strength to return to his Creator. Man
accepts God’s love and becomes a being of communication, a being as
communion, improving, with all the Saints, his God-likeness.
So man becomes the custodian of the creation which is created by the
will of God for the single reason – to become one in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1,
22-23; 4,15). The human being is called to protect the work of God’s hands
because the deeds of God protect [nurture] him. The creation needs God for
its existence as it cannot exist by itself. Man is searching for eternity and
he is determined to care for the conjunction of unity and differences. Love
disables divisions, while the Spirit assembles all.
We are profoundly hurt by the divisions in witnessing the Christian
truth before the modern world which is yearning for spiritual direction and
the meaning of the mystery of life.
His Beatitude Patriarch Irinej, Metropolitan of Belgrade and All-Serbia,
August 31, 2012
Q
How is the Fall related to environmental destruction?
Why are human beings the custodian and protector of God’s works?
How can man reclaim his lost identity?
Reflection
21

Thursday September 24, 2020
The Importance of Preserving Earth Safe and Intact
It is clear that environmental problems stem from the manifestation of
human egotism. Seeking to live as comfortably as possible, to consume as
much as possible, people exhaust natural resources without thinking about
consequences.
In pursuit of momentary profit, human beings make the planet
ever less suitable for life and trample upon God’s creation – nature, thus
distorting the design of the Heavenly Creator for the world and ever more
strongly enslaving their spirit to flesh. Such a rapacious attitude to nature
today dooms the generations still to come to deprivations. Therefore, the
principal cause of the ecological crisis is precisely the crisis [or failure] of
people’s moral responsibility.
As the Bible tells us, God took the man, and put him into the
Garden of Eden “to dress it and to keep it” (Gen. 2:15). We are called to
cherish the environment in the awareness of our responsibility for it before
the Creator. Let the voices of our communities help us in this endeavor
and may the present work of this Joint Commission serve the cause of the
common witness of Christians and Muslims to the importance of preserving
our home, the Earth, safe and intact.
His Beatitude Kyrill, Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia,
Meeting of the Joint Russian-Iranian Commission for Dialogue on ‘Orthodoxy and Islam,’
Teheran, Iran, May 7, 2018
Q
What is necessary to preserve the earth in a safe and intact manner?
What does the word “intact” mean in the context of earth preservation?
Can you name the things in your life that would have to change for this to occur?
Reflections
22
Friday September 25, 2020
Pastors: Devote yourself to the Holy Task Given You
As Disciples of Christ, we entreat you to devote yourselves to the holy task that
has been given to you – caring for those who have been entrusted to you, and
leading them in their journey to the Kingdom. In order to care for and lead
others, it is necessary that we first secure steadfast humility of heart. In doing
this, we will bear the perfection of love that does not lead to the knowledge
which puffs one up into vainglory, but to that which enlightens. For it is
impossible for an impure mind to gain spiritual knowledge.
Next, we must strive to get rid of all anxiety and worldly thoughts,
placing ourselves in the hands of God’s ever caring and guiding grace by way
of continual prayer. This is the spirituality that allows us to participate in the
sacred presence of God. It is noteworthy that men and women today are in
search of a spirituality that will lead them out of the world’s despair. The
difficulty that this search poses is that one often resorts to self-centered, secular
resources, causing this search to be an expression of self-deification. In our
attempt as pastors to lead men and women out of despair, we often resort to
scientific resources such as psychology that may be useful in our efforts. In these
efforts, we must be careful not to limit spirituality to a scientific approach or
methodology, neglecting the essential spiritual expressions of continual prayer,
humility and denial of worldly desires, expressions that allow us to participate in
God’s philanthropic grace. If we are not careful, we will only mislead those who
come to us into a way of life that will cause even more despair.
In all our efforts, let us preserve the treasure of faith, which is the basis
of all spiritual knowledge. Let us constantly imitate the First Pastor, our Lord
Jesus Christ, who fully knows all the aspects of human personality and who
expresses His philanthropic love to all men equally. In this way, our spiritual life
will be as He is, the same yesterday, today, and until the ages of ages.
HAH, Conference of the European Council of Pastoral Care, August 16, 2005
Q
How do we harmonize our spiritual lives with that of Jesus Christ?
How may a person get rid of all anxiety and worldly thoughts?
What is the spirituality that leads us out of the despair of this world? Why?
Reflection
23
Saturday September 26, 2020
The Impacts of Climate Change Proliferate before Us
We stand against a background of grave pronouncements from scientists
about the consequences of climate change for every living thing on earth.
Global hunger has re-emerged on the world stage with an even greater sense of
urgency. How will we feed the world’s people? And we see how climate change
acts as a ‘threat multiplier,’ by interacting with food insecurity, economic
weakness and the ever growing pressure of population….
Climate change threatens the ability of the Earth’s ecosystems to meet
the needs of present and future generations. Adverse climate change poses a
serious threat to food security through erratic rainfall patterns and decreasing
crop yields. Its impacts on natural systems, resources, infrastructure and labor
productivity reduce economic growth and exacerbate poverty. Depletion of
natural resources places additional burdens on women, on health, on gender
equality, on women’s’ empowerment and on all the marginalized. The increase
of vector-borne diseases and heat-related mortality threatens the quantity and
quality of drinking water….
The impacts of climate change proliferate before us. We hear of air and
water pollution, of global warming and the threatened extinction of numerous
animal and plant species. Human suffering in the poorest countries increases;
nowhere is this shown more vividly than in Africa, where global warming and
human interference with ecosystems have brought a new quality of threat to
Africa’s water and all who depend on it…. The evidence and statistics are
indeed alarming. How should we react?
Every product we make and enjoy, every tree we fell, every building we
construct, every road we travel, permanently alters creation…. Let us consider
[how] nature’s economy is profoundly violated by our wasteful economy, which
in turn constitutes a direct offence to the divine economy. The Prophet Ezekiel
recognized this abuse of the natural ecosystems when he observed:
Was it not enough to feed on good pasture? Must you also trample
the rest with your feet? Is it not sufficient to drink clear water?
Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? (Ezk. 34,18).
His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Halki, 2017
Q
How can Orthodox Christians help protect the environment?
How do we undo our sins against the creation?
What is our first duty?
Reflection
24
Monday September 28, 2020
For the Sanctification of the World
The Church of Christ has had to cope with many problems which are
prominent in our contemporary world. The crisis facing ecology is one
such problem that has grave moral implications for all humankind.
Orthodoxy watches with great anxiety the merciless trampling
down and destruction of the natural environment caused by human beings
with extremely dangerous consequences for the very survival of the natural
world created by God.
In view of the present situation the Church of Christ cannot
remain unmoved…. The role of humanity as ‘the priest of creation’ is clearly
shown in liturgical theology. We are able to reshape and alter the world.
The vocation of humanity, as shown in liturgical theology, is not to
dominate and exploit nature, but to transfigure and hallow it. In a variety of
ways – through the cultivation of the earth, through craftsmanship, through the
writing of books and the painting of icons – humanity gives material
things a voice and renders the creation articulate in praise of God.
We must attempt to return to the proper relationship with the
Creator and creation in order to ensure the survival of the natural world.
We are called to bear some of the pain of creation as well as to enjoy and
celebrate it. That means to perform Liturgia extra muros, the Liturgy beyond,
or outside, the walls of the church, for the sanctification of the world.
HG Bishop Irineu [Pop], Romanian Orthodox Church
Iraklion, Crete, 1991
Q
Why is the Orthodox Church concerned about ecological problems?
How does the world become sanctified?
What is the role of priests and parishioners in this task?
Reflections
25
Tuesday September 29, 2020
A Eucharistic Ethos
The Eucharistic use of the world is exactly opposite from consumerism’s
utilization of the world. To consume literally means to spend, to exhaust. In
the mindset of consumerism the “goods” are just mere objects. They do not
bear a particular sacredness, neither do they relate to the Creator and sustainer
of all. With the cutting of and independence of things from God, we lose
also the meaning of the ‘other’ as our neighbor, who is now experienced as a
competitor, since he or she claims the same things. That is how the meaning
of community (koinonia), as well as the idea that man is a communicant
(koinonos) is lost, and therefore we return to the war of all against all (bellum
omnium contra omnes).
In our tradition is the Eucharistic ethos. A eucharistically minded person
understands that God created the world, not for it to disappear, but rather for
it to be transformed. He did not create humans to be the owners or exploiters
of creation, but rather priests of Creation, who use all of its ‘goods’
eucharistically, not by destroying creation, but by beautifying it. He or she does
not own things, but participates in them, while being in communion with the
others, as sharers of common life.
Thanksgiving, then, is a distinctive and definitive characteristic of
human beings. A human is not merely a logical or political being. Above all,
human beings are Eucharistic creatures, capable of gratitude and endowed with
the power to bless God for the gift of creation. Without such thanksgiving, we
are not truly human.
HAH, Utrecht, The Netherlands, April 24, 2014
Q
How can the idea of man as communicant be taught? Why has it become lost?
Why is it important to be thankful?
How does the Eucharist help transform the world as well the faithful?
Reflection
26
Wednesday September 30, 2020
The Link between Conservation and Compassion
There is a close link between the economy of the poor and the warming of our
planet. Conservation and compassion are intimately connected. The web of life
is a sacred gift of God ― ever so precious and ever so delicate. We must serve
our neighbor and preserve our world with both humility and generosity, in a
perspective of frugality and solidarity alike.
Faith communities must undoubtedly put their own houses in order;
their adherents must embrace the urgency of the issue. This process has
already begun, although it must be intensified. Religions realize the primacy of
the need for a change deep within people’s hearts. They are also emphasizing
the connection between spiritual commitment and moral ecological practice.
Faith communities are well-placed to take a long-term view of the
world as God’s creation. In theological jargon, that is called “eschatology.”
Moreover, we have been taught that we are judged by the choices we make.
Our virtue can never be assessed in isolation from others, but is always
measured in solidarity with the most vulnerable. Breaking the vicious circle of
economic stagnation and ecological degradation is a choice, with which we are
uniquely endowed at this crucial moment in the history of our planet.
HAH at the World Council of Churches, August 12, 2005 Q
What is the link between the economy of the poor and global warming?
How are spiritual commitment and moral ecological practice connected?
Why is solidarity with the most vulnerable virtuous?
Reflection



November Introduction
We are now eleven months into this reading-a-day series from the Orthodox patriarchs and hierarchs. We have read their statements that show a unified view on creation care, based on Scripture, the Fathers, theology and our current leaders. This “cloud of witnesses” reveals that Orthodox hierarchs are astute in discerning the root causes of our global ecological plight, that the crisis is urgent, and that it results from a lifestyle out of harmony with the earth and particularly out of harmony with God and Jesus Christ.
We also know that we are called to take good care of God’s earth. Nevertheless a chasm exists in Orthodox parishes, and to some extent across all society, between knowing what is right, and living out that truth in our daily lives. That has always been the great human spiritual struggle, but now we face new challenges and urgency.
Our foremost obstacle is that we live within a godless secular culture and to some extent are captive to its worldview. This culture is characterized by consumerism which is composed of a basket of heretical concepts. These include individualism, materialism, secularism, and commercialism, and these are layered upon the ancient sins of pride, greed, envy and lust. Significantly in schools of advertising and salesmanship, these vices
are recognized as the keys to successful product sales. In other words those qualities, once called the deadly sins, are today the pathways to successful mass marketing.
The Church offers solutions to defeat these assaults on our hearts and minds. But we have to understand how and why we are handicapped by this culture. Our hierarchs teach that we must recognize that we each have a calling to serve as “priests of creation.”
If we fail to exercise this calling, we easily fall into a new captivity, certainly more subtle than the historic Ottoman or the communist captivity, yet no less pernicious to the life of the Church and its ability to transmit the blessings of Jesus Christ to the world. Even worse, this captivity is leading to the pollution and collapse of the entire planet.
How do we address this new captivity? What are our tools? What is our vision and strategic plan? Yes, we actually have one! On the following pages, the Orthodox patriarchs, speaking in harmony and one mind, lay out the steps by which we may defeat consumerism. When their individual guidance is connected together, something surprising emerges. They articulate a pathway, even a comprehensive plan and inspired strategy, by which the Orthodox Church is providing spiritual direction for addressing
the pernicious force of consumerism and its product global climate change. Diagram their respective commentaries and there it is! The inspired Orthodox plan for addressing global climate change.
Yours in Christ’s service,
MR – EM – ER – FK

Monday November 2, 2020
Facing the World’s Energy Challenge
There is no single solution to the present energy challenge. We do not have
to sacrifice economic security to assure environmental health. Prudence – the application of moral principle in service to the common good – should guide us to meet immediate needs in such a way as to enhance, not diminish future sustainability. And where there are genuine risks to health and well-being, the principle of precaution should guide our actions.
More investment in renewable energy and fuel efficiency is now a
moral imperative especially because these are technologically feasible and
economically viable. Energy conservation is prudent human action.
These concerns have entirely unprecedented moral urgency in the 21st century. In its reliance on fossil fuels, American energy policy is a cause of
global climate change. With less than 5% of the world’s population, our
nation is generating more than 22% of greenhouse gas emissions. The United States has a moral responsibility to lead a transition to a new sustainable global energy system. Everything we do to assure safe and sustainable energy domestically must at the same time promote it internationally. We must join in binding international agreements which set energy conservation targets and timetables. Preventing climate change is a preeminent expression of faithfulness to our Creator God. Energy conservation is global leadership and solidarity.
HE Archbishop Demitrios, GREEK ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE OF AMERICA;
HE Metropolitan Philip (Saliba), Archdiocese of North America, ANTIOCHIAN ORTHODOX Church;
HE Metropolitan Christopher, President, Episcopal Council (SCOBA),
SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH IN THE USA AND CANADA;
HE Archbishop Mar Cyril Aphrem Karim, Patriarchal vicar for the eastern U.S.,
SYRIAN ORTHODOX (Malankara) CHURCH OF ANTIOCH;
HB Metropolitan Theodosius, THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA;
Joint statement: “Moral Reflection on Energy Policy and Global Warming,”
February, 2002
Q Why is energy policy a moral and even a spiritual issue?
Q Why, as the bishops say, is Energy conservation “prudent human action”?
Q How has American energy policy been a cause of global climate change?

Tuesday November 3, 2020
The Meaning of Christian Asceticism
Asceticism has been associated with a devaluation of matter for the sake of
‘higher’ and more ‘spiritual’ things. This implies a Platonic view of matter and the body, which is not compatible with the Christian tradition…. Such types of asceticism, involving a devaluation or contempt of the material world, aggravates instead of solves the ecological crisis.
An ‘ecological asceticism’ begins with deep respect for the material creation, including the human body. It builds upon the view that we are not possessors of creation, but are called to turn it into a vehicle of communion, always respecting its possibilities and limitations.
Human beings must realize that natural resources are not unlimited.
Creation is finite and so are the resources that nature can provide. The
consumerist philosophy seems to ignore this truth. We encourage growth and consumption by making ‘necessary’ things which previous generations could easily live without. We need to reconsider our concept of quality of life. Quality does not need quantity to exist. A restriction in our use of natural resources can lead to a life that is happier than the endless competition of spending and acquiring more and more. Qualitative growth must replace the prevailing conception of economic development…. Asceticism must become synonymous with qualitative instead of quantitative progress in society.
All this would involve major redefinitions in political, economic and
social institutions. Such a reorientation of our culture requires the involvement and cooperation of all the factors responsible for forming it. It would require a change in people’s deeper convictions and motivations, since no human being can sacrifice anything without a reason or motive.
HE Metropolitan John of Pergamon, “Production and Consumption,”
April, 1996
Q What is Christian asceticism? Can you explain it?
Q Why is ascesis beneficial and preferable to the consumerist way of life?
Q What is the example that we receive from the life of Jesus Christ?

Wednesday November 4, 2020
The Duty of Every Christian

Every Christian is called to be a steward, protector and “priest” of creation,
offering it by way of doxology to the Creator.
We must recall that climate change is an issue closely related to our
current model of economic development. An economy that ignores human
beings and human needs inevitably leads to an exploitation of the natural
environment. Nevertheless, we continue to threaten humanity’s existence and deplete nature’s resources in the name of short-term profit and benefit. How can we possibly imagine a sustainable development that comes at the expense of the natural environment?
There is always a tangible and local dimension to caring for creation.
Preserving and protecting the natural environment, as well as respecting and serving our fellow human beings. These are two sides of one and the same coin. The consequences of the ecological crisis—which affect, first and
foremost, the socially and economically vulnerable—are a serious threat for social cohesion and integration.
Moreover, there is an intimate link between caring for creation and
worshipping the Creator, between an economy for the poor and an ecology
for the planet. When we hurt people, we harm the earth. So, our extreme
greed and excessive waste are not only economically unacceptable; they are ecologically unsustainable. This is how we must interpret the Lord’s words in the parable of the last judgment: “I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink” (Matt. 25.35).
Dear friends, all of us are called to challenge—but also to change—the
way that we consume in order to learn how to conserve for the sake of our
planet and for the benefit of its people. When we con-serve, we recognize
that we must serve one another. “Con-serving” implies sharing our concern
for the earth and its inhabitants. It signifies the ability to see in our neighbor —and in every other person—the face of every human being and ultimately the face of God. Otherwise, we cannot say that we demonstrate compassion for our planet and our neighbor, or that we really care about the world’s resources and communities.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Athens, June 5, 2018

Q What is a “priest of creation”?
Q In what ways does this apply to you?
Q How are we given tools by God to address consumerism?

Thursday November 5, 2020
Frugality and Simplicity Needed to Face Climate Change
Global Climate Change has been on the Eastern Orthodox Christian
agenda for over twenty five years. In 1989 Ecumenical Patriarch +Dimitrios
began to raise the alarm when he observed “scientists… warn us of the
danger of the phenomena of the greenhouse whose first indications have
already been noted.”
In a letter to the 2013 Warsaw Climate Summit, Ecumenical
Patriarch Bartholomew brought a further cause of climate change into
focus: “Excess consumption.” Humanity’s reckless consumption of earth’s
resources threatens us with irreversible climate change. Burning more fuel
than we need, we contribute to droughts or floods thousands of miles away.
To restore the planet we need a spiritual worldview which cultivates
frugality and simplicity, humility and respect. We must constantly be aware of the impact of our actions on creation. We must direct our focus away from what we want to what the planet needs. We must care for creation. Otherwise, we do not really care about anything at all.
In our efforts to contain global warming, we are demonstrating how
prepared we are to sacrifice our selfish and greedy lifestyles. When will we learn to say: “Enough!”? When will we understand how important it is to leave as light a footprint as possible for the sake of future generations?
HE Archbishop Seraphim of Zimbabwe, Patriarchate
of Alexandria and All Africa, June 18, 2014

Q Why is excess consumption harmful to the world?
Q What is required in our attitudes to restrain consumption?
Q What is our individual responsibility in restraining consumption?

Friday November 6, 2020
The Commandment to “Love the Trees”
On the Holy Mountain of Athos, the monks sometimes put up beside the
forest paths special signposts, offering encouragement or warning to the
pilgrims. One such notice used to give me particular pleasure. Its message was “Love the trees.”
Fr. Amphilochios, the “elder” on the Island of Patmos when I first stayed
there, would have been in full agreement. “Do you know,” he said, “that God gave us one more commandment, which is not recorded in Scripture? It is the commandment ‘love the trees.’ Whoever does not love trees, so he believed, does not love God.” “When you plant a tree,” he insisted, “you plant hope, you plant peace, you plant love, and you will receive God’s blessing.”
An ecologist long before ecology had become fashionable, when hearing
confessions of the local farmers he used to assign to them a penance, the task of planting a tree. During the long summer drought, he himself went round the island watering the young trees. His example and influence transformed Patmos: Photographs of the hillside near the Cave of the Apocalypse, taken at the start of the twentieth century, show bare and barren slopes, where today there is a thick and flourishing wood. Fr. Amphilochios was by no means the first spiritual teacher to recognize
the importance of trees. Two centuries earlier, St. Kosmas the Aetolian,
martyred in 1779, used to plant trees as he traveled around Greece on his
missionary journeys. In one of his “prophecies” he stated, “People will remain poor, because they have no love for trees.” We can see that prophecy fulfilled today in too many parts of the world.
“Love the trees.” Why should we do so? Is there indeed a connection
between love of trees and love of God? How far is it true that a failure to
reverence and honor our natural environment — animals, trees, earth, fire, air, and water – is also, in an immediate and soul-destroying way, a failure to reverence and honor the living God?
HE Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, “Through Creation to the Creator,”
London, UK, 1996

Q Can you examine the effects of sin on people and the environment?
Q What is necessary to heal this condition?
Q How does the command of the angel in Rev. 7:3 relate to this command?

Saturday November 7, 2020
Humans Need to Regain Their Christian Identity
W e h a v e received with joy your kind invitation to participate in the
International Conference on Orthodox Spirituality with the theme “Man,
Custodian of Creation.” This theme suggests a revival of contemporary thought about the meaning of life in the new conditions of modern civilization, on which depends our future, especially the efforts of the mission of the Church and of our common Christian witness in the modern world.
We, as Christians taught by Holy Tradition and the experience of
the holy Church Fathers, always link this theme with the need for repentance because when man fell, due to his sin, he lost his identity. Because of his tendency toward transgression, man became weak and cannot find strength in himself to return to his Creator. Man accepts God’s love and becomes a being of communication, a being as communion, improving, with all the Saints, his God-likeness. The human becomes a custodian of creation because it is created by the will of God for only one reason – to become one in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:15). The human person is called to protect the work of God’s hands because the deeds of God protect and nurture him. The creation needs God for its very existence as it cannot exist by itself. Man is searching for eternity and he is determined to care for the conjunction of unity and differences.
Love disables divisions while the Spirit assembles all.
We are profoundly hurt by witnessing the divisions in Christian truth
before the modern world which is yearning for spiritual direction and meaning in the mystery of life. We are firmly convinced that the theme for your Conference is for the benefit and joy of all Christians. With these sentiments we greet you cordially, conveying to you and your monastic brotherhood and all the participants of the conference, our prayerful wishes for the grace of God and success in the forthcoming days.
His Beatitude Patriarch Irinej, Metropolitan of Belgrade and All-Serbia,
Serbian Orthodox Church, Letter to Abbot Enzo, August 31, 201

Q How is the fall related to environmental destruction?
Q Why are human beings the protector of God’s works?
Q How can man reclaim his lost identity?

Monday November 9, 2020
Environmental Pollution is Sin
We invite Orthodox Christians to engage in repentance for the way in which we have behaved toward God, each other, and the world.
If human beings treated one another’s personal property the way they
treat their environment, we would view that behavior as anti-social. We would impose the necessary judicial measures to restore wrongly appropriated personal possessions. It is therefore appropriate, for us to seek ethical, legal recourse where possible, in matters of ecological crimes.
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 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 forgiveness of sins committed both willingly and
unwillingly. Thus we begin the process of healing our worldly environment.
We are urging a different and more satisfactory ecological ethic. How
we treat the earth and all of creation defines the relationship that each of us has with God. We must be spokespeople for an ecological ethic that reminds the world that it is not ours to use for our own convenience. It is God’s gift of love to us and we must return his love by protecting it and all that is in it.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Symposium on the Environment,
Santa Barbara, California, November 8, 1997

Q Why does our treatment of the earth define our relationship to God?
Q Why is pollution and defilement of the earth a sin?
Q How much must our lifestyle change if we are to rightly care for God’s earth?

Tuesday November 10, 2020
Christians Must Become Sensitive to Ecological Issues
It is important that [Orthodox] Church members become increasingly
sensitive about environmental issues…. That will be challenging for the
people of the Church, but I think that we have already begun the process.
We have identified one problem as being indifference towards God’s
creation.
One of our tasks is to help the people who come to church become
more aware that a passive attitude or indifference towards ecological issues is wrong, and that they should become more appreciative of the integrity of creation, in other words the integrity of God’s work.
Although it is not reasonable to expect results immediately, at least
we have made a start. Fortunately in the Church we live in hope, and
therefore we have the hope that we shall be more effective in the future.
HB Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, Symposium on The Book of Revelation, Reflections, September 27, 1995

Q Why is sensitivity to ecological issues important?
Q What is insensitivity to ecological issues? Why might this condition arise?
Q How does a person overcome this sort of insensitivity?

Wednesday November 11, 2020
Priestly Asceticism is for All Christians
The ecological problem, at root, is a spiritual issue. Many people dealing with the environment tend to overlook its spiritual aspects. Yet both historically and practically it is impossible to address it without reference to religion and ethics. What motivation can religion offer people facing the ecological crisis?

Here are some suggestions:

Stressing and promoting the idea of the sacredness of creation in all its
aspects, spiritual as well as material.

A human is the Priest of creation as he or she freely turns it into a
vehicle of communion with God and fellow human beings. This means that
material creation is…a sacred gift from God which is meant to foster and
promote communion with God and with others. Such a ‘liturgical’ use of nature by human beings leads to forms of culture which are deeply respectful of the material world while keeping the human person at the centre.

An “ecological asceticism,” if we may coin such a term, begins with deep
respect for the material creation, including the human body, and builds upon the view that we are not masters and possessors of creation, but we are called to turn the creation into a vehicle of communion…. This last point is of paramount importance. Human beings must realize that natural resources are not unlimited. Creation is finite and so are the resources that nature provides for our needs. The consumerist philosophy of life ignores this truth.

Reconsider our concept of quality of life. Quality does not need quantity
to exist. A restriction in our use of natural resources can lead to a happier life than the endless competition of spending and acquiring more and more. Qualitative growth must replace the concept of economic development which is dominated by quantitative statistics. Asceticism must cease to be a notion referring to a class of religious eccentrics and become synonymous with qualitative – instead of quantitative – progress in human societies.
HE Metropolitan John of Pergamon, “Ecological Asceticism: A Cultural Revolution,” April, 1996

Q What does it mean that God’s creation is sacred in terms of human behavior?
Q How would you define ecological asceticism?
Q What does it mean to be a priest of creation?

Thursday November 12, 2020
The Living Symbolism of Creation
The man who takes communion should become a man who sanctifies. The
mystical way in Orthodoxy requires as a necessary stage the contemplation of nature, a vision of “the secrets of the glory of God hidden in things,” to quote a great mystic who was both an Arab and a Christian, Saint Isaac the Syrian.
Another Christian Arab, Maximos the Confessor, interprets this
contemplation as an extension of the eucharist. “Living things,” he said, “reveal themselves as the body of the Lord, and their celestial roots as his ‘blood.’” Man can make his own the interiority of things; he can share in their praise; he can hear it in them; he can make it conscious and vocal in himself. Again, Maximos says, “It is important to gather the spiritual truths, the logoi of all things, and to present them to God as offerings on behalf of creation.”
Yes, for us as monks, as it was for the Fathers of the Church, the world,
and I am quoting St Ephrem the Syrian, “is an ocean of symbols.” St Maximos wrote, “Here he is, the Invisible in visible things, the Impalpable in palpable things. Thus does He gather us into Himself from all things.”
If we think that nature is sufficient, that it can be reduced to blind
processes in a world which is immense and closed, then nature has no meaning and death has the last word…. But ecclesial man, the man-in-Christ, who is consciously an image of God, discovers meaning everywhere. Nothing is closed to him and the world is translucent.
To this symbolic structure of the world there corresponds a symbolic
knowledge; one which detects “verticality” in things, which detects the glory of God, a glory which by definition cannot be grasped, but nonetheless reveals itself to our understanding when we are seized by it. Think of the importance of the notion of “wonder” in the Bible. The symbol gives rise to a form of awareness which is resplendent with its own self-evidence and which cannot be separated from a feeling of tenderness at the beauty and gentleness of God.
HB Patriarch IGNATIUS IV of Antioch, “A Spirituality of Creation,”
Lausanne, Switzerland, March 11, 1989

Q What is the role of symbols in the Church?
Q How does one detect a symbolic “verticality” in all things?
Q What is a symbolic knowledge?

Friday November 13, 2020
What Values Guide Our Energy Choices?
We call on all Americans, and particularly our own leaders and congregants, to consider carefully these values, which should guide our individual energy choices and by which we should judge energy policy options. In securing human well-being by preserving creation and promoting justice, conservation is a personal and a public virtue – a comprehensive moral value – a standard for everything we do to assure energy for a wholesome way of life.
We pray that the wisdom, faith, and solidarity of the American people
will bring us together – at this critical juncture – to redirect our national
energy policy toward conservation, efficiency, justice, and maximum use of
the perennial abundance of clean and renewable energy that our Creator
brought into being by proclaiming, “Let there be light” (Gen 1:3).
“At stake are: the future of God’s creation on earth; the nature
and durability of our economy; our public health and public lands; the
environment and quality of life we bequeath our children and grandchildren.
We are being called to consider national purpose, not just policy.”
His Eminence Archbishop Demitrios, GREEK ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE OF AMERICA;
HE Metropolitan Philip (Saliba), Archdiocese of North America, ANTIOCHIAN ORTHODOX Church;
HE Metropolitan Christopher, President, Episcopal Council (SCOBA);
SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH IN THE USA AND CANADA;
HE Archbishop Mar Cyril Aphrem Karim, Patriarchal vicar for the eastern U.S., SYRIAN ORTHODOX (Malankara) CHURCH OF ANTIOCH;
HB Metropolitan Theodosius, THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA;
Joint statement: “Moral Reflection on Energy Policy and Global Warming,”
February, 2002

Q Why do our energy choices shape the future of God’s creation?
Q How might you respond to this call from the bishops on right energy use?
Q How might the world change if we applied Christian principles to daily life?

Saturday November 14, 2020
Discerning Beauty in Nature and Every Person
According to the sixth century theologian Dionysius the Areopagite, the most fundamental name of God is ‘good.’ This essential good, by the fact of its existence, extends goodness into all things. For Dionysius, what exists is good, and what is good is beautiful.
Dionysius gives us a picture of the universe in which God is the
source of all that is. For Dionysius, perceptible beauty is a dim reflection of the unutterable Beauty of the Creator. It lifts our minds and hearts to its source…. The inanimate world and the world of plants and animals conforms to models that express the will of God, divine paradigms we are unable to perceive directly, but whose mediated presence, we can intuitively perceive.
Mankind alone does not conform to the divine paradigm… and therefore
does not conform to the image of God within. That image is not confined
to his conscience, or his reason…. It is found in the whole of his being. Each
individual human being is a hologram of the universe: everything that is ‘out there’ is also ‘in here.’ Each of us is a microcosm of the whole. That is why we can experience plants and animals as our sisters and brothers, because their existence is implicit in the deeper levels of our being.
Thus our ecological task is to find ourselves in the universe, and find the
universe in us. Our understanding will never reach the depths that are within us. However, we do not have to know everything before we begin to act. The truth of our actions will depend on our conforming to the deep structure of our own nature, and thereby bring our mode of behavior, into conformity with the will of God, which is known to us in part, through the world. All religious traditions have ways of helping their members to do this, and we must use the resources of our traditions for a common goal, a common good.
HG Bishop Basil of Sergievo, Russian Orthodox Church,
Symposium on the Black Sea, September 26, 1997

Q What is beauty?
Q How may beauty become a teacher of personal behavior?
Q What does it mean that each person is a hologram of the universe?

Monday November 16, 2020
Our Prayer for the Restoration of the Earth
The world … is offered to us as a gift by our Creator as an arena of social activity but also of spiritual sanctification in order that we might inherit the creation[which is] to be renewed in the future age. Such has always been the theological position of the Holy Church of Christ, which is why we have pioneered an ecological effort… for the protection of our planet….
Of course, biodiversity is the work of divine wisdom and was not granted
to humanity for its unruly control. By the same token, dominion over the earth implies rational use and enjoyment of its benefits, not destructive acquisition of its resources out of greed. Nevertheless, in our times, we observe an excessive abuse of natural resources, resulting in the destruction of the environmental balance of the planet’s ecosystems and generally of ecological conditions, so that the divinely – ordained regulations upon human existence are increasingly transgressed. For
instance, all of us – scientists as well as religious and political leaders – are witnessing a rise in the atmosphere’s temperature, extreme weather conditions, the pollution of ecosystems on land and sea, and an overall disturbance – sometimes to the point of utter destruction – of the potential for life in some regions of the world.
We are obliged to admit that the causes of these ecological changes are not
inspired by God but initiated by humans. Thus, the invocation and supplication of the Church and us all to God… for the restoration of creation are essentially a petition of repentance for our sinfulness in destroying the world instead of working to preserve and sustain its ever-flourishing resources reasonably and carefully.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, September 1, 2012

Q What is our duty to God regarding care of the environment?
Q What must we do to avoid despoiling the earth?
Q What happens when we fail at this responsibility?

Tuesday November 17, 2020
Intensify Cooperation to Protect God’s Creation
The Orthodox Church appreciates these efforts to overcome the ecological
crisis and calls people to intensive co-operation in actions aimed to protect
God’s creation. At the same time, she notes that these efforts will be more
fruitful if the basis on which man’s relations with nature are built will be
not purely humanistic, but also Christian.
One of the main principles of the Church’s stand on ecological issues
is the unity and integrity of the world created by God. Orthodoxy does not
view nature as an isolated and self-enclosed structure. The plant, animal and human worlds are interconnected.
In the Christian view, nature is not a repository of resources intended
for egotistical and irresponsible consumption. Rather, it is a house in which
man is not the master, but a housekeeper. It is a temple in which he is the
priest serving not nature, but the one Creator. The conception of nature as a temple is based on the principle of theocentrism: God Who gives to all “life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25) is the Source of being. Therefore, life itself in its various manifestations is sacred, being a gift of God. Any encroachment on it is a challenge not only to God’s creation, but also to the Lord Himself.
HB Patriarch Kyrill, Archbishop of Moscow and All-Russia,
Statement of the Russian Orthodox Church on Ecological programs, #4,
June 1, 2012

Q What are the Orthodox theological foundations for action to heal God’s earth?
Q How might a person help protect the earth? List the different ways.
Q What is the practical meaning of each person as a priest of creation?

Wednesday November 18, 2020
Each Person Stands Between Two Realities
Man is a mediator. He is poised between two realities – God and the world.
He shares in both, he is united to both. He cannot live apart from either.
That is the meaning of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The only humanity
that can survive is the new humanity, the humanity that has now been
inseparably, indivisibly united with God in Jesus Christ.
The new humanity is a mediating humanity – a humanity that
reconciles and unites God and the world. It is an incarnate humanity – a
humanity that is an inseparable part of the whole creation and inseparably
united to the Creator.
This is the meaning of the human presence in the cosmos. To be with
the one who unites. To be in Christ, uniting the divine and the human, the
Creator and the creation, the transcendent and the immanent, the spiritual
and the scientific-technological. To enter the mystery of “Christ in us,” yes, in us Christians, but also in us human beings, and in us as an integral part of the whole creation.
The subtle art of image making for the future needs skilled craftsmen
as well as the gift of the Spirit. The various crises of our time should be used neither as occasions for doom-saying pessimism nor as a chance to peddle empty-hope optimism. Every crisis is a judgement, a call to see where things have gone wrong and to seek to set matters right, both within our consciousness and in society.
The environmental crisis, the economic crisis, the crisis of justice, the
crisis of faith…, the crisis of militarism – of all of these are symptoms not only that humanity has yet to become what it has to be, but also that it is on the wrong track.
HE Metropolitan Mar Paulos Gregorios, Syrian (Malankara) Orthodox Church of India, New Delhi, India, 1987

Q What does it mean that humans are mediators?
Q How is a mediating humanity akin to humans as priests of creation?
Q Why are crises messages to society?

Thursday November 19, 2020
Humans are Responsible for the State of the World
All humanity is responsible for the state of nature – God’s creation. Resource depletion, and environmental pollution, amid a rising world population, raise with special urgency the question of concerted efforts by all nations to preserve the biodiversity of life, the diligent use of natural resources, and the prevention of environmental disasters because of human activities.
The Ancestral Fall distorted primordial nature. Scripture testifies “the
creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but by the will of him who
subjected it” (Rom. 8:20). Pollution and destruction of nature are the direct
consequence of human sin, its visible embodiment. Various manifestations of sinful attitudes toward nature are characteristic of consumer society, which emphasizes the main purpose of making a profit. The only way to restore the health of nature is spiritual rebirth of the individual and society, in a true Christian, ascetic, human relation to one’s own needs, curbing the passions in consistent self-restraint.
Guided by God’s commandment to protect the created world (Genesis
2:15), and care for human spiritual and physical health, the Russian Orthodox Church is committed to continue discussion about environmental issues, and to work on this problem in collaboration with all who are concerned about our environment and maintaining a healthy and normal life.
The Russian Orthodox Church, confessing biblical teaching about the
relationship between humans and the world, promotes understanding of the theological and philosophical bases for environmental action. This vision emphasizes the difference between a theocentric worldview and a humanist anthropocentrism, which views the world as a source of “selfish and irresponsible consumption,” and the pagan deification of nature, which
sometimes elevates nature above human beings, and that people should not change or interfere with nature.
HB Patriarch Kyrill and the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, English translation by Olesya Siewers. February 5, 2013

Q Why are humans responsible for the state of the world?
Q How do God’s commands ensure a healthy world?
Q What is the Church’s vision of the created world?

Friday November 20, 2020
The Continuing Work of the Church
I pray from my heart for all the workers and missionaries of the love of
Christ, the Metropolitans and Bishops of the Patriarchate of Alexandria and
All Africa, the Priests through out Africa and our blessed children, Greeks,
Arabs, Africans, Serbs, Russians and Romanians, Bulgarians, Ukrainians and other nationalities, that the Grace of the Most Holy God will strengthen
your lives always.
Now that the new period of Missionary and Catechetical work is about
to start, we are all geared towards sowing and harvesting of the Word of God in the hearts of the people. The evangelization of the nations, the teaching of the people of God regarding the important issues of faith and Christian life, the great problems of the world and society, joblessness, narcotics, diseases, wars, the ecological problem, destruction and pollution of the environment and many others, create in us all a huge problem and an internal need for prayer, strong prayer, so that solutions can be found for all levels.

Having our faith in Christ as a rule, the joy and optimism which stem
from this perspective, we will continue with the “good fight,” we will remain in the battlements and we will all be humble Missionaries of the good and the beautiful, that which our Orthodox Church teaches us, applying the exhortations of St Paul, which is beneficial for us all.
I send to you all the heartfelt Patriarchal blessing of the Apostle Mark
and my Paternal prayer, that the Almighty God “who holds the times and the seasons in His own authority,” may protect and bless the whole world, the blessed and suffering land of Africa, the continent of the future, the crossroads of civilizations, granting health and happiness to all.
His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, Alexandria, Egypt, September 1, 2009

Q How do you understand the work of the Church?
Q How might you participate in this great work?
Q Do you know what the exhortations of Saint Paul involve?

Saturday November 21, 2020
The Ecological Crisis as a Moral Crisis
The ecological crisis demonstrates that we cannot have two ways of looking at the world: religious on the one hand and worldly on the other. We cannot
separate our concern for human dignity, human rights or social justice from concern for ecological preservation and sustainability….
If we value each individual, made in the image of God, and if we value
every particle of God’s creation, then we will care for each other and our world. In religious terms, the way we relate to nature directly reflects the way we relate to God and to our fellow human beings, as well as the way we relate to the biodiversity of creation. At stake is not just respect for biodiversity, but our very survival. Scientists calculate that those most harmed by global warming will be the most vulnerable. It is those living in the typhoon-prone Philippines who are being forced not only to deal with the miseries of flooded homes and prolonged disruption, but to make fundamental changes in their way of life. And there is a bitter injustice about the fact that those suffering the worst ravages have done the least to contribute to it. The ecological crisis is directly related to the ethical challenge of eliminating poverty and advocating human rights.
This means that global warming is a moral crisis and a moral challenge.
The dignity and rights of human beings are intimately and integrally related to the poetry and – we would dare to say – the rights of the earth itself.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Manila, The Philippines, February 26, 2015

Q How can there be unity between our spiritual and material views of the world?
Q How is it that the way we relate to nature reflects on the way we relate to God?
Q Why is global climate change a critical moral problem?

Monday November 23, 2020
An Orthodox Ecological Ethic
The Orthodox ecological ethic goes beyond responsible stewardship.
“Stewardship” is an ethical concept that is accessible to all, even to those
outside the Church. Its themes of responsibility, balance, and prudence are
amenable to common sense…. The best of the secular ecologists reflect the
ideal of stewardship in their statements.
The ideal of stewardship is not enough. The Orthodox ecological
ethic is also ecclesial – and it is this dimension of our ethic that is
especially needed today. What is ecclesial in the Orthodox ecological ethic
is the revelation that man is a source of blessing for the natural world.
Mankind has a priestly role, a eucharistic vocation, in mediating God’s
grace to Creation.
This emphasis is reflected time and again in Orthodox ecclesial life.
The euchologion frequently calls for man’s interaction with the things of
Creation in the Holy Mysteries. Palms and willow branches are blessed on
Palm Sunday. Flowers and herbs are blessed on Transfiguration. Basil and
flowers are blessed at Holy Cross. There are prayers of blessing for new
fields, beehives and orchards and gardens to yield great bounty and harvest.
Through all this blessing, there is the constant theme of man gathering
God’s creatures, and bringing them into higher participation in Grace.
Man is the only creature in Creation that is a person, both body and
soul. Thus, man has the task of harmonizing and uniting the world of the
soul with the world of the body and matter. This is the task of blessing. It
is a task that is comprised of the right use of the world. But it is a task that
calls for man to be transformed…. The Orthodox ecological ethic calls for
nothing less than for the ecologist to pursue the spiritual life.
HE Metropolitan Nicholas of Amisso, Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church,
“Man as Curse or Blessing,” Antiochian Village, June 15, 2002

Q What does Orthodox ecclesial life involve?
Q Why is it that stewardship of creation is not enough?
Q How would you define an Orthodox understanding of the right use of the world?

Tuesday November 24, 2020
The Core of the Orthodox Ecological Ethic
The person who enters a life of repentance, seeking spiritual purification,
will win freedom from the passions that inflame consumerism and other
forms of environmental exploitation. The one who continues in the spiritual life, who seeks illumination, will discern in each creature its logos. He will discern the meaning and purpose that creature has received from God… Finally, the one who seeks first the Kingdom of God and its
righteousness will acquire the Holy Spirit. He will become a conduit for
the presence of grace and God’s Uncreated Energies. The unifying and
restorative energies of God Himself will flow through his life, and will
accomplish much salvation for the created world. Have we not seen this in
the life of St. Sergius of Radonezh? Or in the life of St. Seraphim of Sarov?
The Saint is the image of the Orthodox ecological ethic. The
environment needs now, more than ever, such a source of Divine Grace.
“Creation awaits with eager longing for the sons of God,” St. Paul wrote
in his Epistle to the Romans (8:19). Creation waits for man to take his
rightful role in the natural scheme. For too long, man has been a “curse”
to Creation. It began with Adam and Eve’s destructive declaration of
autonomy at The Fall, and the curse continued through aeons of warfare,
pollution and unbridled waste.
The Orthodox ecological ethic testifies that the long legacy of the
ecological curse can be stopped by the moral freedom of each person. It
can be stopped, and things can be put right again, when a Christian thanks
God for every gift, and prays so that its use may be true to grace. In this
way, and this way only, man can be a blessing, and not a curse.
HE Metropolitan Nicholas of Amisso, Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church,
“Man as Curse or Blessing,” Antiochian Village, June 15, 2002

Q Why are the saints models of the Orthodox ecological ethic?
Q What happens when we bless God’s creation?
Q How may we stop the ancient curse and restore grace?

Wednesday November 25, 2020
The Path of the Saints

The Saints have always taught that no one is saved alone and, therefore, that no one should strive for individual salvation, but for the salvation of the whole world. Such a teaching is affirmed in the environmental field and confirmed by science. This conviction constitutes an essential aspect of the environmental ethos, required both of believers who rely on the precepts of faith and of those who wish to establish an ethos based on reason.
This concern for the salvation of all humanity and the preservation
of all creation is translated into a merciful heart and sensitive attitude, so
characteristically described by the seventh-century ascetic, Abba Isaac
the Syrian. We are responsible not only for our actions, but also for the
consequences of our interventions. After all, no responsible ruler leaves the growth of one’s people unplanned and to the mercy of fate. Rather, a wise ruler assumes appropriate measures for the people’s growth in accordance with specific goals.
As ruler of creation, humanity is obliged to plan for its preservation
and development. This requires the recruitment of scientific knowledge and involves the respect of all life, especially of the primacy of human life. It is precisely such a vision that also constitutes the fundamental criterion for any environmental ethos.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Symposium on the Adriatic, June 6, 2002

Q Why is it that we are not saved alone, but collectively?
Q What is our Christian vision of creation and how does this relate to salvation?
Q How does saving the creation relate to saving our own souls?

Thursday November 26, 2020
Asceticism and Self-Sufficiency
Orthodox Christians have learned from the Church Fathers to restrict and
reduce our needs as far as possible. In response to the ethos of consumerism we propose the ethos of asceticism, namely an ethos of self-sufficiency to what is needed. This does not mean deprivation, but rational and restrained consumption as well as the moral condemnation of waste. “So if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (1 Tim. 6.8), as the Lord’s Apostle urges us. And after the multiplication of the five loaves and the satisfaction of five thousand people, excluding women and children, Christ Himself ordered His disciples to collect the remainder “so that nothing would be lost” (John 6.12).
Unfortunately, contemporary societies have abandoned the application of
this commandment, surrendering to wastefulness and irrational abuse to satisfy vain desires of prosperity. However, such conduct can be transformed for the sake of creating resources and energy by more appropriate means.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Letter on the Annual Day of
Prayers for Creation, September 1, 2015

Q What is an ethos of asceticism?
Q How is it applied?
Q How does a person make the break from consumerism into asceticism?

Friday November 27, 2020
The Orthodox Christian Ecological Ethic
The Orthodox Christian ecological ethic protests against the consumerist
ethic. The truth of “dominion” in the Holy Tradition is clear: man was
given primacy in Creation; but he was given primacy with the responsibility of stewardship.
A good steward uses the resources of his Master, but he does not
merely “consume.” A good steward is careful to protect the things of his
Master’s house: he protects against destruction and decay. He would never
permit pollution, rainforest burning, extinction of entire species. He would
be alarmed by global warming, ozone depletion, and the loss of wetlands.
We say this while believing firmly in the primacy of man in God’s
creation. We cannot agree with radical environmentalists who oppose
human dominion… some of them go so far as to oppose any human place
within the environment….
It should be self-evident that such an ethic [as consumerism] is
utterly foreign to Christian piety. Christians, by their very nature,
should recoil from such a wanton manifestation of the passions of pride,
avarice and gluttony. Unfortunately we have become so habituated to
this ethic that we no longer recoil. We no longer find it foreign. Why is
it that we are not insulted, as we should be, when we are called –
everyday – “consumers”?
HE Metropolitan Nicholas of Amisso, Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church,
Antiochian Village, June 15, 2002

Q What is a right Christian attitude toward the world?
Q Why is the consumerist attitude to the world wrong?
Q During our holidays how should we apply our Christian ethic?

Saturday November 28, 2020
The Human Duty to Sanctify the World
God has not allowed humanity to be a mere spectator or an irresponsible
consumer of the world and of all that is in the world. Indeed, humanity is
called to assume the task of being primarily a partaker and a sharer in the
responsibility for everything in the created world. Having been endowed
from the beginning with “the image of God,” humanity is called to
continual self-transcendence so that in responsible synergy with God the
Creator, each person might sanctify the entire world, thus becoming a
faithful “minister” and “steward.”
It is clear that the concepts of minister and steward exceed by far the
contemporary accepted ideal of a person called “an ecologist,” not having
any further qualifications…. Just by becoming God’s minister and steward
over all of creation, does not mean that man simply prospers or is happy in
the world…. The main and lasting benefit of these qualifications is that by
using the world in a pious manner, humanity experiences the blessed
progression from the stage of “God’s image” to that of “divine likeness,” in
the same way that all the other good elements of the universe are
transformed, by the grace of God and even without human intervention,
from the stage of “potentiality” stage to that of “actuality” in fulfillment of
the pre-eternal plan of the entire divine economy….
Addressing the faithful of the Church and every person of goodwill
with these pious thoughts, we wish worthily and in a manner pleasing to
God to invite and encourage every person, and above all the faithful, to
constantly watch over his or her fellow human beings and the world, for
the benefit of us all and for the glory of the Creator.
HAH Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Message on the Day of
Prayers for Creation, September 1, 1992

Q What is human purpose in relation to creation?
Q How does being in the image of God relate to the sanctification of the world?
Q How are we to watch over the world for the benefit of all?

Monday November 30, 2020
U.S. Bishops Statement on Climate Change (part one)
As Church leaders, it is our responsibility to speak to this condition [of global climate change] as it represents a grave moral and spiritual problem.
We wish to emphasize the seriousness and urgency of the situation.
To persist in a path of excess and waste, at the expense of our neighbors and beyond the capability of the planet to support the lifestyle responsible for these changes, is not only folly; it jeopardizes the survival of God’s creation… In the end, not only is it sinful; it is no less than suicidal.
But there is hope. Society can alter its behavior and avoid the more
serious consequences of climate change. To do this, we must work together
to reduce the way that we have exploited the earth’s resources, especially
fossil fuels. As Americans, we comprise barely 4% of the world’s people, yet
consume over 25% of its resources and energy. Justice and charity for our
neighbors demand a more frugal, simple way of living in order to conserve
the fruits of creation.
In order to make the required changes, we are called to pray for a
change in our personal attitudes and habits, in spite of any accompanying
inconvenience. Such is the depth of metanoia or repentance. The issue is not merely our response to climate change, but our failure to obey God. We must live in a manner that is consistent with what we believe and how we pray…. At minimum, this means caring about the effect of our lives upon our neighbors, respecting the natural environment, and demonstrating a willingness to live within the means of our planet. Such a change will require reduction in our consumption of fossil fuels as well as acceptance of alternative energy sources such as solar or wind power, and other methods that minimize our impact upon the world. We can do these things, but it will require intentional effort from each of us. …
HE Archbishop Demitrios, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America;
HE Metropolitan Philip (Saliba), Archdiocese of North America, Antiochian Orthodox Church; Church;
HE Metropolitan Christopher, President, Episcopal Council (SCOBA), Serbian Orthodox Church;
HE Archbishop Mar Cyril Aphrem Karim, Patriarchal vicar for eastern U.S., Syrian Orthodox Church;
HB Metropolitan Theodosius, The Orthodox Church in America (OCA);
Declaration on “Global Climate Change: A Moral and Spiritual Challenge,” adopted unanimously by the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), May 23, 2007.

Q Why is climate change a serious issue?
Q How can it be addressed?
Q What can and should you do?