Friday, January 3, 2014

Beyond Agrarianism

Agrarianism is undoubtedly a great alternative to industrialism-materialism, with its focus on living in an harmonious way with the creation, recognizing human limits, and so forth.  But in this respect it is merely an earthly philosophy.  It needs, if you will, a heavenly aspect.  Within it there must be the recognition that man is meant to tend and keep the earth not only in a physical way, but also in a spiritual way, by hallowing, sanctifying, and transfiguring it with God’s Grace through His Church.  From The Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church:

XIII.5. Ecological problems are essentially anthropological, because they are generated by man, not nature. Therefore, answers to many questions raised by the environmental crisis are to be found in the human heart, not in the spheres of economy, biology, technology or politics. Nature is transformed or dies not by itself, but under the impact of man. His spiritual condition plays the decisive role here, for it affects the environment both with and without such an impact. Church history knows of many examples when the love for nature by Christian ascetics, their prayer for the world around them, and their compassion for all creatures made a beneficial impact on living things.

Relationships between anthropology and ecology are revealed with utter clarity in our own time, when the world is experiencing two concurrent crises: spiritual and ecological. In contemporary society, man often loses the awareness of life as a gift of God and sometimes the very meaning of life, reducing it sometimes to the physical being alone. With this attitude to life, nature around him is no longer perceived as home and even less so as a temple, becoming only a “habitat.” The spiritually debased personality leads nature to degradation as well, for it is unable to make a transforming impact on the world. The colossal technological resources cannot help humanity blinded by sin, for, being indifferent to the meaning, mystery and wonder of life, they cannot be really beneficial and sometimes even become detrimental. In a spiritually disorientated man, technological power would beget utopic reliance on the boundless resources of the human mind and the power of progress.

It is impossible to overcome the ecological crisis while in the midst of a spiritual crisis. This does not at all mean that the Church calls to curtail ecological preservation activity, but in her hope for a positive change in the man-nature relationships, she relies rather on society’s aspiration for spiritual revival. The anthropogenic background of ecological problems shows that we tend to change the world around us in accordance with our own inner world; therefore, the transformation of nature should begin with the transformation of the soul. According to St. Maximos the Confessor, man can turn the earth into paradise only if he carries paradise within himself.

Source:  Chapter XIII, ‘The Church and Ecological Problems’,, accessed 3 Jan. 2014

An example of these principles in action comes from the life of St Joannicius the Great:

 . . . In the coming years he traveled widely, sometimes living as a hermit, sometimes living in monasteries, more than once founding a monastic community. Wherever he went he lived in stillness, solitude and strict asceticism. He was famed for his spiritual counsel, his prophecies, his many miracles of healing ailments bodily and spiritual, and for his friendship with animals. Once a monk who doubted the Saint's miracles was eating at table with him when a large bear burst in upon them. Joannicius called the bear and it came and lay at his feet; he then told it to lie at the feet of his frightened guest and said "At their creation, the animals looked with veneration on man, who is made in the image of God, and he had no fear of them. We are afraid of them now because we have transgressed God's commandments. If we love the Lord Jesus and keep his commandments, no animal will be able to do us any harm." The monk departed greatly edified. . . .

Source:  From the entry for 4 November at , accessed 3 Jan. 2014

We should, likewise, do our uttermost to shower the creation with God’s Grace, as we were intended to do before the Fall, by filling our own bodies and souls with that very same Grace, which then flows to the creation of which we are not just a part but the crown, and by direct use of the sacraments themselves (sprinkling plants, animals, soil, etc. with holy water, for example).

And with Epiphany coming soon (6 Jan.), there will be an opportunity to do both of these during and after the Great Blessing of Water.  From the prayers offered at that service:

That these waters may be sanctified by the power, and effectual operation, and descent of the Holy Spirit:
That there may descend upon these waters the cleansing operation of the super-substantial Trinity:
That he will endue them with the grace of redemption, the blessing of Jordan, the might, and operation, and descent of the Holy Spirit:
That Satan may speedily be crushed under our feet, and that every evil counsel directed against us may be brought to naught:
That the Lord our God will free us from every attack and temptation of the enemy, and make us worthy of the good things which he hath promised:
That he will illumine us with the light of understanding and of piety, and with the descent of the Holy Spirit:
That the Lord our God will send down the blessing of Jordan and sanctify these waters:
That this water may be unto the bestowing of sanctification; unto the remission of sins; unto the healing of soul and body; and unto every expedient service:
That this water may be a fountain welling forth unto life eternal:
That it may manifest itself effectual unto the averting of every machination of our foes, whether visible or invisible:
For those who shall draw of it and take of it unto the sanctification of their homes:
That it may be for the purification of the souls and bodies of all those who, with faith, shall draw and partake of it:
That he will graciously enable us to perfect sanctification by participation in these waters, through the invisible manifestation of the Holy Spirit:

May agrarianism be swallowed up in Christianity as we go forth to heal and hallow the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment