Caretakers of Creation
Office of Educational Services
Caretakers of Creation – “Priests of Creation”
Today we hear much talk about saving the earth. Do we really need to save the earth? Saving the earth is not an exaggeration when we consider the crisis facing ecology that has implications for all humankind; .flooding due to global warming that threatens vast areas of coastland, irreplaceable forests vanishing by the acre every second and great rivers that no longer reach the sea because their water is taken for irrigation, industry, or to water lawns.
The abuse of modern man of his position in the creation and of the Creators order to him “to have dominion over the earth” (Gen 1,28) has led to the edge of destruction either in the form of natural pollution which endangers all living beings or in the form of extinction of specie of the animal and plant world. Scientists are warning us now of the danger, and speak of phenomena which threaten the life of our planet, such as the “greenhouse effect” whose first indications have already been noted.
In all of this destruction of our creation, have we lost sight of our noble vocation to participate in God’s creative action in the world? Unfortunately, today, under the influence of extreme rationalism and self centeredness, we have lost the sense of sacredness of creation and act as rude violators of creation.. Instead of the ascetic spirit of our Eastern Church regarding our role as caretakers of creation, we have been caught up in an atmosphere that violates nature for the satisfaction, not of basic human needs, but of our endless and increasing desires encouraged by the prevailing philosophy of the consumer society.
The global environment is squeezed on two sides by over-consumption and waste by the affluent and by the pressing needs of the poor, often forced to deplete their land for the sake of food or fuel. Equitable sharing with other people does not only involve using less of finite resources, it also precludes enjoying conveniences for which others are having to pay the hidden environmental price of living with the toxins used in their manufacture and pollution caused by their use and disposal.
We worship as a community, not as individuals, our liturgical ethos is also one of sharing. We stand before God together and we hold in common the earthly blessings that He has given to all creatures. St John Chrysostom reminds us “not to share our wealth with the poor is theft from the poor and deprivation of their means of life. We do not possess our own wealth but theirs.”
According to Christian teaching, the moral relationship of humanity to nature is included in these words:
“Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground. . . I give you every seed bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. “l(Gen 1:28-29)
Through these words humanity is given a relative authority to rule over nature throughout the cosmos. The whole of creation, the heaven and earth were made our subjects to serve and work for us.
” The creatures of God minister not to God, nor to angels, nor to themselves, but only to man.” Prof. N. Zabolotsky
It is becoming more and more 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. It is too easy to place responsibility and blame collectively on agencies and authorities, but we stand before God as individuals that have been charged with the “Priesthood of Creation” and will be held accountable for our mandate.
We must be more fully conscious of our duty as Priests and Caretakers of Creation. Creation “groans and labors in all its parts” (Romans 8:22) and is now beginning to protest at its treatment by human beings. We cannot infinitely, and at our pleasure, exploit the natural sources of energy. The price of this superior attitude will be our self-destruction.
The ethos of the Church means reverence for matter – the world around us, other creatures and or own bodies. A Eucharistic ethos means, using natural resources with thankfulness – offering them back to God.
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.
We cannot expect to leave no trace on our environment. We have to choose to either make it reflect greed and ugliness. or to use it in such a way that its beauty shows God’s handiwork through ours.
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.
It is time to thank our Maker for the great gift of Creation and to teach the ethos of our church regarding creation. We caution all the faithful to admonish themselves and their children to respect and protect the natural environment and to pray for those entrusted with the responsibility of governing the nations to take the necessary measures for the protection and preservation of the natural creation.
As parents and teachers we cannot remain unmoved. We need to address what constitutes a fundamental dogma of our faith that the world was created by God the Father, who is confessed in the Creed to be “maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.”
In the words of Dimitri Staniloae, The role of humanity as the priesthood of creation we are able to reshape and alter the world We put the seal of this understanding and of our intelligent work onto creation. “The world is not only a gift, but a task for man” (Staniloae)
Catechetical Resource: The Earth is the Lord’s, OCA, (available through the Office of Educational Services/TBS)