"A Paradigm of the Communion of the Person and Creation"
Your All-Holiness, Most Eminent Metropolitans and fellow Co-celebrants in the Lord,
reverend Clergy, pious Monastics, brothers and sisters in Christ:
Glory to Jesus
and abiding thanks, I must first congratulate His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch
BARTHOLOMEW and His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, for their sponsorship of
this conference here on the sacred island
of Halki. Here at this
spiritual center,all of us are
honored to be part of the combination of theological and scientific disciplines,
which create a true synergy capable of discovering new solutions to the complex
problems of our day.
conference has as its theme:. the Environment and Communication, and given the
monumental changes in mankind's able to transmit and receive information in our
own generation, this consideration is not only appropriate, but necessary.
However, as Orthodox Christians, we cannot limit our considerations to only
technical advancements and opportunities. There are spiritual realities which undergird and support the
applications of our technological skill.
we must look to the life and mission of our Lord Jesus Christ to discover the
pattern, the typos, which enlightens
our efforts in any human endeavor, particularly in relation to mankind's
eucharistic role with the environment. As we are present today on this historic
and spiritually significant island of Halki, we are nevertheless aware that we are
surrounded by the waters of the sea, the Sea of Marmara.
And these waters are intimately connected to the larger ecosystems of the Black
Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Sea of Azov. Through the Black Sea,
we are connected to distant lands and societies. The Kuban, the Don, the
Dnieper, the Dniester and above all, the Danube all now into the Black Sea carrying not only fresh water but the excesses
of our post- industrial societies. The environmental consequences are obvious,
but the solutions are visually beyond the powers of our imagination.
We can use
computers to model scenarios of ecological process and destruction, and
we now have the ability to communicate instantly from any location the needs,
problems and consequences of one society on another. However, what model or
paradigm exists for employing all these
advantages? For this, we must return to the sea, but this time to another body
of water - the Sea
Eothinon Cycle of the Sunday Matins, there is a hymn, an exapostilarion, that is chanted as follows:
''By the Sea of Tiberias,
with the children of Zebedee, Nathaniel, Peter and two
others, with Thomas they went fishing; and then
commanded, upon the right they cast their net and drew out
a multitude of fish. Then knowing Him, Peter swam to
And He showed unto them both bread and
fish upon the coals in this, His third appearing.''
Indeed there are many levels of
meaning in the text that inspires this wonderful hymn; the waters may well
represent the psychodynamic infrastructure of a given believer, or indeed the
totality of the consciousness of humanity. But there is also the literal
meaning. The Disciples were simply fishing.
They had returned unto their boat and to their nets after the Resurrection of
Christ as if to say ‘Nothing has changed for us. We thought eat
Jesus would transform
everything overnight; but now it all seems to be fables and myths. Let us return to the life
we knew. Let us sail again on the waters of Galilee and cast our nets into the deep.’
Is it so hard for us to identify with
what they may have been feeling? How often does our own faith remain intangible
for us, unable to speak to the concrete realities we face every day? And so it
is with our very concrete concerns over
the environment. How can our Orthodox Christian Faith relate to the realities
of decreasing resources, over-industrialization and diminishing quality of
So is seems that there is indeed a problem of
communicating here, a sense of isolation of the practical utilization of the
material world from its spiritual meaning. And it is not only a question of
means, but of the very language we communicate in.Do we understand what we are
hearing or are we only passive observers of spiritual realities?
Before the Lord first called His
Disciples, He engaged their boat for His own teaching (St.
Luke 5:1-11). They heard His words, but did they understand them? Afterwards He
commanded them to set out into the deep and cast their nets. The Disciples
complained that they had labored all night and had caught nothing, but at His
word were willing to try again. We all know the end result. There were so many fish
that the nets tore, the boats began to sink and Simon Peter came to a profound
awareness of his own sinfulness and inadequacy -- so much so that he asked the
Lord to depart from him.
The person and the message of Christ
had come into their presence and their whole enterprise became transformed.
From a lack of fish to an abundance; from a capacity to competently manage that
abundance to a technological threshold; from a curious observer to profound
self- knowledge and humility - all these are the beginning of an understanding
of the intimate communion between the human person and the creation which can
only be mediated and communicated if we are persons in communion with God.
Although modern environmental concerns
are most certainly the Apostles' fishing problems writ very large, the principles apply in the same way. We can yet
discover from the Divine Person of our Savior and His Divine Teaching the
principles that will enable us as a society to provide the draught of fishes
for our own needs and that of others in our greater human family. The process
begins with communication.
For example, what are the lessons that
must be learned and transmitted between peoples to reverse the over-fishing and
destruction of the ecosystems of our oceans and seas? I stated before how even
the sea we are surrounded by today is interwoven with the life of so many other
great bodies of water, lands, cities, peoples. No matter whose study you read,
the results are the same; the biomass in these waders has been vastly and even
precariously depleted. Turbot, sprat, goby, ray, grey mullet, whiting, bonito
and hamsi, the Black
Sea anchovy, have we decreased in numbers alarmingly and in some
areas disappeared altogether. We are in grave danger of finding ourselves in
the same state as the Apostles, letting down our nets and coming up empty.
The communion of mankind and the
creation has been broken by greed, ignorance, waste and lack of mutual trust. If
we are to restore that communion and allow the creation to regain its normal
processes, we must begin with a reorientation of ourselves with the Creator. We
must begin again to be responsive to the word of the Lord and cease being
passive listeners. And this is indeed a continual effort on our part, for just
as the Lord found His Disciples laboring in vain at the beginning of His
earthly ministry, so He found then once again, even after His glorious
Thus it is that we find ourselves
''Tiveriados thalassa'' - ''ad mare Tiberias'' - ''by the sea of Tiberias''
-- where again the Lord beckons to His Disciples after a long night of vain
toiling. But this time there is an indescribable difference. This time, He is
risen from the dead! This time, the Disciples recognize His Godhead! This time,
Peter ignores both the command and the catch and swims for His Master! (Indeed,
he even forgets his walking on the waves.) This time, the nets do not tear!
This time, the boats do not sink! This time, the catch is ''full of great fishes
-- one hundred and fifty and three!” This time, the meal is prepared
beforehand, the Eucharist is revealed in the Bread and the Fish set out upon
the coals! This time indeed, Christ is risen from the dead and the mystery of His
presence in the world through Communion and our mediation of the world by our
communion with Him provides all of us for all time a paradigm for true
environmental stewardship and responsibility.
For it is in our communion with the
Risen Christ, achieved preeminently in the Holy and Divine Liturgy, that we
discover our rightful, proper, and responsible relationship to the material
world, of which we are both the foundation (inasmuch as we are dust) and the apex
(inasmuch as we are the crown of creation). The focus cannot be elsewhere. We
cannot enter into dialogue with each other, which is so essential if we are to
effectively communicate our environmental concerns, if we are not in dialogue
with God. The end of the story proves the point.
After this miraculous draught of fishes
and the Mysterious Super on of shores of Galilee,
the Lord engaged Peter in that famous dialogue of love, restoration and
''Simon, son of Jonas, dost
Thou love Me more than these?”
At the first catch Peter looked only inward
and was struck with the weight of his own sins. Now, he eagerly engages Christ;
he speaks and listens; he extends toward the Divine Other and protests his love
for his Master.
And the catch itself is not without
purpose. The nets which were not torn and the boat's ability to carry the load
prove that technology is not evil in itself. God gives us the means to harvest
the goods from His creation, but we must apply ourselves in accordance with His
will. The counting of the catch proves that we must manage our technology, and
not exploit the creation for only our own purposes. And most importantly, the
Meal which was prepared proves that the Eucharist supersedes our need for daily
bread. It is the Eucharist which provides the context for how we, as humans,
utilize and transform the material creation for the glory of God. In this context,
participation, economy, and equality dominate a model that provides that even
fragments be adored together, ''that none may be lost.”
So we are faced, my brothers and
sisters in Christ, with a decision to make. Are we to return to our homes from
this holy island after this conference, much like the Disciples did - to our
nets and our boats? Will there be no change in our perception of the spiritual
realities that underlie the problems we seek to find solutions for? Or will we
not look for Christ signaling us from the shore, commanding us to cast our nets
- to exercise our dominion over the earth -- in accordance with His will? And finally,
will we partake of that Mystical Meal prepared for us; in which He invites us
to the most intimate communion win Himself, preparing us for communion and
indeed true communication and dialogue with each other. May we ever answer His
summons. So be it. Amen.
- An Address Delivered at the Environmental Symposium Hosted By His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch BartholomewI at Holy Trinity Monastery, Halki (June 30, 1996)