"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 Christ!

With deep 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.

The current 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.

As ever, 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 of Tiberias.

In the 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
as Christ commanded, upon the right they cast their net and drew out a multitude of  fish. Then knowing Him, Peter swam to Him.
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 life?

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 Resurrection.

 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 forgiveness.

                   ''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)