My wife and I attended the Liturgy at the Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of St. John the Baptist in the depths of rural Essex yesterday. It was our second visit with our friend Olivera. I would describe it less as a service of worship in the way that most Catholics and Protestants would understand it, more as an intimate drama in the round acted by monks and priests in the midst of the audience. Since most of the Liturgy is in Greek, there is plenty of time for reflection.
In the book shop afterwards I picked up a copy of Encounter, by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh. Flicking through, I came across the following paragraph, from an address given at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Dormition and All Saints in 1991. Rather than buy the book, I took a picture of the page:
We are ever more conscious of the necessity of preserving nature and preventing the destruction of animal and plant species, which has recently reached a frightening scale. In connection with this the word ‘crisis’ is used. ‘Crisis’ is a Greek word, which means, literally, judgement. A critical moment is one when all that has passed is put in question. it is very important to see a crisis as a judgement. This could be God’s judgement on us. it could be Nature’s judgement on us, a moment when Nature with indignation and outrage refuses to co-operate with us. It also could be that moment when we judge ourselves – and in many cases condemn ourselves. The question as to what we have done to our earth in the last half century is placed before our conscience. The question is not one of what is profitable to us – that the earth should be fruitful and that everything in it should be at its best – but is one of our moral responsibility before the world, created by God for love and with love, a world which He called to be in communion with Him.
Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh, Encounter, 125
It seems to me that the church should have the prophetic conviction to say, thoughtfully and self-critically, that whatever the scope and shape of the environmental crisis that we are facing, it has the theological dimensions of divine judgment. Our task is not merely to sound the alarm – there are plenty of scientists and campaigners out there who are doing that. Our task is to connect the environmental narrative with the biblical story of a creator whose patience may be running out with a global culture of reckless consumption. Orthodoxy has a much stronger grasp of the centrality of the creation motif in the biblical story than other traditions, which no doubt is a significant factor in its current appeal to dissatisfied Protestants.