Tag Archives: Ecumenical Patriarch

#600

When last I engaged in this milestone activity, I remarked that it had taken me more than a year to reach my first one hundred entries but that the days of such languid posting had long past. That was nearly six years ago. Six momentous years in which the finalization and elaboration of my academic credentials took precedence over my recreational thinking habits. I have returned now, after passing roughly five of those six years in total silence, to renew a habit that had long contributed to my sanity and allowed me to stimulate those dark corners of my intellectual interests unaddressed in my professional obligations. The cobwebs are still being dusted out of those corners, but I offer once again a digest and reminder (now primarily for myself and mostly without the rhetorical illusion of an audience) of engaging quotes gone by.

10) My five year hiatus here has been a period of relative good fortune for me. What constitutes relative good fortune? I found the perfect descriptor in a biography of Sakamoto Ryōma.

I must say that it’s beyond me the way things work out in a man’s life. Some fellows have such bad luck that they bang their privates on getting out of a bath tub and die as a result. When you compare my luck with that, it’s really remarkable.

9) Many things haven’t changed in the last six years, though I wish they would. I recently broke down the post-Parkland forum on guns, but the problem haunted us all long before that. Here is a much older (much sadder) account of gun advocates blaming eveconscientious objectors of World War IIrything but guns for school shootings.

Responding to the deadly mass shooting Friday in Newtown, Connecticut, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said new laws regulating guns won’t deter such shootings, linking a lack of religious discussion in the classroom to increased violence in schools.

“We ask why there’s violence in our school but we’ve systematically removed God from our schools,” Huckabee said on Fox News. “Should we be so surprised that schools have become such a place of carnage? Because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability.”

8) I very recently outlined the predicted death of conservatism in the Republican party, a post which inadvertently harkened back to an earlier set of comments on the demise of American Christianity and the demise of sensationalism respectively. None of these things has truly met its end, of course, but that doesn’t seem to stop people from predicting radical change. Here is Edward P. Gates on how the news would naturally sate the public’s desire for graphic reporting and find a natural, respectable equilibrium.

In the case of the printing of the details of the Snyder-Gray murder trial, about which there have been numerous protests, I think the press is justified in doing so for the reason that the public obviously demands this type of news. By doing this the press will eventually nauseate the public on sordid cases of this sort, and the public taste will automatically right itself and demand less sensational stories.

7) A recent bit of horticultural history provided me the opportunity to revel in one of my favorite past times: amusing myself at the expense of history. It’s a far from self-congratulatory activity, as it is always intended to check our own certainty with regard to our “scientific” knowledge and sure grasp of the universe. Here, from the Christian Standard, is another nineteenth century observation that tickled my fancy some years ago.

We are apparently on the climax—which arrives in 1882—of a cycle of epidemics, which coincides with the sun spots of some eleven years and a fraction. As he argues, it is a time of great disturbances in temperatures, etc….After a carefully prepared table of the great epidemics known in history, which are shown to correspond very clearly with the semi-changes, he concludes: “…[A]ll these strange natural phenomena which we have seen to have been observed in all ages as the forerunners or accompaniments of epidemics are now known to depend on, or at least to coincide with, the changes of solar energy corresponding with the sun spot cycle. Here is certainly the post hoc; shall we not admit the propter hoc?”

6) One of the key benefits of this platform has been to allow me to mark the important holidays of the calendar, keeping me focused in spite of (or thanks to) the passage of time. This has been most common with Lent and the Paschal feast, but here is an old message from Archbishop Demetrios offered to prepare our minds for the Nativity.

This is a feast of hope because through it we see all that has been accomplished, and we are given a glimpse of what is to come. This Feast of the Nativity of our Lord affirms for each one of us that we can have hope and joy in any of the circumstances and conditions of life—hope in the transformation of our lives through faith and hope in the power of God’s love.

5) Again, in connection with Christmas, the Ecumenical Patriarch declared that 2013 would be the “Year of Global Solidarity,” in which the nations of the world would work together to advance global peace. Like the more recent International Day of Peace, I was skeptical about the optimistic outlook of the Ecumenical Patriarch. Even so, his sentiments deserve to be repeated, less as a prediction of international behavior than as an indictment of it.

As your spiritual father and church leader, we ask for the support of all persons and governments of good will in order that we may realize the Lord’s peace on earth – the peace announced by the angels and granted by the infant Jesus. If we truly desire this peace, which transcends all understanding, we are obliged to pursue it palpably instead of being indifferent to the spiritual and material vulnerability of our brothers and sisters, for whom Christ was born.

4) Though he recently made a surprise re-appearance in a discussion of the changing nature of conservative politics, back in 2012 Mitt Romney was (unsurprisingly) a regular figure in the news and a somewhat regular character here. After his failure to unseat Barack Obama, I shared this Mormon prophecy from the 1860s about how Mormons would rescue the American Republic. It includes the following description of a virtuous president, something that should give contemporary Mormons pause as they evaluate their support for the current administration.

The people should concentrate their feelings, their influence, and their faith to select the best man they can find to be their President…He should understand what administrative policy would be most beneficial to the nation. He should also have the knowledge and disposition to wisely exercise the appointing power, so far as it is constitutionally within his control, and select only good and capable men for the office. He should not only carry out the legal and just wishes of his constituents, but should be able to enlighten their understanding and correct their judgment. And all good officers in a truly republican administration will constantly labor for the security of the rights of all, irrespective of sect or party.

3) Back in 2012, Republicans and Democrats were engaged in what seemed at the time to be particularly partisan bickering over the “fiscal cliff,” and I offered the following musing from David Lipscomb on the nature of politics. It seems almost quaint now to talk about the petty partisan-ness of 2012, but I stand by my final conclusion that while party alignments have changed since Lipscomb wrote, the nature of politics has not.

The staple of Northern politics is abuse of the South, of the Democratic party and men. The staple of Southern politics is abuse of the North, and the Republican party and men. Now, if all were to unite in abusing Mexico and its President, or were they to take in Mexico, and with it, all unite in baying the man in the moon, and vent their spite and spleen upon him, they would be just as happy, as free, as wealthy, as they are now in abusing each other.

There is not and never has been any principle involving the moral or material good of the people in politics.

2) I recently took the opportunity to draw attention to the conscientious objectors of World War I and their lives at the work camps established to direct their pacifist energies to nationalist ends. In doing so, I stress how simple belief in simple doctrines can yield profoundly radical results. The same point was made with equal clarity in an earlier series on the Many Faces of Dorothy Day. She offers this thought on the pure faith of children.

Children look at things very directly and simply. I did not see anyone taking off his coat and giving it to the poor. I didn’t see anyone having a banquet and calling in the lame, the halt and the blind. And those who were doing it, like the Salvation Army, did not appeal to me. I wanted, though I did not know it then, a synthesis. I wanted life and I wanted the abundant life. I wanted it for others too. I did not want just the few, the missionary-minded people like the Salvation Army, to be kind to the poor, as the poor. I wanted everyone to be kind. I wanted every home to be open to the lame, the halt and the blind, the way it had been after the San Francisco earthquake. Only then did people really live, really love their brothers. In such love was the abundant life and I did not have the slightest idea how to find it.

1) One tradition to which I have not yet returned since restarting my efforts here has been to track the important cow news of the day, a longtime fascination of mine. Thankfully, I can still turn to old stories for inspiration. Here’s one about Archie the bull, who at 30 inches tall as at the time the world shortest bull. He was apparently too cute to eat.

“When we bought Archie he was destined for beef,” [Ryan Lavery, 15,] explained.

“However, by Christmas time, he still hadn’t grown and because we had become so fond of him we decided to keep him.

“His size saved him and now he’s going to live out the rest of his life as a pet.

And with that, I return once more to crying out into the chasmic emptiness of the Internet in the hope that it will continue to be both stimulation and catharsis.

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Two Men Go to Church Together: What Could it Mean?

Big things continue to happen in the Orthodox world, this time less comic and more significant than the Russian equivalents of Westboro Baptists demanding Alaska back. For the first time in nearly a millennia, the Ecumenical Patriarch will Catholic Mass for the installation of the new bishop of Rome:

The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople will be present for the installation mass for Pope Francis on Tuesday. This is the first time an Ecumenical Patriarch has been present for this Catholic mass since the Great Schism of 1054, when the Eastern and Western Church cut ties with one another.

In an interview with a television network in Istanbul, Turkey, Bartholomew explained that the decision to attend was a gesture to showcase improving relations between the two Ancient Churches.

“It is a gesture to underline relations which have been developing over the recent years and to express my wish that our friendly ties flourish even more during this new era,” said Bartholomew.

Other faith leaders, including other Orthodox Church officials, are expected as well. Metropolitan Tikhon, the head of the Orthodox Church in America, will be present. The Russian Orthodox Church’s Patriarch will be sending his envoy.

Archpriest Leonid Kishkovsky, chairman of the Department of External Affairs and Interchurch Relations for The Orthodox Church in America, told The Christian Post that the attendance was “a significant gesture.”

Fr. Kishkovsky’s cool diplomacy probably rightly touches the limits of reasonable optimism, but who wants to be reasonable when the irrational optimism is boundless? It is hard not to be hopeful that such a substantial gesture is not the beginning of a quickening toward communion, toward the greatest stride toward Christian unity since…well since Christians started fracturing in earnest in the fourth century. Can you imagine the implications of the Catholics and Orthodox reestablishing communion? Neither can I. Of course, Kishkovsky is probably right when he says that union is “not in prospect at this time,” but I confess I have never wanted a priest to be so wrong since the sixth century condemnation of Origen’s doctrine of apocatastasis.

Fingers crossed.

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An Unexpected Benediction

Go with God, Pope Benedict.

This is undoubtedly the biggest religious news in a long time, and, much to my unceasing shame, I can think of nothing substantial to contribute to the discussion. I can only reiterate the commonsense observation that has been made at least since the death of John Paul II, namely that the papacy no longer reflects the largest and most vibrant Catholic constituencies. It seems that the primary discussion in the wake of Benedict’s announcement has been whether or not the papacy will remain Germanic or return to Italian dominance. Never mind that Europe represents a radical minority of stereotypically nominal Catholics in the global picture.

As to the frequent and melodramatically dire warning that the election of a “third world” pope might bring about a conservative backlash that could undermine Vatican II, of course it could. But this reflects precisely the same problem as minority domination of the papacy: the guiding vision of a liberalizing strand of Catholicism which predominates in the West is foisted upon the majority of Catholics who may or may not share that vision. The papacy ought to reflect the Catholic Church, both through continuity with its honored traditions and through representation of the needs of the parishioners.

(Of course, in truth, my biggest hope is that whoever is elected will be someone willing to work closely for the bettering of relations between the papacy and the patriarchate in Constantinople. Fingers crossed.)

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Patriarch Calls for World Peace in 2013

In his recent Christmas Encyclical, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has declared 2013 to be a “Year of Global Solidarity” in which he hopes that the powers that be in the world will make strides toward global peace and the eradication of hunger. While I lack the optimism of the Ecumenical Patriarch with regard to wold governments, I cannot help but applaud his sentiments and, more importantly, his audacity. Ours is, after all, a radical hope for a true ideal, one which we must pursue even in the certainty that our efforts will fail.

Let us rejoice in gladness for the ineffable condescension of God.The angels precede us singing: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will among all people.”

Yet, on earth we behold and experience wars and threats of wars. Still, the joyful announcement is in no way annulled. Peace has truly come to earth through reconciliation between God and people in the person of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, however, we human beings have not been reconciled, despite God’s sacred will. We retain a hateful disposition for one another. We discriminate against one another by means of fanaticism with regard to religious and political convictions, by means of greed in the acquisition of material goods, and through expansionism in the exercise of political power. These are the reasons why we come into conflict with one another…

This is why, from this sacred See and Center of Orthodoxy, we proclaim the impending new year as the Year of Global Solidarity.

It is our hope that in this way we may be able to sensitize sufficient hearts among humankind regarding the immense and extensive problem of poverty and the need to assume the necessary measures to comfort the hungry and misfortunate.

As your spiritual father and church leader, we ask for the support of all persons and governments of good will in order that we may realize the Lord’s peace on earth – the peace announced by the angels and granted by the infant Jesus. If we truly desire this peace, which transcends all understanding, we are obliged to pursue it palpably instead of being indifferent to the spiritual and material vulnerability of our brothers and sisters, for whom Christ was born…

We hope earnestly and pray fervently that the dawning 2013 will be for everyone a year of global solidarity, freedom, reconciliation, good will, peace and joy. May the pre-eternal Word of the Father, who was born in a manger, who united angels and human beings into one order, establishing peace on earth, grant to all people patience, hope and strength, while blessing the world with the divine gifts of His love. Amen.

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#400

Once upon a time, I believed reaching one hundred posts was a momentous occasion, one so memorable that I would want to do something, for myself, to mark it.  The commemoration has become a personal tradition, and so, on this my four hundredth post, I offer you once again my favorite ten quotes from the previous ninety-nine posts.

10) An interview on Talking Philosophy with Alain de Botton proved to be my most interesting interaction with any atheist thinkers in the past hundred posts.  His thoughts pointed to dangers in atheistic thinking and proposed, in deliberate critique of New Atheists, various senses in which religion was a good thing, even as an atheist.  From Leading Atheist on What’s Wrong with Atheism:

Attempting to prove the non-existence of god can be entertaining…Though this exercise has its satisfactions, the real issue is not whether god exists or not, but where one takes the argument to once one decides that he evidently doesn’t. The premise of my book is that it must be possible to remain a committed atheist and nevertheless to find religions sporadically useful, interesting and consoling – and be curious as to the possibilities of importing certain of their ideas and practices into the secular realm.

9) I am deeply enamored of the thought of Eugene Genovese, a fact which will probably become evident over the next few weeks.  In a criticism of southern support for American imperialism, I quoted Genovese, among others, to demonstrate the hypocrisy of Imperialism in the Imperialized South:

The history of the Old South is now often taught at leading universities, when it is taught at all, as a prolonged guilt-trip, not to say a prologue to the history of Nazi Germany…To speak positively about any part of this southern tradition is to invite charges of being a racist and an apologist for slavery and segregation. We are witnessing a cultural and political atrocity – an increasingly successful campaign by the media and an academic elite to strip young white southerners and arguably black southerners as well, of their heritage, and, therefore, their identity.

8) Of the critical series I have written in this cycle, the one I most enjoyed researching and producing was my exposition of complementarianism in response to Roger Olson.  The great quote, on the other hand, likely came from the Founding Father’s series.  In Illusions of Innocence, I applied Richard T. Hughes and Leonerd Allen’s thesis about primitivism in American Protestantism and applied it to American political primitivism.  To conclude, I quoted their evaluation of Roger Williams primitivist thought, a historically unsustainable but ideologically more appealing variety:

For Williams, the radical finitude of human existence, entailing inevitable failures in understanding and action, makes restoration of necessity an open-ended concept. The absolute, universal ideal existed for Williams without question. But the gap between the universal and the particular, between the absolute and the finite, was so great that it precluded any one-on-one identification of the particular with the universal…the best one could do was approximate the universal, an approximation that occurred only through a diligent search for truth.

7) Though most of the series on Christianity and Jain occurred earlier, the day after the three hundredth post, I added to the comparative study Christ, Jain, and Mutual Forgiveness.  Here is some wisdom from Mahavira on the subject:

If, during the retreat, among monks or nuns occurs a quarrel or dispute or dissension, the young monk should ask forgiveness of the superior, and the superior of the young monk. They should forgive and ask forgiveness, appease and be appeased, and converse without restraint.

6) Long overdue, I finally shared a selection of quotes in The Wisdom of the Pilgrim connecting my longstanding love of fourteenth century hesychasm with a more recent text:

[O]ne of the most lamentable things is the vanity of elementary knowledge which drives people to measure the Divine by a human yardstick.

5) For Easter–that is East Easter not West Easter–I shared a few notes from the Ecumenical Patriarch about the meaning of life in Christ made possible by his death and resurrection and the destructive attempts of people to secure life apart from him.  From Christos Anesti!:

There is no need for some nations to be destroyed in order for other nations to survive. Nor is there any need to destroy defenseless human lives so that other human beings may live in greater comfort. Christ offers life to all people, on earth as in heaven. He is risen, and all those who so desire life may follow Him on the way of Resurrection. By contrast, all those who bring about death, whether indirectly or directly, believing that in this way they are prolonging or enhancing their own life, condemn themselves to eternal death.

4) Buried deep in the recesses of a response to a Fox News article, Invade Iran (et al) for Christ!, is perhaps one of my favorite short quotes from any of the early church fathers.  Here is Justin Martyr’s response to persecution:

You can kill us, but you can’t hurt us.

3) Of all the wonderful cow stories–and I had options this time around–that have been shared here throughout the years, none had me more excited than finding an archival story about Grady, the cow who got stuck in a silo and captured the imagination of a nation.  On This Day in Cow History celebrated her generations old story, and its very happy ending:

What’s in store for Grady? “Well, I believe she’s earned peace and quiet the rest of her life,” Mach [her owner] said. “She’s had more excitement than most cows.”

2) My commentary on J. W. McGarvey’s sermons offered throughout the month of his birth was littered with excellent quotes.  McGarvey was, however, perhaps most poetic and profound when he recorded his thoughts On Prayer:

If God was a God who did not hear our prayers, or care anything about our prayers, He might as well be made of ice. He is a living God; a God who has friends, and loves His friends; and this is the reason that He will do something for them when they cry to Him. Don’t think of God as mere abstraction, or as a being who keeps Himself beyond the sky; but think of Him as one who lives with you, who is round about you, who lays His hand under your head when you lie down to rest. So in praying, pray with the confidence of little children…Pray in the morning; pray at the noontide; pray when you lie down to sleep…Pray often; pray earnestly; and in order that your prayer may amount to anything, be righteous men and women.

1) The Anarchy in May series is perhaps the most fun I have ever had here, and selecting a single quote from a month of my favorite thinkers is exceedingly difficult.  More than anything, this selection from Tolstoy on Moral Culpability, is appropriate because of Tolstoy’s preeminent place in the history of anarchism:

[W]e are responsible for our own misdeeds. And the misdeeds of our rulers become our own, if we, knowing that they are misdeeds, assist in carrying, them out. Those who suppose that they are bound to obey the government, and that the responsibility for the misdeeds they commit is transferred from them to their rulers, deceive themselves.

I can only hope that the next hundred posts flow as easily and are as much fun to write as the last hundred were.

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Christos Anesti!

With all the eggs found, all the chocolate bunnies devoured, and all the peeps microwaved, most of us have allowed the resurrection of Christ to pass from our minds (if it was ever there at all). It would benefit Western Christians, however, to remember that there are still hundreds of millions of Christians around the world who are celebrating the central moment in the Christian narrative today. Let me offer, for your consideration, a selection from the paschal encyclical of the Ecumenical Patriarch:

If Christ’s Resurrection referred to Himself, then its significance for us would be negligible. The Church proclaims, however, that, the Lord did not arise alone. Together with Himself, He also resurrected all people. This is how our predecessor, St. John Chrysostom, proclaims this great truth in thunderous language: “Christ is risen, and none are left dead in the grave; for in being raised from the dead, he became the first-fruits of all who were asleep.” This means that Christ became the first-fruits of the resurrection of all who have fallen asleep and who will fall asleep in the future, as well as of their transition from death to life. The message is a joyful one for us all because, with His Resurrection Christ abolished the power of death. Those who believe in Him await the resurrection of the dead and are accordingly baptized in His death, rise with Him and live on in life eternal.

The world that is alienated from Christ endeavors to amass material goods because it bases its hopes for survival on them. It unwisely imagines that it will escape death through wealth. Deceived in this way to amass wealth, supposedly to extend their present life, human beings disperse death among others, too. They deny others the financial possibility of survival, often even violently depriving others of life, in the hope of preserving their own life.

How tragic! What a huge deception. For life is only acquired through faith in Christ and incorporation in His body…This means that it is no longer necessary to search for the “fountain of immortality.” Immortality exists in Christ and is offered by Him to all.

There is no need for some nations to be destroyed in order for other nations to survive. Nor is there any need to destroy defenseless human lives so that other human beings may live in greater comfort. Christ offers life to all people, on earth as in heaven. He is risen, and all those who so desire life may follow Him on the way of Resurrection. By contrast, all those who bring about death, whether indirectly or directly, believing that in this way they are prolonging or enhancing their own life, condemn themselves to eternal death.

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2011 Patriarchal Christmas Encyclical

The Ecumenical Patriarch has issued his 2011 encyclical for the Feast of the Nativity. While the whole letter merits reading, here is a brief segment to whet the appetite:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among all.”
(Luke 2.14-15)

Beloved brothers and sisters, children in the Lord,

The angels chant these three majestic proclamations and yet the great majority of human beings, although celebrating the feast of Christmas, cannot perceive the significance of the angelic song, instead asking themselves whether God is truly glorified today or why God should even be glorified; where can one discern on earth the peace that is announced, and why should contemporary humanity live with good will?

…How can we speak of peace on earth when almost half of the planet finds itself either in the act of or in preparation for war? The sweet tone of the angelic proclamation regarding “peace on earth” is of course primarily a divine pledge that, if people adhere to the way indicated by the new-born Child, they will acquire internal peace and peaceful coexistence. But, alas, most people are moved and drawn by the cymbals of war, ignoring the sound of the pledge for peace on earth. We are not referring here to those who passionately support the use of weapons, but especially to those who transform gentle competition to unequal conflict, seeking the annihilation of any opposition. In this respect, war is experienced as reality among members of rival social groups and parties of all kinds – whether racial, political, partisan, financial, ideological, religious, athletic or any other kind, where the intense mindset of members is converted into militant rather than peaceful. However, this does not refute the truth proclaimed by the Angels, that – through the Nativity of Christ and the acceptance of His teachings – peace will indeed prevail on earth. Christ came bearing peace; and if His peace does not prevail in the world, then responsibility lies with those who fail to accept and embrace this peace, not with the God who grants it.

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Happy Green New Year!

At the initiative of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, September 1st–in addition to being the first day of the liturgical year–has been declared a day to prayer for the environment. The so-called “Green Patriarch” has issued an encyclical chastising humanity for its “extreme exploitation” of the environment and linking environmental failures with spiritual short-comings:

Therefore, today, we praise the holy name of God for granting to humanity the gift of nature, which he preserves and sustains, as the most suitable environment for human beings to develop in body and spirit. A the same time, we cannot remain silent about the fact that humanity does not properly honor this divine gift and instead destroys the environment through greed and other selfish ambitions…After all this, it is clear that our good relationship with the environment develops parallel to our proper relationship with God.

Meanwhile, in Japan, the dolphin hunting season is set to begin, sparking worldwide controversy and protest.

Today is as good a day as any to remind Christians that the human thirst for violence extends beyond merely our lust for war. We do violence to God’s order when we allow greed, self-indulgence, or apathy to govern the way we interact with His creation. He made this world to be inhabited and governed by humanity, not to be consumed by it. The patriarch rightly notes the parallel between the rise of our consumer society and the advent of large scale ecological violence. Christians have an ethical and social duty to stand as an ordained alternative to a culture which in the same breath deifies the natural world through its materialism and destroys it through its consumerism. Christians ought to be at the ideological forefront of environmentalism. Neither the church nor the environment can afford for that to be ignored.

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Patriarch Bartholomew on Fukushima

This is a couple weeks dated at this point, but it is nonetheless important to disseminate. The Ecumenical Patriarch has issued a statement regarding the nuclear disaster at Fukushima. In it, he offers a standard message of condolence and support for the people of Japan. He also takes the disaster as an opportunity to remind us all that the way we interact with God’s world has and will continue to complicate and intensify the ramifications of already cataclysmic events. Here is a portion of what the Ecumenical Patriarch had to say:

The disastrous ramifications of this event will become more evident over the next days. Of course, with regard to the earthquake, no human response is adequate. The causes and results eclipse human words. Nevertheless, with regard to the explosion of the nuclear reactor and the aftermath of a nuclear adversity, there is indeed a response that we are called to make. With all due respect to the science and technology of nuclear energy and for the sake of the survival of the human race, we counter-propose the safer green forms of energy, which both moderately preserve our natural resources and mindfully serve our human needs.

Our Creator granted us the gifts of the sun, wind, water and ocean, all of which may safely and sufficiently provide energy. Ecologically-friendly science and technology has discovered ways and means of producing sustainable forms of energy for our ecosystem. Therefore, we ask: Why do we persist in adopting such dangerous sources of energy? Are we so arrogant as to compete with and exploit nature?

I do not know that I agree with everything he has to say and I certainly do not like the way he has phrased some things, but the Ecumenical Patriarch does Christians a service in reminding us that we have a comprehensive duty to work for God on behalf of creation and with creation.

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Patriarchal Homily for Lent

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has issued his 2011 Catechetical Homily on the opening of Holy and Great Lent. In it, he reminds us that while Lent may seem toilsome, the pursuit of God becomes a delight to those who undertake it wholeheartedly and persistently:

Of course, focusing the intellect on the work of knowing God, in order to return it from passionate dispersion, comprises a toilsome and time-consuming labor. However, it is necessary and definitive for our spiritual wellbeing and social life. The way of virtue appears difficult and extremely unpleasant to those who undertake the journey; yet, not because it is actually like this, but because human nature has become accustomed to the ease of pleasure. For those who have succeeded in reaching the middle of this journey, in fact it appears pleasant and effortless.

The whole homily is a quick and pleasant read. I encourage everyone to go look at it. If nothing else, however, you should take this exhortation–which the Patriarch closes with–to heart and share it with other Christians around you who you know are undertaking Lenten fasts:

Beloved children in the Lord, upon entering the arena of Holy and Great Lent, we paternally exhort you not to be afraid or lazy in assuming the most important task of your life, namely the spiritual arena of work. Instead, be courageous and strong, so that you may purify your souls and bodies of all sin in order to reach the Kingdom of God, which is granted already from this life to those who seek it with sincerity and with all their soul.

May the grace of God and His boundless mercy be with you all.

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