September 1 marks the beginning of the ecclesiastical year. And it was on this day in 1989 that His All-Holiness, the late Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios I, issued a message on the environment marking the first annual “Day of Prayer for Creation.”
Since that time, messages on the care of God’s creation have been issued each year by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This year’s message was recently released by His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.
“The ecological culture of the Orthodox faith is the realization of its Eucharistic vision of creation, summarized and expressed in its church life and practice,” writes Patriarch Bartholomew in this year’s message. “This is the Orthodox Church’s eternal message on the issue of ecology. The Church preaches and proclaims ‘the same things’ ‘at all times’ in accordance with the unassailable words of its Founder and Leader, that ‘heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” [Luke 21:33].
His All-Holiness, calling upon the faithful to “realize that the protection of the natural environment is the spiritual responsibility of each and every one of us,” goes on to state that “the burning issue of climate change, along with its causes and consequences for our planet and everyday life, offer an opportunity to engage in dialogue based on principles of theological ecology, but also an occasion for specific practical endeavors. It is vitally important that you emphasize action at the local level. The parish constitutes the cell of church life as the place of personal presence and witness, communication and collaboration — a living community of worship and service.
“Special attention must also be directed to the organization of Christ-centered educational programs for our youth in order to cultivate an ecological ethos,” Patriarch Bartholomew continues. “Ecclesiastical instruction must instill in their souls a respect for creation as ‘very good’ [Genesis 1:26], encouraging them to advocate and advance creation care and protection, the liberating truth of simplicity and frugality, as well as the Eucharistic and ascetic ethos of sharing and sacrifice.”
In related news, the Department of Inter-Orthodox, Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has recently released a “Creation Care Toolkit” to help parishes and individuals take immediate action to care for God’s Creation. The Toolkit provides a wealth of Church School lesson plans, videos, articles, Vespers and more for local use.
A number of resources are also available on the web site of the Orthodox Church in America. Produced by the OCA’s Departments of Christian Education, Christian Service and Humanitarian Aid, and Youth, Young Adult and Campus Ministry, these resources are especially recommended for use in parish education programs.
Among them are the following.
- The Earth is the Lord’s: A Five Session Study Guide on Caring for God’s Creation.
- An Orthodox Christian Perspective on Ecological Justice and Change.
- Delighting in God’s Creation.
- And God Saw That It Was Good.
- Can You Hear the Beauty of Nature?.
- Sanctify the Waters.
- Ten Green Projects Any Parish Can Adopt.
- A Creation Celebration: Building an Awareness of God’s Gift of Creation in the Church School.
Additional resources include “Creation, Wonder and Ecology”, and “Orthodox Perspectives on Creation”, which features extracts from the report of the WCC’s October 1987 Inter-Orthodox Consultation in Sofia, Bulgaria. Numerous resources are also available from the Orthodox Fellowship of the Transfiguration.