John Breck: ‘By His Passion He Might Purify the Water’

theophanyToday I was researching the creation care teachings that will likely undergird Pope Francis’ forthcoming encyclical on climate change. I found this epiphany reflection by Orthodox Father John Breck.

The deep wisdom in the Eastern church reminds us of the distinctives that Christians bring to our relationship with God’s creation. We do not recognize the earth as a god in herself. We do not believe that the earth is more holy or more perfect than humans. We do believe that both earth and human communities are “fallen” or “in the far country” (as Meiser Eckhart puts it). Our human call to fidelity with creation is so much more than that of caretaker or steward or even pastor or priest. We are family (creaturely together) striving to find our way home.–Rose

Here’s an excerpt from Breck’s reflection on theophany (when God becomes visible) and water:

“… There is another aspect of Theophany that also needs to be stressed, today perhaps more than ever before. This is a motif that appears very clearly in icons of the feast but goes unmentioned in the Gospels. Its earliest formulation seems to be that of St Ignatius of Antioch, who died as a martyr in Rome between 110 and 117 AD. In his letter to the Ephesians (ch. 18), Ignatius makes a statement notoriously difficult to translate: “Our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary according to the plan (oikonomian) of God from the seed of David [cf. Rom 1:3] and [by] the Holy Spirit; he was born and was baptized so that by the passion (tô pathei) he might purify the water.”

Without going into the difficulties presented by the language of this verse, we can note its basic theme. It is the same as depicted in icons and liturgical hymns of the Theophany feast. Christ descends into the waters of the Jordan not only to submit himself to the hands of John and to lay the foundation for the sacramental act of baptism. He also goes down into the Jordan in order to purify or sanctify those waters, and in so doing he symbolically (really, through this sign-act) sanctifies all of creation.

Theophany celebrates the baptismal renewal of God’s people, members of the Body of Christ. But it also provides the perspective we are to assume with regard to the entire created world. Stated otherwise, it provides the foundation for a genuinely Christian “ecology.”

Elizabeth Theokritoff has written a book entitled, Living in God’s Creation, with the subtitle “The Ecological Vision of Orthodox Christianity.” The author points out that our relation to the created world is less that of “steward” than it is of priest. We are called not only to preserve and care for the created order. Our vocation relative to the world we live in, both natural and human, is to make of it an offering to God, with the ongoing supplication that he bless, restore and make fruitful this planet over which he has granted us dominion. That dominion implies responsibility and respect toward all living things. But it means, too, that we recognize the “fallenness” of creation and its need for restoration, even redemption (Rom 8:18-23). …”–Father John Breck, Sanctify the Waters (Epiphany 2015)

October 4: Francis of Assisi

October 4 is the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, il poverello, the poor one, whose voice in the newly emerging mercantile class of the 13th century warned of the greed and corruption and destitution that would come when the world was run more on profit for the rich than it was on a prophetic commitment to the poor. And he was right.

But Francis was known for more than protests.

Francis loved animals, too. He was a walking apostle for ecology and the protection of woodlands, which, having been destroyed for parking lots and housing estates, leave animals who once lived in caves and forests to spill over into our largest cities. He talked to the animals. He understood them. He knew their place in creation.

No doubt about it. In a world where species after species is disappearing under the rubric of “progress,” where animals are being used for research on materials and cosmetics, where the boundaries between forests and cities are fast disappearing, where bears show up in shopping districts of major cities and crocodiles show up on people’s front lawns, we need St. Francis now.

It is also becoming clear that Francis knew what we are only now discovering.

Continue reading “October 4: Francis of Assisi”

Christian Peacemaker Art Gish Dies at 70

Christian Peacemaker Art Gish with flock in Hebron.

As news spreads of the tragic death of Art Gish, world-renowned Christian peacemaker, in a farming accident near Athens, Ohio, more memories and reflections are pouring in. (See yesterday’s post for more.)

“He has been an inspiration to me for more than 36 years.”–Dale in Melbourne, Australia

“Have spent hours, days with him and I have never heard a harsh personal word towards anyone only love and deep concern. Now I have heard him seriously criticize the violent policies and actions of governments and individuals supporting those governments but never personal attacks on anyone.”–Kathleen

The Athens News ran a story on Art in their later edition that gives more details on his death and life:

Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly reported that Gish was disking a field on a tractor at his Amesville area farm around 9:30 a.m., when he apparently drove too close to the sloped edge, flipped the tractor over and was trapped underneath. The vehicle caught fire, and Gish perished in the blaze, Kelly said. The Amesville Fire Department and SEOEMS responded, as well as the sheriff’s department.

The Mennonite Publishing Network, which distributes two of Gish’s books about his work in the Middle East, said he had been active in peace and social justice work for the past 50 years, beginning with his work as a conscientious objector with Brethren Volunteer Service in Europe from 1958-60.

He also worked in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and had been actively involved in opposing U.S. wars abroad since his youth. He had worked with Christian Peacemaker Teams in the Middle East since 1995.

Both Gish, 70, and his wife, Peggy, of 13206 Dutch Creek Road, have been well-known figures in Athens’ progressive community. Peggy Gish, who is currently in Iraq, also made repeated trips to the Middle East to work with Christian Peacemaker Teams there.

On a regular basis, one or both of the Gishes could be found with a few other people standing on Court Street outside the Athens County Courthouse, holding signs calling for peace, in a weekly lunch hour vigil.

He also was a regular fixture at the Athens Farmers Market, where he sold organic produce and other goods from his farm.

Over the years, Gish submitted dozens of letters to the editor to The Athens NEWS and other local newspapers on peace and justice issues, as well as religion and morality. He repeatedly placed first in the reader-nominated Athens NEWS Best of Athens awards, as “Best Leading Citizen.”

Gish gained worldwide attention in 2003, when the Associated Press distributed a photo of him defying an Israeli tank, to try to block it from destroying a Palestinian market in Hebron.

Read the whole Athens News story here. To learn more about Art, read his books:

Beyond the Rat Race
Living in Christian Community
Hebron Journal: Stories of Nonviolent Peacemaking
At-Tuwani Journal: Hope and Nonviolent Action in a Palestinian Village

Tevyn East: ‘A Lament for the Cedars of Lebanon’

CHed & Elaine, 6-04Friend and favorite theologian-artist Ched Myers (right) has been working with choreographer Tevyn East on collaborative projects around Ched’s work on Genesis and deep ecology.

A Lament for the Cedars of Lebanon is rough cut of some of their work together. Brian Wimer, a filmmaker in Charlottesville, Virginia, donated his time to construct this video below.

More of Tevyn and Ched’s work together can be found at The Affording Hope Project.

Affording Hope Project from Brian Wimer on Vimeo.

Is It Time to ‘Green’ Your Sex Life?

[Warning: Frank talk about sex stuff.]

Sustainably grown mahogany sex enhancer
Sustainably grown mahogany sex enhancer

The October 26, 2009,  Time magazine ran Kathleen Kingsbury’s article titled Sex and the Eco-City. Who knew that “green” creep had made it into the bedroom? Kingsbury describes a market of organic lubricants, biodegradable whips and handcuffs, vegan condoms, and glass or mahogany vibrators (even hand-crankable models, eliminating the need for batteries).

To top it off, some Catholic church folks have incorporated these green concepts into their teaching on Natural Family Planning! NFP is now the “back-to-nature” method of birth control. As the old Catholic joke goes: What do you call couples who practices NPF? Answer: Parents.

Here’s an excerpt from Kingsbury’s article:

As the green movement makes its way into the bedroom, low lighting is a must–to conserve electricity–but so are vegan condoms, organic lubricants and hand-cranked vibrators.  Another big enviro-sex trend: birth control that’s au naturel.

Like all good Catholics, my husband and I had to attend church-run marriage prep before we tied the knot last year. I was surprised, however, during the hard sell on natural family-planning (NFP), that this updated version of the rhythm method was being advertised not only as morally correct but also as “organic” and “green.” I was even more surprised when I found out that some of the most popular instructors of NFP–known in secular circles as the Fertility Awareness Method–are non-Catholics who praise it as a means of avoiding both ingesting chemicals and excreting them into rivers and streams.

The search for phthalate-free alternatives helps explain the increase in sales of sex toys made of such materials as stainless steel, mahogany–yes, you read that correctly–and glass. …

The Roman Catholic Church is catching on to the organic trend. “People pay $32 for eye cream because they’re told it is good for them and the planet,” says Jessica Marie Smith, who repackaged the NFP program at the diocese of Madison, Wis. “We figured we could do the same with NFP.”

NFP detects ovulation by monitoring a woman’s temperature and the amount of cervical mucus. But this process is not 100% accurate. And several studies on climate change note that the best way to protect the planet is to have fewer children. “Around the world, more than 40% of pregnancies are unintended, and full access to birth control is still unmet,” says Jim Daniels, Trojan’s vice president for marketing. “Meeting that unmet need would translate into billions of tons of carbon dioxide saved.”

To that end, Trojan makes latex condoms as well as ones made of biodegradable lambskin. Other brands offer a vegan variety that replaces the dairy protein in latex condoms with cocoa powder. And no, they don’t all taste like chocolate.

Read the whole article Sex and the Eco-City by Kathleen Kingsbury. And a shout out to Cindy for spotting this article.

‘The Ethics of Sustainable Healthcare Reform’

27462-clipart-illustration-of-a-stethoscope-up-against-planet-earth-on-the-african-continent-symbolizing-world-heath-or-ecologyHere’s an interesting article The Ethics of Sustainable Healthcare Reform by bioethicist Jessica Pierce and Dan Bednarz, co-editor of Health after Oil, on the necessity of approaching the healthcare system from the perspective that Wendell Berry calls “solving for pattern.”

Pierce and Bednarz look at the healthcare system costs in our national economy (16% of national economy) and why reform is necessary to get us out of the economic death-spiral in which U.S.  market-capitalism finds itself. They also look at how the medical industry builds up massive ecological debt–a debt that will have to be paid sooner, rather than later.

Simply stated, the present healthcare system is unsustainable for two sets of (interconnected) reasons,  fiscal and ecological. The fiscal side receives attention in the current debate, but most discussion underestimates the problems and proposes solutions that provide little more than temporary band-aids. It is in the main unappreciated that the nation is in socioeconomic decline—primarily in the form of massive debt and defaults on that debt, deflation of asset values, and unemployment—which threatens the present healthcare system. Our collective understanding of the ecological dimension is abysmal, especially its connection to the economy, and if grasped would lead to the abandonment of politics and business as usual in medicine and throughout society.

Read the whole article here.

Green Festival, D.C. – William McDonough

I heard Bill McDonough speak at the Green Festival in Washington, D.C., yesterday. McDonough is one of those paradigm-shifting thinkers who comes out of the design world.

His newest book is Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (as opposed to “cradle to grave”), which outlines his basic design production concept. Besides, the book’s made from synthetic ‘paper’ that can be recycled. No trees were harmed in the making of this book.

If you are not familiar with him, I suggest reading his very short article Celebrating Human Artifice or listening to the Monticello Dialogues. Here’s a quote from his talk yesterday:

Design is the first signal of human intention. … Our goal is a delightfully divine, safe, healthy, socially just world with clean air, water, soil, and power, that can be economically, equitably, ecologically, and elegantly enjoyed.

McDonough’s developed concepts like roof farming in urban China, television leasing to avoid the landfill in Europe, and fabric that’s strong enough for public use and safe enough to eat.

Sojourners published Ecology, Ethics, and the Making of Things by McDonough in May 2005..