Wisdom and Wonder

This special issue on Orthodoxy and Ecology began a year ago. As we reflected on an appropriate theme, “Wisdom and Wonder” emerged as a fitting description of the Orthodox teaching on the transcendent value of nature. Wisdom is the immanent presence of Christ everywhere in the cosmos, revealed in its rich variety of life, its seasons, cycles, laws, relationships, and connections. St. Paul notes that “In Him, all things hold together.” Wonder is simply our appropriate response. We who wonder at the wisdom in creation are filled with respect, humility, stewardship, understanding, and knowledge of how one action tips the first domino.

Wonder might be defined as seeing creation with undimmed, child-like eyes.

The ninth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel describes Christ giving sight to a man born blind, then goes on to describe the unwillingness of many people who heard of the miracle to believe it had happened. John draws our attention to people not believing what they have witnessed — sighted people being blind and insisting on remaining blind.

Most of us are sighted people yet how little we see! We can see the material world around us but are blind in our inability to discern the Creator in creation, blind in our inability to see God’s image in others. It is usually a worsening blindness. A child in the first years of life looks at everything and everyone with wonder, but as we get older we tend to become less and less astonished. Things which were once amazing become boring. Boredom can become a constant condition, relief being sought through distraction. We may be far less in touch with the world around us than a man born blind.

Week after week the Liturgy provides us with the opportunity to regain our sight, to see the world we live in as God’s gift to us and ourselves as caretakers of that miraculous gift. Christ used ordinary materials — bread and wine — as a way not only to nourish us with his own body but to reveal the eucharistic dimension of all matter.

May the voices gathered together in this issue of In Communion help us to live the Eucharist with each other and with the world God shaped for us.

– Jim Forest & John Oliver III

The Wisdom of God…

Almighty God, Who created all things in wisdom and Who watches over and guides them by Your all-powerful hand, grant well-being that all creation may prosper and remain unharmed by hostile elements; for You, Master, commanded that the works of Your hands should remain unshaken until the ends of the age; for You spoke and they came into being and they receive from You mercy for the turning away of all harm, and for the salvation of the human race which glorifies Your name which is praised above all.

Accept, O Savior, the entreaties of Your Mother, which she offers for all creation, and the supplicants of all your saints. Grant to all Your mercies, and keep unharmed the firmament which You spread our from the beginning with wisdom, Lord, and brought into being for the benefit of mortals. Keep undamaged, O Word, the whole environment which girds the earth from harmful influences, granting to all pardon and salvation and great mercy.

— excerpt from the Office of Vespers for the Preservation of Creation, composed on Mount Athos by Monk Gerasimos of the Skete of Saint Anne, translated into English by Archimandrite Ephrem Lesh (Orthodoxy and Ecology Resource Book; Syndesmos; 1996)

…and the Wonder

How poor is my praise before You! I have not heard the song of the Cherubim, a joy reserved to the souls on high, but I know the praises nature sings to You. In winter, I see how in the moonlit silence the whole earth offers You prayer, wrapped in its white mantle of snow, sparkling like diamonds. I see the rising sun rejoice in You, and I hear the chorus of birds raise a hymn of glory. I hear the forest mysteriously rustling in Your honor, the winds sing of Your presence, the waters murmur and the processions of stars proclaim You as they move in harmony for ever in the depths of infinite space. What is my poor worship? All nature obeys You, I do not; yet while I live, I see Your love. I long to thank You, pray to You, and call upon Your name.

— Ikos from “An Akathist in Praise of God’s Creation” by Metropolitan Tryphon Turkestanov, 1934. (The full text is in a worship booklet that accompanied the Orthodoxy and Ecology Resource Book published by Syndesmos in 1996.)