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All Things Bright and Beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Cecil Frances Alexander

 

A Civilization
without Heart

The West is perhaps the only civilization in the earth’s history that is homeless, unable to find a home in any of the cultures it adopted and transformed for itself, unable to find a home anywhere; ‘predestined’ in eternal departure, it became the only civilization without a heart, that is, without having faith in God as its central, most important, social value. Is this an achievement, and can it be compensated with planetary traveling, atomic bombs and advanced medicine?... Anyone who knows Greek history is aware that the Greeks had a home. A real home is not some habitation, nor a blind attachment to a culture, but the persons one loves. If you lose these persons, what science and technology can comfort you?
   The Greeks did not develop their interest in science and technology, because these means can not really overcome
death. This is why philosophy and faith in God monopolised their interest. Therefore, when we say that the West is homeless, we can’t mean only lack of identification with this or that culture, but essentially lack of love. Only the absence of love can explain all this effort for discoveries, technological innovations, endless will to power and survival in a world where death is the ultimate Ruler. The West is eccentric indeed, if heart is the centre.

 

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You intend to move to the village.... Good, good! That life has truth. In cities, ...there is no truth. There, everyone is playing a comedy. May God grant you to reach that place where you quietly grew up and were educated as soon as possible, and safely....
Find a natural cave, or dig one out with your own hands. On one side, if possible, let there be a small fountain; on the other side, some sort of fruit tree; in front, a small garden.... Arise early, and secluding yourself here, sing together with the birds to the glory of the One Who created all!

St. Theophan the Recluse
The Spiritual Life, pp. 315-316

Why is intentional community so important? Because much of modern living is shaped in service to economic forces that use, exploit, and create The Agenda of life. These forces gain power and wealth by selling goods and entertainment that sap spiritual energy, giving little time to really build relationships. The Church begins to reflect these same alienating forces and Christians attend unintentionally with what little time is left at the end of the week. The Church says its the Body of Christ but her members are really going it alone like everyone else, according to the economic laws of this world.

Humanity has increasingly become the prodigal son (as in the Christian parable of the same name), demanding its Divine inheritance only to squander it in “riotous living”. Over the past several hundred years, Western civilization has especially wandered far from its spiritual home, the Cosmos of union between Creator, humanity and all Creation. Where else but in modern Western civilization has there been such height of “riotous living”, such pride in humanity and its technology by which all Creation is subjugated to every human whim?

St. Nicholas of ZicaTo deepen understanding of human plight in the midst of modern urban industrial luxury, consider the word of recently glorified Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic of Serbia (now known as St. Nicholas of Zica), a Christian of Ancient Faith who lived in modern times. It is only fitting to turn to this Saint for spiritual wisdom, because his worldview is the same as that of Western civilization at a much earlier time period. Before journeying into the “far country” away from its “Father's Kingdom” and becoming virtually altogether devoid of spiritual consciousness that sees the sacred in the image of the world, Western humanity possessed an anthropology and cosmology that were illumined by the same spiritual wisdom as St. Nicholas expounds.

St. Nicholas of Zica's interpretation of the inner meaning of the Parable of the Prodigal Son can be found in his Homilies, Volume I. He writes that when humanity fails to love (lacks spiritual vision) it is given over to the passions of its flesh (to materialism), and that for this reason there may be no real love outside of Divine love. Saint Nicholas goes on to state that humanity’s Father in giving His son his portion, gave him more than his share; not just dust of a physical body which is all humanity can claim for its own, but a spark of Divine conscience and understanding. This something more is the veritable Divine image in which humanity is believed to be created, the solid spiritual foundation upon which Ancient Faith rests, and the basis of its ikonography.

In the far country of the parable where a famine occurs, the Saint further says there is always famine, for the materiality of the land cannot satisfy the hunger of human passions (materialism, mammon worship). Material food increases this hunger for material goods which can only be quenched spiritually by Divine communion. When humanity chooses to go its own way apart from communion with its Creator for which it has been created, humanity loses spiritual vision and finds itself “...lost in a maze rushing one way and another.” Mankind thereby “...takes an axe to the roots of...(its) own life, cutting away a root a day until the tree begins to wither.”

Can there be a more truthful picture of what is really happening to humanity in the modern world? For example, in the Western gold rush for the “good life” void of spiritual understanding of Creation, cheap food has been produced by industrial methods. Some have selfishly fattened their purses on this “food”, but effects of poisonous compounds used as a means to this end have been grossly underestimated, in particular the side effects of these on nutrition and health of the human and non-human community alike. Today the Standard American Diet (SAD) is one whereby most people are well-fed, but are mal-nourished and “progress” in obesity, diabetes, cancers, and other diseases are made despite Western medical technology and industrial food production that facetiously claims to “feed the world”.

Oikonomia (oy-con-oh-me-ah) in the ancient Greek of early Christianity simply means “household management” and “household manager”, “stewardship” and “steward” in English. Unfortunately, stewardship in Western circles has come to mean little more than money management, or some utilitarian view of nature as “resource” or “commodity”. The root word of oikonomia in Greek is “oikos”, meaning house, which is also the root of economy and ecology in English. So to truly have an ecological, much less a sacramental approach to modern living, we must go beyond utilitarian economic considerations to an understanding of relationship, of being family or one “house” with all Creation.

As Metropolitan John Zizioulas proclaims, an understanding of priesthood as the fundamental human relationship to Creation enables us to overcome the utilitarian approach to nature, replacing it with one of unselfish love. As priest, mankind has the potential to unite all Creation in relation to infinite, immortal Creator and thereby save it from finitude wherein death has come to reign. If the Divine Image in humans is understood to include freedom expressed as creativity, then humanity either makes something renewable of nature that unifies all Creation in Cosmos, or destroys nature through proprietorship, possessive ownership or division of spoils in which humanity tyrannizes nature by warring against her in selfishly overlording that which mankind has not made and thereby doesn't rightfully “own”.

But in order to become priests, humanity must journey on that spiritual path which brings it home to unity, to communion with the Divine Creator of all. Otherwise, humanity will be blind, will have no spiritual vision, will be unable to reshape nature with Wisdom from above, and will only continue to desacralize and desecrate it in egotistical arrogance here below.

Though that homecoming may seem a thousand miles away, it must be remembered that the journey begins, as all do, with a single step. To that end, modern sacramental living rooted in Ancient Faith is explored here at Life Giving Spring. The journey of humanity’s return home must begin daily ever anew in human relations with the Creator, each other, and all Creation. Oh that all humanity would desire, as nature does, its return to communion with its Creator, and to hear that blessed greeting upon arrival, “Welcome Home!”

Until then, may each and everyone’s spiritual journey, their temporal lifetime amidst the “Valley of the Shadow of Death”, truly be a . . .

BON VOYAGE ! as guided by a genuinely BON APPETIT !

Stars and stripe pig

 

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