Archbishop Speaks on Care for Creation at Arklow Festival of Faith
The Catholic Parish of Ss Mary and Peter in Arklow held a Festival of Faith last week as part of their celebrations of the Year of Mercy. Archbishop Michael Jackson was among the guest speakers who addressed issues of faith during the nine day event. Other visiting speakers included Dom Mark Patrick Hederman OSB, Abbot of Glenstal Abbey; and Fr Peter McVerry SJ.
Archbishop Jackson spoke on the theme of Care for Creation and said that we as Christians are responsible both to and for creation. He suggested that there was a danger in believing only that we are responsible for creation as humans has been “spectacularly unable to regulate our relationship with that creation”.
“We have tended to abstract it from us, and us from it, with runaway and destructive consequences of abuse and exploitation, of waste and rubbish. Not only is the creation a finite resource that is running out of oxygen; the creation is the salvation of the world and the universe, as both combine to be the gift of God. The creation merits our commitment to fair distribution and careful replenishment. It too must live in a primary and a vital way: life–forming, life–giving, life–sharing, life–healing, life–renewing,” the Archbishop stated.
He also spoke about the connections between creation and humility, creation and justice, creation and our neighbour and creation in Christ.
The full text of the Archbishop’s address is reproduced below:
The earth is the Lord’s and all that fills it, the compass of the world and all who dwell therein … (psalm 24.1)
– belonging and believing in the world of today and tomorrow
Festival of Faith – “Care for Creation”
Church of Sts. Mary & Peter, Arklow June 2nd 2016
Readings: Genesis 1.27–31; St Matthew 25:31–46
The Most Reverend Michael Jackson, Archbishop of Dublin and Glendalough
CONTEXT: IN THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD
‘Without the Holy Spirit: God is far away; Christ stays in the past, the Church is simply an organization, authority simply a matter of domination, mission a matter of propaganda, liturgy no more than an evocation, Christian living a slave morality. But with the Holy Spirit: the cosmos is resurrected and groans with the birth–pangs of the Kingdom, the risen Christ is there, the Gospel is the power of life, the Church shows forth the life of the Trinity, authority is a liberating service, mission is a Pentecost, the liturgy is both memorial and anticipation, human action is deified.’
These words of Ignatius of Litakia, given at the Third World Assembly of Churches in July 1968, well sum up the choice, the informed choice, that we as disciples of Jesus Christ and as children of God have before us and within us, as we contemplate the creation, as we form part of it, claim membership of it in concert with all the other creatures of God, as we are responsible to it as well as for it. The great danger of slipping too readily, too automatically into the idea that we are responsible for the creation is that we as humans have been spectacularly unable to regulate our relationship with that creation. We have tended to abstract it from us, and us from it, with runaway and destructive consequences of abuse and exploitation, of waste and rubbish. Not only is the creation a finite resource that is running out of oxygen; the creation is the salvation of the world and the universe, as both combine to be the gift of God. The creation merits our commitment to fair distribution and careful replenishment. It too must live in a primary and a vital way: life–forming, life–giving, life–sharing, life–healing, life–renewing.
CREATION AND HUMILITY
From a Scriptural perspective, it is interesting to note that creation, as originally envisaged and envisioned by God, did not presuppose that members of the creation would kill one another in order to live and to eat. This draws us into a broader distinction of which need always to be aware, the distinction between creation and nature. It is the concept of creation, as Pope Francis has so perceptively discerned, that connects us as human beings with the wider picture of creation as providence and creation as communion. It also connects us with a universal creation beyond our current knowledge and our deepest imaginings; it further connects us afresh with the angelic creation and with the creation of animals and plants over which we all too often prefer to exercize domination and power rather than custodianship and service. Creation, like leadership, asks of us service before power. It is no harm for us as technically and technologically savvy human beings to know that there are aspects and parts of the creation that are beyond our experience, our grasp and our manipulation and will remain such. A willing and a gracious recognition of this will greatly help us to discover afresh the humility required to play our part in creation, as Romans chapter 8, for example, envisages and understands creation. Renewed by hope, liberated from mortality, humanity is given afresh a hope in what is not seen (Romans 8.24,25), a hope grounded in faith.
CREATION AND JUSTICE
Creation and justice are connected and always will be. Again, it is Laudato Si’ that makes the connection which is important for our understanding the theology of ecology. Such a perspective fairly and squarely restores to the individual a responsibility for a living theology of ecology. From a careful examination of Genesis 4.9–11 (the story of Cain and Abel and the violation of the earth), the Encyclical draws out the suggestion that the neglect of self, others, God and the earth needs to be replaced by respect for self, fraternity/sorority, justice and faithfulness to others. The advantage of this movement is clear for all to see: it restores relationship; it makes the whole of creation (and nature as a part of this, of course) a neighbour for us in a very tangible sense. Again, this is where the use of the word: rubbish in the material and in the human senses comes together: our abandonment of the most vulnerable – whether it be a person, a race, a flower, a creature or a geology – confronts us with a wilful wastefulness which is accelerating at a pace never before envisaged. We have largely lost an active sense of engaging directly with the creation as a part of and as an extension of ourselves as creatures. This means that we do not sufficiently see the link between replenishing the storehouse of dignity, survival and creativity in the creation from a human perspective. Nor do we understand creation as the overspilling of divine love and the expression of divine Wisdom from a Godly perspective. As a world, we have finally admitted that 99% of the world’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of 1% of the world’s population. This is the context in which we are called to be the church in mission: that is, to protect humankind from self–destruction and to protect the creation from destruction by the same humankind. This is the point at which a theology of ecology must urgently make a serious contribution to an ecology of advantage whether for ourselves or for subsequent generations of humans. We need always to widen and to deepen and to heighten and to simplify our sense of creation as an organism with dignity independent of our convenience.
CREATION AND NEIGHBOUR
The theology of ecology of course, and rightly, relates to every carton we drop on the ground, knowing in our heart of hearts that we should not do so. This is a sin. There is no minimizing the directness of the impact of rubbishing the earth. But there is no minimizing either the directness of the impact of neglecting St Matthew 25. As St Matthew describes The Last Judgement, he draws us into taking stock of ourselves around simple things, things that seemed without consequence at the time but that seem, when added together, to give voice to a thought pattern and a mind set of neglect and destructiveness. And the other consideration is that time as we have known it does not return; it simply is gone. As St Matthew 25 develops its parable of The Last Judgement, the Son of Man puts himself into the First Person of those who receive from us the treatment, dignified and undignified alike, that they receive. This is a very striking way of looking at being made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1.26, 27). At The End it brings us face to face with The Beginning. The Last Judgement, interestingly, more or less is a judgement of the self by the self. The failure to recognize any wrong doing is itself a sin of cynicism and of neglect that is the human–relational version of dropping our rubbish on the ground as we walk along the street or drive around the countryside. The difference is that we have ceased to discern our link with the ground and the parable suggests that we have ceased to discern our link with our fellow–humans also.
The clash of comprehension that we meet is between the recognition of relationship and the rejection of responsibility. It is on both of these that those who fall down in fact fall down. The similarities of this behaviour in regard to human and to earthly neighbour are inescapable and the theology of ecology again comes into play. Relationship and responsibility are the link in our being connected to God, neighbour and the earth.
CREATION IN CHRIST
The thread that runs through creation is the person of Christ. I say this because the architecture of the Bible as we receive it connects, through the portal of St John’s Gospel, creation as the primary act of God and creation as the incarnate work of God. The Word was in the beginning and The Word is in the here and now. I say this not to entitle us, as followers of Jesus Christ and as those for whom redemption and salvation were wrought on the Cross of Calvary, to dictate to those of World Faiths other than Christianity or to a world that turns its face away from religion itself. No! I say this to draw those of us who follow Christ to serve through service itself; to discover afresh the enlargement that humility brings; to disclose the fullness of life itself as a gift of God; to equip us to belong once again to a creation that sustains and nurtures the poor and the vulnerable, the war–ravaged and the trafficked, those most newly–born and those about to die.
The Fathers of the Church in the fourth century found themselves defining and redefining in words and in ideas the doctrine of God as Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity. This is an ecology of theology we take for granted; but we never ought to do so. The Cappadocian Fathers use the word: perichoresis of the relationship within the Divine Trinity. Simply translated this means: dancing together. It is a wonderful image and picture of a God of joy and a God of movement, a God of harmony and a God of relationship. Creation connects us with the Creator in a dance of communion on earth as also in heaven – as suggested by The Lord’s Prayer. This ties in very closely with the vision of Pope Francis: ‘The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation …’ (Laudato Si’ page 39). We are invited to step in rather than to step away, to join in and to join with the whole of creation in order to meet the Creator.
The one who sat on the throne said, I am making all things new Revelation 21.5