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Author Topic: Respect for the non-human creation  (Read 1398 times) Average Rating: 0
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Animal Lover
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« on: June 27, 2010, 10:52:40 AM »


I live in London, England and was brought up a Roman Catholic but I have drifted away from the church and I am now on a journey to find a new spiritual home.  I work in the charity sector for an animal welfare organisation and over the years I have grown increasingly concerned by the lack of compassion displayed by many Christians of all denominations towards the non-human creation.
My charity was established in London over 100 years ago in the Victorian era by a group of Christians led by an Anglican vicar "for the benefit of the lost and starving dogs and cats of London so that they should have a sanctuary from the cold inhumanity they are being dealt outside." Alas, there is still much "cold inhumanity" in the world, much of it directed towards animals, whether it be the brutality of factory farming, the killing of animals for sport or the cruelty shown so often towards the domestic companion animals who share our lives and homes.  Apart from the suffering all this inflicts on defenceless creatures, it often encourages an insensitive attitude towards the natural world on the part of those behaving in this way.  Worst of all, it sets a bad example for others to follow, especially children. 

I visit Russia on a regular basis to view my charity's projects there and it is a deeply depressing experience to encounter the blunt indifference shown towards God's creatures by so many Orthodox believers, including priests.  I endeavour during my visits to engage in dialogue with Orthodox priests about this issue but I am met with a blank refusal.  I want to initiate a dialogue, with a view, perhaps, towards the establishment of something like an Orthodox supporters group to promote kindness towards the non-human creation.  I would also like to have the opportunity to discuss the possibility of establishing an annual animal blessing and thanksgiving service, something we hold here in London in association with our local Anglican church when the priest comes to our centre and the church members bring their animals to the service.  It would have been appropriate - or so I thought - to hold such a service on the feast day of, say, St.Sergius or St.Seraphim, in view of their affinity with the natural world. I have also approached the Orthodox church here in London and was met with indifference and incomprehension, as though I was suggesting some radical reform of church practices.

In any event, although it has not proved possible so far to engage with my Orthodox brothers and sisters in a spiritual celebration of the non-human creation as I've outlined, I hope that in the future that this will prove a reality. In the meantime, if anyone knows of an Orthodox priest anywhere on the planet with an interest in this issue, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss with him the practicalities of organising such a service in an Orthodox context.
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« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2010, 11:57:21 AM »

Those who cherish their relationships with animals might find worthwhile the book: Animals and Man A State of Blessedness by Dr. Joanne Stefanatos, a veterinarian.

In it she writes of the saints' relationships with animals. She describes the lives of 50 holy Orthodox men and women who were blessed to live with animals.

From the introduction: "Love for animals is nourished from the depths of our heart, by the deepest longing of our soul to respond with God's unconditional love (agape) to our fellow earthly creatures."


St Basil the Great, who lived 1600 years ago, wrote the following prayer for animals:

O God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, our little brothers to whom Thou hast given this earth as their home in common with us.
May we realise that they live not for us alone, but for themselves and for Thee, and that they love the sweetness of life even as we do, and serve Thee better in their place than we do in ours.

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« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2010, 02:27:49 PM »

You should read some Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain. In the book With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man which is a book of his councils there is a chapter on God's wisdom and the environment. He loved animals and always marveled at and respected God's creation and he loved animals. He says in the chapter: "I find God in animals, in plants and in everything! How can you not admire it all?"
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« Reply #3 on: June 28, 2010, 12:34:42 PM »

I would be grateful for further information as to where I can obtain the books mentioned in the previous posts:  Pain and Love for Contemporary Man by Elder Paisios, and Animals and Man - A State of Blessedness by Dr.Joanne Stefanatos.  The most important information needed is the ISBN number on each book.  Many thanks.
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« Reply #4 on: June 28, 2010, 12:54:48 PM »

Animals and Man - A State of Blessedness by Dr.Joanne Stefanatos. 


http://www.light-n-life.com/

Tap Stefanatos into their Search Engine
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« Reply #5 on: June 28, 2010, 01:51:03 PM »

I would also like to have the opportunity to discuss the possibility of establishing an annual animal blessing and thanksgiving service, something we hold here in London in association with our local Anglican church when the priest comes to our centre and the church members bring their animals to the service.

There is something like that in Finland. It's not in a church though but at the Helsinki Senate Square on those stairs of the (Lutheran) church. I don't know whether this tradition has ceased since the priest who used to participate in that has been revoked of his priestly functions due to his involvement in politics. Maybe they've found another willing Orthodox priest or perhaps the Lutherans are continuing this on their own.
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« Reply #6 on: June 28, 2010, 02:33:47 PM »

I have no problem with being kind to animals and to prevent cruelty to them which is so often seen on the news, but blessing animals (mainly by Protestant and other denominations) and establishing blessing ceremonies for them seem to me to be going way too far and outside of the consensus patruum.
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« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2010, 02:50:35 PM »

I have no problem with being kind to animals and to prevent cruelty to them which is so often seen on the news, but blessing animals (mainly by Protestant and other denominations) and establishing blessing ceremonies for them seem to me to be going way too far and outside of the consensus patruum.

In one of the euchologions I've seen blessings for flock in stables, herds, bee fries and fish in ponds.
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« Reply #8 on: June 28, 2010, 03:15:43 PM »

I have no problem with being kind to animals and to prevent cruelty to them which is so often seen on the news, but blessing animals (mainly by Protestant and other denominations) and establishing blessing ceremonies for them seem to me to be going way too far and outside of the consensus patruum.

In one of the euchologions I've seen blessings for flock in stables, herds, bee fries and fish in ponds.

I've seen similar services as well.  But in those services such animals are blessed for the service of mankind as part of our Lord's creation.  The blessing services that I have seen used among the Episcopalians, for example, bless animals as if they will be saved alongside of mankind and that should be very disturbing.
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« Reply #9 on: June 28, 2010, 03:25:56 PM »

I have no problem with being kind to animals and to prevent cruelty to them which is so often seen on the news, but blessing animals (mainly by Protestant and other denominations) and establishing blessing ceremonies for them seem to me to be going way too far and outside of the consensus patruum.

In one of the euchologions I've seen blessings for flock in stables, herds, bee fries and fish in ponds.

I've seen similar services as well.  But in those services such animals are blessed for the service of mankind as part of our Lord's creation.  The blessing services that I have seen used among the Episcopalians, for example, bless animals as if they will be saved alongside of mankind and that should be very disturbing.
Doesn't theosis involve the salvation of all of Creation?
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« Reply #10 on: June 28, 2010, 03:35:56 PM »

I have no problem with being kind to animals and to prevent cruelty to them which is so often seen on the news, but blessing animals (mainly by Protestant and other denominations) and establishing blessing ceremonies for them seem to me to be going way too far and outside of the consensus patruum.

If Orthodox bless homes, vehicles, produce stands, weaponry, and a host of other things, why not animals? I certainly think animals are more deserving of blessing than weaponry.
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« Reply #11 on: June 28, 2010, 03:37:33 PM »

I have no problem with being kind to animals and to prevent cruelty to them which is so often seen on the news, but blessing animals (mainly by Protestant and other denominations) and establishing blessing ceremonies for them seem to me to be going way too far and outside of the consensus patruum.

If Orthodox bless homes, vehicles, produce stands, weaponry, and a host of other things, why not animals? I certainly think animals are more deserving of blessing than weaponry.

Please read my other posts to get exactly what my issue is.
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« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2010, 03:42:43 PM »

I have no problem with being kind to animals and to prevent cruelty to them which is so often seen on the news, but blessing animals (mainly by Protestant and other denominations) and establishing blessing ceremonies for them seem to me to be going way too far and outside of the consensus patruum.

If Orthodox bless homes, vehicles, produce stands, weaponry, and a host of other things, why not animals? I certainly think animals are more deserving of blessing than weaponry.

Please read my other posts to get exactly what my issue is.

I read your posts. I'm quite neutral on the issue. Having said that, just because the Protestants may have a certain emphasis or belief doesn't mean that the Orthodox have to use the same approach. As a side note: I've lived in an Orthodox country, and never noticed people mistreating their animals. In fact, all the babushki in my building took a great deal of care in setting out food for the cats and dogs-they made a huge fuss over them.
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« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2010, 03:48:04 PM »

I have no problem with being kind to animals and to prevent cruelty to them which is so often seen on the news, but blessing animals (mainly by Protestant and other denominations) and establishing blessing ceremonies for them seem to me to be going way too far and outside of the consensus patruum.

If Orthodox bless homes, vehicles, produce stands, weaponry, and a host of other things, why not animals? I certainly think animals are more deserving of blessing than weaponry.
Sorry to contradict Scamandrius, but the Evhologhion does have quite a few prayers for the blessing of animals, mainly cattle, fowl and beehives.
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« Reply #14 on: June 28, 2010, 04:34:35 PM »

Obviously, I need to restate what my problem is.  I have NO problem with blessings of animals, cars, bank accounts, Scud Missiles, etc.  My problem with the blessing of animals in the manner that the OP was hinting at (though not actually saying) is that it elevates animals to the same level as man.  In the Euchologion and other manuals I have seen (e.g. Great Book of Needs), these things are blessed because they are use for the service of man and his salvation.  But the kind of blessings that I have seen used among the Episcopalians for example elevate such things to the point that they are made equal to man which is theologically a non sequitur.
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« Reply #15 on: June 28, 2010, 05:11:27 PM »

I would be grateful for further information as to where I can obtain the books mentioned in the previous posts:  Pain and Love for Contemporary Man by Elder Paisios, and Animals and Man - A State of Blessedness by Dr.Joanne Stefanatos.  The most important information needed is the ISBN number on each book.  Many thanks.

With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man by Elder Paisios:
http://stherman.com/Catalog/Elder_Paisios/pain_and_love_book.html
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« Reply #16 on: June 28, 2010, 06:56:46 PM »

Interesting. I found this from an Episcopalian pet-blessing service:

N. (name of animal, i.e. "Smokey", not cat/dog) may you be blessed in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. May you and N. (the name of the "owner") enjoy life together and find joy with the God who created you. (http://www.rockies.net/~spirit/sermons/sr-bless-animal.php)

Not sure if this is widely used or what, but I think it's odd that the priest addresses the animal. Even the part that involves the human owner is addressed to the animal.

To me, having "Smokey is blessed..." would be fine. That's what we say for inanimate objects too. It's not wrong to affirm and bless the special bond that humans and animals can have, I don't think. When all things are reconciled in the Kingdom, all creatures will be in harmony that way. But "Smokey, may you be blessed..." turns Smokey into a person, as if s/he has some rational comprehension of what is happening.
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« Reply #17 on: June 28, 2010, 07:01:23 PM »

But the kind of blessings that I have seen used among the Episcopalians for example elevate such things to the point that they are made equal to man which is theologically a non sequitur.
What exactly have you heard at these blessings (more specifically)?  

I've been to Roman Catholic, Anglican, and certain other protestant animal blessings, and the language was always based around granting them a good life, but most importantly, helping humanity to be better guardians for our "younger brethren" (since we fall so short in this regard).  As far as I know, that is fine from an Orthodox POV.
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« Reply #18 on: June 28, 2010, 07:38:57 PM »

Of course, the Euchologion knows nothing of the "pet" category of animals; I suspect this is a middle class/bourgeois affectation, that need not be blessed anyways.
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« Reply #19 on: June 28, 2010, 08:20:55 PM »

Interesting. I found this from an Episcopalian pet-blessing service:

N. (name of animal, i.e. "Smokey", not cat/dog) may you be blessed in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. May you and N. (the name of the "owner") enjoy life together and find joy with the God who created you. (http://www.rockies.net/~spirit/sermons/sr-bless-animal.php)

Not sure if this is widely used or what, but I think it's odd that the priest addresses the animal. Even the part that involves the human owner is addressed to the animal.

To me, having "Smokey is blessed..." would be fine. That's what we say for inanimate objects too. It's not wrong to affirm and bless the special bond that humans and animals can have, I don't think. When all things are reconciled in the Kingdom, all creatures will be in harmony that way. But "Smokey, may you be blessed..." turns Smokey into a person, as if s/he has some rational comprehension of what is happening.
Certainly, dogs, dolphins, chimps and other higher mammals do have a comprehension, even a "rational" one, of what is happening around them, if we define "rationality" as the use of reason, however more or less complex.
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« Reply #20 on: June 28, 2010, 10:42:48 PM »

My problem with the blessing of animals in the manner that the OP was hinting at (though not actually saying) is that it elevates animals to the same level as man.

If this is so, then why do they not serve Communion to the animals?
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« Reply #21 on: June 28, 2010, 10:44:53 PM »

Interesting. I found this from an Episcopalian pet-blessing service:

N. (name of animal, i.e. "Smokey", not cat/dog) may you be blessed in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. May you and N. (the name of the "owner") enjoy life together and find joy with the God who created you. (http://www.rockies.net/~spirit/sermons/sr-bless-animal.php)

Not sure if this is widely used or what, but I think it's odd that the priest addresses the animal. Even the part that involves the human owner is addressed to the animal.

To me, having "Smokey is blessed..." would be fine. That's what we say for inanimate objects too. It's not wrong to affirm and bless the special bond that humans and animals can have, I don't think. When all things are reconciled in the Kingdom, all creatures will be in harmony that way. But "Smokey, may you be blessed..." turns Smokey into a person, as if s/he has some rational comprehension of what is happening.
Certainly, dogs, dolphins, chimps and other higher mammals do have a comprehension, even a "rational" one, of what is happening around them, if we define "rationality" as the use of reason, however more or less complex.

Hmmmm. I think the Fathers by "rationality" would mean by that the capacity for contemplation. And as far as I have seen, despite these animals being highly intelligent, it doesn't seem that they are to the point that they are capable of contemplation.
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« Reply #22 on: June 29, 2010, 12:50:20 AM »

"Rational" (logikos in Greek) means, among other things, endowed with the capacity for abstract verbal language, by which thought (in the philosophical sense) may be communicated.  Thus, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, animals are considered irrational (alogoki) because they do not have the means to communicate abstract thought verbally.
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« Reply #23 on: June 29, 2010, 12:53:50 AM »

"Rational" (logikos in Greek) means, among other things, endowed with the capacity for abstract verbal language, by which thought (in the philosophical sense) may be communicated.  Thus, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, animals are considered irrational (alogoki) because they do not have the means to communicate abstract thought verbally.

Perhaps this is not all that different from what I was trying to say? It sounds like you're essentially trying to say that rationality is defined by the ability to express complex thoughts that are the result of contemplation, no?
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« Reply #24 on: June 29, 2010, 11:35:28 PM »

My problem with the blessing of animals in the manner that the OP was hinting at (though not actually saying) is that it elevates animals to the same level as man.

If this is so, then why do they not serve Communion to the animals?

I have heard of this as well.  I'm not kidding.
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