The Saints and the Animals (Part III)

Venerable Stephen the Abbot of Makhrishche, Vologda

Venerable Stephen the Abbot of Makhrishche, Vologda

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

THE SAINTS AND THE ANIMALS (PART III)
By Soterios Lysikatos

Church Blessing on the Animals

Also, in the similar blessing of Saint Mananta we read, "...the envy of the devil has befallen the flocks and cattle...and results in evil...that they may be cured from all evil and in remembrance after this period for the glory of God". Accordingly, in the prayer of silk that You may oversee on the worm...protect from all poisons and entrapment. Grant the working one that it may not be burdened vainly but enable it to richly fulfill this blessing". In the prayer for the animals, the Church implores the blessings of the animals as were the flocks of Abraham and ends by saying: "Keep them healthy and brawny...and guard them oh Lord with Your Holy Angels". Finally in a corresponding blessing on drought," ...look after the stricture of the birds, the boom of the beasts...the seeds of the earth scatter for the sustenance of people and animals..."

Concerning the above prayers we can make the following observations. Firstly, the Church prays --through the Saints who composed the prayers--for the good health of the animals and the increase of the fruit of the earth, so that man be self-sufficient in necessary goods, but this should not be self serving but "so that there should be left over in all goods" and "glorify" in remembrance of this time, for the glory of God". Three are therefore the reasons for the well being of the animals (a) so that man may be adequately supplied and not suffer, (b) to do good works and (c) to glorify the name of God.

Secondly the reason that animals suffer -- as was already said -- it could be due to some demonic activity: "the devil's, "protect against all poison and entrapment" and thirdly what is truly impressive and is the punch line of the prayer is on the diseases of the cattle: "guard them oh Lord with the holy Angels".

The Animals and the People Today

Until the recent traditional society of our country, as life was based on small agricultural communities, the relationships between animals and people were very close as the animals were an integral part of agricultural life, either domestic animals that were the basic derivative of agricultural pursuits, or as wild animals which sometimes by necessity, they had to be culled because of the damage caused by their overpopulating. There was a certain equilibrium and its basis was by how much was an animal beneficial to man.

In our contemporary, western style urban society, man has drifted away from his natural environment, thus the relationship between man and animal has been disturbed. Phenomena, such as excessive animal loving -- such as adoption, hospitalization, inheritance and officially burying dead animals -- consist in outrageous transformation of normal relationship between humans and animals. All this is evidently the result of loneliness of contemporary man. However, is it possible that an ethical problem has been created by this precedence of affection? Towards whom should this love be manifested? Towards man or animals? Is it possible some extreme forms of animal love ("the animal has soul") take us way back to animal worship? Dog, bird, crocodile worship, etc., of ancient Egypt?

When the Elder (Saint) Paisios was asked on the relationship of man with the animals, his reply, despite his known love for the animals, was that the love of man must first be exhausted for man and if there is left over to be directed at the animals. However, while there is this sickly form of zoophilia (excessive love of animals) introduced from the West, we see in parallel another one, also of western origin manifestation towards the environment and the animals. In our days the continuing clashes in Serbia, despite the hypocritical disregard by the westerners for human life, we become observers of their cynical disregard for the environment with the destruction of flora and fauna of the bombed out areas. It was ascertained that the deer and wild birds migrated en masse from the bombed out areas, why, perhaps because they felt that the intervention occurred for peaceful purpose.

Conclusion

From all that were briefly presented on the relationship of the Saints with the animals, we see that before the fall of the first created period, the holiness and grace that covered man flowed from the his relationship with the Creator, made the animals feel this grace and live peacefully with man.

After the fall, when the "according to the image" had darkened and the grace was removed, the relationship of man with all the creation became disturbed and the relationship between man and animal became hostile. Despite everything the care of the Father Creator did not stop, since He cared for them in the Ark ("For You also cared for the animals in the Ark"). In the Old Testament we have seen the Saints and the righteous were protected unharmed by the wild animals (Daniel in the lion pit, Jonah in the belly of the whale, Prophet Elijah and the raven).

In the New Testament we have case of martyrs who were protected from wild beasts, Saint healing wild animals, which not only served them but mourned for the death of Saints. In parallel, our Church prays for the animals -- not however independently -- but for the welfare of animals for the benefit of man but also for the glory of God ("so that You be glorified").

Besides it was ascertained that the relationship of Saints with the animals is not farfetched and fairy tales, as many believe in our time but a tangible reality that continues to our days, as is apparent from the lives of contemporary Saints and elders. Even though the answer for the happy relationship, that mostly could sound strange and unreal in our ears, has been exposed in many ways within this small reality and judged expedient -- as punch line -- to repeat the answer of Abba (Father) Paul to the specific question: "They asked Abba (Father) Paul who was catching with his hand horned serpents, scorpions and snakes. Tell us what did you do to receive this gift? Forgive me fathers. If someone attains purity, everything submits to him, as for Adam when he was in Paradise, before he disobeyed the commandment of God". (Source: From the magazine "Theodromia").

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GENESIS 6:19-22

"From every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you: they shall be male and female. Of the birds after their kind, of animals after their kind, and of every creeping thing on the earth after its kind, two of every kind, they will enter into the ark with you, male and female, to keep them alive. You shall also take for yourself all kinds of food to eat, and you shall gather it both for yourself and for them. Thus Noah did according to all the Lord commanded him, so he did."

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" --Saint John Chrysostom

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George