Our Holy Mother and Great Church of Christ expresses justified gratitude in God that within the context of our ministries in the world we have hastened to be among the first to include a complete series of seminars on ecology. Our efforts, of course, are not to be perceived as simply responding to the needs of the modern world. Our concerns are rooted in the deeper conviction that by these initiatives the Church ministers absolutely and responsibly within its primary mission entrusted to Her by God in history: the evangelization and salvation in Christ of man and the world.
In these distressing times in which contemporary humanity finds itself, for one to reflect simply on ecological concerns is of course a noteworthy and honorable initiative. By our deep-rooted conviction, however, we humbly believe that one is in danger of being misunderstood, caught up in the tide of our times as an ineffective collaborator of all those who seek and pursue to impress rather than properly edify and fundamentally contribute to the solutions of relevant problems.
As we discuss the problem of our ecology, who can truly deny that in spite of the honorable efforts made by various sectors for a proper response to the demanding needs of this issue we continue to compete with each other, speaking in platitudes rather than thinking and responding in a proper manner?
In response to this immense danger which, as usual, in a quiet and perhaps subconscious way threatens to negate much of the theoretical effort on this subject, within the environs of this renowned Holy Monastery, this blessed seminar has as its purpose the general topic of "Environment and Ethics."
Hence, out of paternal responsibility we take this opportunity to address these introductory remarks not simply as a proper greeting of the Mother Church bestowing our wholehearted patriarchal blessing to the blessed seminar participants gathered here; rather in a spirit of purely pastoral concern we further convey a few thoughts on the topic. Our expectation is that perhaps these thoughts can serve as a source of reference by placing our finger on "the print of the nails" for a more God-fearing appraisal of the responsibilities and duties of all men and women created in the image and likeness of God towards all that is within and around the created universe.
Permit us thus initially to state that the awesome bequest that we vigorously often claim in nature, that we are created in the image and likeness of God, demands by definition the analogous ethos. An ethos imposed upon us towards ourselves and each other, as well as the microcosm and macrocosm around us. Only thus can we properly satisfy God who created "out of nothing" everything that is "very good."
In other words humankind, as the visible and living image of God in the world, is not permitted to display behaviour ungodly or unpleasing to God. For in this instance, as "partakers of the image but not guardians of it," we become initiators and protagonists of evil, which God, providentially as a fair judge, terminates at our natural death "in order that evil may not be immortal."
However, the ethos which springs forth from God and the unapproachable and unknown essence of God is borne witness to and described as grace everywhere and always throughout the Holy Bible and in all that God has revealed to us in general, as well as through the teachings of the God-bearing Fathers of the Church.
Speaking in the presence of Christian intellectuals, it would be useless and absolutely unnecessary to explain that the deeper character of the grace of the All-beneficent God is that everything is unconditionally free, everything is unequivocally non-reciprocal. We are reminded, however, that in the Biblical account concerning Creation, the grace of God is manifested initially as confidence, good-will, compassion, philanthropy and the like; thereafter, following the fall and apostasy of humankind, as mercy, forbearance, expiation, restoration, reinstatement and adoption.
Nevertheless we must unequivocally state that in both instances the divine will of God was always manifested in the form of law and order. No one has the right to disobey without punishment, for the entire design of the Most-merciful Creator constitutes a whole and undivided divine "providence." Thus, whether we speak of natural, moral or spiritual principles, we acknowledge and emphasize the same infinite grace of God, confident that the essence of ecology as a whole is always Divine Economy.
These graces are preeminently characteristic of the All-wise and Almighty God. They can certainly constitute a ceaseless guiding policy of our own ethos in the world. For if God, according to Plato, "perpetually creates," humankind must always acknowledge all the principles of creation and obey them.
Within the framework of this pious awareness concerning the world, we should bear in mind also the rudimentary order within the entire order of creation in which God in the six days of creation classified from the simplest to the more perfect. Recognizing and acknowledging such an inverse development, perhaps then we will respect anew the unquestionable and mystical sanctity that it possesses not only by itself as a work of God "created out of nothing," but for the "being" and the "well-being" of humankind, for whom the entire material world has been created and which today, for the sake of brevity, we not so eloquently characterize as "natural environment."
As was properly suggested in a relevant study a long time ago by a hierarch of our Ecumenical Throne, we wish to state, in closing, that the famous scholastic axiom of the Western Church gratia praesupponit naturam upon which in reality the whole of the West built its theories concerning Natural Law and most of its socio-political concerns - both past and present - will always suffer and not be done justice to under the one-sidedness of the fallen creation in general, if it is not supplemented by the corrected text natura praesupponit gratiam. For indeed only "in the liturgical conscience of Orthodoxy" is the visible creation of God reverently glorified and redeemed.
With paternal warmth and love and in the spirit of the thoughts we have mentioned above, we offer greetings to the participants present here; we express gratitude and congratulations to the Organizing Committee of this seminar, and abundantly bestow upon all guidance from on high for complete illumination and for the total success of the work of this session. Amen.