On the mountain of Athos, the monks place signs of encouragement along the forest trails, one such sign reads: “love the trees.” The ancient Christian fathers long interpreted the command “to have dominion over creation”, as one of care-taking and stewardship, not of domination. Man was called to redeem creation by sacrificing his own will and desire for control, and to unite the creation with the Divine through himself. Mankind was to love not just the trees, but all of creation.
Mankind is a Microcosm: Uniting Heaven and Earth Within Himself
Humans are made of both earth and spirit, and therefore are a natural bridge between God and creation. But mankind has been plagued for a long time with the perennial problem: either favoring his earthiness over his heavenliness, or else deemphasizing his earthiness in favor of his heavenliness. But man is both heaven and earth, and must therefore embrace both in a balanced and holistic manner.
We must remember that when God created humans, they were created on the same day as the rest of the land dwelling animals. Humans weren’t given their own day in creation. We see an interesting trend in the days of creation: like things were created on like days. For example, the heavenly bodies are all created on one day, the birds and fish on another, and all the plants on their own day. Therefore, by creating humans on the same day as the land dwelling animals, God is teaching us that we have a kinship with them. That is why both humans and animals were created on the same day: like things created on like days. We are a part of the same family group.
But as much as we share with the animals, we are also set apart, for God breathed His Spirit into us, forever connecting us to the Divine. Within mankind, God united all of creation with Himself. God gave man a special mission: to become the caretaker of the entire Cosmos.
Love the Trees
Father Amphilochios of the isle of Patmos used to say: “Do you know, that God gave us one more commandment, which is not recorded in Scripture? It is the commandment ‘love the trees.” Whoever does not love trees, so he believed, does not love God. “When you plant a tree,” he insisted, “you plant hope, you plant peace, you plant love, and you will receive God’s blessing.” When hearing confessions of the local farmers, Fr. Amphilochios used to assign to them as a penance the task of planting a tree.
When St. Kosmas the Aetolian traveled around Greece, he would plant trees. In one of his prophecies he stated: “People will remain poor, because they have no love for trees.”
The Priesthood of Mankind in Nature
Man is creations’ priest. Man is able to unite all of creation with the Divine by sacrificing within himself, thereby allowing the creation to become what it was always intended to be: spiritual. Holy water as used by the church is nothing magical, rather it is water that has attained its primary intended purpose: to cleanse both physically and spiritually those come in contact with it.
All throughout scripture, and throughout the history of the church, God encounters humans through creation. Through rocks, through animals, and through trees. If only we have eyes to see .If only we remove our sandals and realize that everywhere we are standing is holy ground. The whole earth is ablaze – it is all a burning bush of God’s presence.
Through the creation to the Creator.
We must live in a symbiotic relationship with all of creation. Through creation we are fed, we are clothed, and we are given companionship. What do we offer in return: death, destruction, pollution, over-use? Instead we must offer creation our love and our salvation. By uniting our hearts and minds with God, and looking upon all of creation with eyes of love, we can transfigure the world around us. We can begin to see all the earth as a burning bush ablaze with the fire and light of God.
For those who are holy, everything is holy – those who are loved, everything is love. For those who are at peace, every moment is an opportunity for peace.
Dear brothers and sisters do as the holy ones command and love the trees.
Join us as we strive to create a more peaceful world as we seek to meet the Creator, through the creation. Strive with us to develop an authentic Trinitarian communion, as we honor our God, demonstrate love to one another, and show compassion upon all of nature.
Want to learn how to cultivate a love for the trees and for all of creation? Do you wish to learn about your calling as nature’s priest? Then join us in one of our Holy Wild Gatherings.
Rewild Church meets in Pittstown, NJ and in various other locations throughout Hunterdon County New Jersey.
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Christian Ecology, Theology, and Holistic Herbalism
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Pittstown, NJ (Hunterdon County New Jersey)