Engaging Creation-Praise Him and Highly Exalt Him Forever

smPC310365Writing on beauty can seem an abstract approach to the created order – except that it draws our attention to see the world in a particular way. It is important, it seems to me, to at least see the world. So much of theology and what passes for religion can be mere intellectual exercise that religion and abstraction become synonymous. This is foreign to the true life of Orthodoxy and the true life of Christianity.

The sacraments of the Church are more than “seven” moments in the life of Christians that accidentally happen to use physical elements. They are “moments” but examples of the true character of the Christian life. The elements used in sacraments: bread, wine, water, oil, the laying on of hands, sight, sound, action, etc. – are all simply things that make up life as we know it. They are not discussions of bread, wine, water, oil, etc. Thus the sacraments involve eating and drinking, anointing and movement. They are very much part of what is normative in human life.

As examples of the Christian life they point us towards the right understanding and use of creation itself. There are only “seven” sacraments if your are engaged in a contest with medieval Roman Catholics and need to say that your faith is not inferior to theirs. In point of fact “sacrament” or “mystery” (the preferred Orthodox term) is simply a way of rightly understanding our relationship with God as part of His created order. Everything is mystery when rightly understood.

So the question for me has to do with how do I engage creation. Do I live among created things as the bearer of the Divine image living within the mystery of God made manifest in everything around me? Or do I live as a thinking creature who considers religious ideas while going about my normal, everyday tasks.

In a proper Christian understanding, I posit, there are no “normal everyday tasks.” This is simply more of the creeping secularization of our world. Either God is relevant to every task, every motion and action – or He is not relevant at all. There can be no limited God.

This, I think, is a very difficult part of our Christian existence. And I think it is difficult for two different reasons. First, it is difficult because we are not used to God being anything other than a limited God, restricted to specifically “religious” activities. Second, it is difficult because when we attempt to relate to God in formerly “non-religious” activities, what we experience is often an artificial attempt to “sacralize” what we believe to be inherently non-sacred. So our choice becomes something between secularism and pseudo-sacramental. Neither are satisfactory.

A key to overcoming this false distinction lies in properly locating the problem. The problem does not lie in creation. I do not need to redefine creation in order to “make it sacred.” Either it is already inherently sacred or not. Christians are not traveling magicians, bringing a new state to the created world.

The problem does not lie within creation but within ourselves. Christ did not need to change the waters and winds of the Galilee in order to speak peace to their stormy condition. Nothing changed about the wind and the sea other than their presenting condition. Creation did not become other than creation. Christ was already such that wind and sea obeyed Him. 

By the same token, it is not creation that must change in our lives – but our lives in creation must change. As an example, I would cite the Scriptures (from the LXX text of Daniel appended to the article).

This “Song of the Three Young Men,” is as complete a model for our engagement of creation as I can imagine. It does not seek to make the beasts and the cattle to be other than they are – to “sacralize them” – but engages them as they are: creatures of God and thus able to “praise Him and highly exalt Him forever.” To live as a being within a creation that is engaged in the praise and exaltation of God is to live rightly within the world.

The creation is already “eucharistic” (marked by thanksgiving). It is me as a fallen human being who has chosen to be other than eucharistic. Rather than give thanks together with creation I would rather consume it, manage it, use it, abuse it, and consider it inferior to my intellect and dead. The answer to all of that is my repentance and my embrace of the eucharistic life that is proper to the whole of the created order. For we have our place within the Song:

Bless the Lord, you priests of the Lord, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, you servants of the Lord sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, spirits and souls of the righteous, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, you who are holy and humble in heart, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 

Our proper engagement with creation – living the mystery – is to lift up our voice and sing and cease to be the only silence outside of Hell.

“Blessed art thou, O Lord, God of our fathers, and to be praised and highly exalted for ever; 
 …Blessed art thou in the firmament of heavenand to be sung and glorified for ever. 
“Bless the Lord, all works of the Lord, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, you heavens, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, you angels of the Lord, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, all waters above the heaven, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, all powers, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, sun and moon, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, stars of heaven, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, all rain and dew, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, all winds, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, fire and heat, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, winter cold and summer heat, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, dews and snows, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, nights and days, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, light and darkness, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, ice and cold, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, frosts and snows, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, lightnings and clouds, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Let the earth bless the Lord; let it sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, mountains and hills, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, all things that grow on the earth, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, you springs, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, seas and rivers, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, you whales and all creatures that move in the waters, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, all birds of the air, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, all beasts and cattle, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, you sons of men, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, O Israel, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, you priests of the Lord, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, you servants of the Lord sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, spirits and souls of the righteous, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever. 
Bless the Lord, you who are holy and humble in heart, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever….

3 Responses to “Engaging Creation-Praise Him and Highly Exalt Him Forever”

  1. katia Says:

    Amen.
    “Bless him, all who worship the Lord, the God of gods, sing praise to him and give thanks to him, for his mercy endures for ever.”

  2. Grace Says:

    I especially liked the part where either God is all or nothing in our lives. I work on equations of having God as my variable. He fills in where I can’t. He does his supernatural thing when I have already done the narural.

    And yes creation is sacred as being made by God and He saw that it was good.

    Thank you for your frankness in how we as children of God should see the world we live in as beautiful.

  3. Quote for the Day « The Gourd Reborn Says:

    […] From Father Stephen’s blog, here. […]

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