So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. “And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. (Genesis 9:1-3)
Scripture makes it clear that the world after the great flood is not the same place which God created for us. In the original creation, we lived at peace with the animals in paradise, eating a vegan diet just as they did. After the great flood, however, our relationship with animals changes according to Genesis, as they can now be killed and eaten as food. In this altered world after the flood, animals both fear and dread humans. The world is yet another step removed from what God originally created for us. When the deluge is over, there is no return to the world before the flood as the relationship of humans and all other life on earth has been radically changed. And the rest of creation is aware that human sin has led not only the downfall of humans but to creation’s downfall as well. The animals who were created to serve humans, dread humans when they see us fallen creatures imagining we are God or believing we no longer are in need of God. The animals need us to recognize the Lordship of God for otherwise they know we will consume them as we do the rest of creation.
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:19-23)
Humans have managed to change everything in creation by our own sinfulness. As the Beatles sang in their song, In My Life:
There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
The sin of Adam and Eve, the original Fall, and all of our sins together altered creation.
… St Symeon the New Theologian sees a complete disruption in the natural course of things and notes emphatically that the enslaved state of creation is not a natural development for it. Creation is presented as a victim, because on account of man it has lost its position in the scheme of things and the rule it originally followed, even though its present condition is regarded by some as its natural state. For this reason, creation refuses to be subject to man once he has transgressed. Describing creation’s attitude to man after the Fall, Symeon writes: ‘When it saw Adam leave paradise, all of the created world which God had brought out of non-being into existence no longer wished to be subject to the transgressor. The sun did not want to shine by day, nor the moon by night, nor the stars to be seen by him. The springs of water did not want to well up for him, nor the rivers to flow. The very air itself thought about contracting itself and not providing breath for the rebel. The wild beasts and all the animals of the earth saw him stripped of his former glory and, despising him, immediately turned savagely against him. The sky was moving as if to fall justly down on him, and the very earth would not endure bearing him upon its back.’ (Anestis Keselopoulos, MAN AND THE ENVIRONMENT, p 70)
Humans were tasked by God with being the mediator between Creator and creation. Humans opted instead to control creation by usurping God’s lordship. Humans wanted to relate to creation on their own terms and to see creation as unrelated to God. St Symeon has it that even inanimate creation recognizes that human sin and disrupted the relationship of the cosmos with its Creator. God intended for humans to be the mediator between Creator and the rest of creation. Humans though chose to go rogue, leaving the rest of creation without its proper relationship to the Lord.
In the relationship between man and creation, it is not creation that brings man to God, but man who ultimately ‘makes creation word.’ This task has its starting point in man’s natural potential for mediation between God and the world and is consummated when man is deified and creation is brought back to the beauty in which it was first created – that is, with the complete interpenetration of created and uncreated. It is the task which Adam failed to accomplish because of the Fall. Thus man himself disrupts the harmony of his relations with creation, since by the Fall and his disobedience to God’s command he also alters his conduct towards the rest of creation. (Anestis Keselopoulos, MAN AND THE ENVIRONMENT, p 178)
It is in Christ that the proper balance between God, humans and the rest of creation is re-established. In Christ, we humans admit we are not God, but in need of God. We also come to understand all of the created cosmos through Christ, as in Him we have our proper relationship with both God and the rest of the created order. God is the Lord and we are to be God’s servants. [An interesting note: after the Fall, the relationship of humans to other animals changes – the animals too become food. When Christ is born in the cave which is a shelter for animals, he is laid in the manger – an animal feeding trough. And now, we Orthodox consider Him spiritual food which we eat in Communion.]