Science and Experience

“It is one of the laws of life that new meaning must be lived before it can be known, and in some mysterious way modern man knows so much that he is the prisoner of his knowledge. The old dynamic conception of the human spirit as something living always on the frontiers of human knowledge has gone. We hide behind what we know. And there is an extraordinarily angry and aggressive quality in the knowledge of modern man; he is angry with what he does not know; he hates and rejects it. He has lost the sense of wonder about the unknown and he treats it as an enemy. The experience which is before knowing, which would enflame his life with new meaning, is cut off from him.

Curiously enough, it has never been studied more closely. People have measured the mechanics of it, and the rhythm, but somehow they do not experience it.”  (Sir Laurens Van der Post, found in Stephen Muse’s When Hearts Become Flame, p. 75)

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The Blessing of Fruit

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Many Orthodox have the practice of blessing grapes or fruit at the Feast of the Transfiguration.   We find mention of the Christian blessing of fruit already in the early 3rd Century in THE APOSTOLIC TRADITION of St. Hippolytus of Rome.   He offers no explanation as to why some things may be blessed but doesn’t allow certain things to be brought for a blessing, even though all food is to be received with thanksgiving.

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Hippolytus doesn’t connect this blessing to a particular feast but writes:

Fruits indeed are blessed, this is grapes, the fig, the pomegranate, the olive, the pear, the apple, the mulberry, the peach, the cherry, the almond, the plum; but not the pumpkin or the melon, or cucumber or the onion, or garlic or any other vegetable.

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But sometimes flowers also are offered.  Let the rose and the lily be offered, but not others.

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And for all things which are eaten they shall give thanks to God, eating them to His glory.”  (pp 54-55)

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Naming Every Living Creature

“So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field…”  (Genesis 2:19-20)

“And yet man was created for this possession, he was called to it when in paradise God appointed him king of creation, invested him with the authority to give names to “every living creature,” i.e., to know them from within, in their deepest essence.  And thus the knowledge that is restored by this thanksgiving is not knowledge about the world, but of the world, for this thanksgiving is knowledge of God, and by the same token apprehension of the world as God’s world.

It is knowing not only that everything in the world has its cause in God – which, in the end, “knowledge about the world” is also capable of – but also that everything in the world and the world itself is a gift of God’s love, a revelation by God of his very self, summoning us in everything to know God, through everything to be in communion with him, to possess everything as life in him. … and again we witness to the world as a new creation, recreated as the ‘paradise of delight,’ in which everything created by God is called to become our partaking of the divine love, of the divine life.”  (Alexander Schmemann, THE EUCHARIST, p 177)

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Today science continues to name created things in this world –  we name new elements, new bacteria and viruses, new species, dinosaurs and other extinct animals, as well as stars and even cosmic events.  We continue to do what God commanded humans to do from the beginning, to name things as a way of understanding and knowing them.  And, thus for those who believe, even science continues to be a means for us to give thanks and glory to God.

The Anthropocene: Are Humans Really in Charge?

Humans have for centuries contemplated the “super natural” forces that control human history.  Some decided that what explains human behavior is the force of original sin, which humans can’t escape and which drive them to evil deeds.  For though the world and humans created by God were declared “very good” in the Scriptures (Genesis 1), it was obvious that sin also abounded among us creatures.

Later in history those who rejected spiritual explanations, formed their own ideas about the forces governing humans – evolution and genetics.  These are “natural” forces but super in that they affect all of life and some felt they can’t be resisted, so they predestine humans just as much as some believed original sin did.  So many forces predetermining human behavior.

Today, even science seems to be coming to grips with a notion that humans might have a lot more power in them than science ever acknowledged.  For now, scientists are coming to recognize that something is happening in evolution – humans are no longer merely controlled by it, but are shaping it, not only in themselves but throughout the world.    In the article “The Anthropocene Should Bring Awe-and Act As a Warning” written by Justin Worland (TIME magazine, Sep 12, 2016), we read:

As Geological epochs have come and gone throughout Earth’s vast history, shifts have often correlated with large-scale global changes like ice ages and mass extinctions. An asteroid hits the planet, wiping out the dinosaurs, and the Cretaceous period becomes the Tertiary. Until now, life on Earth–including us late-arriving Homo sapiens–was along for the ride. But on Aug. 29, some scientists at a meeting of the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) in South Africa said human activity has grown so powerful that it is forcing a change of the geological calendar: Earth has entered a new epoch, called the Anthropocene, defined by humans and our effect on the planet.


For 12,000 years, we lived through an epoch known as the Holocene, which provided a stable and relatively warm climate that allowed humans to develop everything from agriculture to atomic power. But that success remade the planet we live on through widespread deforestation, overfishing of the oceans, the extinction of countless species and the altering of the planet’s climate through the emission of greenhouse gases. Most telling is the spread of radioactive material across Earth since 1950 as a result of the testing of nuclear bombs. Humans brought an end to the Holocene quickly–no other geological epoch lasted fewer than several million years.

The random process of evolution may be changing as humans have a mind of their own and have proven they can consciously (and sometimes conscientiously) change the planet.  Evolution, from the scientific view, is no longer a random process, subject to random forces, but is being influenced, and even shaped by, conscious human choices.  Evolution is thought to have brought into being, sentient humans, who are conscious and capable of choice, capable of shaping their future, as well as the process of evolution.  Perhaps the anthropic principle will take on new meaning as science acknowledges the truth of what is transpiring in the physical universe.  The observers of the universe are no longer merely observing for they are shaping the world, for good or ill.  Worland concludes:

The IUGS gets the final vote on the geological calendar, and while scientists in its working group on the Anthropocene overwhelmingly recommended the new designation at the South Africa meeting, it has yet to be confirmed. But momentum has been building behind the Anthropocene for some time. Paul Crutzen, a Nobel Prize–winning chemist, first described this human-influenced era more than a decade ago with a focus on climate change. The downside of human influence should be obvious–we’re not just changing our planet but destroying it. Yet there’s a silver lining. If we are powerful enough to cause these problems, we might also solve them. “Unless there is a global catastrophe,” Crutzen wrote in the journal Nature, “mankind will remain a major environmental force for many millennia. A daunting task lies ahead.”

If humans can consciously shape the world in which they live, won’t they need more than ever to also think about conscience, right and wrong, good and evil?  We don’t have to move blindly into the Anthropocene.  We can choose our future.  We need wisdom more than ever, and an understanding of humanity that includes free will, conscience and responsibility for all we do.

Maybe, more now than ever, we do need to consider the wisdom of God, for perhaps we are not the only beings capable of creating the future.  We didn’t bring ourselves into existence, we only recently began to consciously shape our history and planet, we really have a lot to learn.

Sunday: Remembering Creation and Redemption

“Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.”  (2 Corinthians 5:17)

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; . . . And he who sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.'”  (Revelation 21:1-2,5)

Did the Church in its history make Sunday into the Sabbath Day?  Not according to Matthew Gallatin, who makes it quite clear that the Christian keeping Sunday as a Holy Day had nothing to do with transferring the meaning of the Sabbath to Sunday.  Sunday was a special day to Christians for a very particular reason.  Sunday is the day of the resurrection and as such is the first day of the new creation promised by God.    Saturday remained in the Liturgical life of the Church as the Sabbath rest, and on Saturday, Christ rested in the tomb following His crucifixion.  When He arose from the dead, He gave new meaning to the first day of the week, which became the first day of the New Creation.

Gallatin writes:

“Here’s the truth, according to the early Church: Saturday is the Sabbath. The early Church recognized it as a holy day, in that it is the day that commemorates God’s resting after the creation of the world. Also, the Church revered it as the day on which Christ descended into hell, shattering its gates and freeing mankind forever from the bonds of death.

But the early Church also understood that the act the Sabbath commemorates–the creation of the world–has been infinitely surpassed in the continuing work of God, the new creation, which St. John describes: ‘Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away’ (Revelation 21:1). When does this new universe begin? On the day of Christ’s glorious Resurrection. For on that day, God established the foundations of this new world, a world that includes eternal life for mankind. It was on the day of His Resurrection that Christ our God rose in the flesh, forever making possible our union with Him. By the power of His resurrection, man is blessed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and may live in oneness with the Father under the earnest of those new heavens, in that new earth.

Now, the old creation was commemorated on the day of its ending–on Saturday. But the new creation will never pass away. Thus, it must be commemorated on the day of its wondrous beginning. And that day, the day on which God chose to raise Christ and gloriously change the universe forever, is not Saturday, but Sunday. The ancient Church often referred to Sunday as the “eighth day,” the day that takes us beyond this awesome, but temporal and fading realm that the Sabbath remembers, into God’s eternal day.

The Church recognizes its first allegiance must belong to the new, everlasting Kingdom, not to the old. Thus, the faithful of Christ proclaimed Sunday as their day of highest worship. Saturday remained a day for spiritual meditation and reflection, a day to thoughtfully prepare for the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection.”  (Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells, pp. 59-60)

Green

“He ranges the mountains as his pasture, and he searches after every green thing.” (Job 39:8)

It is not only the Lord who searches “after every green thing.”  In Genesis 1, God gave every green leaf to be food for humans and for animals alike.

“And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” (Genesis 1:30)

Green, the color of chlorophyll, is the color of life for plants and the life giving process of photosynthesis.  Maybe it is life giving and sustaining qualities associated with green that causes God as Creator to seek our and value things green.

 

He who trusts in his riches will wither, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf. (Proverbs 11:28)

Green is not the color of money in the Bible, but the righteous will flourish like the well watered green leaf.  I am amazed when walking in the woods about all the shades of green present in any one small portion of land.  The shapes, sizes, contours of the leaves are abundantly varied.  Even though the shades of the color vary so greatly, yet everyone of them is still green.  Not all greens are identical.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”  (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

I do not know when or why green became the color identified with Pentecost in Orthodoxy, but it is the color of abundant life in the plant world.  Traditionally in Orthodoxy the only mention of color with a feast was whether vestments should be bright or dark, but an exact color was not assigned to a feast, so I can only guess that the use of green with Pentecost must be a recent practice.  I also don’t know when or why churches began decorating with tree branches and green leaves for Pentecost.  It is possible that this too is a relatively recent practice.

Living The Kingdom of God

In the book Living Icons: Persons of Faith in the Eastern Church (page 124), Michael Plekon, building upon the writings of Paul Evdokimov, notes:

 “For every Christian, the sacraments of initiation confer the dignity of prophet, priest and king. Every profession and state in life can be a form of this universal priesthood. In the liturgy, such a priest ‘makes of everything a human offering, a hymn, a doxology’. Then, in daily life, in the ‘liturgy after liturgy’ of St. John Chrysostom, such a Christian is

‘freed by his faith from the “greater fear” of his twentieth century, fear of the bomb, of cancer, of communism, of death; [his] faith is always a way of loving the world, away of following his Lord even into hell. This is certainly not a part of a theological system, but perhaps it is only from the depths of hell that a dazzling and joyous hope can be born and assert itself. Christianity in the grandeur of its confessors and martyrs, in the dignity of every believer, is messianic, revolutionary, explosive.  In the domain of Caesar, we are ordered to see and therefore to find what is not found there—the Kingdom of God. This order signifies that we must transform the form of the world, change it into the icon of the Kingdom. To change the world means to pass from what the world does not yet possess—for this reason it is still this world—to that in which it is transfigured, thus becoming something else—the Kingdom.’ (Paul Evdokimov)”

 

A Misty Fog

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“It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. . . . and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.  (Jeremiah 51:15-16)

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The Prophet Jeremiah tells us that it is the same God who created the universe who makes fog appear on earth.   Yesterday morning was one of the foggiest days I’ve seen for a long time – perhaps a sign that God the Creator is still at work on earth.  A combination of a warm winter day with lots of moisture in the ground produced the dense misty fog.  It made it a difficult drive – for one could only see about half a block ahead.

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It did remind me of the second creation account in the book of Genesis where a mist came up from the earth just before God created the first human.

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground— then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.  (Genesis 2:4-7)

In the Wisdom of Sirach, there is an interesting interpretation of the above Genesis passage, for the mist turns out to be Wisdom who says:

“I came forth from the mouth of the Most High,
and covered the earth like a mist.
(Sirach 24:3)

You can see all the photos I took in the morning fog at Foggy Morning 2-20-2017.  The weather pattern may repeat itself again later this week so we may have more heavy, dense fog.  It would be great if it were the Wisdom of God.

Look at the Birds Whom the Heavenly Father Feeds

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A Red-bellied Woodpecker lands kicking up some newly fallen snow.  A beautiful bird, I must say.

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According to Matthew 6:26, we are to consider the birds:   “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” (Matthew 6:26)

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Having fed a little, the woodpecker takes off, true to the proverb.  He didn’t toil at all to cause the seed to grow, but he was able to feed on it.

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Lots of feathered friends join the feast.  The cardinal adds a little color.

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A Tufted Titmouse finds a seed, or maybe drops it for other birds who can’t hang on to the feeder, and wait below on the ground for the seeds to fall.  “… some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them”  (Matthew 13:4).

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The tiny Chickadees are usually first to arrive at the feeder.  Their chirping seems to be the all-clear signal for the other birds to follow.

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Feeding the birds allows me to imitate the Heavenly Father who also feeds them (Matthew 6:26)   I do it for the fun of it.  The Nuthatch can hold on even when up-side-down,

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All of the photos in this blog were taken from my bedroom window.  I put the birdfeeders out there to enjoy the birds.  The Hairy Woodpecker is a frequent visitor.  Though small, the other birds seem to give him lots of space.

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The snow doesn’t discourage visitors to the birdfeeder.  I on the other hand find myself more confined at home during such weather.  I continue my recovery from the spinal fusion surgery.  As mentioned several weeks ago, I no longer need a cane to walk, and the surgery has for the time being relieved the pain.  However, ice and snow put a freeze on my life and I avoid going out on it when possible.  I still have to wear my back brace, and have many activity restrictions.  The riskiest thing I do is picking up the camera to take photos from my window as the camera is near my weight lifting limit of 8 pounds.

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You can find the Bewick’s Wren other photos I’ve taken recently around my birdfeeders at Birdfeeder 12-2016  or  Birdfeeder 1-2017.

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