Heaven and Earth are Full Of God’s Glory

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth.   (Psalms 33:6)

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.  (Psalms 19:1)

His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.   (Habakkuk 3:3)

One of the most wonderful things to contemplate from the Scriptures are relationships.  We have of course the mysterious relationship between Creator and creation.  Then within the Godhead there is the relationship of the Three Persons of the Holy TrinityFather, Son and Holy Spirit.  Each of the Persons of the Trinity has a relationship with creation.  In Genesis 1:1-3, the Spirit (the Breath of God) hovers over the face of the earth and when God speaks the Word (the Son of God), Light comes into existence, but not the light of the sun which does not yet exist.

“It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth . . .”   (Exodus 31:17)

Then there is the relationship between heaven and earth and the relationship of both heaven and earth to the Creator.   Heaven is the mysterious abode of God, and yet it is related to the rest of creation, all of it together is “not God” but created by God.  According to Christ, “Heaven and earth will pass away” (Matthew 24:35), they are not eternal and yet God the Eternal One fills them with His glory and becomes united to them.   Heaven and earth are both dwelling places.  Dwellings are temporary places, and yet significant to our eternal God.  We see the mystery in these two statements by father and son.  King David declares part of the wonder and glory of God on earth, while his son Solomon realizes the inadequacy of the earth for fulfilling its role.

King David says: “O LORD, I love the house in which you dwell, and the place where your glory abides.”  (Psalms 26:8)

King Solomon says: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built!”  (1 Kings 8:27)

The exact relationship of God the Creator to God’s own creation defies easy explanation and yet we still can experience it, as we sing in the Liturgy:

“Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest. “

Heaven and earth, though created, are full of God’s glory.  Both heaven and earth are full of God’s glory and both proclaim God’s glory to all beings who are capable of hearing and seeing.

 Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the LORD.  (Jeremiah 23:24)

Not only does God’s glory fill heaven and earth, the Lord God fills heaven and earth.  God’s glory is not something other than God.   Creation, that which is “not God” is filled by God’s glory by God’s existence.  The relationship between God and that which is “not God” is a mystery indeed.  For how can God in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28) fill the heaven and earth which are created and circumscribed by God?  We are in God and God is in us! A relationship fully exemplified by Mary the Theotokos.  Mary like Christ, each in their own way, personify the mystery of the interpenetration of Creator and creation.

Then we have St Irenaeus saying: “The glory (shekinah) of God is a human being fully alive.”  So how can heaven and earth be full of a human being?  The mystery deepens for  it is Christ as the incarnate God  who fills the universe with Himself.  So St Paul can write:  “and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith . . . that you may be filled with all the fulness of God.”  Christ fills not only the entire universe but each of us.

all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD   (Numbers 14:21)

Blessed be his glorious name forever; may his glory fill the whole earth.  Amen and Amen.   (Psalms 72:19)

Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”  (Isaiah 6:2-3)

Our very existence makes us part of the mystery of God’s own relationship with all of creation.  We experience the glory of God, perhaps most intently and clearly in the Liturgy, but that should open our eyes to seeing God’s glory in all of creation including in our fellow human beings.  It is also why the Fall, sin  and the fallen world are so painful to us for they obscure the glory of God reducing everything to mere materiality void of its natural spirituality.

Yours, O LORD, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.   (1 Chronicles 29:11)

The Spirituality of the Body

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.   (Luke 24:36-43)

in the The Lenten Triodion  we read:

But in rendering the body spiritual, we do not thereby dematerialize it, depriving it of its character as a physical entity. The ‘spiritual’ is not to be equated with the non-material, neither is the ‘fleshly’ or carnal to be equated with the non-material, neither is the ‘fleshly’ or carnal to be equated with the bodily. In St. Paul’s usage, ‘flesh’ denotes the totality of man, soul and body together, in so far as he is fallen and separated from God; and in the same way, ‘spirit’ denotes the totality of man, soul and body together, in so far as he is redeemed and divinized by grace.

Thus the soul as well as the body can become carnal and fleshly, and the body as well as the soul can become spiritual. When St. Paul enumerates the ‘works of the flesh’ (Gal. 5:19-21), he includes such things as sedition, heresy and envy, which involve the soul much more than the body. In making our body spiritual, then, the Lenten fast does not suppress the physical aspect of our human nature, but makes our materiality once more as God intended to be. (p. 24)

The Mystery of Ourselves: A conclusion

This is the 7th and final blog in this series which began with the blog  Science and the Church:  Are the Facts In?.   In this series we considered ideas about truth, evolution and the Church.  The blog preceding this one is Being Human: The Relationship between Mind and Brain (II).     We looked at the works of two authors commenting especially on evolution.   First,  Dr. Gayle Woloschak in her article “The Compatability of the Principles of Biological Evolution with Orthodoxy” in the ST. VLADIMIR’S THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY, Vol 55, No. 2, 2011.   Second we considered the claims of James Le Fanu in  his book,  Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves.

Creation of Adam

While some believers are very troubled by the science of evolution, obviously others are not.  A number of evolutionary scientists are theists and many committed Christians accept the claims of evolutionary science.  Evolution is a threat to those who insist on reading Genesis absolutely literal and as if Genesis was written as a modern science textbook.

Many Christians are not limited by literalism and read Genesis as speaking more about what it means to be human than as a history of the first human being.  Genesis is about us; it is our story and explains our experience of the material world, including such issues as mortality.   Genesis is doctrine in the guise of narrative as St. Gregory of Nyssa said.  It can be read as holy story one which reveals the meaning of being human: a meaning which is found in and determined by our Creator.  It is a narrative that connects mortal materialistic creation to divinity and eternity.

Le Fanu believes that humans are a most wondrous creature –  not that all of creation or all other creatures are not wondrous.   Humans however have been endowed by God with certain characteristics which give them a special role in creation, a role with the responsibility of stewardship to God in caring for the planet and the creatures with whom we share this earth.  Le Fanu contrasts other creatures with us humans:

“We can imagine things to be different from how they are, and plan for our futures. They cannot. We know our beginnings and our end, and recognising the fact of our mortality, are impelled to seek explanations for our brief sojourn on earth. They do not. We inhabit the spiritual domain centred on the self, the soul, the ‘I’, with its several distinct interconnected parts which, being non-material, and thus not constrained by the material laws governing the workings of the brain, is free to choose one thought over another or one course of action over another. And that inextricable connection between the non-material self and freedom is the defining feature of man’s exceptionality, for we, unlike our primate cousins, are free to forge our own destinies to become that distinct, unique person responsible for our actions of which all human societies are composed, and from which virtually everything we value flows.”  (Kindle Loc. 4241-47)

Science, biology, evolution are indeed concerned with the material nature of humans.  We are material beings, and to this extent we Christians too are materialists.  So is God who becomes incarnate as a man in order to unite all humans to Himself.  We are not only material, we are created in the Maker’s image and likeness.  We have the breathe/spirit of God enlivening us.  We have been endowed by our Creator with intelligence, creativity and procreative abilities which allow us to work together with God as co-creators of the present and the future.  We are able to be aware of things greater than our limited self.  We have a conscience awareness of ourselves and our surroundings.  We can imagine a future.  We understand that death is a limitation placed upon us.  We believe in God’s power to overcome death.  We can aspire to things of God and of eternity, far beyond the limits of material creation.  God is able to inspire in us the knowledge of and desire for the divine life.

For a wonderful visual presentation and commentary on the wonders of human development from conception see  Alexander Tsiaras: Conception to Birth.

For a link to this blog series as one PDF go to Blog Series (PDF).

Being Human: The Relationship between Mind and Brain

This is the 6th Blog in this series which began with Science and the Church:  Are the Facts In?  The previous blog is The Genetic Side of Being Human (II).  We are now considering  some of the ideas and claims of James Le Fanu in  his book,  Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves.

Le Fanu accepts many parts of the theory of evolution but remains unconvinced that the theory of evolution alone can adequately explain many of the developments that are said to be part of human evolution or which can be seen in the historical record (for example, the historical record shows a sudden extinction of many species and the unexpected explosion of new species rather than the theory expected gradual appearance of new species over time).

Any one thing which happens in the evolution of a species requires many other evolutionary changes as well.  For example in humans, the large brain requires that a mother’s pelvis and birthing canal must be capable of giving birth to a baby with such a  shaped head AND it requires that much of the brain’s development occurs after birth so that human babies are born almost totally helpless as compared to other primate babies.  Thus the evolution of a larger brain requires the evolution of the pelvic region of human women, the evolution of a bone structure to support the top heavy head over a bipedal body, and the delay of the brain’s development until after birth.   Many “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” type dilemmas for evolution theorists to explain.

“Similarly, the elusive workings of the human brain would seem to defy any simple evolutionary explanation.”  (Kindle Loc. 770-71)

It is the brain itself which captured much attention from Le Fanu as he considered the mystery of what it is to be human.  The relationship between the brain cells and conscious thought for example are not yet resolved.   Here again he thinks despite huge advances in scientific knowledge about the brain, there are huge gaps in our understanding which speak to the limits of science and the profound mystery of being human.

“‘We seem as far from understanding [the brain] as we were a century ago. Nobody understands how decisions are made or how imagination is set free.’”  (Kindle Loc. 458-59)

Though new methods of doing brain scans have made visible to us areas of the brain involved in various mental activities, how these processes actually work is not totally known.   Brain functions can be spread through large portions of the brain and how the various areas of the brain work together and the fact that even “silent” portions of the brain are essential for these functions is little understood today.   In addition how DNA works to make the brain what it is remains a mystery.

“…  the dominant features of the brain remain its ‘silent’ areas, with their capacity to integrate and unify thoughts, sensations and emotions into a continuous stream of conscious awareness.”  (Kindle  Loc. 3732-34)

Le Fanu says it is the existence of continuous conscious awareness – a real fact of being human which though related to the material brain is not coterminous with the brain –  which speaks to us of a non-materials aspect of our being (see also my blog Is This Your Brain on God?).

“… unprepossessing three pounds of brain tissue confined within our skulls, like a vast intellectual black hole absorbs the most searching forms of scientific investigation.”  (Kindle  Loc. 3747-48)

The brain is able to deal with information and abstract concepts – non-material reality.  The human is capable of successfully relating to this non-material reality of information, knowledge and emotions, which for Le Fanu is evidence of why evolutionary theory based solely in materialism is inadequate for understanding what it is to be human.  One needs to look beyond materialism to begin to grasp the truth about life and humanity

“… first, how just a few thousand genes might instruct the arrangement of those billions of neurons with their ‘hardwired’ faculties of language and mathematics; and second, the physical basis of that all-encompassing property of neuroplasticity by which the brain incorporates into itself the experiences of a lifetime.”  (Kindle Loc. 3738-40)

The mystery of being human will not, according to Le Fanu be resolved by scientific materialism, because part of being human involves non-material characteristics – consciousness and conscience, processing information and knowledge, experiencing the world through emotions.

“… the central enigma is clear enough: how to reconcile what the brain is with what it does?”   (Kindle  Loc. 2984-85)

The relationship between mind and brain is a mystery that Le Fanu thinks materialistic science cannot resolve because it introduces the non-material reality into scientific study  and science says it is limited to physical realities.

Of course the secular scientist will object that this is nothing but another “god of the gaps” objection which will be over come in time.    Or perhaps it really does point to a truth about being human – the non-material aspects of human existence are every bit as real as the material.

Next: Being Human: The Relationship between Mind and Brain (II)

The Transfiguration: The Salvation of the Physical World

“…Let us reflect on the basic significance of the mystery of Christ’s Transfiguration. It shows us that matter can be transfused into spirit. It shows us, that is to say, how material things – not only Christ’s face, hands and feet, but also his clothes; and not only the body of Christ, but also those of the three disciples upon whom the rays of light fall; and not they alone, but likewise the grass, trees, flowers and rocks of the mountainside which also share in the radiance that emanates from Christ – all these can be transformed, rendered luminous, filled with translucence and glory. The Transfiguration reveals the Spirit-bearing potentialities of all material things.

Christ, so the event on Mount Tabor makes clear, came to save not our souls alone, but also our bodies. Moreover, we human beings are not saved from but with the world. In and through Christ – and, by virtue of Christ’s grace, in and through each one of us – the whole material creation, as Saint Paul expresses it, ‘will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.’ [Romans 8:12]”   (Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia in In Communion – Journal of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship and the Protection of the Mother of God – Fall 2006, pg.4)

The Role of Food in Adam’s Existence

This is the 40th blog in this series which began with Adam & Sin, Paradise and Fasting.  The previous blog is Obedience and Freedom in the Adam Story.

Fr. Alexander Schmemann is famous for his sacramental theology – a theology which doesn’t accept a division between the sacred and profane but sees the goal of salvation as the transfiguration and transformation of all things into their naturally spiritual state.  The Fall introduced a division between material creation and the spiritual world as the physical world lost its union with the Creator; a division which is being overcome in the incarnation of the Son of God.

“On the basis of the mythical (that is, symbolic) story in the Bible, the whole world was given by God as food to man, with the exception of one forbidden fruit.  And it is precisely this fruit that man eats, refusing to believe and to obey God.

What is the meaning of this story, which greets us like a child’s fable?  It means that the fruit of this one tree, in contrast to all others, was not given as a gift to man.  It did not bear God’s blessing.  This means that if man ate this fruit, he did not eat it in order to have life with God, as a means of transforming it into life, but rather as a goal in itself, and thus, having consumed it, man subjected himself to food.  He desired to have life not from God or for God but rather for himself.  …

Man ate the forbidden fruit, thinking that it would give him life.  But life itself outside of and without God is simply communion with death.  It is no accident that what we eat already needs to be dead in order to become our life.  We eat in order to live, but since we eat something that is already deprived of life, food itself inevitably leads us to death.  And in death there neither is nor can be any life.  ”  (Alexander Schmemann, O DEATH, WHERE IS THY STING?,  pp 73-75)

Once humans began to pursue the created order for its own riches, rather than as a means of Communion with God, once humanity began to value itself more than its relationship with God, the created order became no longer our means for relating to God but nothing more than our means for relating to the material world.   The empirical world devoid of God could never raise us up to divinity, but rather limited us to mortal, material existence.

“Before the Fall, man found nourishment in God who is life, and recognized Him to be the foundation of the life that filled his entire being.  By freely choosing to eat of the forbidden fruit, in an act of self-sufficiency that revealed his preference for human nature over the gift of divine kinship, man removed himself from the source of life.  He passed from a spiritual to a biological existence, from union with God to a life of independence, contrary to nature.  By choosing to eat the perishable fruit, man is cast into a cycle of change and corruption, into a time marked henceforth by death.  Once he is subject to death, he struggles to preserve life, trying to escape death.  The fall did not simply lead man into a biological form of life.  It encompassed the whole of his psychosomatic being which, once turned from its intended state, submitted itself to instincts that led to the realm of the passions.  Carnal pleasure for the body is equivalent to avarice for the spirit, all of which leads a person to be disconnected and lacking in harmony; it shatters his original unity.  .  .  . The more man is removed from his ultimate aim which is God, the more he is lured by creatures and creation, the greater the tragedy of his uprootedness, his alienation, and his suffering, caused by the disintegration of his being and by ultimate meaninglessness.”   (Michael Quenot,  THE RESURRECTION AND THE ICON,  p 208)

“We do not have it within us even to want to look for God. Adam and Eve, with the taste of the forbidden fruit still in their mouths, were not searching for God; they were hiding from Him, and so do we all.  Left to our own resources, none of us can do better than to conceal ourselves in the bushes, with our bare behinds hanging out, hoping that God will pass by.”   (Patrick Reardon, CHRIST IN THE PSALMS, p 104)

Next:  Adam and Eden: Possessions and Being Possessed

What then is (Ancestral) Sin?

Ancestors of Christ

This is the 12th blog in this series which began with Adam & Sin, Paradise and Fasting.  The previous blog is Ancestral Sin.

While the notion of “original sin” seems to carry with it a sense of personal guilt and also the loss by humans of their original humanity so that humans really cannot choose the good, the sense of “ancestral sin” tends to focus on the fact that all humans share a common nature which has been tainted by sin.  We have not lost our original goodness – namely, the image of God in us – but sin has impacted our ability to see and choose the good.

“The primary meaning of the Greek word amartia (sin) is ‘failure’ or, more specifically, ‘failure to hit the mark’, a ‘going astray’ or, ultimately, ‘failure to achieve the purpose for which one is created’.   …  Sin, that is to say, is to be viewed not primarily in juridical terms, as the transgression of a moral code, but rather in an existential perspective, as the failure to be one’s own real self.  Sin is a lack of true humanness.  This means that it is above all else a loss of relationship.  To be human according to God’s Trinitarian image is to love one another after the model of the mutual love of the persons of the Trinity.  Sinfulness, then, as a lack of true humanness is isolation  –  from God and from our fellow humans.  It is the absence of communion.”   (Bishop Kallistos Ware, HOW ARE WE SAVED?, pp 8-10)

Thus the ancestral sin was the first time humans rejected their role in creation, refusing to accept God’s plan for humans and rather reaching out to take divinity on for themselves.

Old Testament Women Saints

The cause of the Fall was a misdirection and misuse of Adam’s self-determination, love and trust, i.e., that self-love, the first reason and effect of his disobedience, which resulted in a divinization of the creature and in a self-worship and distrust toward God.  That self-love (philaftia), separated from God, caused the fundamental fragmentation of humanity and divided mankind into self-centered and self-serving individuals.  Of course, the Fathers did not overlook the satan’s deception, malice and envy in the Fall, but more responsible and more blameable are considered by them Adam and Eve, since ‘to become like God’ was also the promise, the power and privilege given to them by God.  Tragically enough, they trusted and relied more on the satan than their Creator.  With the Fall then more alienation from God and disorder, revolt and conflict becomes the new pattern of created nature, self-centered love (philaftia) and godless autonomy or self-sufficiency being the mother of all the passions and evils.

It is significant that Saint Gregory of Nazianzus blames not the flesh as the cause of the Fall (actually, the flesh is interpreted by Gregory as a punishment of the Fall), but the mind.  Thus, the original sin, according to Gregory, is a sin of the spirit, not of the body, in the sense that the human mind failed to lead its body to maturity and to their appropriate relationships and harmonious balance.” (Constantine Tsirpanlis, INTRODUCTION TO EASTERN PATRISTIC THOUGHT AND ORTHODOX THEOLOGY, p 50)

The fall was thus not the sinful flesh dragging down the human soul as if God had made the physical aspect of humanity out of some fallen matter, but rather the result of human choice.

“And original sin was not just an erroneous choice, not just an option for the wrong direction, but rather a refusal to ascend toward God, a desertion from the service of God. … If, however, it was a choice, it was not a choice between good and evil but only a choice between God and himself, between service and sloth. … According to St. Athanasius, the human fall consists precisely in the fact that man limits himself to himself, that man become, as it were, in love with himself.”  (Georges Florovsky, CREATION AND REDEMPTION, p 85)

Thus instead of being relational creatures of love, we become imprisoned by our self-love, and thus the created order became fragmented – humans separated from God and also from creation, male separated from female, and even within each person an alienation from self as a spiritual warfare began in each of us.

Next:  The Fall from Grace

Fasting: The Right Value of Material Things

“The materialistic person values things in relation to his own desire and appetite for them; detachment, by contrast, enables one to value things for themselves, as parts of God’s creation.

the way we use material things is absolutely crucial to our spiritual progress. As Maximus the Confessor tells us bluntly:  ‘It is according to whether we use things rightly or wrongly that we become either good or bad.’ […]  There are three ways, he says, in which we actively manifest love for other people:  ‘in forebearance and patience, in genuinely desiring their good, and in the right us of material things.'”

(Theokritoff, Elizabeth Living in God’s Creation:  Orthodox Perspectives in Ecology ,pg 105)

Theophany (2002)

Sermon Notes Theophany 2002

 God is a materialist.

 Though our God exists Himself in the purely spiritual realm, yet it made God happy to create the material world.  He wanted the material world to exist, and brought it into being.   Before time began there was nothing, nothing material, nothing physical, no time or space. 

 And God in His infinite wisdom and love brought into existence this material world.  Indeed it was a big bang, and voila the universe was here, and out of the chaos of that big bang God brought order to the universe and to our world.

And God then ordered the material world to be life giving.  As it says in Genesis, And God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to their own kind, upon the earth.  The earth brought forth vegetation…  And God saw that it was good.”

Please note, God did not speak plants into existenc; according to Genesis God did not say, “Let there be plants…”   Rather God orders His material world, the earth to bring forth the plants:  “let the earth bring forth vegetation.”  The physical world when acted upon by God’s word is life giving.  The earth becomes creative and brings forth life.  This is the material world as God created it.   The physical the spiritual are the same world.  There is no opposition between the physical and spiritual.

And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures…”  Again God does not alone bring forth life, but commands His seas to bring forth life and the seas obey.   The empirical world enlivened by God’s command is able to bring forth life.    And God tells the creatures in Genesis 1, “Be fruitful and multiply…” And so the created order begins being creative and animals pro-creatively fill the earth.   It is not God directly doing this but God commanding His creatures to multiply, and the creatures join in His creative work.  Creation is empowered by God to be creative and procreative, and the material creation again proves itself capable of bringing more life into existence.   And God saw that it was good. 

And God then commands, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth….”   And again the material earth does its job and brings animals into existence.  The materialist God giving life to His creation and the material world becomes creative and brings forth life as God commands.

The material world is all that God wants it to be – life giving and full of life.      That which is physical becomes animated – life bearing and life giving.

And then God creates us, humans, creatures who He makes in His own image and likeness.   He makes us from the dust of the ground and with the breathe of His Spirit.  We are beings in God’s image who also are to be life giving and full of life.

And God places us in His material world to enjoy this world and to rejoice in our Creator.   And it was so.

And we are beings who bring together the physical and the spiritual.  

And we today rejoice in the Lord as we bless the water which God has given us, and we bless the material world, and we encounter God in this world in our bodies in the water, in the bread and the wine, and in one another.  We celebrate today what God intended His creation to be, what He enlivened it to be, what He empowered it to be, and we ask God to renew His creation and make it once again capable of bearing His revelation

And God saw that this was good.  And God blessed this day.

August 6 and a Transfigured World

August 6th in the Orthodox world is the Feast of the Transfiguration of Christ.  It celebrates several theological truths such as the goodness of creation, the incarnation, that the created world is both capable of and is supposed to be in union with God and that the separation between God and humanity caused by human sin was not permanent but was coming to an end.  The event of the Transfiguration can be found in Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36. 

August 6th in the rest of the world today commemorates the American dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II.  That event is documented in many history books and online web pages.   

There is a similarity in the events in that both of them involve an unusual light seen during the daytime.  They both are signs of power – the Transfiguration of the power of God in relation to creation, and the nuclear explosion of the power that human ingenuity can unleash on the world.   The differences are also profound, for one represents the love of God for His world and the goodness which He bestowed in the physical creation.   The other represents a weapon of mass destruction and of indiscriminate killing for it targets not just the enemy’s military but civilians including children as well.

All day yesterday and even through the night, I could not get the images of these two events out of my mind.  I read yesterday numerous eyewitness accounts of survivors of the atomic blast, and the sheer destruction that explosion represented.   I felt that it was right that there be finally an American presence at the annual Hiroshima memorial, for we too have been victims of the madness that drove us to the development of such weaponry.   The invention of weapons of mass destruction, and the amount of tax dollars America continues to invest (and feel compelled to invest) in developing them, is not something we should be celebrating.  The invention and use of nuclear weapons represents terrorism on a mass scale.

I am not going to second guess the decision to use the atom bomb.  I live after the fact and understand what the use of that weapon did to the world in terms of creating a nuclear arms race and Mutual Assured Destruction.   I recently read Richard Bessel’s book, GERMANY 1945: FROM WAR TO PEACE, and see the absolute ideological madness which drove the Germans to continue fighting until they were absolutely destroyed as a militarist nation.  Their fanaticism to the very last day of the war, cost both them and the allies millions of lives just in 1945 when the war was clearly lost by the Nazis.  According to the book in fact more German soldiers died in 1945 than in any other years of the war.  So there is no doubt that the American leadership in 1945 had plenty of reason to dread the Japanese carrying out such a mindless social suicide at the expense of many more American lives.

The atom bomb was a weapon of sheer terrorism.  It was intended to terrorize the Japanese into submission:  they may be totally suicidal, but they were going to be destroyed without massive loss to American lives.  It worked.  The Japanese government surrendered in the face of such genocidal weapons. 

Many assume that the use of the atomic bomb was also meant to terrorize another people: the Soviets.  Just in case the Soviets were tempted to carry on a war to spread communism in the world, they too were being warned that they would face weapons of mass terrorism and destruction as well.  If that was the intent, it may have worked to avert yet another war immediately in 1945.  Yet it also ignited an arms race that consumed the world powers for the next decades into our current age. 

The atomic bomb transfigured the modern world.  There is no doubt about that.  I find it most appropriate that we finally were represented at the Hiroshima memorial to recognize with fear and sorrow what the development of nuclear weapons has meant to humankind, and what our role as Americans has been in the development of this terrorism.  And we who now fear rogue nations and Islamic terrorists getting these weapons are now also victims of this terrorism, trapped into spending yet another fortune to defend ourselves from a power we released on the world.  And as Americans I think we totally underestimate how the world sees us as a result of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: we are the one nation on earth willing to use nuclear weapons first – not just in response to a nuclear threat.  We also are the only people on earth who have unleashed nuclear weapons on another people.  Of course we are also the only nation on earth which bears the responsibility for using nuclear weapons on an enemy, a fact that should humble us who believe there will be a day of reckoning with the Creator.

August 6th is indeed a day of Transfiguration for the world, not just for Orthodox Christians.    The global population recognizes there are powers at work in the universe which we do not control; some hold us in complete awe and some in sheer terror.

May the King of Peace help us to deal with these powers, and to unleash in the world His power of love.   Nuclear power does not have only destructive purposes.   Like free will itself it holds the potential for good or ruin.