The Human Presence
On Human Presence
by Stratford Caldecott
Genuine sacramentalism respects the dynamic proper to God in dealing with creation. It is to the Orthodox and Catholic traditions that we turn, finally, for a fuller understanding of the relationship of human to divine in God. Paulos Mar Gregorios¹ profoundly exciting work, The Human Presence: Ecological Spirituality and the Age of the Spirit (WCC, 1977), is several times cited by Ian Bradley as the his source of much information about the Orthodox view, and it has long been my own favourite work on ecology. It is exciting partly because it of the radical questions it poses to our entire consumerist civilization in the final chapters (not unlike, I believe, the challenge implicit in the Popes own call to an “evangelization of culture” and to a transformation of the “models of production and consumption” that we too easily take for granted in the West).
Gregorios concurs with Bradley in finding much of interest in Teilhard and in Whitehead¹s process thought, but instead of simply throwing them together with the Church Fathers he endeavours to sift the wheat from the chaff, to discern the valid and the invalid elements in their thought. He would not endorse without qualification, I imagine, Bradleys revisionist view of God not as “omnipotent, absolute and unchanging”, but as “flexible, fluid, relative and constantly changing and active throughout his creation”. Drawing on Gregory of Nyssa, Maximus the Confessor, through to Solovyev, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Olivier Clement in our own time, Gregorios manages to maintain a thoroughgoing orthodoxy in essentials but almost a new language in the creative assimilation of that tradition for the world of today.
From Olivier Clement, Gregorios quotes this beautiful text: “Only through us can the cosmos, as the prolongation of our bodies, have access to eternity. How strange all this must sound to modern minds! That is our evil, our sin, our freedom led astray to vampirize nature; it is we who are responsible for the carcasses and the twisted trees that pollution produces, it is our refusal to love that baffles the sad eyes of so many animals. But every time a human being becomes aware of the cosmic significance of the eucharist, each time a pure being receives a humble sensation with gratitude - whether he eats a fruit or inhales the fragrance of the earth - a sort of joy of eternity reverberates in the marrow of things.”