Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What will We Experience  
in the After Life?
Thoughts on the Oneness of Creation

There is no formal doctrine in the Orthodox Church concerning the afterlife for animals, including our pets. Those Fathers of the Church who have expressed themselves on this matter were simply expressing theological opinions that have not become universally accepted, and remain known as "theologoumena" (personal opinion). 

The Church has wisely refrained from pronouncing conclusively regarding the afterlife, for much remains unknown. We will not truly understand what awaits us after this life until we have entered into the afterlife. As Orthodox Christians, we simply accept the Nicaeo-Constantinopolitan Creed, reciting the words, "I look for....the life of the world to come."
By God's grace and our cooperation with this grace, we expect to inherit eternal life. We believe that all beings who have been a part of our lives will also be there. Some of us would even hope, along with C.S. Lewis, that it might be possible Paradise will also include our beloved pets, and even the animals that have contributed in a myriad of ways to our own well being. Would it be possible that the cow that provided milk for our children, and cheese for our table, might one day join us in a Paradise where there is no death and no pain?

C.S. Lewis describes something like this in his book "The Great Divorce" in which a sanctified lady in paradise is accompanied by a myriad of animals as she walks in glory through the fields of Paradise. As I have enjoyed the affection and loyalty of our monastery's wonderful Norwegian Forest Cat, Hammi, it would seem to me a Paradise without this loving little creature, would be wanting. Even the eternal loss of our hens, who've provided us with so many wonderful, fresh eggs, and given me so much delight, as I've watched them enjoying their free range lives, would seem sad to me.

This is simply my opinion, and I look forward to the possibility of meeting with the many beloved dogs and cats whose lives I have shared, over my sixty-eight years. The saints saw animals as creatures of God, created as gifts of God's love, and therefore resisted negligence or indifference when these animals were under their charge.

Saint Paul of Obnora was known to converse with birds, and Saint Seraphim of Sarov made friends with a bear. Saint Anthony the Great had a friendship with a lion. Saint Modestos viewed animals as sublime and mysterious gifts from God, and would often bless the livestock of the faithful - praying for their health and survival and glorifying in the vastness and beauty of all that God made. I myself, for some thirteen years, have blessed our cat Hammi, as I've let him out of the library after his night of sleep.

The traditional lands of Britain, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, all lands of the Celtic peoples, which, until the 11th century were part of the unified Orthodox Catholic Church and whose saints and spiritual life have much to offer the contemporary world, saw all of reality as a single unity. These saints knew, as all of the holy saints of the Church have known, that the wholeness of creation had been torn apart by the sin of Adam, and was restored by the saving act of Christ. In their lives they embodied the restoration of wholeness in creation, whether by communication with angels and spirits, or by kinship with all of the natural world.

Saint Athanasius said,  "(God) provided the work of creation also as a means by which the Maker might be known … Three ways thus lay open to them, by which they might obtain the knowledge of God. (First), they could look up to the immensity of heaven, and by pondering the harmony of creation come to know its Ruler, the Word of the Father." Thus, the natural world, seen in the light of Christ, remains a way to know God, that is, a way of salvation.

The oneness of our relationship with Creation is brought to life with the story of Saint Kevin of Glendalough. While standing at prayer in a traditional Celtic monastic position with his arms outstretched in the form of a cross, a blackbird built a nest on his arm and laid her eggs. Saint Kevin, not wanting to disturb her nest, stayed in the position until the eggs were hatched. The saint is said to have stated, "It is no great thing for me to bear this pain of holding my hand under the blackbird for the sake of heaven's king."

In the beginning of the restoration of the unity in the entire fallen cosmos, Christ went out into the desert and "He was with the wild beasts, and the angels served Him" (Mark 1:13). These heavenly and earthly creatures who were destined to become the new creation in the God-Man Jesus Christ were assembled around Him. There is a pointed reference to this restoration in the life of St Isaac of Syria, when he wrote:

The humble man approaches wild animals, and the moment they catch sight of him their ferocity is tamed. They come up and cling to him as their Master, wagging their tails and licking his hands and feet. They scent as coming from him the same fragrance that came from Adam before the transgression, the time when they were gathered together before him and he gave them names in Paradise. This scent was taken away from us, but Christ has renewed it and given it back to us at his coming. It is this which has sweetened the fragrance of humanity.

In other words, the state of likeness to God in Christ to which he had risen enabled him to be with the wild beasts just as Adam was in his naming of them. And, I suspect the reason pets are so important to we humans is that they aid in our journey into the restoration of kinship between two different parts of creation. Our pets become like all the animals were in the beginning, when Adam was charged with naming them. 

When the human can lie down with the cat, or the dog, or the chicken, (to paraphrase
Isaiah) we aid the advancement of the Kingdom just a little, work to recreate Paradise just a little, and so give new meaning to such menial tasks as cleaning out the chicken coop, or the litter box. 

Finally, as one of my favorite bishops said, "Animals were with Adam and Eve in Paradise, so why on earth wouldn't they also be in Heaven (Metropolitan Kallistos Ware)?"

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Hammi (click on photo to enlarge)

Wednesday March 26, 2014 / March 13, 2014
Fourth Week of the Great Lent: Adoration of Cross. Tone six.
Great Lent. By Monastic Charter: Strict Fast (Bread, Vegetables, Fruits)

Translation of the relics (846) of St. Nicephorus the Confessor, patriarch of Constantinople (829).
New Hieromartyr Nicholas priest (1919).
New Hieromartyr Gregory priest (1921).
New Hieromartyr Michael priest (1938).
Martyr Sabinus (Abibus) of Egypt (303).
Martyrs Africanus, Publius, and Terence of Carthage (3rd c.).
Martyr Alexander of Macedonia (305).
Martyr Christina of Persia (4th c.).
Venerable Aninas the Presbyter of the Euphrates.
Hieromartyr Publius, bishop of Athens and disciple of St. Dionysius the Areopagite (2nd c.).
St. Leander, bishop of Seville (596).
New Hieromartyr Stephen (Bekh), bishop of Izhevsk (1933).

You can read the life of the saint by clicking on the highlighted name.

The Scripture Readings for the Day

Isaiah 26:21-27:9

21 For behold, the Lord comes out of His place
To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity;
The earth will also disclose her blood,
And will no more cover her slain.

27 In that day the Lord with His severe sword, great and strong, Will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent,
Leviathan that twisted serpent;
And He will slay the reptile that is in the sea.

The Restoration of Israel

In that day sing to her,
“A vineyard of red wine!
I, the Lord, keep it,
I water it every moment;
Lest any hurt it,
I keep it night and day.
Fury is not in Me.
Who would set briers and thorns
Against Me in battle?
I would go through them,
I would burn them together.
Or let him take hold of My strength,
That he may make peace with Me;
And he shall make peace with Me.”

Those who come He shall cause to take root in Jacob; Israel shall blossom and bud,
And fill the face of the world with fruit.

Has He struck Israel as He struck those who struck him? Or has He been slain according to the slaughter of those who were slain by Him?
In measure, by sending it away,
You contended with it.
He removes it by His rough wind
In the day of the east wind.
Therefore by this the iniquity of Jacob will be covered;
And this is all the fruit of taking away his sin:
When he makes all the stones of the altar
Like chalkstones that are beaten to dust,
Wooden images and incense altars shall not stand.

Genesis 9:18-10:1

Noah and His Sons

18 Now the sons of Noah who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And Ham was the father of Canaan. 19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated.
20 And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. 21 Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.
24 So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. 25 Then he said:

“Cursed be Canaan;
A servant of servants
He shall be to his brethren.”
26 And he said:

“Blessed be the Lord,
The God of Shem,
And may Canaan be his servant.
27 May God enlarge Japheth,
And may he dwell in the tents of Shem;
And may Canaan be his servant.”
28 And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. 29 So all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died.

Nations Descended from Noah

10 Now this is the genealogy of the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And sons were born to them after the flood.

Proverbs 12:23-13:9

23 A prudent man conceals knowledge,
But the heart of fools proclaims foolishness.

24 The hand of the diligent will rule,
But the lazy man will be put to forced labor.

25 Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression,
But a good word makes it glad.

26 The righteous should choose his friends carefully,
For the way of the wicked leads them astray.

27 The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting,
But diligence is man’s precious possession.

28 In the way of righteousness is life,
And in its pathway there is no death.

13 A wise son heeds his father’s instruction,
But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.

A man shall eat well by the fruit of his mouth,
But the soul of the unfaithful feeds on violence.
He who guards his mouth preserves his life,
But he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.

The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing;
But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.

A righteous man hates lying,
But a wicked man is loathsome and comes to shame.
Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless,
But wickedness overthrows the sinner.

There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing;
And one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches.

The ransom of a man’s life is his riches,
But the poor does not hear rebuke.

The light of the righteous rejoices,
But the lamp of the wicked will be put out.
I invite my readers to listen to my

Ancient Faith Radio podcasts:

All-Merciful Saviour Monastery is a non-profit, 501 C3 organization, under IRS regulations.
All donations are therefore tax deductible. We support ourselves through the sales of Monastery Blend Coffee, our fine line of teas, and make Monastery Jams, all sold on line, and in our gift shop. We grow as many of our fruits and vegetables as we can, tend bee hives, and raise free range chickens for our eggs. With all we do to support ourselves, we still depend on the generosity of our friends and benefactors. You can donate to the monastery through PayPal, or by sending donations directly to the monastery's mailing address.

All-Merciful Saviour Monastery
PO Box 2420
Vashon Island, WA 98070-2420 USA
Abbot Tryphon's email address:

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