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 Post subject: Perceptions of Body and Nature
PostPosted: September 2nd, 2009, 1:23 am 
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Joined: September 10th, 2008, 11:36 pm
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Location: South Africa
Peter wrote:
"Remember, O Christian soul, that thou hast this day, and every day of thy life:

God to glorify,
Jesus to imitate,
The Blessed Virgin and the Saints to venerate,
The Angels to invoke,
A soul to save,
A body to mortify [emphasis mine],
Sins to expiate,
Virtues to acquire,
Hell to avoid,
Heaven to gain,
Eternity to prepare for,
Time to profit by,
Neighbors to edify,
The world to despise [emphasis mine],
Devils to combat,
Passions to subdue,
Death perhaps to suffer,
And Judgment to undergo."

From the Catholic "Manual of Prayers", Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, 1888.
Greetings of Peace,

I realise the above meditation was specifically and thematically linked to the Sacrifice - Death section of this forum, but I often worry, within the context of formally prescribed daily meditations, about suggestions such as "a body to mortify" and "the world to despise," largely because of the long history (both religious and secular) with regards the despising, 'conquering' and destruction of the natural world -- a natural order that is viewed by many traditions as a theophany of divine order (or, put another way, in ordained submission to divine order). Part of the Manichean heresy, for example (I think as pointed out by Augustine?), included the 'mortification of the flesh' that subsequently also led to a vilification of women and nature in certain religious circles (we find this within a variety of traditions, as well as within industrial secular society).

Of course, it does depend on the origins of the translated terms "mortification" and "world;" what is actually intended by the saints or clergymen; and has this understanding been effectively communicated to greater religious community? What I wanted to ask from those who follow the Christian tradition: is there a discernible or formal difference made between the world (viz. worldliness) and the earth or natural/cosmological order? The reason I ask is because I have often come across religious followers -- again, it should be noted they are found within a variety of traditions -- who believe that it is our human and religious duty to conquer nature, and that we should not concern ourselves with either environmental or animal abuse because these domains do not fall within the realm of the Divine or religious duty (this includes some Buddhists who feel that since existence is an "illusion", we should not become "attached" to either the sacred or its desecration).

Kind regards,
David


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 Post subject: Re: Perceptions of Body and Nature
PostPosted: September 12th, 2009, 1:40 pm 
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Dear David,

I can assure you that in the original Latin the above meditation uses the word mundus, referring to the world--and all the worldiness which necessarily accompanies it--as contrasted with the Kingdom of God, and not terrae, the earth, or natural order. As with all of God's creations--our human bodies included--the earth is not our possession for us to do with it as we see fit, but rather, a gift unto our soul's salvation.

Certainly, I share your concerns regarding the ability of our religious leaders to effectively communicate the necessity of our reverence for nature, and I cannot admit that the Christian tradition has not been unambiguous about such a declaration. We do, however, have the saints to guide us, and the example of the popular St Francis of Assisi serves well to illustrate a theophanic awareness within our tradition, as demonstrated by the following prayer, which views all creation as a laudatory hymn to God.

Quote:
The Canticle of the Sun (Praise of the Creatures)

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing. To you, alone, Most High, do they belong. No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him. And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens you have made them, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air, and clouds and storms, and all the weather, through which you give your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom you brighten the night. He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you; through those who endure sickness and trial. Happy those who endure in peace, for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whose embrace no living person can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Happy those she finds doing your most holy will. The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks, and serve him with great humility.


Though I fear that there is still no univocal voice within Christianity as regards this most important of issues, there has been growing interest in the protection of the natural world and all that is within it. I will say, however, that the generally apocalyptic climate that Christianity engenders may shift the bulk of the focus primarily toward man's spiritual degeneration, though an honest appraisal will see the ensuing environmental catastrophe as resulting from such inward forgetfulness. Part of the problem with this issue is putting everything intellectually in its proper place, without the compromise of religious traditions that ecumenical dialogue--and even more so, dialogue between traditional and modern man--tends to foster, though I agree that here is a perfect example where we cannot come to the necessary, unequivocal understanding too soon.

Blessings,

Peter

_________________
O ánima mea, ama Amórem ab ætérno te amántem.


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 Post subject: Re: Perceptions of Body and Nature
PostPosted: September 13th, 2009, 1:41 am 
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Location: South Africa
Dear Peter,

Thank you for responding. I had sensed this was the case; once again highlighting the importance of religious Tradition in discerning and preserving the Sacred.

Quote:
...though an honest appraisal will see the ensuing environmental catastrophe as resulting from such inward forgetfulness.

...as observed throughout the religious spectrum and ironically often prevalent in groups oriented towards millenarianism (loosely including secular Transhumanism). Interestingly, your comment strongly resembles that of Seyyed Hossein Nasr when he writes (within the context of natural theophany),

Quote:
The Earth is bleeding from wounds inflicted upon it by a humanity no longer in harmony with Heaven and therefore in constant strife with the terrestrial environment (Religion and the Order of Nature, New York: Oxford University Press, 1996, p.3)

Also, thank you for sharing the beautiful hymn from the works of St Francis of Assisi. I have always had a great admiration for St Francis and I am going to copy over and print out this hymn.

In peace and friendship,
David


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 Post subject: Re: Perceptions of Body and Nature
PostPosted: November 3rd, 2013, 10:55 pm 
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Posts: 26
Living as we do in the modern world it is hard to understand the early Christian insistence on mortifying the body. However, as I am sure you are aware of, all spiritual paths require a degree of ascesis. Christian spirituality arose from a monastic culture wherein warfare against the passions was of paramount importance. Fasting, sleepless vigils, and heedlessness to physical hardship were important tools in subduing fallen nature. St. Seraphim of Sarov knelt on a rock for 1000 days in pursuit of theosis. Even today we lay Orthodox are expected to follow a fasting discipline for 180 days of the year. This is the "mortifying" I believe the text refers to.

As far as despising the world I can assure you that the technological destruction of nature is anathema to traditional Christianity. In the Orthodox world we have a class of saints called dendrites (appropriately enough) who lived in hollow trees. I have been in sublimely beautiful Orthodox monasteries here in the US where they reject electricity and plumbing. I am not saying all who call themselves Christian see the face of God in virgin nature: I am old enough to remember James Watt saying that ecology was useless because the apocalypse was almost upon us; just that those who take this view are in no way traditional Christians. An excellent text on this topic is Philip Sherrard's "The Eclipse of Man and Nature". I believe it was originally published as "The Rape of Man and Nature" but they toned down the title.

I hope this helps. God bless. Philip


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