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Athos Monks[play]
Th. Vassilikos[play]

About nature.

"Let us imagine a garden. A thousand different trees and various types of plants grow there, each of them different in appearance, color, and quality of growth. So many plants in one place, all nourished by the same moisture! Although the strength of the moisture, filling each one of them, is in essence the same, yet the plants use the moisture according to their different needs. In wormwood, the moisture turns rancid; in water hemlock, it becomes poisonous juice; in others — saffron, balsam, poppy — it develops other qualities: in one — it heats, in another — it cools, in the third, somewhere in between… In laurels, spikenard and similar plants — it is fragrant; in the fig and pear — sweet; in the grapevine it becomes grape and wine. The tang of the apple, the rose’s blush, the lily’s whiteness, the violet’s blueness, the hyacinth’s purple, and everything that can be seen on earth, growing out of one and the same moisture, differs in so many varieties of appearance, construction and qualities."

The holy bishop sees in all this the miraculous breathing of life. He calls it either the "life force," "mind," or, in a sense, "soul." This last notion he divides into three categories: "the growing-nourishing soul" in the plant world, "the sensitive soul" in the animal world, "the rational soul" in man. These are three consecutive stages, tightly knit together. And man, from the moment of his birth, passes through the initial stages, before his own rational soul is revealed fully, which from the beginning was already part of his potential.

Following the thought of the holy bishop, we can add that plants have the initial elements of "sensitivity," for example, to light, to warmth, even to foreign touch. They may even have the ability to react to what they "sense," and also the instinct to attract attention to themselves through their aesthetic side. Botanists can surely tell us so much about this!

St. Gregory then writes about man:

"A similar miracle is performed by nature, or, rather, by the Lord of nature, in respect to us as animated beings. Bones, cartilage, pulsating blood vessels, muscle fibers, ligaments, the body itself, skin, fats, hair, glands, nails, eyes, nostrils, ears and all that is similar and, besides them, thousands of other connections, differing from one another by various characteristics — all these are nourished by the type of food characteristic to its nature, so that the food, approaching each of the members, changes appropriately . If it nears the eye, it dissolves into this seeing organ and, according to the characteristics of the eye’s various parts, separates to nourish each of them. If it approaches the hearing organs, it mixes with the hearing ability; in the lip, becomes the lip; in the bones it hardens; in the marrow it softens; it changes into tension in the muscles, stretches over the surface in the form of skin, turns into nails, becomes refined enough to produce hair from itself, wavy and curly if it goes in winding movements, or straight and long if it moves in a straight line."

That which was said 1500 years ago begs to be supplemented by modern knowledge. Today we have at our disposal the results of such inventions of the 20th century, or more accurately — the last few decades, that appear to surpass the powers of nature: humans have surpassed the wisdom hidden in nature and perfected its blessings. So it appears superficially, at least. But one only need to look deep inside oneself to see that all the achievements of culture, including the computer, conform to God’s initial gifts that we carry within ourselves and make broad use of. Thus, in our brain, in this very humble case, we have an innumerable number of chambers, where we have our own dictionaries of various languages, if we have learned them, or ones available for them; miniature libraries, formed from the notes of our memory; archives filled with materials from our entire life; vocal or musical works memorized or etched into our souls; there is a photographic device where innumerable photos are kept; when we are alone, we have in ourselves an audience and a class for self-tutoring. The apparatus of our brain gives us the ability to play back at any time the content of a speech we’ve heard, or vocal works or visual pictures that have been impressed there. We keep in our brains our spiritual riches, but also often leave unnecessary trash. All this belongs to our eternal soul, and the landlord and manager of this wealth is our mind, our reason, that is also the evaluator of our collection. Its job is to bind our spiritual content, which is protected in an inexplicable manner within the brain, a physical organ, with all the surrounding life, with the help of a series of other physical organs.

St. Gregory suggests that his readers mentally place a person, as God’s creation, next to a sculpture or a painting of a person: what a difference between the creative power of God and the imitative creativity of humans! Thus we can ask, together with the saint, whether all the modern achievements of our mind are to be compared with the structure of our spiritual and physical self? Can we compare the life-abounding acts of the incomprehensible God, the One Creator and Provider, with the often lifeless, fake, and even dead achievements of human genius?

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