All Dogs Go to Heaven

The fathers do not agree utterly on the question of animals and eternal life – so the question of their eternal disposition is never answered in a manner that satisfies. But there are a few things worth pondering about the lives of animals (of which I have chosen dogs as representatives).

Animals, like all creation, are subject to the same corruption as human beings. St. Paul says that all creation has been made subject to the same process of death and decay that human beings endure:

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Romans 8:20-21).

This “subjection” is not “willingly,” i.e. creation made no sinful decision that caused this to happen. Thus, in a certain sense, creation is not “fallen.” However, it is subject to the same “fallen” existence that we know. Were fallen human beings to live in an unfallen world, our catastrophe would be greater (perhaps unredeemable). Little wonder, however, that creation groans. That it tolerates our footsteps is a sign of great patience and love.

So, what does it mean that creation is fallen yet not fallen?

I return to dogs. It is not incorrect to say that a dog is without sin. It does nothing wrong, nothing un-doglike. Dogs act in accordance with their nature. Human beings, however, frequently act contrary to their nature. This unnatural life is the very epitome of sin.

This, of course, is not to say that dogs do not do terrible things. It says, however, that the terrible things they do are the result of human abuse and sin. We make them what they are.

However, were they not consistently acting in accordance with their nature, they would not be trainable. They are able to be taught – but not taught to be something other than a dog (despite the fact that we sometimes think of them as acting in a human-like manner).

Do dogs pray (does creation pray)? Absolutely! “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6). But how do they pray? Their very existence is prayer. Every created nature is made to live in communion with God. Human nature itself lives in communion with God. Our fall does not consist in becoming something other than human – we have yet to become truly human. Thus St. Paul says: “Man is the glory of God” (1 Cor. 11:7). And St. Irenaeus says, “The glory of God is man fully alive” (Adv. Her. 4.34.5-7). Our becoming truly human would mean the restoration of our true integrity – we would live in accordance with our nature and praise the Lord without ceasing. The natures of all creation ceaselessly praise God by their very existence. Our struggle is to rejoin the song of creation with the whole of our being.

I confess that my dog-thoughts are the result of living with a puppy since Bright Monday. We are daily rejoicing and struggling with the consequences of his dog nature in the environment of my human house. He is learning and I am learning. Given my propensities, I cannot help but theologically reflect on it all.

The ultimate disposition of dogs (and all creation) is in the hands of God. I personally pray that the groaning of creation will be met with a liberation that includes an eternal life for all and everything. At present, my dog and I groan for the liberation of a well-trained life. I pray to become more consistently human – and I’m sure he prays for the same thing.

Comments

  1. Philip Jude says

    An old woman asked a Jesuit, “What is heaven like?”

    The Jesuit said, “Heaven is where you are happiest.”

    The old woman wondered, “Will my little dog go to heaven?”

    “No,” said the Jesuit.

    The old woman cried, “I could never be happy without my little dog!”

    The Jesuit replied somberly, “Then, madam, your little dog will surely go to Heaven.”

  2. dinoship says

    Father,
    I have always wondered what the various Orthodox explanations (and I have heard quite a few very good ones already) on pre-Fall carnivores, fangs, death, decay etc are…
    I was reminded of this when you mentioned: “This, of course, is not to say that dogs do not do terrible things. It says, however, that the terrible things they do are the result of human abuse and sin.”

  3. Philip Jude says

    “We have yet to become truly human”

    Weren’t we truly human before the fall? Or do you take the view that we were mere infants, a la Irenaeus?

    I am currently reading the City of God, and I was last night surprised to find that St. Augustine held that the corrupt and transient nature of creation is God-willed, good, and beautiful:

    “But it is ridiculous to condemn the faults of beasts and trees, and other such mortal and mutable things as are void of intelligence, sensation, or life, even though these faults should destroy their corruptible nature; for these creatures received, at their Creator’s will, an existence fitting them, by passing away and giving place to others, to secure that lowest form of beauty, the beauty of seasons, which in its own place is a requisite part of this world. For things earthly were neither to be made equal to things heavenly, nor were they, though inferior, to be quite omitted from the universe. Since, then, in those situations where such things are appropriate, some perish to make way for others that are born in their room, and the less succumb to the greater, and the things that are overcome are transformed into the quality of those that have the mastery, this is the appointed order of things transitory. Of this order the beauty does not strike us, because by our mortal frailty we are so involved in a part of it, that we cannot perceive the whole, in which these fragments that offend us are harmonized with the most accurate fitness and beauty. And therefore, where we are not so well able to perceive the wisdom of the Creator, we are very properly enjoined to believe it, lest in the vanity of human rashness we presume to find any fault with the work of so great an Artificer. At the same time, if we attentively consider even these faults of earthly things, which are neither voluntary nor penal, they seem to illustrate the excellence of the natures themselves, which are all originated and created by God” (Book XII, Chapter 4).

  4. says

    Fr. Stephen. Thanks for the reflection! We too are living with a new puppy, after our last puppy was killed. I recall how our last dog would howl along whenever we sang before meals. She would not howl at any other time, just when we were singing Orthodox hymns. I couldn’t help but think she was participating in the way of her nature.

  5. dinoship says

    PJ,
    there is such beauty in the wisdom of that quote of St. Augustine!
    Thank you for it.

    Concerning the mortal and transitory nature of creation (including Man) -even before the Fall – St. Maximus implies very strongly that this is due to the creaturliness of creation, i.e.: having been created out of nothing and not having eternal life (even before the Fall) inside of it, inherent to it, but receiving this from the Uncreated One, (Him Who truly IS -Exodus 3, 13). So, humanity before the Fall is fully human but obviously created from nothing (having a ‘tendency’ towards nothingness when considered apart from its Caller) and being called to communion with God. All other creation is similarly called to communion/unity with its ‘head’ i.e.: Man, the pinnacle of Creation.
    The Holy Fathers who beheld the Uncreated Light of God have also had a glimpse of what all of creation looks like redeemed, at a higher ‘state’ than before the Fall (e.g.: Saint Symeon the New Theologian).

    My personal understanding is that there is no incompatibility between the ‘infant’ (Irenaeus’ view) and the fully human, however, one can both be fully human and mere flesh (Genesis 6,3) as well as fully human and a true Hypostasis ‘containing’ in himself all of creation like Christ (e.g.: Saint Silouan the Athonite), to use a favorite word of my daughter’s, the gamut of human can only be described “mind-blowing”…

  6. Karen says

    Father, bless!

    PBS did a wonderful piece on the evolution of dogs, showing how they are uniquely adapted to living with human beings and even reading human emotions (unlike wolves–even those raised in captivity). I think of this as being part of the loving providence of God–how many have received the experience of being unconditionally loved first (and sometimes only) through a dog? There are so many wonderful stories of God working through pets, especially dogs, in saving ways on the physical level (and emotional level). In those instances especially, they are revealed to be His furry “angels!” Yes, I, too, find that animals provide ample material for meditation on what is revealed of God through HIs creation.

    May you have many years of both joy (and the inevitable character-building frustration) that comes with owning a dog!

  7. mushroom says

    But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. — 2 Peter 3:13 ESV

    The Lord puts our sins away to be remembered no more, but all the good, He remembers.

  8. says

    Dear Father,

    Aside from a clear love of your puppy, one of the things I read in this post appears to be support of the Augustinian idea of Original Sin. I thought this was not exactly supported in Orthodoxy. Could you help me here–in fewer than six or seven theological volumes?

  9. Drewster2000 says

    The subject of whether or not animals go to Heaven is always a curious one, in how it’s debated. It’s easy to understand the hopes of the animal lovers and good pet owners, but what good motivation could there be for opposition to the idea?

    Does it make us feel knowledgable and in control when we can emphatically deny them entrance? Does it make us more theologically sound when we can build a case against them?

    One of the righteous criticisms of theologians is that they tend to think they know it all. Being a thinker is good, but this is definitely one of its strengths and weaknesses. We must be willing to accept a category of “I don’t know”.

    But even when we don’t know something, we often have hopes. And it should be that we hope and want what God Himself does. And He wants that “none should perish”.

    On a subject like this about which we simply cannot know, we should not only hold animals animals “innocent until proven guilty” but go further and hope for their continued existence in God’s presence. For God has created nothing for the ultimate purpose of dying, and we should cast our vote with His. Even the great affection that some of us show toward His creation should be evidence of that.

  10. says

    And you thought the “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” and “Guardian Angels” posts generated a lot of traffic. Now you’ve really done it!… :)

  11. says

    I myself have often thought that dogs were given to us, among other things, to show what real, selfless, consuming love is.

    No matter what we do or who we are, our dogs love us. Homeless people, often spurned by our society because they beg (“they’re only going to go drink away anything I give them”), are loved by their pets with patience and persistence.

    Reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw once: “Lord, please help me to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am….”

  12. Theresa Tate says

    Your article reminded me of my last trip to the monastery in Manton, CA where I was impressed with how “doggie” their dogs were. Having the run of nature and being treated like dogs rather than neurotic children (as some citified dogs are), they had such natural exuberance. What a joy!

    Assuming you are taking advantages of the wisdom of the monks of New Skete because of your photo :) Blessings on your training program!

  13. Margie says

    Thank you for posting this. As someone working with young children I have always told them that God’s creation has been created out of His love for us. When they ask if there will be animals (usually pets) in heaven I have responded Heaven is God’s perfection in creation and I hope that we will experience our animals in God’s love for us there.

  14. says

    Fr. Stephen, we’ve both had this on our minds lately. You got a new puppy on Bright Monday and my 13 year old cat reposed on Bright Monday. I buried him a few yards off the Pinhoti National Recreation Trail, but don’t believe I’ve seen the last of him. In my experience, the Western mindset is that if we don’t have a promise from God in writing, we assume the worst. So, those with “theological” interests would insist that our pets cease to exist and “doggie heaven” is only something for little children to hear. Jesus told us we had to become like little children. What kind of a relationship does one have with one’s father if one can’t believe in receiving anything good from him without a written contract for it? What father, with the power to do so, would not return his child’s beloved pet to life? Besides, I think we even have it in writing that He will wipe every tear from our eyes.

    Our pets have been caught up in a special life with us. As for those who aren’t pets, it seems that any who can suffer as individuals must eventually be comforted as individuals.

  15. Philip Jude says

    I can think of a legitimate reason to deny that dogs “go to heaven,” if that phrase means enjoying a level of communion with God that is on par with that which humans experience.

    The special dignity afforded humanity by Judeo-Christianity is based on the fact that we are not simply creatures, but creatures formed in the “image and likeness” of God. That we are moral actors capable of salvation or damnation is a function of our divine similitude.

    But if dogs “go to heaven,” then do they possess human-like dignity? Do they have rights? What about pigs? Does this mean we can no longer eat pigs . . . or, on the flip, that we can start eating humans?

    You see where I am going. This is why some theologians — especially those involved in bioethics — are sensitive to claims that dogs go to heaven. It ultimately puts humans and animals on the same plane — not by raising them up, but by lowering us down. And we are not on the same plane.

    We rule beasts because we are made in the image and likeness of God and they are not. We go to heaven because we are made in the image and likeness of God and they are not.

    . . . At least, that is what someone who doubts the premise might say. As for me, I’m agnostic. ;-)

  16. says

    Bob,
    Re: Original Sin. I’m not sure how this appears to support the idea of Augustinian original sin, except perhaps in the wound we have of not being able to fulfill our nature. If I understand the most odious versions of Original Sin, it is that our nature itself has become wounded, broken, sinful. We do not inherit a propensity to sin – we inherit a wound that, without healing, makes the fulfillment of righteousness impossible (and there is a difference). But we are all born innocent, but into a world in which other innocents have become not innocent – and we quickly become like them. That’s one way to think of it. There is certainly not the idea of “original guilt” within Orthodoxy.

    But we do all come into a fallen state – which is not defined by guilt, such that a forensic forgiveness would take care of the problem. We come into a state in which a proper healing is required for us to live fully and completely in accord with our nature in union with God.

    Is that helpful? Please ask for clarification or broaden the question. It’s important.

  17. says

    Philip Jude,
    “If that phrase means enjoying a level of communion with God that is on par with that which humans experience…” Angels, who are not created in the image of God, apparently enjoy communion with God, though not on a par with that which we be our inheritance. Thus your objection fails. Bioethics people are largely nonsensical anyway (at least most of the stuff I’ve read).
    There is so much ground about which we have yet to agree, that your assumptions carry little weight. “Moral actors,” is problematic, depending on what you mean by “moral.” See my article on “Why Morality is not Christian.”
    Unlike some in this country, I would never eat a dog. :)

  18. Drewster2000 says

    Philip Jude,

    Suffice it to say that you think much more with your head than your heart. There is nothing wrong with that. As you’ve expounded on more than once, rationale is a God-given gift.

    Your challenge is to love accept those who think at least as much with their hearts as their heads, because there’s nothing wrong with that either.

    Put another way, your challenge is to tell yourself “I don’t understand that – and I can even see arguments against it from where I’m standing – but I’m aware enough of the situation to realize that I can only see one side to it. And I know the integrity of a lot of people who seem to be on the other side. So I’ll let this matter rest and be gracious in doing so.”

    You thirst for answers, knowledge and wisdom. That is good, but the Truth is still a person and He will become known by you only one interaction at a time. You can’t argue Him closer.

    As for the current discussion, a lot of people here have hearts that say they’ll see animals in Heaven. While your first instinct is to seek numbers, calculations, hard-and-fast support for why this can or can’t be the case, God is not going to supply you with those. The heart cannot and will not converse this way.

    I bet your wife didn’t marry you because you logicked her into submission, and I bet the method won’t work with pet lovers either.

    your friend, drewster

  19. Philip Jude says

    Father,

    I don’t think the objection does fail based simply on the complication of our relationship with angels. Indeed, I see a similarity between the angels and the animals: both can be used instrumentally, as means to an end, whereas a human being must always be treated as an end in itself. Consider it: angels were made to praise and serve God; animals were made to serve and satisfy man. But man alone was created for the singular purpose of communion, no?

    “Bioethics people are largely nonsensical anyway (at least most of the stuff I’ve read).”

    I’ll have to tell that to my good priest friend who has spent the last four years working on bioethics (specifically the treatment of the terminally ill) at the Catholic University in Louvain at the bequest of our bishop.

    Honestly, how can you make such statements? You seem to dismiss whatever is disagreeable to your character. I understand what you are saying in your article on morality. I actually agree with much of it. But there is a place where the rubber meets the road.

    Bioethics is nonsensical, you say. Opposing abortion is nonsensical? Human cloning? Contraception? Genetic engineering? Assisted suicide? Genetic engineering? These aren’t simple issues. Neither are they unimportant issues. They require study and they have the potential of influencing millions of lives.

    Most people are not monks. They’re plumbers or car salesmen or stay-at-home moms or football coaches or math teachers or physicists or tailors. They expect their Church to provide guidance through an increasingly haywire society. They want to learn how their Christian faith should inform their interaction with their neighbors, their government, their society.

    You write, for instance, “As for justice – it remains a mystery.” How does that help a congressman decide whether or not he should support legalization of assisted suicide?

  20. says

    Dear Drewster;
    I think with my head too, but dont come to the same conclusions as PJ. Your distinction seems to be between ‘intuition/emotion’ and ‘intelect/logic’.
    My intellect and intuition agree that God’s overwhelming and abundant love for the good creation he brought into being, will see a redemption for every sparrow and flower. Where my intellect says, “I dont know”, is spelling out what this will/must look like. But that it will be in the new heaven and new earth, I am confident.

    Love;
    -Mark Basil

  21. Philip Jude says

    Whoa, I said that I was agnostic on the issue. I was simply raising a point that I have heard before re: dogs and heaven. It is not simply from hardness of heart that people reject the idea. They have played out the consequences in their minds.

    If you put my back to the wall, I guess I’d say: No, animals do not go to heaven (as in the spiritual realm wherein the holy dead await the resurrection), but I see no reason why they won’t be leaping and creeping around the new creation.

    Drew,

    I appreciate your advice and admonitions, though I have no problem with people who are “heart” driven. Every part of the Body has its own function. “Heart” certainly describes my wife, whom I love. She teaches me quite a lot. The heart and the head (so to speak) are equally necessary, I think.

    This is the genius of Catholicism, which demands faith and reason and embraces Scholastic theology and monastic spirituality.

    Take someone like Thomas Aquinas. He is one of the greatest minds in human history. Analytical in the extreme. Yet he also wept regularly before the Eucharist and had genuine encounters with Christ and the Virgin. He is said to have levitated in ecstasy during prayer.

    I’m no Thomas, but I think he is a worthy ideal for a Christian. We are not all meant to be contemplative hermits. Nor, of course, are we all meant to be philosophers.

    Thank you for your counsel, though.

  22. Philip says

    Two interesting quotes I found, from Orthodox all stars, no less.

    Gregory Palamas:

    “The soul of each of the irrational animals is the life for the body it animates, and so animals possess life not essentially, but as an energy, since this life is dependent on something else and is not self-subsistent.’ Therefore since the soul of animals has only energy, it dies with the body. By contrast, the soul of man has not only energy but also essence: ‘The soul possesses life not only as an activity, but also essentially, since it lives in its own right… For that reason, when the body passes away, the soul does not perish with it.’ It remains immortal.” (150 Chapters, 38).

    Archimandrite Sophrony (on Saint Silouan).

    “We often see people so attached to animals that they are even friends with them. This the Staretz Silouan considered to be a perversion of the order established by God and contrary to the normal state of man…

    In the whole of the New Testament there is not a single instance of the Lord paying attention to animals, though He, of course, loved every living thing. Attaining to…perfection of human nature, in the image of the Man-Christ, is the task set before us, appropriate to our nature as created in the likeness of God, and therefore affection and attachment to animals, so the Staretz thought, debases the human form of being. In this respect he writes,

    Some people attach themselves to animals but in so doing they grieve the Creator, for man is called to love the One God. It is wrong to have a passion for animals – one must only commiserate with all living things.

    He would say that all things were created to serve man, and so, when necessary, everything could be made use of but, at the same time, man was obliged to care for all creation. Therefore, harm done unnecessarily to an animal – to plant life, even – gainsays the law of grace. But attachment to animals likewise goes against the Divine commandment, since it diminishes love for God and one’s neighbor.”

    Anyone who genuinely loves mankind, and in his prayers weeps for the whole world, cannot attach himself to animals.”

  23. Philip Jude says

    Then again:

    “About a hundred years ago, said the monk – but like all good Athonites time meant little to him – the mountain suffered from a constant plague of snakes. Cats were needed to deal with them. But they had to be tom-cats; and the supply was always having to be renewed, and the cat-merchants of the mainland kept raising the price higher and higher till the monasteries could no longer afford to buy any more. The Holy Synod met and decided to dedicate an evening of prayer to the Mother of God to ask for her assistance. This was done; and a few mornings later it was found that all the tom-cats on the Mountain had given birth to kittens. Great was the rejoicing until it was revealed that half of these kittens were female. What was to be done about them? The holy Synod met hastily again. Some monks maintained that they females must be drowned at once. Others suggested that they might be sold; as miraculously born kittens they would fetch a high price. But the oldest and the wisest of the monks pointed out that it was the Mother of God herself who had provided them. She therefore could have no objection to them. Besides, if the monasteries got rid of them the same crisis would arise again in a few years time; and the Mother of God might not be willing to perform the miracle twice. So we permit she-cats, said the monk.”

    :-)

  24. Philip Jude says

    As a hilarious aside: How awesome would it be to be a “cat-merchant”?

    “Philip Jude, cat-merchant, at your service!”

  25. Drewster2000 says

    Mark Basil,

    I submit that you think with your head, but attempt to balance it out with your heart. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using one’s head, but God gave us a head, a heart, and a human body. Chances are we operate best when we use all them in harmony.

  26. Philip Jude says

    By “heaven” do we mean the spiritual abode wherein the souls of the saints await resurrection? Or do we mean the new creation? I don’t see why there wouldn’t be little dingos and squirrels and lynxes and grasshoppers and whatnot zipping around the new earth, but as for the purely celestial realm . . . seems unlikely, given the traditional Christian understanding of the soul (both east and west).

  27. Drewster2000 says

    Again, we’re going above our paygrade here. No one knows much at all about the new heavens and the new earth, let alone if animals will be allowed. We might as well spit into the wind and explain life on other planets while we’re at it. (grin)

  28. dinoship says

    PJ,
    (even if you arrive at your conclusions the way that has been described here in the above posts -rationally), I cannot disagree with what you have said here at all…
    The Saints, (the pinnacles of creation) I believe, will in some form possibly ‘save’ (redeem) all of creation including animals since the Holy Spirit Himself and not their own preference has given them to love all creation; however, to ever arrive at such Saintly acquisition of God’s Spirit, will require total detachment from all creation including animals…
    Saint Silouan’s quote is pertinent, as it is not just our love of self, of pleasure, of the flesh etc. but also our (ego-driven) “love” (attachment – attraction) towards any of creation (humans and animals included) that has the power to make us forget God. It really should help us remember Him, but unfortunately, in our fallen state, it helps us forget Him more often…

  29. Karen says

    PJ, good question. I think of heaven in its consummation (the New Earth) as being where we will have animals (and even pets?) again.

    When I was 12 years old, our family dachshund chased a rabbit into the street and was killed by a car. I was completely devastated–even pleading tearfully with God for her resurrection! To tell you the truth, I love animals, but I don’t miss that little dog at all now. I’m quite at peace without her. I’m not sure I’d be interested in her if she were resurrected (so many other things–mostly people–have become so much more important to me now), though my attitude about seeing my grandparents again and other loved ones is quite different, and this makes me suspect that we will all be so completely enraptured with Christ (really, who or what can compete with Him?!) when we see Him face to face, we won’t really have the same kind or need of attachment to our pets (which is a tacit acceptance of St. Silouan’s observation/conviction at least as a goal).

    With regard to the excerpt from St. Silouan, I actually thought of that as well. It is obviously inappropriate to be idolatrously attached to a pet (or any created thing), but all passions can be transfigured and properly ordered as well. To love animals and respect them for what they are (and here I note the unique relationship of dogs and humans as above), and even accept their service (with gratitude to God) where it is truly needed is perhaps not St. Silouan’s real concern (except, perhaps, in the particular setting of the monastic call).

  30. Brian says

    No claim to answers here – just some points I’ve pondered in the past…

    “For the gifts and the calling of God are not repented of” (as in ?) …”and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

    “For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.” (Delivered from the bondage of corruption to…non-existence?)

    “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord… The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”

    It was not only man whom God “remembered” in the flood:

    “And God remembered Noah, and all the beasts, and all the cattle that were with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged; the fountains also of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained…”

    Nor was it with man alone that He made the covenant after the flood:

    “And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you. Of all that go out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. And I will establish my covenant with you. Neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of the flood. Neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.”

    St. Isaac speaks of the kind of love God has for all creation when he tells of the love that burns in the heart of those who share His likeness:

    “‘And what is a merciful heart? It is the heart’s burning for the sake of the entire creation, for men, for birds, for animals, for demons and for every created thing; and by the recollection and sight of them the eyes of a merciful man pours forth abundant tears. From the strong and vehement mercy which grips his heart and from his great compassion, his heart is humbled and he cannot bear to hear or to see any injury or slight sorrow in creation. For this reason he continually offers up tearful prayer, even for irrational beasts, for the enemies of the truth and for those who harm him, that they be protected and receive mercy. And in like manner he even prays for the family of reptiles because of the great compassion that burns in his heart without measure in the likeness of God.”

    Fascinating topic!

  31. says

    PJ,
    St. Silouan’s thoughts on animals has generally been treated as “odd.” Too many exceptions for this to be the normative rule. Too many saints who have loved animals and been friends with them. I’ve got an Orthodox book with nothing but saints and animal stories – there’s a ton of them.

  32. says

    My thoughts about Original Sin happened after reading this:

    “This, of course, is not to say that dogs do not do terrible things. It says, however, that the terrible things they do are the result of human abuse and sin. We make them what they are.”

    The same would be the same for a human when brought into the world, wouldn’t it? The question is whether you are born that way or soon adapt to it. (“But we are all born innocent, but into a world in which other innocents have become not innocent – and we quickly become like them.”)

    In my own limited understanding, I accpet the idea of Original Sin as a model, but not as a full reality. A model train has its uses, but we don’t ship freight by it. We need and use modeling and sampling in many areas science to get some grasp of what is beyond our understanding.

    Rejection of Original Sin does not guarantee correct theology. Mormons reject it. (See #2 on this list: http://mormon.org/articles-of-faith )

    However, going back to my original comment, I was somewhat surprised to read something here that could be construed in a way as supporting Original Sin because of the entire Fall of Creation.

    Your distinction of dogs, unsinful as they may be because they act according to their nature, living in a sinful world and sometimes do terrible things, does gives a person something to think about.

  33. says

    Bob,
    Most important is to not think of sin as a legal concept. It’s not that we do things deserving to be judged as bad, but that sin is more like the disease of broken communion with God, out of which we do corrupted things. The West’s classical treatment of Original Sin is an inherited guilt that we get from Adam’s sin. There is no inherited guilt in this model offered here. Instead, there is a world whose proper communion with God (particularly focused in human beings) has been shattered in some very deep ways. God remains – nothing exists without Him sustaining it in existence.

    There is a different between innocence and righteousness. Righteousness does not mean “guilt free,” but “grace filled” (or “God filled”). Innocence implies a state that is waiting to become more than it is (such as a child as an “innocent” but not yet an adult). St. Irenaeus, and much of the Tradition look at Adam and Eve as “adolescents,” created in the image and likeness of God, but actually created in His image with the goal to obtain His likeness – a goal which was not fulfilled. In Christ, this goal will be fulfilled as we are conformed to His image.

    Good thoughts. Thanks.

  34. waylon says

    Fr. Stephen,

    I love this post! As I’m reading through the comments here, I’m not seeing anyone ask what I think is the most important question raised here: what kind of puppy did you get? :)

    My wife and I got two puppies shortly after we got married. Now they are 3 years old and we are expecting our first child, a son, in about a month. We can’t wait to watch the baby and dogs play together!

    Many blessings,
    Waylon

  35. simmmo says

    I would like to say that the language we Christians sometimes use about the “age to come” is wrong. We often speak of “going to heaven” (a phrase not found in scripture – correct me if I’m wrong). Rather the Christian hope is in the resurrection and the recreation of the world. As St Paul says in Romans – the whole creation is groaning with pangs. Read Isaiah 65,66 and Revelation 21. The closing scene of the Bible does not depict saved souls going to heaven, but rather the New Jerusalem coming to earth. The bible uses phrases like the “age to come” about the post-resurrection world. Age has to do with time and space. Kallistos Ware once said that we are not saved from the world, we are saved with it – dogs n all I presume. Perhaps us Christians have got to find better language to use about our eternal destiny – biblical language. The dualistic, two storey language about “going to heaven” just won’t do. And if we have the hope that this very good creation will indeed be our eternal home, then this totally changes the way we look at the world around us in the here and now. This is God’s very good creation. He has begun new creation in the life death and resurrection of Christ. I know of no other place I’d rather be.

  36. simmmo says

    All this talk about the eternal life of animals and all creation etc does raise the question of whether we’ll all be vegetarians in the age to come… interesting. When we dig up a potato, that is a form of killing isn’t it?? What about the eternal life of plants?? hmmmm Perhaps this will have to be in the “wait and find out” category.

  37. says

    On Bl. Sophrony on St Silouan on attachment to animals:
    Since reading this years ago I have been able to see many more perversions in the ‘love’ people have for their pets. I live in the city, and this is a serious problem here (we all know the extremes: expensive pet foods and medicines, expensive pet clothing, etc.). I believe there is something useful in St Silouan’s words.

    I perhaps dont understand what is meant by Elder Sophrony by ‘friendship’ (as so many saints had a harmonious and affectionate relationships with even dangerous animals; it seems right to our nature in the likeness of the God who created them out of love), but attachment to animals, or passionate entanglement in care for them, seems problematic.

    It reminds me of Elder Porphyrios’s criticism of love for friends: he says only love for one’s enemies is pure, as love for friends has many distorted elements (including reciprocity, passionate sympathy, etc.). This is not an argument against friendship, but the recognition that there can be a lot of weeds mixed in with the good grain. Likewise, I think, with our love for animals and yes even adorable puppies. :)

    Love;
    -Mark Basil

  38. says

    Simmo;
    there is a difference between the potato and the clam- one resists your efforts to take its life, the other does not. As we all know the food in Paradise was grain, seed, fruit, vegetable.
    I believe perfection would move us toward vegetarianism (though I personally have far graver sins to battle with first).
    Love;
    -Mark Basil

  39. dinoship says

    Saint Symeon the New Theologian, like many others, was granted an experience of the Age to Come, after which he didn’t need food or sleep for days, and during which he experienced what the resurrected body is like. Worth a read…

  40. says

    Waylon,
    Spoken like a true dog lover! He’s a young border collie – doubtless one of the reasons he’s keeping me on my toes. He’s working hard at herding our cat. :)

  41. says

    Simmmo,
    Great points – especially about “going to heaven.” It is indeed a One-Storey Universe. On the vegetarian question, its logic would seem compelling, but Christ at fish after the resurrection (something which always troubled me – because it messed with my logic). Clearly I do not understand the mystery.

  42. says

    Mark Basil,
    Yes. The weeds mixed with the good grain. Even with puppies. I watched a program last night (PBS Nova series) on dogs and people, and was struck about just how physical our bond is. It is a natural relationship, apparently one that goes back perhaps 100,000 years. But doubtless plenty of “weeds.” Human abuse of animals and misuse (training and breeding for fighting, etc.) is evidence of how perverted we can be.

  43. says

    Dinoship,
    It was very expensive, which had prevented me buying it for a while. I got it as an e-book, which reduced the price somewhat.

  44. Philip Jude says

    “Saint Symeon the New Theologian, like many others, was granted an experience of the Age to Come, after which he didn’t need food or sleep for days, and during which he experienced what the resurrected body is like. Worth a read…”

    Where can this account be found?

    Simmmo,

    Is it not universal orthodox Christian teaching that the souls of the holy saints enjoy peaceful communion with God while they await the very resurrection and new creation of which you speak? This “in between” place/time/state is what is typically referred to as “heaven.”

  45. Drewster2000 says

    Fr. Stephen,

    “…there is a world whose proper communion with God (particularly focused in human beings) has been shattered in some very deep ways. God remains – nothing exists without Him sustaining it in existence.”

    I have come to entertain the belief that we exist in the mind of God. This has many implications. For example, if He stopped thinking about us, we would cease to be.

    It also lends insight into how we think, imagine, create. One small example is the fact that we give a certain amount of reality to things we hold in our minds, just like our Father does but to a much lesser degree.

    Is there anything in Orthodox theology that would negate such a notion?

  46. says

    Drewster,
    Yes. To exist “in the mind of God” has always been rejected as saying something other than our material existence. One could argue that it does not necessarily, but this has not been treated as an acceptable way to speak of creation. Also, it may fail to give enough distinction between our existence and God’s existence. Are God’s thoughts other than God? And, of course, does God have a mind and is it appropriate to speak of Him (and His mind) in such terms? Many problems.

    He sustains our existence – it is a gift of His free will – thus we are not “of His nature” or His essence. Origen taught that God was “Creator by Nature,” which would mean that God has always been Creator (and thus that Creation is eternal), and that God creates by necessity. This was condemned as heresy. God is not Creator by nature (ousia), but by His own free will. We exist apart from His ousia. We are a free gift, and not a necessity of God’s nature.

  47. Philip Jude says

    Drewster,

    That idea sounds monistic, proper to Hinduism but not Christianity. If we exist merely “within the Mind of God,” then there is only one substance: the Divine. That would render the whole story of redemption a charade, a sort of fantasy. Indeed, our existence itself would be a fantasy, no?

  48. Drewster2000 says

    Fr. Stephen,

    I definitely don’t support Origen’s “Creator by Nature” and did not mean to. As to us existing in the mind of God meaning somehow that we are just something He dreamed up, and thus could disappear tomorrow at His whim…..

    I suspect the biggest thing against this notion is that it makes us extremely uncomfortable. If one’s understanding of God even slightly includes a tyrannical, angry, insanely jealous, or in any other way unstable or unjust diety, this would be very unnerving.

    And since we as human beings dream up and dismiss thousands of different ideas and thoughts a day, we think God must do the same. Right?

    But I contend that He simply is – and creates freely, not by nature. God’s thoughts aren’t other than Him any more than His love or His justice. That we exist in His thoughts and yet somehow are given independence of Him at the same time: I can see how figuring out the logistics of this would troublesome for some, but that wouldn’t take away from the fact that it is entirely true nonetheless (if it is).

    We were made in God’s image so it doesn’t trouble me to say that God has a mind, but I also have no compulsion to explain what His mind is like and how it would compare to ours.

    ~~~~~~~

    Having said all this, it’s not something to build a church on. It falls into the “above our paygrade” category and is only a subject for pondering, not pontificating. Thanks for engaging me on this topic.

  49. Drewster2000 says

    Philip Jude,

    I hear you.

    I don’t see a problem with God creating human nature, creation, physical things, etc inside His mind – and because He creates them, they are endowed with those distinctly non-divine qualities.

    But I do see your point about it making this world and our lives all seem like some kind of fantasy.

    I will put this one back on the shelf for now. Thanks for the insight.

  50. dinoship says

    PhilipJude,
    forgive me but I am not sure where to find a detailed description of his life in the English language (the “Age to Come experience” is part of the original Greek description of his life), I am sorry but as I do 99% of my reading in Greek, being Greek, I inevitably mention stuff here which might possibly not exist in English yet all the time, I will go searching now and come back with any findings…

  51. dinoship says

    from: http://www.oodegr.com/english/esxata/swmata1.htm

    This is a testimony by Saint Symeon the New Theologian, to whom God revealed how our material bodies will be transformed and become incorruptible during the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ This text was taken from the book “SAINT SYMEON, THE NEW THEOLOGIAN” containing the life of the Saint, written by Niketas Stethatos; a Critical edition by the Archmandrite Symeon Koutsas, AKRITAS Publications, pages 189-193.

    One day, while he (Saint Symeon) was saying his prayers with a pure heart and conversing with God, he noticed that the air began to illuminate his mind; Although he continued to be in his cell, he began to feel as though he were in an open space somehow. It was dark outside, the night was already at hand, when a radiance suddenly began to glow from up high, just like the morning light at dawn (what a scary vision befell the poor man!) and his living quarters – along with everything in them – vanished completely from sight, making him believe that he was not inside any room.

    He was absolutely overwhelmed by a divine ecstasy, and was fully aware of that light with his mind, as it approached him. The light grew steadily stronger, and made the air seem even brighter than before, and he felt that his entire self – along with his body – had now gone beyond all worldly things.

    But, because that light continued to shine more and more, making it seem like a sun shining at mid-day, he felt as though he were actually standing inside that light, and that his entire being – together with his body – was filled with joy and tears, that were generated by the sweetness of that light’s presence.

    He also observed that the same light – in some wondrous kind of way – came in contact with his body, and very, very gradually permeated its members. The surprise brought about by this vision drew him away from the previous state of theory and left him feeling only this exquisite sensation that was happening inside him. He watched as that light slowly penetrated his entire body, his heart and his innermost depths, making all of him like a fire and light.

    And just as with his living quarters, so did he now lose every sense of form, of place, of weight and of bodily shape, and his tears ceased to fall. Then he heard a voice from within the light, saying to him : “It has been decided, that in this same manner shall the Saints be transformed, who will be living and will still be here, during the hour of the final trumpet, and thus transformed, they will be taken up to the heavens, just as the Apostle Paul says.”

    After remaining in this state for many hours, the blessed Symeon in his secret and incessant praise to the Lord, and fully comprehending the glory that had enfolded him, as well as the eternal bliss that was to be bestowed on the Saints, began to wonder and ask himself: “Will I ever return to the previous condition of my body, or shall I live like this continuously?” No sooner had he made this thought, than he immediately began to feel that he was moving about with his body like a shadow or a spirit. He realized that he had become (as we said, with his body as well) a light without a form; something entirely incorporeal. He continued to feel that he possessed a body, yet without its material dimensions, and more like a spiritual one. In other words, he felt as though he lacked all weight or mass whatsoever, and was amazed, how he could have a body and yet seem bodiless.

    And the light that spoke inside him, said to him once again: “ Thus will all the Saints be enrobed without the flesh after the resurrection, in the future age, with spiritual bodies that are either lighter and finer and more ethereal, or, denser and heavier and more earthen, which will be the determining factor for each one with regard to their stance, their order and their closeness to God.”

    After hearing these things, and having seen the inexpressible divine light, the God-sighting and God-possessed Symeon thanked God, Who glorified our species and made it to partake of divinity and His kingdom, and returned once again to his former state, and found himself again inside his cell, in his previous, human condition.

    However, he reassured with oaths all those whom he trusted to reveal his secrets, that “for many days after, I could still feel that lightness of body, without feeling any exertion, or hunger, or thirst.”

    Given that he partook of these things in the Spirit and was filled with the divine charismas of the Spirit (and of course having fully cleared his mind of all impurities), he was given to see such visions and breathtaking revelations by the Lord, as had the Prophets of old.

  52. Lynne says

    Well, this blog is just like your book, Father–Everywhere Present. Where else can you start out with dogs and then find the beautiful report of Saint Symeon the New Theologian?

  53. simmmo says

    Yes Father, our heavenly diet is a mystery. If Christ ate fish after his resurrection, then the answer would not seem to be so straight forward.

    PJ, yes there does seem to be a two step post mortem in orthodox Christian belief. “Paradise” or “heaven” being the place of rest before the resurrection. But the point does need to be made, particularly in Western Christianity. The scenario we Western Christians have had etched in our psyches, that God is going to leave us up on a cloud playing harps for all eternity, just isn’t correct. As if salvation consists only in dying and “going to heaven”. If that’s all there is to it, then Jesus did not defeat death. The medieval language about “going to heaven” often has this rather dualistic scenario in mind. But this is so far removed from Jewish thought, early Christian thought and what we find in the scriptures. I think the East always maintained emphasis on resurrection from what I can tell. I think the de-emphasis on resurrection in the West since the middle ages has really allowed Western imperial powers and rulers to push God and Christianity into a nice little box – something you can privately believe in but absolutely not something that informs you about how society should be organised in the here and now. It’s allows for a timelessness, the world’s history isn’t going anywhere, there isn’t going to be a judgement in the end, and the powers that be have free reign to do whatever they want. If you think that dying and going to heaven is all there is to it, then that’s fine with the rulers of the world. The Sadducees didn’t believe in resurrection, probably because of the political expediency of such a worldview. Likewise Western Christianity has colluded with the powers that be in ensuring that all there is to our faith is dying and going to heaven. The powers need not fear such a religion. The Gnostics were the forerunners of this belief. Meanwhile the orthodox Christians were being fed to the lions and sawn in two for their faith in the resurrected Messiah. Medieval Catholicism and Protestantism has correctly been labelled quasi-Gnostic by some. Jesus is Lord, Caesar is not. Our hope is in the resurrection and new earth. There will be a theocracy in the age to come – in fact, in the resurrection, Jesus is already King of the world! Anyone in Christ is already a new creation. Heaven might be important, but it’s NOT the end of the world!

  54. Andrew C says

    simmmo, et alia,
    Well said. This really is a catastrophic limitation in any presentation of the gospel in contemporary western (evangelical) circles: “pie in the sky when you die”. (Attempts to suggest the christian life is more than this founder usually on the suggestion that you can also have everything the world offers as a sign of God’s favour upon your life.)

    I suppose Dante has something to answer for: his vivid and wholly entertaining portrayal of the afterlife has stayed with us down to the current day. Or if you prefer, the depictions of, say, Hieronymous Bosch.

    English translations of scripture are also highly misleading: almost invariably, in the NT, the term translated “heaven” is the plural form, as in “pater hemon, ho en tois ouranois”, lit. “in the heavens”, or “he basileia ton ouranov”, lit., “the kingdom of the heavens”. In the light of Paul speaking of [an acquaintance] his being taken up “to the third heaven”, we may reasonably ask what constitutes the second and indeed first heaven. Dallas Willard, who has sought to restore spiritual disciplines to the modern church, suggests we ought to cultivate a

    “Deliberate consciousness that the first heaven is the air around us, that God is alive in it, and that, bidden or unbidden, God is awfully present there. All prayer, including short prayer (“Help, Lord!”), is inescapably and gloriously local.”

    – a sentiment which ought to find agreement in parish.

  55. dinoship says

    There is a ‘mystical’ belief in many orthodox Fathers that the Second Coming of the Lord which will be perceived by all at a certain time in the history of the world, when Christ will be all in all, is already clearly perceived by the saints here and now as they already behold Christ being all in all here and now.
    The manifestation of what they (saints) now live will then simply become universal for all to live.

  56. says

    Simmmo,
    Well put. My book, Everywhere Present, centers largely on this point – how the powers have driven God out (as if we could).

  57. Philip Jude says

    Dino,

    Thank you so much! That was an awesome account. It leaves me with a feeling of hope and elation on a morning that is otherwise dismal and dull.

    Simmmo,

    I agree that western Christians often forget entirely the resurrection. This strange and perverse phenomenon is more common among evangelicals than Catholics, of course. I believe it is a consequence of their abandoning the holy mysteries, namely the Eucharist.

    I think you are wrong to identify “going to heaven” as “medieval language.” Medieval Latins were very conscious of the resurrection, as evidenced by their sometimes impious fixation on the bones of saints. Medieval Catholicism was rooted in the Eucharist, which was not simply consumed but paraded about with great fanfare and reverently adored in monstrance. This great attention paid to the “real presence” (a weird phrase I dislike) worked against the “two storey universe” tendencies present in certain quarters of Scholasticism and served as a reminder of the world to come.

  58. Michael Bauman says

    While waiting at a mechanic shop last night, I scanned through an article in the April 16th TIME magazine on the subject of heaven and the currently felt need to re-image it. (Wow). N.T Wright was quoted a lot (although I have no idea if it was accurate).

    The basic approach was to reject the “pie-in-the-sky when you die” approach for a here and now approach. However, the here and now was not built on our communion with a living and transcendent but ever present theanthopos, but on living a “Godly” life–a less politically charged version of the social justice motif. Causes are what matters.

    It seemed to me to be a rejection of the transcendent reality of God. A way of simply lopping off the second storey and saying the first storey is really all that exisits. There was still the acknowledgement that Jesus is Lord, but only in us; or so it seemed to me.

    Dogs or men won’t “go to heaven” we have to make it.

    Anybody else see it?

  59. Philip Jude says

    Wright’s theology seems to be rooted in the idea that the new creation has already begun in and through the church. His work has been very important in reorienting evangelicals toward hope in the new creation. He has also reminded Protestants of the importance of ecclesiology. If you are describing the article correctly, it seems they missed the mark — if they were working solely off Wright’s theology — which, I should add, is very controversial. Many reformed Anglicans loathe him.

  60. dinoship says

    Father,
    It is more or less quoted from Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra again…
    It gives the most vast depth to (watchfulness’ key of) “foreseeing the Lord always before me”

  61. simmmo says

    Father you’ve done a great job in selling me your book! I think I’ll pick up a copy. “God is everywhere present and fills all things!” Separation of church and state? Good luck with trying to achieve that! When we think about theocracy we often think of some mad cleric or a delusional fundamentalist. But what if the God revealed in Christ was the ruler of the world? This would be far better than any of the failed alternatives we’ve tried.

    PJ, it’s true that Roman Catholicism today is far more resurrection orientated. And they have rediscovered many things that the East never appeared to lose. It is a historical fact, however, that things went off the rails in the West during the middle ages. This was the primary reason for the Reformation. But the Reformation, unfortunately, crystalized many medieval errors. Dualism in the human person and the cosmos was one of the things they inherited and have perpetuated.

  62. David Gilchrist says

    I was sent this today, and pass it on.

    A Dog’s Purpose: from a 6-year-old.

    Being a vet, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.
    I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn’t do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.
    As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.
    The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker’s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

    The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion.
    We sat together for a while after Belker’s Death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.
    Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ”I know why.”
    Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more comforting explanation. It has changed the way I try and live.
    He said, ”People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The six-year-old continued, ”Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”

    Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:
    • When loved ones come home, always run to greet them;
    • Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride;
    • Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure Ecstasy;
    • Take naps;
    • Stretch before rising;
    • Run, romp, and play daily;
    • Thrive on attention and let people touch you;
    • Avoid biting when a simple growl will do;
    • On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass;
    • On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree;
    • When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body;
    • Delight in the simple joy of a long walk;
    • Be loyal;
    • Never pretend to be something you’re not;
    • If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it;
    • When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.

    There comes a time in life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it.
    You surround yourself with people who make you laugh, forget the bad, and focus on the good. So, love the people who treat you right. Think good thoughts for the ones who don’t.
    Life is too short to be anything but happy.
    Falling down is part of LIFE… Getting back up is LIVING…

  63. James Morgan says

    Thank you Fr.Stephen and all the rest!
    I just hope that PooBear and Buster and Lady are ready to meet me when I go there. I hope they as animals are worthy of my affection in the other life. they will know!

  64. Eirenikos says

    Father — we need to know a little more about this no doubt former puppy (since we will be sharing heaven with him/her). A name would be a good start!

  65. Dina says

    i am soooo intrigued by this conversation, as I myself have a goldendoodle who is precious………

  66. matt says

    All I have to say about this is that Revelation says there are horses in Heaven.

  67. Phil says

    Elder Joseph the Cave-dweller (†1959): “Why does the dog bark at us? It barks, because it is telling us, ‘On account of your sins, I also suffer illness and die.’”

  68. says

    The Bible tells us *only* that man goes to Heaven, but it does not tell us that *only man* goes to Heaven. There is a huge difference.

    The Bible was written for the creature that could read: Man. It deals only with us; we are not told what happens to God’s other creatures for some good reasons. It’s not a short book, dealing with only one creature, and if it dealt with them all, might be longer than the Encylopedia Brittanica. :-) And it’s not hard to imagine the God who spoke to Job from the whirlwind telling us that His relationship with them is between Him and them – it is none of our business.

    We can’t know, but we can hope. The Bible leaves us room to hope to see our loved ones again – ALL of them, regardless of their species.

    A comment on the quote by the Jesuit at the beginning – “your little dog will go to Heaven” because it would make you happy. I would love to be admitted into Heaven because it would make my beloved cat happy. (And because I love our Lord with all my heart and know that He loves me.)

    Blessings!