When we humans respect all of God’s creatures, we advance the Kingdom of Heaven
A few days ago we were forced, as a community, to decide what must be done regarding one of our ducks. The drake, named “Sir Francis Drake” by Monk Peter, whose job it is to tend to the needs of our chickens and ducks, was seen assaulting one of our chicken hens. This was not the first time he’d done this, but this time was particularly brutal. Even though the rooster intervened by grabbing the duck by the neck and pulling him off, the drake attacked the hen a second time, causing a terrible injury to her head.
The drake had been becoming increasingly aggressive, and we knew we had to do something. Since our ducks and chickens are raised for their eggs, killing the duck was not an option. When the hens are beyond laying age, we simply allow them to “retire”, but never kill them for food.
I finally made the decision that the only good option we had was to remove the drake, and take him down to the marina for release. Being near the inner harbor would surely be a good solution, so I thought, since the duck could join wild ducks who flock on the water’s edge, and have a good, safe life.
After getting the drake in a large box, Father Peter held the box in his lap as I drove down to Dockton Marina, for the release. Sadly, things did not turn out as I’d planned. Once the duck was released on the shore, two male Mallards flew toward him, causing him to flee into the park in panic. It was at that time that I could clearly see that this duck, bred as a domestic duck, and therefore unable to fly, scurried furthing into the park, with a Mallard in hot pursuit.
The last sighting I had of Sir Francis Drake was watching him waddle across the road above the park, and head toward the Dockton Forest, where a sign at the trailhead warns hikers to be aware of bear and mountain lions. It was near dark, so the sight of this domesticated duck heading toward a night alone, for the first time, filled me with sadness.
That night I could not sleep, laying awake for most the night, with the image of Sir Francis Drake “heading into exile”, alone, and not knowing why his people had abandoned him like this, removing him from the only home he’d ever known. My plan to release him into the wild, thinking he’d be happy, had obviously gone terribly wrong.
I’ve not been able to get the image of that black duck, majestic as he was, running all alone into a darkened forest, out of my mind. I’ve continued to be tortured by this image, an image that I’ve been unable to rid from my mind, for I truly love animals, and would never have intentionally wanted to cause pain or fear in any creature.
Our monastic community first decided to raise chickens because I’d read about the factory-like production of eggs, with hens forced to live in small cages, never feeling the freedom of roaming freely, as God designed them to do. Regardless of where we buy our eggs, and meat, we should always do so with a caring heart, that we are not responsible for the suffering of any of God’s creatures.
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 Metropolitan Kallistos Ware said, “Animals were with Adam and Eve in Paradise, so why on earth wouldn’t they also be in Heaven?”
I drove past the last place where I saw Sir Francis Drake, and made the sign of the cross, blessing him to live the remainder of his life, in peace, and without fear. May God make it so.
With love in Christ,
Photo: Lilly, our Siberian Forest Cat.
Friday April 24, 2020 / April 11, 2020
Bright Week. Fast-free
The Meeting of the Mother of God and Saint Elizabeth (movable Feast on March 30. If March 30 should fall between Lazarus Saturday and Pascha, however, the Feast is transferred to Bright Friday).
“Life- giving Spring” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos (movable holiday on the Friday of the Bright Week).
Commemoration of the renewal (sanctification) of the Holy Theotokos temple near the Life-giving Spring in Constantinople (5th c.) (movable holiday on the Friday of the Bright Week).
“Pochaev” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos (movable holiday on the Friday of the Bright Week).
Hieromartyr Antipas, bishop of Pergamus (92), disciple of St. John the Theologian.
New Hieromartyr Nicholas priest (1938).
Venerable James, abbot of Zhelezny Bor (1442), and his fellow-ascetic St. James.
St. Barsanuphius, bishop of Tver (1576).
Martyrs Processus and Martinian of Rome (67).
Venerable Pharmuthius, anchorite of Egypt (4th c.).
Venerable John, disciple of Venerable Gregory of Decapolis (820).
St. Callinicus of Cernica, bishop of Rimnic in Romania (1868) (Romania).
Venerables Euthymius (1456) and Chariton (1509), abbots of Syanzhema (Vologda).
Venerable Guthlac, hermit of Crowland (714) (Celtic & British).
Hieromartyr Domninus, bishop of Salona in Dalmatia, and eight soldiers with him (100).
St. Philip, bishop of Gortyna, Crete (180).
The Scripture Readings
A Lame Man Healed
3 Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. 2 And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; 3 who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. 4 And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” 5 So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. 6 Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” 7 And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. 8 So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God.
The Humbled and Exalted Christ
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not stay there many days.
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. 16 And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” 17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.”
18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?”
19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.
Mary and Martha Worship and Serve
38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Keeping the Word
27 And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!”
28 But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”