I have been researching the subject of the Orthodox Church and animals for approximately 2 1/2 years now. On these pages I will only touch on what the Church says through the Bible, Patristic and contemporary writings, Church services and hymnography. I will not consciously try to give my personal opinion beyond organizing the material I've found and slight commentary until I get up the courage to write a book or add a "my opinion only" page through my homepage. I shall stick to this anthology of thought. This is what I have found:
First point - Souls
According to the Church Fathers animals do have a soul. It is not quite the same as a human soul which was enhanced by the breath of God during man's creation. But yes, they do have a soul and share in the glory of God to the best that they are able. Animals are without sin and God speaks to them through their instincts.
What makes creaturely man so very special is his being created in the image and likeness of God, which confers special responsibilities and the gift of free choice.
Second point - Prayer for the Animals
We do pray for them. Who needs prayer more than the marginalized, or those who suffer because of someone else? Remember our first parents Adam and Eve? We continue the trend.
Animals show us God's love in many ways: their service to and with us, their example of unconditional love, and simply by existing in their varied forms, habits and habitats they show us the power and creative action of God. Of course we pray for them. The Church prays for all of creation. In addition, Holy Scripture and the Saints instruct us in compassionate care, and Holy Scripture and Church Services instruct us on what our role is in regard to the animals.
Third point - Prayer with the Animals
The animals pray with us. I know, this is hard to believe for those who are not too familiar with Orthodox thought but we continually mention the animals praising God in the writings of the Saints and in our Church services because it is in Holy Scripture. Read the Psalms. Even better, read Revelations 5:6-14. The Heavenly Liturgy. Notice verse 13. Yes, they have their own hymn in the Heavenly Liturgy before the throne of God.
Fourth point - Ultimate Things
Apparently animals will be in heaven. It is mentioned many times in the Old Testament. It is also mentioned by many Saints. The question is whether individual animals we have known will be there, or if brand new ones will be created. There are differing opinions out there. Some indicate one way, some indicate another, most are too vague to say there is even a statement there.
This subject is really too much to tackle on this tiny website and I want to keep controversy to a minimum so I will only list a few statements which I consider to be definitive. Further exploration will have to be done at another time and place. For now we will have to settle for St. Paul's statement about us worrying about things we have no need to worry about. Trust in God.
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The Orthodox have a spiritual tradition of asking a saintly person or spiritual advisor for a word of advice or importance, so we will too.
Speak a word to me, Father.
Copyright © 1999, L.A. Christensen. All Rights Reserved.