Home to our Paris home, 1:20am after a four-hour liturgy at the Orthodox Cathedral, St. Alexandre de la Néva. Of the over 60,000 people attending COP21 in one capacity or another there were five attendees to this service drenched in the beauty of music and vision, of word and of movement, five non-Orthodox were at the service. It was listed in the program of interfaith offerings for COP as Orthodox prayers for Creation, in a beautiful space. I kept this idea in mind as we moved through the long service – this is prayer for the planet.
One reality kept coming back to me throughout the long service was this: in four hours there was not a significant pause in the singing. Either one of two choirs was singing or one of the vested liturgy leaders was chanting. In one of the earliest of all Christian scriptures, the first Letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul wrote, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing." Christians from that time forward have sought to do as Paul advised. The Prayer of the Heart, a kind of Christian mantra practice where a repeated prayer becomes so internalized that it is one with the heartbeat, part of the functioning of the self is a famous way of praying without ceasing. Here, I realized, the Orthodox Church had found another way to pray always, and this was a prayer for all God has made, the Creation.
Sheila and I went to the prayer service from a reception held for those Christians leaders who will take part in an ecumenical prayer service on Thursday evening in Notre Dame Cathedral. We helped the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Zimbabwe, Seraphim, find his way to the the Orthodox cathedral where the prayer service was held. On the way to St. Alexandre's, I learned that Archbishop Seraphim has taken part in many previous COPs. He works tirelessly for ecological justice. What this means most of the time is that he seeks a way to keep the negative effects of human-induced climate change from falling so heavily on people who live in poverty. For instance, he told me about an effort he helps lead to encourage the greatest world powers to devote 20% of their military budgets to helping those living in extreme poverty.
As we made our way on the last Metro of the night back home, I came to see that there are many ways to pray without ceasing for the beautiful world God has made. This uplifting prayer service was one. So is Archbishop Seraphim's constant work of advocacy. I am so grateful tonight, I thought, for the DFMS staff who work to support advocacy for Creation care and ecological justice - Alex, Jayce, Lynnaia, Lynette, Neva Rae, Bishop Stacy, and our Presiding Bishops (ecological concerns have been prominent in the teaching and work of all the contemporary Presiding Bishops I have known - from Edmund Browning to our current Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, who began the sermon at his installation service in National Cathedral by speaking of our care of Mother Earth).
The link below will let you listen to ten minutes of the choirs singing at St. Alexandre's last night.
Peace and every blessing,