The role of the human race as a link between creation and God is clear. People are the means through which God reveals His mystery to the world. The redefinition of our attitude towards the environment is based on the understanding that it’s not merely the fact of our common provenance which binds all people closely together, as a family, but also our common destination.
Anastasios Yannoulatos [Archbishop of Albania] reminds us that ‘the aim of our existence is to activate, by God’s Grace, our God-given potential and to strive towards His ‘likeness’, to ascend from mere biological existence into a genuine communion of people, in harmony with all creatures and the whole of creation, with selfless love, in accordance with the model of existence of the Holy Trinity, the sublime ‘communion of love’.
But can we strive towards the ‘likeness’ without sacrifice and without self-denial? Of course not. It’s a mistake for us to confuse autonomy with the freedom which has been given to us by God. Our freedom has to do with ‘self-rule’ which is a gift from above. The Creator has fixed the laws of creation and the continued existence of the world. Since we have self-rule, we’re free to accept these or not. And since ‘God is love’ (Jn. 4, 16), we are also called upon to become love – or not. Love is not merely emotionalism, however. It’s the rejection of evil and affirmation of good. It’s sacrifice and self-denial. The express denial we gave to the question above leaves no room for doubt. This is something we’re taught through the Orthodox ethos.
From the first moment of our creation as people, we were created as being free in God, not in ourselves. Preservation of the ‘likeness’ involves the rejection of the acceptance of our individual self as a reality essentially different from and independent of our divine model. To succeed in the process of withdrawal from dependence on ourselves, we must practice continuous self-denial, through which we will be able to understand that the core of our existence doesn’t lie with us, but in God.
“Konstantinos T. Tsourapas”