I. Toward an ecologically sound theology: founding an eco-theology.
A. God’s self-revelation through creation
B. Nature as sacrament?
C. The Trinitarian foundation of the eco-sacramental theology
II. Challenges to the sacramental theology from the eco-theology
A. Conversion from the atomistic isolation
B. Conversion from hierarchical domination
It is compatible to the Christian to consider creation as God’s revelation; that is God’s self-manifestation, and self giving. In other words, one would correctly say that the created realm is pregnant of the divine presence. Wonders and greatness of God are manifested through the created universe. This understanding echoes the notion of sacraments. As Kevin W.Irwin would say, “one of the purposes of liturgy and sacraments is to articulate how God is experienced as savior in and through the liturgy and how this same God is discoverable and discovered in the rest of life1. In other words, God is believed to be present with us, in Jesus Christ, through sacraments.
This convergence between creation and sacraments is not always sharply articulated as itappears in our understanding. Therefore, this paper aims to the awareness of the sacramentality of creation. It attempts to draw out a few challenges to the understanding and the practice of the sacraments brought about by the growing ecological2 consciousness. Two main parts compose this paper. The first part is an effort to construct a theology which takes into account the growing awarenesstoward the ecological issues. And the second part will focus on the challenges that are raised by such an eco-theology for the contemporary sacramental theology.
I.Toward an ecologically sound theology: founding an eco-theology.
This section is composed of three main insights. It reflects on God as revealing him/herself through creation (A) before analyzing the nature of the sacrament (B). Thethird insight consists in founding this eco-theology into the theology of Trinity (C).
a.God’s self-revelation through creation
Much in the Scripture speaks of the creation as the sign of God’s action in grace and power (Psalm 8:1-7; 19:1-2; Amos 4:13; 5:18; Jeremiah 27:5; 31:35-37; Isaiah 40:4-5; 24:1-2; Prov. 8:1,22,24-31). God’s creation is a sign and expression of God’s relationship with God’speople and humankind as a whole. Thus, there is no separation between the humanity (Demogony) and the rest of the cosmos (Cosmogony). The creation as a whole is redeemed.
We can find in our libraries a rich and abundant literature describing the natural world as a locus for an intimate personal encounter with the greatness and the beauty of God3. These scriptural data and writings are completedby [spiritual] experiences, like the ones of Saint Francis of Assisi or Saint Ignatius of Loyola to show how God is encountered in creation. For Nancy Wright, “God is intrinsic in nature, even while transcending it”4. Her claim is that the Earth community is the locus where the Holy lives and is encountered. And as a spiritual director, she argues that the spiritual directors should expectantlywait for spiritual directees to see God in creation. Thus, the three sources of theology (Scripture, Tradition and Experience) meet to found a sound eco-sacramental theology.
b.Nature as sacrament?
At this point, one can rightly ask: is the nature a sacrament? And for James Nash, there is no doubt, the knowledge and revelation of God in the natural realm is properly sacramental.
Thisunderstanding of sacramentality emphatically denies that the Christian faith desacralises nature. Contrary to the common viewpoint, nature is sacred by association, as the bearer of the sacred. We are standing perpetually on holy ground because God is present. The sacramental presence of the Spirit endows all of creation with a sacred value and dignity5.
This presentation seems very close to the African...