Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Living As Partners To Creation--The Green Martyrs

We have all heard about the martyrs who shed their blood for their faith--the "red martyrs." Some may have heard about the "white martyrs," a bloodless dying to the world by those who renounce the world by emptying themselves for their faith. Now, in an article appearing in the Kyeong Hyang Magazine, a priest finds connections between the meanings of martyrdom and ecology by going back to an early Irish experience when monks would go into the wilderness of the countryside to study, pray and commune with nature. Those today who leave behind the comforts of life, like the monks of ancient Ireland, and retreat to the woods and mountains, the lonely green  spots of the world to commune with God and partner with nature can also be called, says the priest, martyrs--"green martyrs." He extends the term to include those who are concerned about the health of the environment and who work to protect it. 

The color green, which results from combining the blue and yellow colors or, symbolically, the 'blue' and 'yellow' parts of our human nature--blue: sometimes seen as the unfeeling intellect and yellow: sometimes seen as the feeling warmth of the sun--combine to give us a symbolic 'green'.  The green of spring, reproduction, joy, trust, nature, paradise, plenty, prosperity, and peace. In the liturgy at this time of the year, we use the liturgical color green to signify all the above, along with hope and life.

Attempting to make this world a green world is the green martyr's task-- not an easy one. A person who sees the destruction of God's creation as a spiritual problem tries to atone for the carelessness by carrying out the duty we all have to take care of creation.

The writer mentions the Catholic Farmers Association as an example of those who  have tried to live this green martyr's life. They are fighting the habitual way of farming that leads inevitably to the destruction of  the environment.

These farmers living the environmentally friendly lifestyle--not  using pesticides and artificial fertilizers have suffered a loss in income, been ridiculed, treated coldly, and  even called communists for their efforts.  Fortunately, those in the cities concerned for their health buy their products,  otherwise the zeal of the green farmers would not have lasted. The consumers who assist in this way can also be considered green martyrs for the sacrifice they are making in spending more to buy their food.

 It is not a sin to live comfortably, but it can be addictive; there is always the danger that it can become an idol to which we do service, increasing our blindness, says the writer, to the needs of others and also to the destruction of our environment.

The green martyrdom approach to life is to accept a certain amount of living uncomfortably. Obviously, not an easy thing to do; it requires a kind of death--a dying to the comfortable life we've grown accustomed to. Our reward, however, is to make all of creation our partners in living harmoniously together--stewards of God's creation.

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