Reflection of the Week - 16th August 2022

By Richard Rohr

Posted in Faith

A Sacramental Reality

‘When we discern the sacramental principle in the world—the presence of God in every person and every place—then we can rejoice and celebrate the fullness of life and the joy of creation.’ (John Chryssavgis, Creation as Sacrament).

Greek Orthodox theologian John Chryssavgis compares creation to an ‘icon … the epiphany of God in the world and the existence of the world in the presence of God.’ [1] He writes: ‘Just as the Spirit is the “air” that the whole world breathes, so too the earth is the “ground” which we all share. Were God not present in the density of a city, or in the beauty of a forest, or in the sand of a desert, then God would not be present in heaven either. So if, indeed, there exists today a vision that is able to transcend— perhaps transform—all national and denominational tensions, it may well be that of our environment understood as sacrament of the Spirit. The breath of the Spirit brings out the sacramentality of nature and bestows on it the fragrance of resurrection.’ [2]

Everything is in some way sacramental. All depends on the receptiveness and openness of our hearts … nothing is secular or profane; nothing is pagan or foreign … were God not tangibly accessible in the very earthliness of this world, then [God] would not be the loving, albeit transcendent author of the universe.

This is surely the implication of the basis of the Christian faith, namely, that ‘the Word assumed [or became] flesh (John 1:14), which we all too often, in a reductionist manner, take to mean ‘became human.’ Unless Christ may be discovered ‘in the least of his brethren’ (Matthew 25:40) and in the least particle of matter, then he is too distant to matter [emphasis added]. There is a wonderful saying attributed to Jesus, which expresses the reality of his presence everywhere: ‘Lift up the stone, and there thou shalt find me, cleave the wood, and I am there.’ [3] [4]

Centered in Orthodox theology, Chryssavgis urges all Christians to care for the earth as an expression of our faith: No matter how carefully [humans have] sought to foster material prosperity and self-sufficiency, it is now clear that grave ‘fissures’ and ‘faults’ have appeared on the face of the earth. The image of God in creation has been shattered; the face of God on the world has been distorted; the integrity of natural life has been fragmented. Yet, it is precisely in this shattered world that we are called to discern the caring nature of the Creator and discover the sacramental nature of creation.

The aim is to induce personal and societal transformation in making choices that respect creation as sacrament. Such transformation is only possible through divine grace, the energy of the Holy Spirit, the creative and motivating force for everyone and everything. [5]


[1] John Chryssavgis, ‘The World of the Icon and Creation’ in Christianity and Ecology: Seeking the Well-Being of Earth and Humans, ed. Dieter T. Hessel and Rosemary Radford Ruether (Boston, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 84.

[2] Chryssavgis, ‘The World of the Icon and Creation,’ 91.

[3] Joachim Jeremias, Unknown Sayings of Jesus, trans. Reginald H. Fuller (New York: Macmillan, 1957), 95.

[4] Chryssavgis, ‘The World of the Icon and Creation,’ 90.

[5] John Chryssavgis, Creation as Sacrament: Reflections on Ecology and Spirituality (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019), 1, 2.

Source: Stillpoint Newsletter, 11th August 2022.


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