Creation and Priesthood in Modern Orthodox Thinking


  • Elizabeth Theokritoff



Orthodox theologicans, priesthood, creation, icon


This paper is a response to suggestions that the notion of humans as priests of creation is the standard Orthodox view, and that it devalues non-human creation and the praise other creatures offer to God. It will be argued that, while human priesthood is a dominant image for some Orthodox theologians, more often it is used—if at all—as one among several images, which should be seen as complementary. ‘Priesthood’ language cannot be understood apart from the idea of a cosmic liturgy in which all creatures play their part; the meaning Orthodox theologians give to ‘priesthood of creation’ is a function of their understanding of priesthood in the Church as an integral part of the people of God. Creation needs human ‘priestly’ mediation not because its praise is inadequate, but because the praise we offer together awaits its fulfilment—the transfiguration of all creatures in Christ.


Aimilianos of Simonopetra, Archimandrite 1996 ‘The Experience of the Transfiguration in the Life of the Athonite Monk’, in Fr Alexander Golitzin, The Living Witness of the Holy Mountain (South Canaan, PA: St Tikhon’s Press): 194-215.

Anthony (Bloom), Metropolitan of Sourozh 1987 ‘Body and Matter in Spiritual Life’, in A.M. Allchin (ed.), Sacrament and Image: Essays in the Christian Understanding of Man (London: Fellowship of St Alban and St Sergius, 2nd edn): 36-46.

‘Sacred Materialism in Christianity’, in The Experience of the Incarnation: The Body as the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Diocesan Conference, May 1997 (Oxford: St Stephen’s Press): 10-19.

Barker, Margaret 1991 The Gate of Heaven (London: SPCK).

Barr, James 1972 ‘Man and Nature: The Ecological Controversy and the Old Testament’, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 55: 9-32.

Bauckham, Richard 2002 ‘Joining Creation’s Praise of God’, Ecotheology 7.1: 45-59.

Brock, Sebastian 1992 The Luminous Eye: The Spiritual World Vision of St Ephrem the Syrian (Kalamazoo: Cistercian).

Christoforidis, Christos 2004 ‘The Nature of Symbols and the Created Order’, Sourozh 98 (November): 13-33.

Chryssavgis, John 1992 ‘Ministry in the Orthodox Church’, Sourozh 50 (November): 27-30.

Beyond the Shattered Image (Minneapolis, MN: Light and Life Publishing).

Clément, Olivier 1967 ‘Le sens de la terre (Notes de cosmologie orthodoxe)’, Contacts 59-60 (1967/3–4): 252-323.

On Human Being: A Spiritual Anthropology (London: New City).

Divine Liturgy 1995 The Divine Liturgy of Our Father Among the Saints John Chrysostom: The Greek Text Together With a Translation into English (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Gorodetzky, Nadejda 1942 ‘The Prayer of Jesus’, Blackfriars XXIII no. 263 (1942): 74-78. A substantial part of the article is quoted in A Monk of the Eastern Church, The Jesus Prayer (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1987): 88-89.

Gregorios, Metropolitan Paulos mar 1980 The Human Presence (Madras: The Christian Literature Society).

‘A Sacramental Humanism’, published posthumously in Sourozh 68 (May): 23-29.

Gregory of Nyssa 1962 On the Inscriptions to the Psalms, in Jacobus McDonough, SJ and Paulus Alexander (eds.), Gregorii Nysseni Opera, V (Leiden: E.J. Brill): 24-175.

Ignatius IV, Patriarch of Antioch 1989 ‘Three Sermons: A Theology of Creation; A Spirituality of the Creation; The Responsibility of Christians’, Sourozh 38 (November): 1-14.

Karmiris, John 1994 The Status and Ministry of the Laity in the Orthodox Church (Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press).

Louth, Andrew 1989 Denys the Areopagite (Wilton, CT: Morehouse-Barlow).

Makarios, Father 1992 ‘The Monk and Nature in Orthodox Tradition’, in So That God’s Creation Might Live (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople): 41-48.

Markides, Kyriacos C. 2001 The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality (New York: Doubleday).

Nellas, Panayiotis 1996 ‘Redemption or Deification? Nicholas Kavasilas and Anselm’s Question “Why did God become Man?”’, Sourozh 66 (December): 10-30.

Northcott, Michael S. 1996 The Environment and Christian Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Osborne, Bishop Basil of Sergievo 1993 ‘Preaching the Gospel to All Creation’, in Bishop Basil Osborne, Speaking of the Kingdom (Oxford: St Stephen’s Press): 49-54.

‘Towards the Millennium: The Transfiguration of the World and Humanity in Christ’, Sourozh 72 (May): 28-39; reprinted from One in Christ 1997/3.

Schmemann, Fr Alexander 1973 For the Life of the World (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press).

The Eucharist (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press).

Sherrard, Philip 1987 The Rape of Man and Nature (Ipswich: Golgonooza Press).

Stefanatos, Joanne 1992 Animals and Man: A State of Blessedness (Minneapolis, MN: Light and Life Publishing).

Theokritoff, Elizabeth 2000 ‘Natural Symbolism and Creation: Some Comments on “Symbolism and Realism in Orthodox Worship”’, Sourozh 80 (May): 30-35.

‘Creation and Salvation in Orthodox Worship’, Ecotheology 10 (January): 97-108.

‘Embodied Word and New Creation’, in John Behr, Andrew Louth and Dimitri Conomos (eds.), Abba: The Tradition of Orthodoxy in the West (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press): 221-38.

Vasileios of Iviron, Archimandrite 2001 ‘The Light of Christ Shines Upon All’ Through All the Saints (Montreal: Alexander Press).

Ward, Sister Benedicta SLG 1981 Introduction, V. ‘A Sense of Wonder: Miracles of the Desert’, in Norman Russell (trans.), The Lives of the Desert Fathers (Oxford: Mowbrays; Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications).

Ware, Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia (formerly Archimandrite Kallistos, formerly Timothy Ware)

‘The Value of the Material Creation’, Sobornost 6.3: 154-65.

The Orthodox Church (London: Penguin, rev. edn)

Through the Creation to the Creator (Pallis Memorial Lecture 1995; London: Friends of the Centre).

Yannaras, Christos 1984 The Freedom of Morality (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press).

Zizioulas, Metropolitan John of Pergamon 1985 Being as Communion (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press).

a ‘Preserving God’s Creation’ (Part 2), Sourozh 40 (May): 31-40; reprinted from King’s Theological Review XII.2 (Autumn 1989).

b ‘Preserving God’s creation’ (Part 3), Sourozh 41 (August): 28-39; reprinted from King’s Theological Review.

‘Ethics versus Ethos: An Orthodox Approach to the Relation Between Ecology and Ethics’, in The Environment and Ethics: Summer Seminar on Halki ‘95 (Patriarchate of Constantinople): 25-27.

‘Man the Priest of Creation’, in A. Walker and C. Carras (eds.), Living Orthodoxy in the Modern World (London: SPCK): 178-88.

‘The Book of Revelation and the Natural Environment’, in Sarah Hobson and Jane Lubchenco (eds.), Revelation and the Environment: AD 95–1995 (Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co.): 17-21.

‘Symbolism and Realism in Orthodox Worship’, Sourozh 79 (February): 3-17.

Zernov, Nicolas 1964 ‘The Worship of the Orthodox Church and its Message’, in A.J. Philippou (ed.), The Orthodox Ethos (Oxford: Holywell Press): 115-21.



How to Cite

Theokritoff, E. (2005). Creation and Priesthood in Modern Orthodox Thinking. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 10(3), 344–363.