Humane Religion Magazine
January - February 1997 Issue
This editorial focuses on a selection from the works of St. Basil, one of the most influential of the early Church Fathers (A.D. 330—379). Basil contributed important theological treatises to the Church, and also founded an order of monks who worked just as hard as they prayed. This Saint went on to establish—and work in—the first hospital/sanitarium ever to take care of lepers. He did this at a time when leprosy was still a scourge, and greatly feared. In his later years, he was appointed Bishop of Caesarea.
Along with being a theologian/Bishop/Saint, Basil also wrote about the mistreatment of animals. He called them "our brothers" and said that the cruelty which human beings inflict on other creatures had made a mockery of God's plan for the earth.
Basil, whose orthodoxy has never been questioned, wrote the words quoted below, in A.D. 375. They make the point, better than any debate could do, that the treatment of animals is not a New Age issue. It is an issue firmly rooted in the orthodox Christianity of the early church.
The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof. Oh, God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things, our brothers the animals to whom Thou gavest the earth as their home in common with us.
We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to Thee in song, has been a groan of travail.
May we realize that they live not for us alone, but for themselves and for Thee, and that they love the sweetness of life. #