A home for all? Renewing the Oikos of God is the theme of this year’s Season of Creation, during which Christians of all denominations will join in prayer and action for our common home in a bid to renew the Oikos of God.
But what does Oikos mean? Oikos is the Greek word for “family,” or “home.” Our family is made up of the whole of humanity and each of the species that inhabit this planet, our common home. Unfortunately, we all know that our common home and hence our common family are suffering. We thought that we could stay healthy in a world that is sick but the COVID-19 crisis has been yet another alarming symptom of an ecological emergency.
In the words of Pope Francis: “We know that one does not emerge from a crisis the same: We emerge either better or worse… We need to ensure that the environment is cleaner, purer and that it is conserved. We must care for nature so that nature may care for us.”
The Season of Creation which, starts on the 1st of September and ends on the 4th of October – the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology – is the perfect occasion for the global Christian family to unite in prayer and take action for our common home. Thousands of Christians on six continents will get together for a time of restoration and hope and to discover radically new ways of living with creation.
The symbol chosen for this year’s celebration is Abraham’s tent. By welcoming three strangers (Genesis 18), Abraham’s and Sarah’s act of radical hospitality became a source of great blessing. Today, the tent can be a sign of our call to create safe spaces for dialogue and discernment. The tent also represents a place of shelter or refuge, thus linking us with the homeless, refugees, and all who are on the move and displaced by the effects of climate change.
The tent is also a sign of simplicity. Particularly among young people, the tent and the backpack symbolize an essential and frugal lifestyle that threads lightly upon the ground. Like nomadic and semi-nomadic people today, Abraham and Sarah knew what it meant to be vulnerable, depending upon the goodness of the land, respecting its rhythms, and living in trust. The tent is a sign of the grateful pilgrim who knows that as we pass through this life, our footprint must be light upon the Earth.
Today, the world is at a crucial juncture and we must choose the right path. To accept the facts about climate science without changing our lifestyles is to live in denial. For how long can we accept this disconnection between what we know and what we do? Almost everyone now is aware of the seriousness of the climate emergency. And yet, tragically, few are those who, in a bid to care for our common home and family, are ready to act upon this knowledge and radically change their behaviour.
This Season of Creation will therefore be a critical moment for all Christians to make an examination of conscience and take concrete steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle. It will also be the perfect opportunity to lift up the voices of the most vulnerable and advocate on their behalf ahead of two crucial summits: At the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in October, world leaders can set meaningful targets to protect creation. In November, at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), countries will announce their plans to meet the goals of the Paris agreement.
As Pope Francis said to world leaders at the Earth Day Summit in April, “we have the means to rise up to the challenge…It is time to act.”
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