Yesterday, before Liturgy at the nursing home, one of the folks who works there asked if I was planning a farm here at the monastery. I clearly outlined our plans to try and reduce the amount of food we buy in the market, and to produce more of our own food to become more self-sufficient. This lead to a short discussion about raising animals for food and the end result.
She asked if I was going to raise animals and then slaughter them for food. My answer was simply, “That’s the plan.” I often get this question and it no longer surprises me. One of the folks here at church said he could never eat anything that he saw walking around the yard. I too used to think this way and it shows just how far we have come from the source of our food. Most of us like to think that our food comes on those little Styrofoam plates at the market, it simply drops out of the sky that way, right?
I believe that as Orthodox we have a Gospel mandate to live a simple life but also to care for the earth and the fruits that she produces. We pray in the Liturgy for an abundance of the fruits of the earth. We also pray for temperate seasons and for gentle showers to fall upon the earth. We have been given dominion but that dominion requires us to care for what we have been given.
In the second chapter of the Book of Genesis we read that God created the animals out of the ground and that humanity named them. God gave humanity the responsibility to name the animals of the earth but also to care for them. If we decide that we will raise animals then we have to take on the responsibility to care for them. If we are not willing to do that then I submit we should not take animals into our homes.
There is an entire spirituality of food that I will try and summarize here if I can and this is how I ended my discussion at the nursing home. We raise an animal for food by caring for it. Giving it a safe clean place to live, and feed it with the best feed we can. We raise that animal in the most humane way we can. We also process that animal the most humane way we can. In the end, that animal that we cared for will now care for us by providing the food that we need to live. That animal lived so that we might live. Not unlike what Jesus did for us, He lived so that we might live!
God did, in fact, give us dominion over the earth and all that it contains, but with that dominion comes a great responsibility not to abuse that creation.