Instead he was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”xvi and endured it, praying. He, who didn’t sin, took all the sin unto Himself. And He calls us to take our cross, and to follow Him.
Under secular circumstances, we would fall into a deep black hole of “eco-depression” and collapse, if we really opened up our hearts to the unfolding catastrophe. But when we bring it before God, unite our eco-depression with the passion of Christ, the stream of grace flowing from His wounds collapses our individualism not into nothingness, but Christ becomes our king, and His Holy Spirit enables us to repent.
I suspect, that our cages of obdurateness equal what we have to deny and repress in order to keep going. The more desperate and visible the crisis becomes, the more contumacious we get, until we break. This obdurateness forms a psychic object, separating us from God, creation, our neighbour and ourselves. Transubstantiation, however, changes even this object into the body of Christ.
When we receive the grace so that the extinction crisis really touches us in a way that we somehow connect it with God, we cry to God from a depth of our soul that we could hardly reach otherwise, under “normal” circumstances. Then we shall know that He is the LORD, when he has gotten glory over us.xvii He is the LORD, the Holy One of Israel,xviii “who has taken us and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, out of the prison-house.”xixGod answers our cry with His sanctifying grace, calling people to sainthood. And the presence of saintly persons promotes sanctifying dynamics in others, thus bringing about a re-membering, a re-formation. Facing horror could thus activate the Church, which is now more or less in a “standby mode”, through some kind of spiritual chain reaction that just pierces and obliterates our prisons of obdurateness. With such a massive conversion event, a decisively Trinitarian, Eucharistic network, cooperating with all those of good will, would form.
What would this effectuate in temporal ways? It would wipe away the isolated, commodified individualism of the “homo oecomicus” from us and we would be re-membered as parts of the body. Affected by transubstantiation, not only humans decommodify, also the fruits of the Earth and of human labour, the whole of creation, would cease being commodities for profit and remain as pure “accidents”, in some way substantially being Body of Christ.
Wouldn’t this reorder the temporal capabilities of people who let themselves be drawn into this dynamic, radically away from technocratic capitalism and towards Christ? Instead of an anti-capitalist revolution, or rebellion, there would just be a discontinuation and the capability to deal peace and justice. So I do not ask you, the reader, to bring down technocratic capitalism. I ask God. And if God answers, it will not be “us, the people”, it will be Christ acting through His mystical body in the way of Jeremiah 1:10, appointed “to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
In the same integral movement this miracle would perform – as far as I can perceive it now – three things:
– It would end unnecessary economic activities. Because if the substance of those activities and all the activities they consist of and rest upon changes into the body of Christ, all of their internal contradictions – now held together by force – would fall apart, relaxed by the “Peace of the Lord”. Thus the existing financial system would end, which is the lifeblood of our economy, based on growth and debt. A big part of the human ecological footprint would simply disappear.
– At the same time necessary economic activities would be continued roughly in today’s ways just without the financial system, out of love, out of caritas. The worldwide Eucharistic network of the Catholic Church could contribute just so much strength as – together with others of “good will” – to uphold enough global order to sustain the existential services of the industrial civilisation as long as necessary for a truly ecological civilization to emerge.
– Through the Eucharist the transformative process that the world is takes a different course: On the one hand all “fruits of the Earth” and human labour freed by the discontinuation of unnecessary economical activities would follow the peace of the Lord, learning His ways and paths, and grow an ecological civilization. On the other hand, over time also the continued industrial processes would transform and the two would eventually merge. There would be no hurry as this process could in some aspects take years, in others decades, or even centuries.
Basically this would be a peaceful collapse of the current mode of civilisation without a humanitarian and ecological catastrophe. If this sounds extreme, it should be kept in mind that a continuation of this current mode of civilisation for much longer seems to be very improbable anyway. With what I describe in this article, “business as usual” would just go down earlier (preventing a lot of destruction), and it wouldn’t cascade down to the very bottom as it would “by default”. At the same time, there is the perspective of something very attractive: Such a transubstantiated civilisation could organize itself in a way that billions of people participate in the great work of regenerating damaged and destroyed ecosystems, drawing down excess carbon from the atmosphere through soil and vegetation within a few decades, saving countless species from extinction, generating living space, livelihood and true wealth for all. It is the perspective to “restore all things in Christ” (St. Pius X).
This would be a truly ecological, sacramental civilization in harmony with the cosmos, because it follows Christ through whom the cosmos is created. The “metabolism” of the Church, the mystical body of Christ, would be truly an economy that has the Eucharist as its font and summit. It doesn’t need to be built, it is already, or still, here. It is the Lord’s, and it can be renewed by the Lord through the Holy Spirit instantaneously – by transubstantiation.
And as a final thought: maybe all of this could happen very soon, just in time before it is too late. Because maybe everything necessary for this fundamental change is already here, and there is nothing to wait for anymore:
– There is all the stuff produced by our civilization, and all the skills and talents we have, and this is the material to build an ecological civilization from by looking at it and using it creatively according to Eucharistic “ways and paths”.
– There is the psychosocial disposition of obdurateness, but also of despair, resignation, grief, longing and rage. All of this is like tinder waiting for the spark of Pentecostal fire.
– And there of course is the Eucharist, and everything that grew out of it and of the other sacraments, and of the Church’s teaching. This is the key to the possibility of such a miraculous salvation, in contrast to civilizations that fell in the past.
Maybe it is not necessary anymore to preserve the old in order to have a safe shell for the new to sprout, and now its time to end has arrived – and our time to lay the whole of our civilization as our offering on the altar and to pray to God and call the Holy Spirit down unto it: “Come, O almighty and eternal God, the sanctifier, and bless this sacrifice, prepared of the glory of thy holy name.”
Practical conclusion: prayer for climate
This grand vision of a miracle, vastly simplified, is what I have perceived is asked of me. It is something very simple, something everybody can do: praying for a miracle. That was a deeply relaxing insight for me, but what does this mean for me in practical terms? I have very limited resources and capacities, therefore I have to carefully decide how I put them to use. Since I started praying in public in April, a pattern of an integrated action, consisting of two complementary dimensions, has emerged:
First, there is the prayer action itself, aimed at piercing obdurateness. I looked for the smallest possible form that nonetheless contains everything necessary. I identified praying the Rosary in public. Silently, with a sign reading “Prayer for the Climate”, and in smaller letters: “prayer for salvation from climate catastrophe and planetary ecosystem collapse, for conversion and remission”. When people approach me, I interrupt my prayer, listen and talk to them. I do this about three times a week. On Fridays at 4 p.m. CET, while a small prayer network joins in.
There are some aspects that I see in this action:
– I can do it alone, without much organization and resources, but the action can easily scale up if more people join in. It could tap into the rich treasure of Catholic piety forms, e.g. supplicatory procession with supplicatory mass.
– It is public, therefore it is also political and points at ordering the temporal issues – but ordering them towards the spiritual, because it is first and foremost prayer. So as the prayer is public, it brings together the spiritual and the temporal.
– With the prayer network, the action has the aspects of secrecy and of public witness at the same time. It is also at the same time genuinely Catholic and open for cooperation with people of good will from every denomination, faith and spiritual school.
– The Rosary points towards the sacramental order, of which it is a fruit.
– It is not individualistic, and thus an antidote to the rampant hyper-individualism that is at the centre of the problem. And its strong structure provides what is necessary, if we have to substitute for today’s sources of order.
– Especially with the Fatima prayer, the Rosary also includes penance.
– Before I start, I often visit a church and pray the Litany of the Saints in order to connect with the whole Church.
The other dimension, which for me is of no lesser importance, is focused on my family: As I have put virtually all of my activist vigor into the prayer action, a lot of attention and energy has been freed up that I had used to spend on computer work laden projects before. Now this attention and energy promotes the growth of the sacramental order and virtue and the realization of Catholic social teaching in the very small society of my wife, our little son and me, and from there also beyond.
The two dimensions – the public prayer action and its invigorating effect on our family and our networks – interact and hopefully generate a dynamics that will widen the possibilities of this initiative.
May God be with us.
i John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, 39.
ii UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2018, p. XVIII https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/emissions-gap-report-2018
iii See diagram p. 4 https://www-cdn.oxfam.org/s3fs-public/file_attachments/mb-extreme-carbon-inequality-021215-en.pdf
iv While its “accidents”, or “species”, its appearance remains unchanged. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transubstantiation
v Second Vatican Council, dogmatic constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium (1963), 10
vi Thomas Ruster, Wandlung, ein Traktat über Eucharistie und Ökonomie (2009), 9
vii Psalm 51:17
ix https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01448-4 , https://www.ipbes.net/assessment-reports
xi For example the “Laudato Si retreat” developed by the “Global Catholic Climate Movement” https://catholicclimatemovement.global/retreats
xiv Luke 7:13
xv John 11:35
xvi Matt 26:38
xvii See Exod 14:18
xviii See Isa 43:15
xix Josh 24:17
xx This applies to conventional industrial goods, infrastructures and human capital, as well as to the fruits of the still relatively small alternative initiatives aimed at transformation, like the permaculture movement.
xxi In contrast even to the Western Roman Empire, which became Christian only during its final centuries, while the foundation of our civilization is Christian.
xxii Prayer “Veni, sanctificator omnipotens æterne Deus: et bene + dic hoc sacrificium, tuo sancto nomini præparatum” from the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite.