Beyond the Edge of Knowledge: An Ecological Hope for Lent

The Reverend Christine V. Hides
The Olm
Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Every single creature is full of God
and is a book about God.
Every creature is a word of God.
If I spend enough time with the tiniest creature,
even a caterpillar,
I would never have to prepare a sermon.
So full of God is every creature.
Meister Eckhart

Labyrinthine caves, deep oceans, mysterious creatures, and human fears of destruction are the stuff of the ancient myths of many cultures. The cave-water dwelling 8-inch creatures olms of Slovenia were believed to be baby dragons. It is understandable given their unpigmented, snake-shaped bodies; slowed metabolism which allows for a decade between meals; and ability to sense vibrations and electric fields which compensates for their lack of eyes. The olm is Europe’s only vertebrate adapted for cave life. It lives in the vast cave system formed in the karst on the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea.

Karst is a landscape made of dissolving bedrock, like limestone, that creates sinkholes and caves. Karst aquifers provide drinking water for 10% of the Earth’s population. According to the National Park Service 20% of the United States sits on karst landscapes which provide 40% of the groundwater used for drinking.[1]  But with human development comes chemical waste and runoff that threatens these fragile aquatic systems. Gayle Boss writes of the Slovenian karst, “This sinuous stream network is the great dragon. If the mother waters are poisoned, it is not only her baby dragons that will be poisoned…what befalls the dragon befalls all those who rely on her.” 

Scripture reminds us that clean water and the creatures that dwell are valuable because we need them andbecause God made them. The visions of creation found in the Bible inspire us to care for the olm “Because the diversity of plants and animals is not simply useful for humans; it is good in itself, a feature of creation that commands respect and wonder.”[2]

Let us both care for God’s creation and join our praises for our maker with the creatures of Psalm 148: 

Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you sea monsters and all deeps…
Wild animals and all cattle,
    creeping things and flying birds! 
Kings of the earth and all peoples,
    princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike,
    old and young together!

     …Let them praise the Lord,
    for the Lord’s name alone is exalted.


[1] “Karst Landscapes”, nps.org, accessed online: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/caves/karst-landscapes.htm#:~:text=Karst%20is%20a%20type%20of,limestone%2C%20marble%2C%20and%20gypsum.

[2] From the editors, “The Extinction of whales, birds, and other creatures that once praised God,” The Christian Century, June 2019, accessed online https://www.christiancentury.org/article/editors/extinction-whales-birds-and-other-creatures-once-praised-god

March 12, 2024

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