Hieromonk Serapion Mitko, the head of the Diocese of Yaroslavl Missionary Department, whose house was set on fire by unknown arsonists late last week, saved his three little kittens from the fire. As he told our Interfax-Religion correspondent, he bought the kittens just a few days before the accident. “When the walls started burning, the kittens were sleeping in the kitchen rolled into a multicoloured ball, as usual. As I was leaving the house, I asked my driver to get them out of the house. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if those little critters had perished in the fire”, Fr Serapion said. Then, he remembered the words of Antoine de St Exupéry, “You are responsible, forever, for what you have tamed”, and God’s instructions to Adam to preserve this world and all the animals he had named.
“I’ve always reflected upon the theological status of animals. We know that everything that breathes praises the Lord, but, people can’t understand how these creatures feel the Creator. This lack of understanding witnesses to our narrow minds and to the grandeur of God’s mystery of creation”, he said. Fr Serapion, who defended a thesis on ethics for his theological degree, reflected that one of the fundamental ethical problems is the suffering of animals. “We know that human suffering may help a person to achieve moral purification, but, we don’t know why animals suffer. From our human standpoint, the suffering of animals is senseless, which makes it even more terrible”, he believes. Fr Serapion called to mind the words of Russian poet Marina Tsvetayeva that the Lord didn’t exile animals from Paradise; they just followed man out of the Garden. He is convinced that “they live in quite a different dimension, where sin hasn’t penetrated yet or penetrates only through our fault. If we, people, expose animals to suffering through our sins, then, we must save them. We should treat animals in the same way we treat people, so that people wouldn’t treat each other like animals”.
3 December 2008