September 1, 2009
Beginning of the Ecclesiastical New Year
Day for the Protection of our Natural Environment
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We give thanks to God for the beginning of this Ecclesiastical New Year and for His abundant blessings, which fill our hearts with gratitude, deepen our faith, and strengthen our souls. The date of September 1 on our calendars marks the beginning of many things in our lives. For some, it presents the beginning of another academic year filled with worthy goals and challenges. For others, it is the return from summer vacation with refreshed bodies and minds, and renewed commitment to vocation and responsibilities. For those who work in agriculture, this date marks the beginning of the agrarian year and the tasks of planting, nurturing, and harvesting.
For Orthodox Christians, September 1 begins a new liturgical year in which we participate in the life of the Holy Church through Her divine services. September 1 is also the date that has been designated by our Holy Ecumenical Patriarchate as the Day for the Protection of our Natural Environment. For more than one reason, the joining of our observance of this Day with the beginning of the Ecclesiastical New Year, is significant, as it guides us in understanding the important relationship between our world created by God and our Orthodox Christian faith.
First, as human beings, it is within our world that we experience communion with God through our worship in the divine services of the Church. Our natural environment calls us to be in communion with God and with others. God brought the natural world into existence out of nothingness and He then created humankind within the natural environment for a harmonious coexistence and fellowship. While this harmony was interrupted through the sin and disobedience of man, our God, out of His great love for us, entered into His creation as flesh and blood in order to redeem us and all that is under the bondage of sin and death, restoring the harmonious fellowhip.
Second, through the liturgical life of the Church we are not only strenghthened in our journey of life but we also become aware of the great spiritual significance of our natural environment. This happens through the usage of purely material elements, as the bread and the wine, in the most holy Mystery of the Divine Eucharist which as the Body and Blood of Christ unites us with God Himself. Here, the spiritual and physical relationship is significant. We are both physical and spiritual beings, created for life, and blessed with the ability, unique only to human beings, to worship our Creator within a natural environment that not only provides for our basic physical needs, but also enables us to exprerience perfect communion with God.
Finally, our liturgical life and our life in the world cannot be considered as separate spheres of existence, but as one realm of living and relationship. In the services of the Church, we are called to liturgy, to a collective work as a people that will be our vocation for eternity. Within the Church, we strive for deeper communion with God, and we nurture our relationships of faith and love with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our natural environment is also dependent upon our faith inspired work as a people, specifically as stewards of what God has created. We have been called to oversee and protect the natural environment. This requires cooperation with others in a spirit of love and fellowhsip. It also requires that we appreciate the impact of our actions and inactions, and that we cherish the beauty, function, and purpose of all that God has created, consistent with the manner by which we invoke His holy name in our worship of Him.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It is on this day of the inauguration of this Ecclesiastical New Year, it is at this time, that all of us are called to think seriously about what St. Paul said to the Corinthians: behold, now is the happily acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). Let us then, hear this apostolic saying as a call to an enhanced participation in the liturgical life of our Church, to a renewed relationship to our natural environment, and to a deeper understanding of the preciousness of the time given to us by our God and Creator.
With paternal love in Christ,
† D E M E T R I O S
Archbishop of America