As we enter the New Year 2006, we reflect upon the gracious generosity of God to us over the course of this past year. In so doing, it is fitting to reflect upon our own response to God's love through our important exercise of stewardship as Orthodox Christians in parishes throughout our country.

Stewardship is based on the understanding of the Greek word "oikonomia," or economy, which means the management of the house or household. This understanding of stewardship means that a person's management of his or her whole life is based in response to the love of God to him or her. In the New Testament, Jesus raised the question of stewardship when he asked an important question to Peter, "Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his master will set over his household?" (Luke 12:42). This question continues to have substantive relevance to each of us today as Orthodox Christians.

How can we structure our lives to become that faithful and wise steward about whom Jesus speaks? How can we respond to God's love to each and to all of us? One such way is carried out through our witness of His love to others. Another means of responding to God's love to us is through our acts of service to others in His holy Name. An additional and indeed indispensable means by which we respond to God's love is through the offering of material and financial support to our parishes.

Another manner by which we respond to God's love must also be considered under the framework of our serving as "stewards of the Earth," that is, as caretakers of the natural environment which God has bestowed to us out of His love for us. Our world and its natural resources are more than commodities of worth in a strict financial sense; rather, they are intrinsically imbued with the sanctity of God, being elements of His creation which He has given to us generously out of His love. As human beings, we in turn have an obligation to protect these resources, to use them wisely, and to apportion them fairly with due regard to the needs of our neighbors. The manner by which we manage our natural resources is also a form of demonstrating our love to God in response to His love toward us. It is an indispensable element of our Orthodox Christian faith and heritage that I invite you to reflect upon this year as we consider the theme of stewardship.

This particular form of stewardship has been consistently voiced by His All Holiness our Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who will be visiting us this forthcoming month of January in Tarpon Springs, Florida, for the blessing of the waters on the Feast of Epiphany. This feast itself is replete with liturgical elements and prayers that underscore and emphasize our joyful duty to serve as stewards of the Earth. Through the efforts of our Ecumenical Patriarch, and the efforts of like-minded others, scientists and persons of all faiths, communities on global and local scales are beginning to recognize the sacred quality and the love that embody this particular form of stewardship.

I invite you to reflect upon the meaning of stewardship, in all its manners and forms, as we enter the New Year 2006. May the infinite love of God be with you throughout this New Year, and may you grow in your offerings of love toward Him and toward others.

Archbishop of America