When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have ordained; What is man, that You are mindful of him?
(Psalm 8: 3-4)

Beginning of the Ecclesiastical New Year

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,

Once again we are blessed to enter our Ecclesiastical New Year on this date of September 1, 2007. Also known as the Feast of the Indiction, this date begins the calendrical cycle of our Holy Orthodox Church. As such, it is a date that marks new beginnings and renewed opportunities for our spiritual growth through our worship of the Triune God. It is also a date that our revered Ecumenical Patriarchate has fittingly established for the Orthodox Church as the Day for the Protection of our Natural Environment. As we begin our cycle of worship and praise to the Lord on this date, it is only appropriate that we pause to consider the majesty of our universe and the infinite love of God for all of us as His children.

Here, the Psalmist provides us words of guidance in the verses referenced above from Psalm 8 of the Old Testament. The Psalmist considered with awe the God-created glory of the stars in the heavens, the work of God's fingers, and how in the midst of this immensity humankind might compare. The vantage point of the Psalmist was truly a magnificent one, and his question is as important today for us to consider as it was in his time thousands of years ago.

Whereas the Psalmist was inspired to ask his question upon beholding the untainted purity of God's creation at such an early stage in human history, our vantage point is a bit more clouded, both physically and spiritually. Today, as we look from Earth into the heavens, we do so from a world that has been strongly affected by the consequences of our over-consumption of the earth's natural resources, the harmful effects of air and water pollution through inefficient means of waste disposal, wide-scale deforestation by human beings, and increasing threats to the stability of the polar ice caps of our planet. While these are unfortunate realities, they are not beyond human repair. 

Considering these challenges and the important question posed by the Psalmist, it may seem instinctive for us to think of ourselves in a diminished capacity in comparison to the sheer immensity of the universe that God has created. The truth of the matter, however, is that God has placed human beings "over all the works of His hands" (v.6), as the Psalmist concludes in the final verses of Psalm 8. Thus, God is very mindful of humankind, to the point that He came to visit us and live among us as a human being on this precious Earth, and by the reality that He created us as inherently good and as beautiful, indeed after His very own image and likeness. 

Each year on this date, as a day dedicated to new beginnings, the Church calls us to move toward a genuine repentance in our way of life and in our relation to our planet. We therefore pray to God that He rekindle within our hearts a keen awareness that it is a profound privilege and high honor to inhabit this earth, and that we can act today as extensions of His fingers in fostering an environmentally sound world. This privilege carries with it many opportunities and responsibilities: forging loving and lasting relationships with others as families and communities, building peaceful relationships among friends and enemies alike, progressing responsibly as a human race in science and the arts, and growing closer and closer to God, our eternal Creator. Where we have succeeded in these opportunities, we see across our world evidence of clear gains in the pursuit of truth, justice, and peace. Certainly, it is these gains that should be the rightful order of the day, this year, and in all years to come. 

On this date, I ask each one of you to deepen your commitment to caring for our natural environment through ways that are both practical and prayerful. In this way, we can work to dissipate the clouds of ignorance and neglect that stand in the way of our considering and respecting the pristine and sacred state of the heavens and stars as God created them. Through our faith, our dedication, and our love to God and to one another, let us offer today, at the beginning of an Ecclesiastical New Year, hymns of glory to God for all that He has done for us, for the great potential He has given to us as stewards of His creation, and for the wonders that He continues to work in our lives and in our universe.

With paternal love in Christ,

Archbishop of America

Archive: Archbishop Demetrios' Encyclicals