September 1, 2008
Beginning of the Ecclesiastical New Year and 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,
I greet you in the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ following the inspiring and edifying 39th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress of our Holy Archdiocese. In a spirit of love and in mutual commitment to the mission of the Church, we enjoyed our fellowship with one another, carefully analyzed current needs and challenges, and affirmed our faith in God’s guidance. We also expressed our willingness to offer more so that others will find salvation and life in Him.
We remember the theme of our Congress: “Gather My People to My Home.” This emphasis on the Church as a spiritual home for all people directed our thoughts and discussions concerning current and potential ministries at all levels of our Archdiocese. It also challenged us to consider the needs of so many around us who are unchurched, who are uncommitted, or who are struggling spiritually. As Orthodox Christians and as Greek Orthodox Church in America, we have the sacred calling from the mouth of Christ Himself to "Go out to the highways and hedges, and compel people to come in" (Luke 14:23), so that God’s house may be filled and many more may join us in the great and glorious banquet of life and love. It is from our spiritual home in the Church that we understand the deeper spiritual meaning and reality of life and love.
With the Church as our spiritual home, our concern and care for others logically extends also to our care for all of God’s creation. This is a fitting issue to address on this day, the beginning of a New Ecclesiastical Year, because our Ecumenical Patriarchate has designated September 1 of each year as the Day for the Protection of our Natural Environment, and its survival for posterity. Although we witness the effects of evil and sin upon the natural world, we have faith in God’s promise that He will redeem and renew all things. As we await the coming of a new heaven and a new earth at the end of time, we have been given the sacred task of being stewards of the existing heaven and earth, the Creation of God. This is the awareness and truth that we celebrate as Orthodox Christians on this first day of a New Ecclesiastical Year.
From our spiritual home in the Church and our relationships with our Creator and one another, we are able to contribute to the global initiatives on the environment and offer a spiritual perspective that wisely and methodically gives greater meaning to life on our planet. As the Church is our home, let us also recognize our earthly home and our responsibility for it.
Let us give thanks to God for the Creation and the provision for our needs. Let us praise Him for the beauty and wonders of the natural world. And let us also show our love for Him through our efforts to protect what He has made in goodness, wisdom, and love. As we begin this New Ecclesiastical Year, may we join in worship and fellowship in our spiritual home, and, from this home, may we go out into all the world with a message of life, hope, and renewal.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America