For thus says the Lord, Who created the heavens,
Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it,
Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited:
“I am the Lord, and there is no other.”
Beginning of the Ecclesiastical 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 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,
It is very appropriate as we enter the new Ecclesiastical Year on September 1 to remember the words of the Lord, as recounted here by the prophet Isaiah. The passage is a clear expression of the uniqueness, supremacy and omnipotence of God. It also communicates the indisputable truth that God alone created our world with the specific purpose that it be inhabited by us, whom He created out of His love. Indeed, there is no other God.
Today, at the beginning of a new Ecclesiastical Year, our Holy Orthodox Church continues to remind us of the uniqueness, supremacy, and omnipotence of God through its rich and vibrant liturgical life. Through the sacraments, hymns, prayers, and petitions of the divine services, we praise and honor the Triune God who has created the universe, given order to the entire cosmos, and fashioned each one of us in His image, giving us a life of communion with Him. On Sundays, special feast days, and throughout the entire year, we acknowledge the Divine work of God, and His plan for our salvation. We remember the eternal significance of His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, and His continued presence and work through His Body, the Church.
Our life within the Church, and specifically within the liturgical cycle of the year, is guided by the celebration and commemoration of what God has and will continue to do in our world and within our souls as He leads us toward our redemption. Thus, our participation in the services and ministry of the Church is very critical in a world that may seem chaotic. Through our worship and prayer God affirms that our lives and this world were not created in vain, but that all of His creation has a divine purpose. This purpose is to know and experience the love of God. This is not a love that results in chaos or disorder we may see around us. It is a love that transforms lives that are lost, confused, and suffering. It is a love that renews our awareness of God’s redemptive plan. It is a love that gives our lives meaning, direction, and purpose; for without the love of God, everything we do is done in vain.
As we call to mind the beauty and purpose of God’s creation on this day of September 1, it is also appropriate that we honor the declarations of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew referring to the designation of September 1 as the Day for the Protection of our Natural Environment. It is through love that God has called us to be the stewards of creation. All too often, the problems of our world are the result of environmental abuse and improper management of the natural resources that have been created by God. Unbridled consumption and exploitation for the sake of wealth do not affirm the purpose that God has given to creation, but instead are symptoms of the futility of sin and an unholy striving for what leads to destruction and death. All of this is a clear indication of a spiritual void and an ignorance of the divine order and purpose of God. Thus, we must offer our voice and our efforts for the sake of God’s creation, knowing that our spiritual lives and our future salvation are intertwined with all that God has made and loves.
My Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
At the inception of the Ecclesiastical Year, I ask each one of you to deepen your commitment to the liturgical life of our Orthodox Church. I ask this, knowing that the purpose and order you seek in your life will be found in strong communion with God and in tender care for His creation. I also ask this because we must be witnesses of righteousness, truth, and of a divine order that will lead people to salvation. Through our faith and our life within the Church, our lives and the lives of others will be constantly transformed and will become hymns of glory to God the Creator and Lord.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America