January 30, 2010
Feast of the Three Hierarchs
and Greek Letters Day
For I am not ashamed of the Gospel;
it is the power of God for salvation
to every one who has faith…. (Romans 1:16)
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,
In this first month of the new year we are blessed to have in the calendar of our Holy Orthodox Church the commemoration of the Three Great Hierarchs and Ecumenical Teachers, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory the Theologian, and St. John Chrysostom. On this day of their feast, we honor the lives and witness of these holy and brilliant men, who brought glory to God through their amazing service to the people in the name of Christ. Their lives offer to us a genuine image of the power of the Gospel, the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, as they each believed in Him to the depths of their hearts, souls, and minds and as they were transformed by His presence into godly men imbued with divine power and wisdom. Further, the Three Hierarchs present a witness of the Gospel through their ministry of teaching, their defense of the faith, and their love of learning, together with service to others characterized by compassion, humility, and sacrifice.
The lives of Saints Basil, Gregory, and John Chrysostom are beautiful testimonies of their acceptance of and total commitment to the Gospel. Each was influenced by holy family members and teachers who had received the message of Christ and believed. Each overcame struggles of mind and soul, challenges that were ultimately resolved in complete acceptance of divine grace. Through their life-long commitment to God, they conveyed the priority and purpose of our human existence in receiving the Gospel and being restored to communion with God.
The belief of the Three Hierarchs in the Gospel was the foundation for their lives of service to God and to others. What they believed and preached, they lived. The Gospel was for them not only a message of truth leading to true life and salvation, it was and is a ministry. For Saints Basil, Gregory, and John Chrysostom the purpose of the message of God’s love extended beyond their own spiritual destiny to the needs of others. Thus, they served in compassion and humility, denying their own selves and sacrificing any personal gain for the sake of their fellow human beings. They lived the Gospel because they took upon themselves the example and ministry of Christ, oblivious to what they suffered, and generously offering all so that souls might be saved.
The Three Hierarchs were fully aware of the transforming power of the Gospel. It is the power of the Gospel that changes our understanding of all facets of our human existence. This was reflected in the love of learning and language expressed by the Three Hierarchs as they affirmed the great potential of our God-given human abilities and the role of the mind and word in communicating the truths of life and faith. This is why today is also a celebration of Greek Letters. We recognize the role that Greek thought, language, and culture has had in furthering knowledge and understanding of our world. Methods of thought encouraged intellectual clarity and contributed to great scientific discoveries and advances; the Greek language became a foundation for many areas of modern language, offering conciseness and structure; and Greek culture as an expression of thought, art and language, set standards in literature, rhetoric, art and architecture. Saints Basil, Gregory, and John Chrysostom recognized the relevance of this in communicating the Gospel of Christ. In addition to acknowledging the benefits of learning in the development of the mind, they also tapped the resources of Greek language and thought in order to illuminate great theological truths and to explore the implications of the divine revelation for our minds, souls and all of the created order. They also saw the relevance of adapting various cultural elements, which were expressions of the creativity and ingenuity of humanity, as means of communicating the Gospel.
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, on this feast day of the Three Hierarchs and the celebration of Greek Letters, let us look to the example of these great Saints of our Church and emulate their love of God and their faith in the Gospel of salvation. May we build a life of service and witness on the foundation of our belief in what Christ has done for us. May we also be grateful for the great inheritance we have received, one that nurtures a love of learning and language in the service of God and the ministry of the Gospel so that all humanity may hear, believe, and receive a Gospel leading to eternal life.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America