Feast of Saint Basil and the 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

My Beloved Christians,

As Greek Orthodox Christians, we enter this New Year with the joyous celebration of the Feast of Saint Basil, a much beloved and venerated Ecumenical Teacher and Great Hierarch of our Church whose life in the fourth century continues to serve as a model worthy for emulation by all Christians. Saint Basil is revered with a special prominence worldwide in the Holy Orthodox Church for the saintly life which he lived, for his astonishing work, and for his acts of extraordinary kindness and goodwill to the sick, the downtrodden, and the marginalized.

During his service as a bishop in the ancient city of Caesarea in Cappodocia, Saint Basil achieved a most remarkable feat, perhaps the first of its kind in the Christian world; namely, the establishment of charitable institutions, orphanages, and hospitals. We know from historical accounts that these institutions operated as thoroughly integrated parts of a working whole, an entire complex of institutions dedicated to the needs of the sick and the poor outside Caesarea. Appropriately, the extraordinary complex of these institutions was called "the Basileias."

The Basileias of the fourth century give us a glimpse into the premium that Orthodox Christianity, from its early life, placed on providing care to the needy through the sophisticated and orderly establishment of institutions dedicated expressly to those needs. This is a tradition that continues to be a vital part of our legacy today. It is a part of our long history as Greek Orthodox Christians that both inspires and challenges us as a unified community to add to the landscape of the many charitable institutions, orphanages, and hospitals within contemporary American society.

Today in our Archdiocese, the legacy of Saint Basil finds a direct and tangible expression, among other ministries, in the ministry of our Saint Basil Academy, located in Garrison, New York. For more than half a century, Saint Basil Academy has provided a safe and secure home to children and young people from across America who are in special need of a place where they can experience God's love. Many of these children and young people have experienced difficult circumstances in the early years of their lives, and so the work of Saint Basil Academy is quite important as these children and young adults mature into adulthood in Christ. The sacred work of Saint Basil Academy, made possible by the grace of God, is carried out by the diligent efforts of the directors and the staff of the Academy, and by the contributions of faithful who support its noble aims and endeavors. These financial contributions continue to be a tremendous support for the Academy.

As an appropriate way to begin the New Year in honor of Saint Basil, we are led by our National Ladies Philoptochos Society and the many local Philoptochos chapters in parishes throughout our nation in collecting funds for this vital ministry of love. Thus, as we begin the New Year, and as we distribute pieces of the traditional Vasilopeta in honor of Saint Basil to our loved ones, I ask that you kindly consider making a special financial contribution to Saint Basil Academy. Furthermore, I ask for your prayers for the continued vitality of Saint Basil Academy and for the good health of all its residents and staff. Through your prayers and your contributions, you will truly be supporting the aims of this important ministry, and will be bringing the peace of Christ into the hearts of many who are in need of His tender care and mercy.

I pray that this New Year 2007 may be a year filled with peace and tranquility for you and your families, and for all in our world who are in need of the saving love and mercy of God.

With paternal love in Christ,

†DEMETRIOS
Archbishop of America