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 Day and Afternoon Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhood, the Young Adults and Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The commencement of the Ecclesiastical New Year on September 1 is a welcome occasion for us to consider the abundant blessings of God in our daily lives. In the liturgical calendar of the Orthodox Church this day inaugurates an annual cycle of worship, which complements our lives with order and structure, and reflects and informs the teaching of the Church concerning the relationship of humanity to God, our Creator, and to the natural world.
Our relationship with God and the natural world is at once a physical and spiritual dynamic. It is both an earthly and a sacred reality which communicates that we are an integral part of the Creation; and, thus, we bear a special responsibility to its protection, care, and wholesome cultivation. Appropriately in this regard, September 1 also coincides with the beginning of the cycle of the agrarian harvest, a physical process with a tremendous spiritual application, as reflected by the highly suggestive saying of the Apostle Paul, "Whatever a man sows that he will also reap" (Galatians 6:7).
Our act of sowing seeds of spiritual growth is an intense exercise, a deeply personal and all-encompassing labor of love that is characterized by a conscientious intensification of our prayer life, acts of philanthropy, and personal devotion to the reading of the Holy Scriptures. More than this, it is a manifestation of the conscience of the royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) uniquely imparted to Christians, a conscience which is rooted in service to others, responsibility for our natural environment, a thirst for education and learning, and an awareness of our spiritual potential as children "created in the image and likeness of God" (cf. Genesis 1:26).
Yet the task of sowing and reaping is a work that moves beyond the scope of the personal. Within parishes, the task of sowing seeds of growth takes on a communal and social dimension. More than a physical setting, the parish is a space of sacred communication and unity, defined by the intersection of the person, family, and community into a single body of worship and ministry. As such, the parish is foremost a spiritual entity, a microcosm of the entirety of the Church, the Body of Christ. It is in the parish where we grow as persons and families through corporate prayer and worship, through ministering to the physical and spiritual needs of one another, and through the guided study of the Holy Scriptures. The beginning of the Ecclesiastical New Year accords our communities the opportunity to grow in new, challenging, and ever-expanding directions. This festal time is an especially fitting occasion to examine more closely our immediate surroundings, to raise environmental awareness within our communities, to identify and attend to the specific needs of our neighbors, and to enhance the ways in which we welcome strangers into our midst. By these labors, we may be assured of an abundant harvest of spiritual fruit, rightfully honoring God’s creation, and we may rest securely in the knowledge that "he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully" (2 Corinthians 9:6).
May the beginning of this ecclesiastical year mark a radiant beginning for each of you as you continue to sow and reap the abundant blessings of God, our Creator, and may your homes and your hearts be filled with His infinite grace, mercy, and love throughout this and every ecclesiastical year.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America