January 1, 2009
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,
On this first day of the New Year 2009, our Holy Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Basil the Great, one of our foremost Ecumenical Teachers and Hierarchs of the early Church. Our honoring of the life and legacy of Saint Basil on this New Year comes at a particularly salient time in the life of our Church and society, for this great Saint of our Church presents to us the embodiment par excellence of the virtue of philanthropy. It is important, as Church, that we take this opportunity to emphasize the role of philanthropy and the urgent need for the expansion of philanthropic initiatives in light of contemporary social and economic conditions both in the United States and abroad.
Saint Basil’s example of unwavering perseverance can serve as a powerful example of faith for us today, as particularly seen by his commitment to establish major, sustainable philanthropic institutions known as “the Basileias,” located near the ancient city of Caesarea where Saint Basil served as an archbishop. One can only imagine the determination that was part and parcel of this dynamic endeavor. In every way, Saint Basil was a true innovator, a holy and brilliant man ahead of his time. It is not difficult to imagine that, as with all new and stimulating ideas, Saint Basil may have encountered voices of pessimism or doubt from others at the prospect that “the Basileias” might have become the very successful and pioneering institution of philanthropy that history records. What we know with certainty is that Saint Basil, inspired and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit, resisted all such voices and pressed forward to achieve his goal. He saw the urgency of people in need, and he understood the significance of philanthropy and the role of the Church as providing an answer to that need. In his actions as an archbishop to further the work of the Church, he operated with supreme confidence in the knowledge that what is impossible with men is possible with God (Luke 18:27).
Today, the value of philanthropy in the life of our Church in general, and the robust expansion of the philanthropic institutions of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America specifically, must continue to occupy our primary attention and focus, regardless of external economic conditions that might tempt us to think otherwise. One of these philanthropic institutions of our Archdiocese, named appropriately after Saint Basil, is our Saint Basil Academy, located in Garrison, New York.
For more than 50 years, Saint Basil Academy has provided a home to children and young people from across our country, many of whom come from difficult family situations and are in need of a community of love and genuine fellowship in Christ. Accordingly, the work of the Academy speaks to the very core principle of the mission of the Church and the teachings of Jesus Christ: to love one another (John 15:17). This is especially so for young people who are in great need of truly comprehensive care for the health of body, mind, and soul. Though this labor of love is carried out through the diligence, expertise, and hard work of volunteers who provide professional services to the Academy, and to its directors and staff, the ability of Saint Basil Academy to function would not be possible without direct financial contributions from you, the faithful of our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
As is our custom every 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. Thus, as we begin the New Year, I ask that you kindly consider making a special financial contribution to Saint Basil Academy this year, as your assistance to the Academy furthers the philanthropic mission of the Church in very real and tangible ways. I pray, through the intercessions of Saint Basil, that we may always be mindful of the primary role of philanthropy in our Church, and of the very real, active, and energizing power of the Holy Spirit in our lives on this first day of the New Year 2009, and indeed on every day of every year.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America