Protocol No. 05/17
Feast of the Three Hierarchs
and Greek Letters Day
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,
Our commemoration of the Feast of the Three Hierarchs represents a strong and holy tradition in the Orthodox Church of affirming that these three saints, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, and John Chrysostom, are exalted examples of persons who were filled with the knowledge of God and great spiritual wisdom. In the major hymn for the feast we sing of them as “the honey-flowing rivers of wisdom, who flooded all creation with streams of divine knowledge,” acknowledging the witness that they offered through tremendous service as compassionate pastors, skilled teachers, and masterful theologians.
Today, their examples and teaching guide us in living in a changing and challenging world. They show us how faith and service, grounded in our knowledge of God and our trust in His divine wisdom, can help us navigate our lives and the complexity of the world around us while keeping our focus on our relationship with God and His promises of abundant blessings and salvation.
As great preachers and theologians the Three Hierarchs gave significant attention to questions about how we know God, especially through what we can observe in the world around us. Saint Basil wrote in one of his letters, “But in our belief about God, first comes the idea that God is. This we gather from His works. For, as we perceive His wisdom, His goodness, and all His invisible things from the creation of the world, so we know Him. So, too, we accept Him as our Lord.” (Letter 235)
On the knowledge of God Saints Gregory and John Chrysostom agree. Gregory states in his Second Theological Oration, “Now our very eyes and the Law of Nature teach us that God exists and that He is the Efficient and Maintaining Cause of all things; our eyes, because they fall on visible objects, and see them in beautiful stability and progress, immovably moving and revolving...because through these visible things and their order, it reasons back to their Author.” Chrysostom concurs: “Not only does the greatness and beauty of the creation show forth the Divine Architect, but the very manner likewise in which it is compacted together, and the method of operation, transcending as it does, the ordinary course of nature.” (Homily X – Concerning the Statutes)
For the Three Hierarchs the knowledge of God is not only visible to all humanity, but it is an essential foundation for understanding our place and purpose in the created order, for recognizing whom and what is greater than the visible world, and for our response to this knowledge by seeking communion with Him. On this foundation, however, is the knowledge of God and the spiritual wisdom revealed through Christ. They affirm that knowledge of God through creation is important, but it is incomplete without Christ. To know truly God and His wisdom, we must know Christ. The Three Hierarchs emphasized the necessity of the knowledge of Christ in order to know God.
As we commemorate the Three Hierarchs and reflect on their insights on how we know God and through Christ are given the knowledge and wisdom to follow His will in a challenging world, we also see the value of their teachings in relation to our observance of Greek Letters Day. On this observance and the blessed Feast of the Three Hierarchs, my prayer for you is that beautiful greeting offered by the Apostle Paul: I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. (Ephesians 1:16)
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America