January 30, 2012
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,
The Feast of the Three Hierarchs, Saint Basil the Great, Saint Gregory the Theologian and Saint John Chrysostom, on January 30th, is celebrated in conjunction with the Greek Letters Day as the Church recognizes in them the superb combination of Hellenic language and culture with Orthodox Faith and life.
The Three Hierarchs lived in the 4th century Byzantium, a time when the Church, after the edict of Mediolanum in 312, was free to express her faith in multiple ways. It was within this context that the Three Hierarchs produced their great works in the fields of theology, philosophy, rhetoric and education, superbly using and even enhancing the Greek language.
When we examine the work of Saint Basil the Great, we immediately can see that he was a person of extraordinary education in all scientific fields, a giant in theology and a master of the Greek language. He recognized the tremendous importance of a solid classical education as a factor in the cultivation of one’s intellect and exposure to cultural and educational values. His famous Address to Young Men On How They Might Profit From Greek Writings, remains an irreplaceable guide of how to deal with and how to maximize the spiritual profit from the study of classical Greek literature.
Saint Gregory the Theologian also has been a superb example of a master of an amazing Greek education. In his extensive theological and poetic works, we encounter an unprecedented usage of the Greek Language. He was so proficient in the various forms of Greek language that he even was able to create new words in order to express more accurately Orthodox theology, thus earning him the title, “Theologian.”
Likewise, it is no coincidence that the Church honored Saint John Chrysostom with the title “Golden-Mouth” on account of his brilliant rhetoric and the extraordinary way in which he employed the Greek language. Saint John Chrysostom, with the thousands of pages of exegesis on the Holy Scriptures, is still as contemporary today as he was in the 4th century. His biblical exegesis, as well as his many sermons, are indicative of the tremendous effort of Chrysostom to promote real and substantive education among his people.
Looking at the example of these Three Pillars of Orthodoxy we begin to understand the great value of Hellenic education and furthermore its importance in our lives. These Ecumenical Fathers and Teachers not only beautified the Church with their passionate pastoral care and sanctity, but also enhanced Greek language, theology, philosophy, rhetoric and poetry, as they focused on the message of the Gospel, the teachings of the Church and the centrality of Christ the Lord. We are called to embrace this model of superb education and great faith as an expression of our deep love, commitment, and understanding of God’s divine word.
The combination of the Feast of the Three Hierarchs with the Greek Letters Day constitutes a challenge for us contemporary Greek Orthodox people: A challenge to honor our Orthodox Faith and our Hellenic language and culture in the most advanced and strong ways. And God, the source of wisdom and love, the God of the Three Hierarchs will certainly be with us in successfully responding to the challenge.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America