September 1, 2010
Beginning of the Ecclesiastical New Year
Day for the Protection of our Natural Environment
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,
We begin this Ecclesiastical New Year as we should begin every year and each day of our lives, with hope in the promises of our Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation and a blessed life with Him for all eternity. The Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans links this hope in the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:18) to another attribute that should be characteristic of our Christian lives, “hope with perseverance.” He states, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” (8:25).
The hope of believers is not an empty hope. It is not inactive or hesitant. It is not based on the naïve idea that things will become better automatically. Our hope originates in our transformation through the power and presence of Christ, and it marks all attitudes and actions of our lives. It is in this hope that we join together with brothers and sisters in Christ in a community of love, worship, and fellowship. In hope, we gather all people into God’s home affirming His love and power to redeem their lives. In hope, we live in a fallen world responding to the needs around us in love, striving for and doing what is just and holy, and offering peace and true life. And we do this with perseverance.
On this day of Indiction, of September 1, which marks the beginning of the Ecclesiastical New Year, “hope with perseverance” has a significant meaning. The question is how do we persevere through the challenges of this world in the hope of participating in the glorious liberty we will have as the children of God? We receive the power of perseverance as we gather in prayer and praise to the Holy Trinity, as we are guided through the Holy Sacraments, as we are edified through all aspects of worship through the Holy Scriptures, hymns, prayers, sermons, icons, and the sacred space of the Church. Through all of these, our perseverance is nurtured, and our hope grows into a strong witness of the Gospel to a world which seems hopeless, lost, and confused.
This first day of September has also been designated by our holy and beloved Ecumenical Patriarchate as the Day for the Protection of our Natural Environment. We can also affirm the significance of “hope with perseverance” when we consider the challenges we face in the proper care and respect for the natural world. Over the past four months we have been saddened by the environmental tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico. The impact of this catastrophe on the ocean, wildlife, shorelines, and the well-being of the involved communities will linger for years and possibly decades. As Orthodox Christians, we also see the spiritual effects of this and many other environmental challenges around the world. As the Apostle Paul states, we know that the entire created order is under the bondage of corruption, eagerly awaiting redemption together with us (Romans 8:21-22). While we await such a final redemption of all, we cannot be idle or insensitive to the suffering environment. In our respect for life, in our love for all things created by God, and in our responsibility to be good stewards of all that He has given us, we must adopt attitudes and habits that show this. We must respond to environmental challenges with the love that God has shown us. This is a “perseverance in hope” or a “hope with perseverance” that honors truth in the face of insurmountable adversity, values life above convenience and profit, and reveals the hope we have in the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ, on this day of Indiction I offer you my prayers and wishes for a blessed Ecclesiastical New Year filled with hope and joy as we gather for feasts and commemorations in the name of Christ, and as we persevere in the hope of the life that is ours through Him.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America