Today we begin anew. With the inauguration of another ecclesiastical year, the cycle of the Church calendar begins again. Feasts and fasts will lead us through the life of our Lord and Savior, His Mother, and remember the saints of our Church. Like any new beginning, the Church gives us another opportunity to observe with greater devotion the life in Christ.
A new year also brings with it fresh opportunities to strengthen the lives of our parishes. We can look back on the previous years, learn from them, and use those lessons to freshen up our ministries, bring new energy to them, and edify and inspire those who serve in them, so that the Gospel of Christ can be preached more effectively and rise up over the noise in our often cacophonous society. As we read in the Book of Proverbs, “Wisdom cries aloud in the street; in the markets she raises her voice.” (Proverbs 1:20). The faithful of our Church must hear the words of the Lord, but we must be the ones who speak it to them. Our words must also become actions of service to one another in our parishes, but also to the community around us.
We must also raise our voices about the ills our world faces today. We have the freedom to contact our elected officials and the media to highlight the issues. We cannot waste that freedom on trivial matters, as we often do. First, we must raise our voices about the sufferings and persecutions of Christians in the Middle East and Africa. Christianity is steadily being erased from the lands where it began and the lands we look to for our Orthodox Tradition. We cannot allow our brothers and sisters who face deadly threats on a daily basis to believe that they have been abandoned.
Second, our Archdiocese has become actively involved with the United Nations Economic and Social Council in the campaign to end violence against women. As we have learned, violence against women takes many forms, from trafficking, physical and sexual violence, to forced impoverishment. This violence damages the image of God in which each person is created, and as a Church, we must work to intensify awareness on this issue among our parishes and to raise our voices and actions to address it.
Third, in keeping with the long standing practice of our Ecumenical Patriarchate, we must continue to speak out about environmental issues, from the continuing destruction of ecosystems from human activity to the new opportunities for environmental sustainability through new technologies and better stewardship of our natural resources. As our Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has stated, “the way we respond to the natural environment is directly reflects the way we treat human beings. The willingness to exploit the environment is revealed in the willingness to permit avoidable human suffering. So the survival of the natural environment is also the survival of ourselves. When we will understand that a crime against nature is a crime against ourselves and sin against God?”
As we read these words we must take note that His All Holiness has been teaching us about our responsibility for the created world from the first day of his enthronement as Ecumenical Patriarch, November 2, 1991. To commemorate this historic twenty-fifth anniversary, I hope that each parish of our Metropolis will send him a congratulatory message, especially praising his exemplary leadership at the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church this past June, but also his tireless dedication to the Church and humanity. May he have many years, rightly teaching the Word of Truth!
Dearly beloved, there is so much work to do as Christians, in our parishes, in our homes and in the world. The theme of our Clergy-Laity Congress taught us “You are the voice of Christ in a Changing World.” May this New Ecclesiastical year, a new beginning, give you the inspiration to be the voice of God’s message.
With Love in Christ,
+ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco