“O Maker of all creation, Who has established the times
and the seasons in Your own power:
Bless the crown of this year with Your goodness, O Lord,
and keep our rulers and Your flock in peace,
by the intercessions of the Theotokos, and save us.”
Apolytikion for the Ecclesiastical New Year
My beloved sisters and brothers,
“Unfortunately, in our days, under the influence of an extreme rationalism and self-centeredness, humanity has lost the sense of sacredness of creation and acts as its arbitrary ruler and rude violator.”
With these words in 1989, Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios of blessed memory, called all Orthodox Christians to remember September 1, the first day of the ecclesiastical year, as the Day of the Protection of the Environment. As he completes his twentieth year as our Ecumenical Patriarch, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has become internationally recognized as a tireless leader calling all to environmental awareness.
This awareness came naturally to us. Through the many actions in our liturgical life, we express our care, concern, and responsibility for the material world. In the coming liturgical year, we will encounter the gifts of creation, transform them through our activity, and offer them to the Most High God, receiving them, in turn as a source of sanctification. We will bless the products of nature and include them in our celebrations of many Feasts. At Theophany, we will bless the waters and all that rely on them for health and cleansing – life itself. We will be anointed with oil in the Sacrament of Unction. Most important of all, we will transform wheat and grapes into bread and wine, offer them back to God and receive them as the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior in the Divine Liturgy. In the dynamic cycle of the liturgical year, we can see the “right relationship” between God, humanity, and nature.
The next logical step, taken by Ecumenical Patriarchs Dimitrios and Bartholomew, was to voice our care, concern, and responsibility for the rest of the created world, especially where the relationship between humanity and the natural world has been distorted and led to environmental degradation and destruction. We can follow their footsteps. We have been blessed with amazing natural beauty in our Metropolis. Our task is to protect it from harm and to work to restore damage when it occurs. In each of our towns, there are places that need our help to be cleaner. We should adopt policies and programs in our parishes, homes, and workplaces that work for environmental protection and restoration. Each of us can use this coming ecclesiastical year to continue the work of the Day of the Environment.
On another matter, just a few days into this new ecclesiastical year, we will reach the tenth anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001, a day of unfathomable death and desecration, a day that changed our nation and our world. Everywhere, Americans will participate in ceremonies remembering that terrible day. I ask that each parish of our Metropolis conduct a Memorial Service on Sunday September 11, and pray for
“those who lost their lives at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.”
Also, I ask that you show your support for our Archdiocese’s efforts to see that the St. Nicholas Church, destroyed in the collapse of the World Trade Center, is rebuilt.
In the Great Litany at each Divine Liturgy, we hear the petition,
“For peace in the whole world, for the stability of the holy churches of God, and for the unity of all, let us pray to the Lord.”
Let us invoke these words fervently and with sincerity so that God may grant us these things and more in this new Ecclesiastical Year through His abundant mercy and love.
With Love in Christ,
G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco