13 September 2013

ORTHODOXY VS. THE WORLD: Icons vs. Western Art & Byzantine Chant vs. Western Choirs by Photios Kontoglou

Music is of two kinds (as are the other arts also)—secular and ecclesiastical. Each of these has been developed by different feelings and different states of the soul. Secular music expresses worldly (i.e., carnal) feelings and desires. Although these feelings may be very refined (romantic, sentimental, idealistic, etc.), they do not cease being carnal. Nevertheless, many people believe that these feelings are spiritual. However, spiritual feelings are expressed only by ecclesiastical music. Only ecclesiastical music can truly express the secret movements of the heart, which are entirely different from those inspired and developed by secular music. That is, it expresses contrition, humility, suffering and godly grief, which, as Paul says, "worketh repentance to salvation." [2] Ecclesiastical music can also evoke feelings of praise, thanksgiving, and holy enthusiasm. Secular music, on the other hand—even the purest—expresses carnal emotions, even when it is inspired by suffering and affliction. This type of suffering, Paul calls "worldly grief," which "worketh death." [3]

Thus two kinds of music were formed, the secular, which arouses emotion—any kind of emotion—and ecclesiastical music, which evokes contrition. St. John Chrysostom strongly condemns the attempts that were made by some of his contemporaries to introduce into the Church secular music, the music of the theatre and the mimes.

Only the arts which were developed by devout motives since the early years of Christianity have given expression to the spiritual essence of the religion. These alone can be called liturgical, that is, spiritual, in the sense that religion gives to the term spiritual. The "spiritual odes" of which Paul speaks [4] were works of such art. All the liturgical arts express the same thing: architecture, hymnody, iconography, embroidery, and even writing, the manner of walking, and in general the movements and gestures of the priests, the chiming of the bells, and so forth.

That these arts are truly of unique spirituality has been realized by many non-Orthodox, especially clergymen, whose sense-organs have been exposed, from youth on, to formative influences different from those in which Orthodox Christians have been brought up. Nevertheless, they confess that our icons and psalmody evoke in them contrition-of course, when executed by inspired and pious artists.

Thus, the value of the liturgical arts is not merely conventional, but real, extending beyond the limited conceptions that are due to nurture, habit, and taste, since even persons who are not of the Orthodox faith recognize that the arts of the Orthodox Church reflect the spirit of the Gospels and for this reason lift the soul above the earthly realm. And how could it be otherwise, inasmuch as these arts have been developed by sanctified hearts, which felt deeply the liturgical element in speech and music? Liturgical music is the natural musical garb of liturgical speech. Both sprang up together; they are one and the same thing. Essence and expression here have an absolute correspondence, even more exact than that of an object and its reflection in a mirror, for the objects of which we speak here belong to the spiritual realm. The profound and apocalyptic spirit of Christian religion and its mysteries could not be expressed faithfully and worthily except by these arts, which are called liturgical and spiritual, and which were developed by that same profound spirit. Only this music, and none other, uniquely expresses the spirit of our religion, because only this music has an absolute and most exact correspondence with it. This is testified to, I repeat, by certain men whose spiritual upbringing, religious training, phyletic and other heritage have no relation to that of the Orthodox. "The Spirit bloweth where it listeth," [5] and is transmitted to souls by means of sounds which the same Spirit formed, by illuminating the souls of the holy writers of hymns.

The Fathers of the Church ordained that Christians use the voice alone in execution of hymns, chanting as did our Lord Himself and His disciples. St. John Chrysostom says: "Our Savior chanted hymns just as we do." The Apostolic Constitutions forbid the use of musical instruments in the church. From the time of the Apostles, psalmody was monophonic, or homophonic, as it is to this day in our churches [in Greece].

The Western Church, in order to gratify people and flatter their tastes, put instruments inside the churches, disobeying what was ordained by the Fathers. They did this because they had no idea what liturgical music was and what secular music was, just as they did not know the difference between liturgical painting and secular painting. But the Byzantines distinguished the one from the other, and this shows how much more spiritual they were in comparison with the Westerners and how much more truly they experienced the spirit of Christianity. Byzantine music is, in comparison with the music of the West, exactly as Orthodox iconography is in comparison with the religious painting of the West.

How divine, indeed, is the psalmody of the Orthodox Church! It seems sweeter and sweeter each year to the Christian—a new wine that fills the heart with joy and makes it soar to the ethereal region of immortal life.

Byzantine music is peaceful, sad but consoling, enthusiastic but reserved, humble but heroic, simple but profound. It has the same spiritual essence as the Gospels, the hymns, the psalms, the books of the lives of the saints, and the iconography of Byzantium. That is why Byzantine music is monotonous for one to whom the Gospels are monotonous, naive for one to whom the Gospels are naive, circumscribed for one to whom the Gospels are circumscribed, mournful for one to whom the Gospels are mournful, antiquated for one to whom the Gospels are antiquated. But it is joyful for one to whom the Gospels are joyful, filled with compunction for one to whom the Gospels are filled with compunction, enthusiastic but humble for one to whom the Gospels, are enthusiastic but humble, and peaceful for one who experiences the peace of Christ.

Byzantine art is spiritual, and it is necessary that a man have spiritual depth in order to understand its mystical treasures. Byzantine music expresses "gladdening sorrow," [6] that is, that spiritual fragrance which only the spiritual senses are capable of experiencing. Its melody is not unholy, ostentatious, despondent, shallow, tasteless, or aimless; it is meek, humble, sweet with a certain bittersweetness, and full of contrition and mercy. It bestows an unwaning spiritual glory upon souls that have become worthy of the eternal mysteries and the compassion of God. It expresses thanksgiving; it causes the flow of tears of gratitude and spiritual joy. This music is the warmest, the most direct, and the most concise expression of the religious feeling of faithful Orthodox people.

[1] Photios Kontoglou of blessed memory (1895-1965) played a major role in the glorious return of traditional Byzantine iconography to the Greek Orthodox world in the twentieth century. He was also an accomplished chanter and a spiritual writer who inspired countless souls to embrace the unadulterated traditions of the Orthodox faith. This epilogue consists of selections from his writings translated in the book Byzantine Sacred Art by Dr. Constantine Cavarnos, who was one of his disciples.

[2] II Cor. 7:10

[3] Ibid.

[4] Vid. Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16

[5] Jn. 3:8

[6] Vid. The Ladder, Step 7:9 (Migne, Patrologia Graeca, vol. 88, col. 804B)

09 September 2013

The Orthodox Christian Church Temple Explained

We say this prayer upon entering the temple.
+I will come into Your house in the greatness of Your mercy: and in fear I will worship toward Your holy temple.
+Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; make Your way straight before me, that with a clear mind I may glorify You forever, One Divine Power worshiped in three persons:
+Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
NARTHEX/REFECTORY
The purpose of the narthex was to allow those not eligible for admittance into the general congregation (particularly catechumens and penitents) to hear and partake in the service. The narthex would often include a baptismal font so that infants or adults could be baptized there before entering the nave, and to remind other believers of their baptisms as they gathered to worship. The narthex is thus traditionally a place of penitence, and in Eastern Christianity some penitential services, such as the Little Hours during Holy Week are celebrated there, rather than in the main body of the church. In the Russian Orthodox Church funerals are traditionally held in the narthex.

Later reforms removed the requirement to exclude people from services who were not full members of the congregation, which in some traditions obviated the narthex. Church architects continued, however, to build a room before the entrance of the nave. This room could be called an inside vestibule (if it is architecturally part of the nave structure) or a porch (if it is a distinct, external structure). Some traditions still call this area the narthex as it represents the point of entry into the church, even if everyone is admitted to the nave itself.

In traditional Byzantine architecture, the narthex is divided into two distinct structures: an esonarthex (inner narthex), between the outer porch and the body of the church proper separated from the nave and aisles by a wall, arcade, colonnade, or screen; and an exonarthex (outer narthex) outside the main façade of the church, usually part of a colonnaded or arcaded atrium or quadriporticus (quadrangle). The exonarthex may be either open on the western end or enclosed, with a door leading to the outside. The esonarthex and exonarthex have distinct liturgical functions. For instance, the procession at the Paschal Vigil will end up at the exonarthex for the reading of the Resurrection Gospel, while certain penitential services are traditionally chanted in the esonarthex.

In some Eastern Orthodox temples (churches), the narthex will be referred to as the trapeza (refectory), because in ancient times, tables would be set up there after the Divine Liturgy for the faithful to eat a common meal, similar to the agape feast of the early church. To this day, this is where the faithful will bring their baskets at Pascha (Easter) for the priest to bless the Paschal foods which they will then take back to their homes for the festive break-fast. Traditionally, the narthex is where candles and prosphora will be sold for offering during Divine Services.

The doorway leading from the narthex to the nave is sometimes referred to as the "Royal Doors", because in major cathedrals there were several sets of doors leading into the nave, the central one being reserved only for the use of the Emperor.

On feast days there will be a procession to the narthex, followed by intercessory prayers, called the Litiya.

NAVE
The nave is the main body of the church where the people stand during the services. In most traditional Eastern Orthodox churches there are no seats or pews as in the West, but rather stacidia (A high-armed chair with armrests high enough to be used for support while standing); these are usually found along the walls. Traditionally there is no sitting during services with the only exceptions being during the reading of the Psalms, and the priest's sermon. The people stand before God. However, many exceptions to this can be found in western countries, especially the USA, where familiarity with Catholic and Protestant churches has led to similarities in church furnishings. It is not uncommon to encounter both pews and kneelers.

The walls are normally covered from floor to ceiling with icons or wall paintings of saints, their lives, and stories from the Bible. Because the church building is a direct extension of its Jewish roots where men and women stand separately, the Orthodox Church continues this practice, with men standing on the right and women on the left. With this arrangement it is emphasized that we are all equal before God (equal distance from the altar), and that the man is not superior to the woman. In many modern churches this traditional practice has been altered and families stand together.

Above the nave in the dome of the church is the icon of Christ the Almighty (Παντοκρατωρ/Pantocrator, "Ruler of All"). Directly hanging below the dome is usually a kind of circular chandelier with depictions of the saints and apostles, called the horos.

ICONOSTASIS/TEMPLON
The iconostasis, also called the templon, it is a screen or wall between the nave and the sanctuary, which is covered with icons. There will normally be three doors, one in the middle and one on either side. The central one is traditionally called the Beautiful Gate and is only used by the clergy. There are times when this gate is closed during the service and a curtain is drawn. The doors on either side are called the Deacons' Doors or Angel Doors as they often have depicted on them the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. These doors are used by deacons and servers to enter the sanctuary. Typically, to the right of the Beautiful Gate (as viewed from the nave) is the icon of Christ, then the icon of St John the Baptist; to the left the icon of the Theotokos, always shown holding Christ; and then the icon of the saint to whom the church is dedicated (i.e., the patron). There are often other icons on the iconostasis but these vary from church to church. The curtain is also drawn and opened at various points in the service.

A direct comparison for the function of the main iconostasis can be made to the layout of the great Temple in Jerusalem. That Temple was designed with three parts. The holiest and innermost portion was that where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. This portion, the Holy of Holies, was separated from the second larger part of the building's interior by a curtain, the "veil of the temple". Only priests were allowed to enter the Holy of Holies. The third part was the entrance court. This architectural tradition for the two main parts can be seen carried forward in Christian churches and is still most demonstratively present in Eastern Orthodox churches where the iconostasis divides the altar, the Holy of Holies containing the consecrated Eucharist – the manifestation of the New Covenant, from the larger portion of the church accessible to the faithful. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition only men can enter the altar portion behind the iconostasis.

A number of guidelines or rubrics govern which icons are on which parts of the iconostasis, although there is some room for variation. In its fullest Slavic development it comprised five tiers of icons:

  1. The bottom tier is sometimes called Sovereign. On the right side of the Beautiful Gates (from the nave facing forward) is an icon of Christ (often Pantocrator), which symbolizes his Second Coming and on the left side is an icon of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary), symbolizing Christ's incarnation, and entrance into this world. Therefore, all things take place between Christ's first and second coming. Other icons on this tier beside those on the doors themselves usually include depictions of the patron saint or feast day to which the church is dedicated, St. John the Baptist, St. Nicholas, one or more of the Four Evangelists etc. Above this are two interchangeable tiers: the Deisis and the Twelve Great Feasts:
  2. In the center of the Deisis is a large icon of Christ Enthroned. To the left and right are icons of John the Baptist and the Theotokos in attitudes of supplication. They are often flanked by icons of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, then Sts. Peter and Paul, and then any other important Church Fathers that may be desired for inclusion as space allows.
  3. The Feasts tier contains icons of the twelve Great Feasts of the liturgical year. Above this, the top two tiers are also interchangeable with each other:
  4. The Old Testament Prophets and Patriarchs—the latter sometimes including the twelve sons of Jacob—often to either side of an icon of Our Lady of the Sign; and
  5. The Twelve Apostles, often to either side of an icon depicting the Old Testament Holy Trinity/Hospitality of Abraham and Sarah.
It is also not uncommon to find an icon of the Mystical Supper, which depicts the Last Supper, and by extension the Communion of Saints in the Kingdom of God, somewhere above the Beautiful Gates.

The Sovereign tier is always present, but all the others may be omitted. Preference is given to the Deisis or the Feasts tiers if only some of them can be included. Only the largest and most elaborate iconostases include all five.

Above and behind the iconostasis is the Platytera ton Ouranon (more spacious than the heavens), the icon of Virgin Mary with Christ blessing all. Oil lamps burn before all the icons.

SANCTUARY/HOLY OF HOLIES
The area behind the iconostasis reached through the Beautiful Gates or Angel Doors is the sanctuary or altar. Within this area is the altar table, which is more often called the holy table or throne; the apse containing the high place at the center back with a throne for the bishop and the synthronos, or seats for the priests, on either side; the Chapel of Prosthesis on the north side where the offerings are prepared in the Proskomedia before being brought to the altar table and the holy vessels are stored; and the Diaconicon on the south side where the vestments are stored.

Orthodox Altars are usually square. Traditionally they have a heavy brocade outer covering that reaches all the way to the floor. Occasionally they have canopies over them. All Eastern Orthodox altars have a saint's relics embedded inside them, usually that of a martyr, placed at the time they are consecrated. Atop the altar table at the center toward the back is an ornate container usually called the tabernacle where the reserved Eucharistic elements are stored for communion of the sick. It is often shaped like a model of a church building. In front of this is placed the Gospel book, which usually has a decorated metal cover. Under the gospel is a folded piece of cloth called the eiliton. Folded within the eiliton is the antimension, which is a silken cloth imprinted with a depiction of the burial of Christ and with relics sewn into it. Both these cloths are unfolded before the offerings are placed on the altar table. Behind the altar is a seven-branched candlestick, which recalls the seven-branched candlestick of the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple in Jerusalem. Behind this is a golden processional cross. On either side of the cross are liturgical fans (ripida) which represent the six-winged seraphim. Against the wall behind the altar is a large cross. Hanging from the cross is usually a flat iconographic depiction of Christ (corpus) which can be removed during the 50 days following Pascha (Easter).

None may enter the altar without a blessing from the priest or bishop.

03 September 2013

Write your Senator and Congressman or Congresswoman to stop America from potentially starting World War III!

When Congress returns on Sept 6, Obama will urge them to vote in favor of killing people and destroying property in Syria – please write or phone your Congressional Representative and tell them to keep the government's sticky fingers off Syria.

Find your Congressional Rep's contact info here: http://1.usa.gov/AjIp8g

If you do not know what to write, you may copy and paste my letter below, only personalize it to the Congressman, Congresswoman, or Senator that you are writing to.
Dear Honorable Congressmen, Congresswomen, & Senators of the United States of America, 
As elected servants of the citizens of the United States of America, I want to make sure that you are not sending us to a war built on lies. A war that could stoke the fores of World War III. Now Syria's government is nowhere near perfect, but they are much better than the alternative as shown by the actions of the Syrian Rebels that President Barack Obama wants you to support. I will make my case briefly because I know your time is valuable.
  1. The Syrian Rebels admitted that THEY have been using the chemical weapons, not the Syrian government. See: http://www.examiner.com/article/breaking-news-rebels-admit-gas-attack-result-of-mishandling-chemical-weapons
  1. The united Nations investigated the reported chemical weapons attacks and found that the Rebels are the ones who are using chemical weapons. See: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/may/6/syrian-rebels-used-sarin-nerve-gas-not-assads-regi/
  1. The Rebels are also kicking all Christians out of their homes & destroy their churches just because of their religion. They also have kidnapped bishops and killed priests. The current government protects religious diversity. See: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/23/us-syria-crisis-minorities-idUSBRE90M0I720130123 and http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/blog/2013/08/destroying-christianity-in-syria-the-west-supports-the-wrong-side/
  1. The Rebels are not only evicting people out of their homes, but killing people, including women and children. See: http://www.examiner.com/article/u-s-backed-syrian-rebels-reportedly-massacre-christian-village
  1. The Rebels not only kill women and children, but then also eat them and feed them to dogs. See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23190533 and http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/01/01/report-syrian-rebels-behead-christian-man-and-feed-his-body-to-dogs/
  1. The Rebels include Al-Qaeda, who they have sworn allegiance to. The very group that we say we are at war with in Afghanistan. Why are we now fighting with Islamist terrorists that we claim we are against? See: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/04/11/syria-al-qaeda-connection/2075323/
  1. In the end, if we support the Syrian Rebels in this Civil War, we are supporting the ethnic genocide of Christians. See: http://frontpagemag.com/2012/frank-crimi/ethnic-cleansing-of-syrian-christians/
The Russian government, which is now a Christian majority nation, is trying to protect these Christians that the Syrian Rebels are trying to exterminate. If we go to war on the side of these Rebels, Russia may go in to protect those Christians, starting a World War where China, Iran, North Korea, and other allies of Syria fight against us, and sadly, we would be fighting on the side of the greater evil. Please don't be part of America choosing the greater evil. Don't stain your voting hand with innocent blood.
Thank you for taking the time to read my letter and considering how bad a decision it would be to support Al-Qaeda's terrorism in Syria.

01 September 2013

Happy New Year 7522!

Prot. No. 735
+ BARTHOLOMEW
By God’s Mercy Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome
And Ecumenical Patriarch

To the Plenitude of the Church
Grace and Peace from the Creator and Conserver of All Creation
Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ

Beloved brothers and children in the Lord,

We have come to September 1st, the beginning of the ecclesiastical year, which the Ecumenical Patriarchate and subsequently the entire Orthodox Church designated as a day of prayer for the natural environment. Since then, as a result of this initiative, the interest in protecting the natural environment has expanded more broadly and numerous measures are now taken for the sustainability and balance of the earth’s ecosystems as well as for all related problems.

Inasmuch as it is well known and proven, that “the laws of nature are neither dissolved nor disturbed, but always remain constant” (St. John Chrysostom, On Lazarus VI PG 48. 1042), we are today obliged to focus our attention on the unseen human interventions impacting the ecological balance, which is disturbed not only by visible destructive actions – such as deforestation, depletion of water resources, the overall exploitation of natural and energy resources, together with the pollution of immense land or marine regions by means of spilling or depositing toxic and chemical materials – but also by activities invisible to the naked eye. We are speaking of interventions into the genes of living creatures and the creation of mutations with unforeseen developments, such as the discovery of ways for releasing vast powers, atomic and nuclear, whose misuse could obliterate all traces of life and civilization on our planet. In such cases, greed and love of power are not the sole criteria on the part of those seeking to intervene and mutate these living creatures, which God created as “very good,” but the arrogance on the part of some that look to oppose God’s Wisdom and consider themselves capable of improving His work. The ancient Greeks called this spiritual condition “hubris,” and it signifies arrogant insolence of someone with limited mind before the all-knowing and almighty Creator.

Naturally, we are not opposed to scientific research, so long as it provides beneficial services to humanity and the environment. Thus, the use of scientific determinations, for instance, for the healing of illness is surely acceptable; but the forceful commercial exploitation of resources from contemporary chemical and biological technology in the light of some predetermined conclusion that these are not harmful to humanity, is certainly denounced because it has repeatedly led to tragic consequences for humanity and the environment.

Science is quite right to research constantly and endeavor to explain the natural laws and order. God’s commandment to the first-created, namely that they “subdue the earth” (Gen. 9.1), grants the license for research into and knowledge of the natural and biological mechanisms active in nature so that the natural environment may be a heavenly entity. The only condition is that the pursuit and utilization of knowledge should not aim solely at profit or become an arrogant effort toward the construction of a new tower of Babel, whereby God’s creatures seek to reach and perhaps, through some people’s conceit, even surpass the Creator Himself. Unfortunately, sometimes human beings forget the fact that “the source of beauty created all things” (Wisdom 13.3) and “the Lord’s hand established the earth, while His right hand founded the heavens.” (Is. 48.13)

Consequently, it is our obligation, as shepherds of the Church and every person of the spirit and the sciences but also of all devout Christians, to do good and especially to pray that the divine Creator of all may enlighten the scientists, who are particularly involved with these issues, that they may enter the mysteries of nature with humility before God and respect toward the natural laws so as to avoid the unnatural use of their research for commercial or other reasons. A long experience is necessary in order to determine that the ascertained beneficial repercussions of the application of new knowledge do not have parallel side effects that are destructive to the environment as well as to humanity.

At the creation of the world, the Lord’s voice and original command that “nature may have its own laws remain in our world so that it is able to generate and bear fruit for all time” (Basil the Great, On the Hexaemeron IX PG 29.96) also guarantee the earth’s sustainability. So the earth will continue to generate and bear fruit if it is permitted to adhere to its own natural order and if we as its inhabitants live according to the commandments and laws of God, abiding by and practicing them. Then He alone “will rain in their season, and the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit . . . And we shall eat our bread to the full and live securely in our land. And He will grant peace in the land.” (Lev. 26.4-5)

On the occasion, then, of this important day and the commencement of the year, we pray with Joshua, the angelic Symeon, the seven children in Ephesus, and the sacred Psalmist David that the Lord will send forth His spirit and renew the face of the earth (cf. Ps. 103.20) to bless the works of His hands and deem us worthy of peacefully completing the time that lies before us. And we invoke upon those undertaking scientific research into the power of nature the illumination, grace and blessing of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

September 1, 2013

Protocol 118/13
September 1, 2013
Beginning of the Ecclesiastical Year
Feast of the Indiction

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,

On this Feast of the Indiction we gather in worship of Almighty God on a day and in a time of beginnings. The first day of this new month commemorates the beginning of the ecclesiastical year and our cycle of celebrations and observances that connect our past, present and future as Orthodox Christians and offer a witness of the saving grace and power of God through our faith in Jesus Christ. In addition, this time of year has past and current connections with the agrarian cycle of plowing, planting and harvesting, and it is also the beginning of the school year. Many are returning from breaks and vacations to begin a new year of learning, activities, and opportunities.

This sense of beginning that we share in many aspects of our lives is essential to our relationship with God and how we live our Orthodox faith each and every day. Just as we begin a new ecclesiastical year in anticipation of the blessings to come through our worship and service, we are also called to begin each day in faith and with expectations of what God will accomplish in and through our lives.

We see the manner in which we should begin this ecclesiastical year, the school year, and each and every day to come. First, we must pray and commune with God. We are called to a daily life of prayer, as prayer leads us to our Creator, guides us in truth, and nurtures our hope in an abundant and eternal life. In addition, we must enter this year and greet each new day seeking and receiving the grace of God. In His mercy He forgives us, and in His loving-kindness He cares for us and heals our souls. Finally, we must begin this time offering our praise to God for His provision and seeking to do His will. For each new day He will give us all that we need, and our hearts and minds should be open, prepared, and willing to do His will as it is revealed to us.

It has also been our tradition as Orthodox Christians through the spiritual guidance of our Ecumenical Patriarchate, to observe September 1 as the Day for the Protection of our Natural Environment. This is very appropriate on this day, as the natural order shows us over and over again the process of renewal and new beginnings. In both minute and lengthy processes, we see the handiwork of our Creator. We are constantly reminded through the beauty, complexity, and even the struggles and suffering of our natural environment that we are called to be faithful stewards of all that He has made. We are also shown through the passing of time, the changing of the seasons, and the beginning of each new day the priority of our relationship with God.

As we begin this new ecclesiastical year, I pray that the abundant blessings of our Lord may be upon you through your worship, service, and daily prayer as you live in the grace of God and seek His will.

With paternal love in Christ,

†DEMETRIOS

Archbishop of America

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