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GOA - Feast of the Three Hierarchs and The Day of Greek Letters
Worldwide Faith News <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Wed, 22 Jan 2003 20:51:04 -0800
GREEK ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE OF AMERICA
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Protocol Number 05/03
January 30, 2003
Feast of the Three Hierarchs and The Day of Greek Letters
"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is
just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there
is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these
St. Paul, To the Philippians 4:8
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 Day and Afternoon Schools, the Philoptochos
Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek
Orthodox Family in America
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Characteristic of the Hellenic mind are these words of Aristotle
(Metaphysics 1.1): "All men by nature desire to know. An indication of
this is the delight we take in our senses; for even apart from their
usefulness, they are loved for themselves; and above all others the sense
of sight." For from sight and the other senses, says Aristotle, memories
are formed; and from memory derives experience, and from experience the
ability to form judgments of universal truths, leading to true knowledge.
The contemplation of the beautiful and the good, therefore, is an integral
task of the lover of wisdom. One views things of beauty, not for the mere
pleasure they give to the senses, nor even primarily for aesthetic
satisfaction of the mind, but because of their power to educate the soul,
to shape the inner man according to the ideals of excellence. It was this
yearning for the higher life that gave impetus to the manifold achievements
of ancient Greek art and architecture.
We find precisely this idea of substantive education of the soul and of
growing in inner excellence through the vision expressed by the Fathers of
our Orthodox Church, and preeminently in the thought of the Three Great
Hierarchs and Ecumenical Teachers, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian,
and John Chrysostom. Time and again, these Holy Fathers repeat the
invitation to observation, to close attention, and to contemplation of the
things and the world that surround us, as a means for ascending the ladder
of virtues in the journey to godliness. The careful viewing of
particulars, the Three Hierarchs insist, is repaid handsomely in the coin
of spiritual advancement.
In praise of the power of perception and the spiritual potential of sight,
Saint John Chrysostom surpasses even Aristotle in exuberance: "For all
indeed that is in us is a manifestation of the wisdom of God, but much more
the eye... When [the eyes] are disabled, even knowledge is gone, since by
means of these we know God. 'For the invisible things of Him from the
creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that
are made.' [Rom. 1:20.] Wherefore the eye is not only a light to the body,
but beyond the body to the soul also. On which account it is established as
in a royal fortress, obtaining the higher condition, and presiding over the
other senses" (Homily on John 9: 1-5).
Saint Gregory the Theologian writes in concurrence in his theological
orations, when he speaks of the longing of our rational natures for God,
which is frustrated by the weakness of our bodily nature. "Faint therefore
with the desire," our minds strive to know God by another means, which is
to scrutinize the created order, and so "through the beauty and order of
visible things to attain to that which is above sight; but not to suffer
the loss of God through the magnificence of visible things" (Oration
In this same spirit does Saint Basil offer a prayerful wish: "May
God...grant you the knowledge of His truth, so that you may raise
yourselves from visible things to the invisible Being, and that the
grandeur and beauty of creatures may give you a just idea of the Creator"
(Hexaemeron 2.10). Such joyous delight in the sight of God's Creation
permeates the works of the Three Hierarchs.
We, their spiritual children, should be all the more zealous for the
contemplation of "Ton kalon kagathon", "the beautiful and the good", in our
time and circumstance, immersed as we often are in a culture of
tastelessness and tawdriness. Our homes, our schools, our holy churches and
our institutions of Greek culture and learning, must be places of manifest
beauty -- through works of art and nature, through balance and order in
arrangement, and through the dignity of moderation and holiness. Our
Hellenic forebears made great sacrifices of talent and treasure in order to
surround themselves with models of the best, as inspirations to a life of
virtue. As heirs of the rich legacy of Greek Letters and culture, we
should strive likewise to keep before our eyes at all times those things of
excellence, such as will inspire us to truth, wisdom, and the knowledge of
God. Above all, we must educate our children, in the tradition of the
Orthodox Faith and Hellenic wisdom, to learn to appreciate and focus on
things of beauty, which lift hearts and minds to God. "For from the
greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of
their Creator" (Wisdom of Solomon 13:5).
May this January 30, 2003, the Feast of the Three Hierarchs and the Day of
Greek Letters, be for all the faithful of our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of
America a day of resolve, to invest our God--given resources in the
perpetuation of this rich inheritance of beauty and goodness, for the
benefit of the souls of our own selves, our children, and our world.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America
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