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2012: Celebrations for the Feast of Hellenic Letters PDF Print E-mail

Encyclical from His Eminence Archbishop Gregorios and Great Britain on the occasion of the Feast of the Three Holy Hierarchs Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysosom (30th January 2012)

 

  

Dearly Beloved in the Lord,

 

 

The Feast of the Three Hierarchs and Great Teachers and Pastors of our Church, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom, invites us to celebrate together, to be spiritually ‘re-baptised’, and to once again study their holy lives, their fresh teachings and their invaluable contribution to the Church and to humanity in general.

 

 

These holy men studied in depth the spirit and letter of the Gospel, and being also well-versed in the ancient world and in Greek thinking, wisdom and rhetoric, they managed to rise above paganism and to zealously defend Christianity, laying the foundations for it to eventually take root in the conscience and intellect of the people of their day. For Christianity had not yet spread to the masses throughout the vast Roman Empire , neither in the East nor the West.

 

 

The Three Hierarchs were men who, considering their day, achieved something remarkable: they established an organised form of divine worship, and thus texts of the Divine Liturgy are attributed to them even today. The Orthodox Church has as a priceless treasure the Divine Liturgies of St Basil the Great and St John Chrysostom, which are still constantly celebrated today, while the Copts continue to use a form of the Liturgy attributed to St Gregory the Theologian.

 

 

I say all this to illustrate the care that those great Fathers of the Church had for divine worship. For this reason they developed the Liturgy with wonderful prayers which to this day touch the hearts of the faithful, inspire theologians and scholars, and help people to seek God out and to look to heaven for strength and comfort.

 

 

The Three Hierarchs were not only Bishops who had pastoral charge at that time (4th – 5th century A.D.) over historic Churches, such as Constantinople and Caesarea; they were also trained and unique preachers and gifted exegetes of Holy Writ. Their theology touched upon the most fundamental and always contemporary issues for the Church, such as: the person of Jesus Christ; the dogma of the Holy Trinity; the place of the Virgin Mary in Divine Economy; the institution of the Church; the Holy Eucharist; Priesthood; Monasticism; the distribution of wealth; the patronage of the poor and helpless; and the challenges for the political and ecclesiastical authorities to confront the problems of heresy and the greed of the ruling classes. I should emphasise that the Three Hierarchs were not only monks; they also zealously upheld the monastic ideals in their personal lives and their mores, living a frugal and ascetic lifestyle. They were also people of profound faith and prayer with a deep knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and of Greek literature. Using these, they correctly taught doctrine, boldly preached the divine word with remarkable originality, and emphasised the great value of learning, both pagan and Christian.

 

 

They encouraged their contemporaries, and particularly the young, to study and learn Greek language and philosophy, in order that they may serve the mystery of Divine Economy, and challenge with authority and knowledge those who taught heresy, and to lead people and nations to correct Christian belief and teaching. With all this in mind, beloved brethren and fathers, we honour the Three Hierarchs and all those holy men and women of the ancient Church, and we continue to enrich our own lives and the Church’s tradition with their immortal teachings and their holy and humble lives. In our prayers to the Holy Trinity, we ask every day for their intercessions in our spiritual struggle to preserve the Orthodox Tradition, to remain faithful to the Gospel of salvation in Christ, to enrich our ecclesiastical life with knowledge and participation in divine worship, in the Holy Eucharist, and in the Priesthood, which the Three Hierarchs served so loyally with the power of the word and their immortal writings, their wise pastorship, and their holy, Christ-centred example. They guide and strengthen us in our daily battle with sin and evil.

 

 

In connection with the celebrations in honour of the Three Hierarchs, and as a tribute to their everlasting contribution to the Church, to theology and to the deepening of people’s understanding of both the spirit and the texts of the Gospel of our salvation in Christ, let us continue humbly and patiently to live our lives in this Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne of Constantinople, which those great saints, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom, glorified with their priestly service, as Basil the Great did for the see of Caesarea.

 

 

Furthermore, in the spirit of these celebrations of Greek and Christian Letters, and being inspired by the Three Hierarchs, I would like to ask for your support and your prayers in our efforts to establish a day-time Greek Orthodox Secondary School in North London, such as the faith schools of the Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Methodists, Jews and Muslims in this country. Only by your prayers and active interest will we be able to achieve this goal and to write this significant chapter in our history for our children’s education, for which the great Fathers of the Church laboured hard and wisely. I would also like to mention the efforts being undertaken to set up a convent in Greater London, similar to the Holy Monastery of St John the Baptist in Essex, which was founded by the ever-memorable Archimandrite Sophrony, and which continues to make a great contribution to the spiritual edification of the faithful, under the leadership of its Superior, Kyril, and his fellow monks and nuns.

 

 

Drawing yet deeper from the treasury of the discipline of pastorship exemplified in the lives of the Three Hierarchs, I would also like to remind you that all of our Communities should be like fertile land for the cultivation of divine worship, theological and ecclesiastical learning, sacred song, unceasing prayer, repentance, forgiveness, simplicity, humility, willing devotion, charity, care for families and for young and old. The Three Hierarchs wielded the great torch of Christian civilization and at the same time fostered a profound love for humanity, particularly the young, the poor, the sinful, and the weak. Nourished by the spirit of the Gospel, they embraced every human being as “an icon of the invisible God” and showed enormous concern for families, for children, for righteousness, and for the preservation of the Orthodox Faith of which they were true Teachers, defenders and God-bearing preachers of God’s word.

 

 

With these thoughts, I greet you all from the bottom of my heart and I pray that the Three Hierarchs will guide our steps and uphold us all, clergy and laity, that we may remain faithful to our Orthodox Tradition, and that with enthusiasm and profound faith we may learn their wise and immortal teachings. And I remain with love in the Lord and esteem.

 

 

London , 30th January 2012

 

 

Gregorios, Archbishop of

 

Thyateira and Great Britain

 
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