Christ Savior, Lover of humankind, who brought all things into existence from nothing, and with ineffable wisdom arranged for each one to accomplish unerringly the goal which you laid down in the beginning, as you are powerful, bless the whole creation which you fashioned. — Kekragarion of the Environment

Grant, Master, that with the start of the year we may offer you the first fruits of a life that is pleasing to you. — Troparion of Ode 6, Canon of the Indiction

Dearly Beloved,

The beginning of September is a significant time for Orthodox Christians in the United States, presenting for our spiritual consideration three commemorations. First, following a 5th century edict of Emperor Leo I, September 1 is considered to be the beginning of the year, because according to the Church’s tradition, this was the first day of creation. Less than a century later, Emperor Saint Justinian the Great decreed that all dates must include a reference to the Indiction as a way of linking human events to God’s initial act of creation. Second, in 1989 His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Demetrios, of blessed memory, dedicated September 1 as an annual day of thanksgiving and supplication for the environment and all creation. Third, beginning in 1895, the United States government has set aside the first Monday in September as a national holiday, Labor Day, to remember the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.

These three observances converge to remind us that all creation is a gift from God, that humans have been commissioned to “till and keep” creation (Genesis 2:15), and that our stewardship of creation is to be guided by God’s saving goal, that all things may be filled with God’s self (Anaphora of Saint Basil the Great) rather than by human greed that threatens to destroy the infinitely valuable gift of nature. Each and every day our labors, no matter what they are, have an effect on creation; they lead it to either union with God or to ultimate destruction.

As Orthodox Christians living in this great country we must reflect on what it means to contribute to its “strength, prosperity, and well-being”. In this time of economic crisis and political rancor, we are obliged to think seriously about how our labors and lifestyle impact the world around us. For Christians, profit is not only an economic concept, but also a spiritual issue (cf. Mark 8:36). The words of Saint John Chrysostom are as powerful today as ever: “Our money is the Lord’s, however we may have gathered it. If we provide for those in need, we shall obtain great plenty. This is why God allowed you to have more: not for you to waste on . . . drink, fancy food, expensive clothes, and all the other kinds of indulgence, but for you to distribute to those in need.” (On Wealth and Poverty 49 - 50)  Creation is not merely a source for our own enrichment, but a gift to be offered back to God (Anaphora of Saint John Chrysostom). By the grace of God our houses are filled “with bountiful food, and with every good thing, that [we] may have to give to them that are in need.” (Prayer of Marriage)

One troparion from the Orthros of the Indiction exhorts believers to “offer [God] the first fruits of a life that is pleasing to [Him].” Jesus Himself teaches us that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15). We will not be judged by how much profit we amass during our life, but by how generous we are with our time and resources (cf. Matthew 25:35 - 40). We are at a point in history when many people are suffering under great economic hardships; most of us are in a position of having been blessed with the means and opportunity to help those who are less fortunate. Each time we celebrate the Divine Liturgy we are reminded that every good thing we possess comes from above, from the Father of lights (Dismissal Prayer). God has blessed our labors with profit so that we might enjoy it and offer it back to God through God’s holy Church and by sharing with those in need. The Creator did not intend our labor to satisfy greed or to fuel wasteful consumption, but to increase the world’s prosperity as a blessing for all. Now is the acceptable time for the Church - and we are all members of the Church - to respond positively with mercy and love and generosity to the challenges that confront our country and the world.

These principles are the foundation for Christian Stewardship, which will be a guiding theme for our holy Metropolis during the coming Ecclesiastical year. God has created all that is and has entrusted us with the sacred obligation of maintaining it, protecting it, and using it for the betterment of all and to the glory of God.  As wise stewards we must appreciate the source and true value of all that we have. Our task as Christians is to use all that God has given us - our time, resources and talents - in a responsible way, maximizing profit for all God’s children while minimizing the environmental and social waste we leave in our wake. Guided by the Holy Spirit, we should manifest humility, dedication, and love in all that we do so that the fruit of our work and life may be a sacrifice well-pleasing to God, that the good Spirit of God’s grace may rest on us, on the gifts we offer, and on all God’s people (Prayer of the Prothesis, Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom).

Let us be guided by these observances to recalibrate our lives and labors in a way that is pleasing to God, giving thanks and acting responsibly so that God’s Kingdom of love and peace and prosperity becomes a reality for us and for all people. May we be strengthened by God to make the right decisions throughout the coming year and may the grace and infinite mercy of our triune Creator and Sustainer be with you all.

With Love in Christ,
+ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco