December 31, 2013

2001 Pastoral Encyclical for the New Year (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

My beloved brethren,

From Orthodox theology we know that time is closely linked to space, and the two, space and time, are creations of God. Time is the action that distinguishes beings and therefore not a simple movement of the stars, but it is the movement of all beings, especially living beings. And of course time is associated with created existence and indeed that which is mortal. Saint Gregory the Theologian aptly says that an age is time when it stops moving, and time is an age measured by movement. This means that as long as man lives in this life he is connected with time, and when he leaves this world then he enters another dimension of time called an age. Unfortunately contemporary people equate time with the eternal, or rather, they live biological life as if they are going to live forever, which is why they absolutize everything associated with material goods, pleasure and refreshment, and others despise this life completely, expecting everything only in the next life. However, when we completely identify time with eternity, when we exhaust the life of the future age in the herein, then this is called secularism. The Holy Apostles constantly lived with the feeling of the impermanence of things of this life, and nostalgia for eternal life, which they lived in this life. Indeed the Apostle Paul writes: "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18).

The time of each of our lives is very limited and small in relation to eternity. We will not live forever on the earth. We are patient through the various trials of our lives, because we believe that the way we live our relationship with God and with others, will determine our way of life after our departure from this life. Because, though our life will end at some point, there life will not end, since there is life also after death, after the departure of the soul from the body.

Unfortunately many Christians nowadays have turned their attention to dates, to time, and they turn away from the eternal and the exalted, and do not seek to acquire the knowledge of God. Relevant are the words of the Apostle Paul: "But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and impoverished elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain" (Gal. 4:9-11). It is terrible to observe the changes of time and not to be inspired towards the true purpose of our lives.

The Apostle Paul recommends: "Let us redeem the time, because the days are evil" (Eph. 5:16). We must strive not to buy shares in the stock market, but for the time market, for only then will we find it before us in the future eternal life. We observe, however, that in our life there is the so-called "pollution of time". Just like contemporary people pollute areas with the products of their passions, so they pollute time, since they spend it on unnecessary things, and even worse is that they squander it on sinful acts, actions that constitute the denial of the will of God. Although our era wants to be called modern and mature, it is rather full of old philosophical and ideological streams that increase the agony of humanity.

But how can paganism and messianism and modernism and post-modernism and religion and demonic systems fill modern man? Fortunately the Church today, on the first of the year, celebrates two great events. The first is Christ's circumcision in the flesh, which shows not only the philanthropy of God to the human race, but also the need to circumcise our passions from our lives. We must be purified and transformed, and to transform our passions because the energy of the passions makes our lives unbearable and disgusting. The second event is the commemoration of Basil the Great, this great personality, who "set in order a rule of life for man" by his teachings and works and even by his repose. His memory remains alive in the consciousness of the people. We need figures like Basil the Great in our difficult times, where neo-paganism, fanaticism, ambitionism, amorality, and the absence of an ecclesiastical ethos and an Orthodox mindset prevails.

We have entered a new year and many will celebrate it. Unfortunately, if one carefully observes modern life, they will see that many people are possessed by old habits, old manners and customs and a pagan mentality, even though they are called Orthodox Christians. Two thousand years after Christ and still many people in our day live like the time before Christ. Certainly in terms of science we have progressed, but in terms of character and conduct we are far behind. Many contemporary people behave as if Christ has not come to the world, as if they are not awaiting the resurrection of the dead and the future life.

For this reason, this year we will be given the ability on behalf of the Church, both Local and Ecumenical, to see the greatness of Christianity, the value of apocalyptic discourse, the importance of the life of the gospel, the prospect of the future age, but at the same time our failure to live according to the spirit of the Gospel and the Orthodox life. So, the entire time of this year is an occasion for hope and repentance, optimism and self-criticism, hope and resurrection.

With these thoughts I wish you all a blessed new year and that God will fill you with heavenly and earthly gifts.

With fatherly prayers and blessings,


† of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou HIEROTHEOS

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΠΟΙΜΑΝΤΟΡΙΚΗ ΕΓΚΥΚΛΙΟΣ ΠΡΩΤΟΧΡΟΝΙΑΣ", December 2000. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.