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January 30, 2014

The Three Hierarchs as Hierarchs of the People

Below is an excerpt of a lecture delivered on the feast of the Three Hierarchs, at the Sacred Church of Saint Demetrios in Nafpaktos.

By Christos Ioannou,

The lives and deeds of the Three Hierarchs are timeless.

Seeing the simple monastic life of Basil the Great (whose personal fortune was only one book and his cassock), we ought to revise the model and mania of wasteful consumption.

We learn from his proverbial philanthropy and asceticism. He is the first organizer of the hospital and orphanage. He exemplifies and we revise our individualism and turn towards our neighbor wherever they are geographically. Recently it was clearly shown that our people are possessed by philanthropic feelings towards people suffering from natural disasters, wars, hunger and disease. Basil the Great did not hesitate even to embrace lepers, while often modern society puts on the sidelines not only those suffering from communicable diseases, but even different views and opinions.

We learn from the peaceful and ascetic nature of the optimal poet Gregory the Theologian, by whose poems we glorify God in the churches until today.

We learn at the same time from the measures taken by John Chrysostom in Antioch to improve morale and the better education of the clergy, the removal from the Altar of some of them, by improving the position of women in the Church in reviving the position of the deaconess in the churches, by improving the spiritual and material assistance to those working from sunrise to sunset with the introduction of the Vesperal Liturgy and feeding them. He had all the people with him, because he instilled the dynamics of love. He fought against the mania for waste and of empty belief. The great appreciation and love of the people, but also his oratory caused the envy of many, even some bishops. After being sentenced to death the sentence was commuted to exile.

The Three Hierarchs combine praxis and theoria (action and the vision of God), the experience of the Gospel with knowledge to solve human problems and suffering. Our neighbor is near and far. This is what Christianity teaches, and this was implemented by the Three Hierarchs. Here the word "solidarity" (αλληλεγγύη) acquires its true content: to be near one another (εγγύς προς αλλήλους).

With the Three Hierarchs we experience Orthodox Tradition. The hundreds of volumes that contain the contents of the various works of the Fathers speak to the human heart at all times. They are translated into dozens of languages, and countless scientists (positive and theoretical scientists) analyze and admire their work.

We all read about the righteousness of God put into practice by the Three Hierarchs, which was and is ignored by many.

We hear the words of the Divine Chrysostom: the God of Christians is not a God of war, but of peace. And Basil the Great, in his work "That God is Not the Cause of Evils", explains why we should not attribute to God unjust acts and actions of people.

The thought of the Three Hierarchs is driven to Greek education. It offers the universal message of the Church's timeless Greek civilization. The Three Hierarchs saw man as the center of Creation, not of course as the center for the sake of plundering all things, but as a society of God and protector of nature. They considered him a person, and not a mass. People were not completely impersonal, but unique personalities who should be taught throughout life.

In this context of the tradition there is placed the celebration we honor today. And the Three Hierarchs are present in almost every church during the ecclesiastical service when we glorify God: Basil the Great and Divine Chrysostom with the texts of the three liturgies and Gregory the Theologian with his poetry. In their faces we honor the three-sunned Divinity, the God of all Who showed them to be luminaries of the Ecumene, for our sake, and for the sake of all people.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΟΙ ΤΡΕΙΣ ΙΕΡΑΡΧΕΣ", February 2009. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.