September 1, 2006
To the Venerable Hierarchs, Reverend Clergy, Monastics and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America
Dearly Beloved in Christ,
One of the things to which we aspire as Orthodox Christians is to be wise and faithful stewards. Surely we are familiar with the importance of properly managing our talents and treasures, of using the gifts with which we have been blessed to glorify God and to serve one another. Somewhat more elusive is the call to be stewards, or managers, of our time. While we may be committed fully to offering our talents for the glory of God and the extension of His Kingdom, and while we may be thoroughly dedicated to setting aside the first and best of all we possess for this purpose, it is often the case we are remiss in setting aside the time we need actually to accomplish these things.
The culture in which we live is obsessed with time. While we are offered “time-saving” devices and methods of every sort, we often find that our days are filled with rushing from one event and activity to another with little or no chance for reflections; that our children are “over scheduled;” that we wish we had forty-eight hours in a day just to meet the demands of daily life. Among today’s best-selling books are those dealing with “time management,” each promising do divulge the “secrets” of maintaining a “balance” in our hectic lives.
In the Church, it is not uncommon to hear even our most faithful members lament how they have little time to pray or attend services, much less to minister to others, to make a “time commitment” to the building up of the Body of Christ, or to engage in those things which, just decades ago, made the parish the center of personal and community life. All too often, it is the case that, in “prioritizing our time,” we regulate the spiritual life to the bottom of the list, or pursue it only if and when every other aspect of our lives is satisfied and fulfilled. Instead of setting aside the first portion of our time for the things eternal, we pursue the material first, reserving the “extra time” so many seem never to have for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving – and all those things that bring and restore a true balance to our lives.
In his Great Kanon, Saint Andrew of Crete laments the many times we “squander” our time in laziness or in “rushing about in vain.” In so doing, he calls us to recognize not only the need wisely to order our time, but to repent when we fail to do so.
On the first day of September, we mark the beginning of the ecclesiastical year. The commemoration itself reminds us of the constant need to re-evaluate and recapture that which is central to our lives as Orthodox Christians, to restore balance in all we do, and in repentance to make an earnest attempt to set aside a portion – the “first portion” – of our time to acquire the peace of the Holy Spirit, without which our “rushing about” is indeed in vain and our lives as Christians is reduced to external formalities, “time permitting.”
May the beginning of this new ecclesiastical year mark a new beginning in our lives as individuals, as families, as parishes, as the Church in North America – a new beginning by which we set aside, before all else, the time we need to grow spiritually and to respond to the call to live as wise and faithful stewards, not only of our talents and treasures, but of the precious gift of time.
With love in Christ,
Archbishop of Washington and New York
Metropolitan of All America and Canada