Our consideration of the topic of security is a growing one in our contemporary age. Before elaborating upon this important topic, we should ask some fundamental questions: First, how do we understand the notion of security? Second, how do we work as communities to maintain it? In our contemporary world, the notion of security is understood by a variety of terms: economic security, personal security, national security, global security, and so on. In our country, the most recent addition to this list of terms is the term "homeland security." Throughout history, nations have maintained these various dimensions of security through a framework of laws, and they have addressed, through diplomatic or military alternatives, conflicts that have impeded upon their security. As Greek Orthodox Christians, we stand in a remarkable position to enhance the concept of security as it is understood today from an added perspective which is equally grounded, valuable, and informed. This perspective is the religious perspective, which understands notions of security from a theological vantage, and seeks to maintain levels of security by looking first to the Church as an unshakeable fortress of protection in times of need.
One of the more explicit examples of this perspective is the manner by which our Orthodox Church to this day continues to look toward the protection of the saints as persons who offer us a very real and ever-present shelter in times of uncertainty and stress. Our theology teaches us that saints are persons who exhibited characteristics of holiness in their lives due to their unwavering faith in God and love for others. As such, they are persons who have opened their hearts and minds to the power of the Holy Spirit, serving as instruments of God's grace on earth. For this reason, the Church affords the saints a place of prominence in Her collective memory on specified dates whereupon we, the living faithful, pray for their intercessions before God.
Many of the saints throughout the ages have been specifically accorded the role of "protector." One of these saints includes Saint George the Great Martyr, a Christian soldier of the Roman Empire in the late 3rd century, a time when Christians faced heavy persecution. Saint George died for his Christian faith and is venerated widely throughout the Christian Church as a Great Martyr. Another of these saints is Saint Demetrios of Thessaloniki, a Christian officer and teacher of the early 4th century Roman Empire who is venerated as a Great Martyr of the Church and who met death under similar circumstances. These two saints are venerated so widely throughout the Christian Church that some cities and nations have even declared them as their official patron saints, thus recognizing that some states have acknowledged, to some degree, the role of the saints as protectors of the homeland.
Throughout history, Christians have asked these saints to intercede before God for protection from enemies of all kinds: protection in war, protection from invasion, protection from civil unrest, and protection from the spread of disease. In our modern world, we continue to face these threats, even though they may have altered in their form. Some of these threats include nuclear arms proliferation in the world, continued instability between rival nations, border and land disputes, the development of organized cells of terrorists, the continued rise of deadly diseases, crimes of genocide, and ongoing strife in the Middle East. Also included among these threats are some very troubling potential realities for the future, such as the widespread use of biological warfare, potential conflicts in developing nations over such fundamental life sources as water, and the frightening consequences of global warming and climate change.
In the face of these alarming realities and potentials, it may be argued that what is needed now more than ever is, among other things, concentration in proper state action, wise diplomacy, and increased funding for sound scientific research. While this is certainly true, our faith as Greek Orthodox Christians informs us that what is also needed so urgently now is an intensification of our prayer to God by invoking the tremendously powerful interceding action of the saints for protection and security. This has always been a cornerstone of the teaching of our Church. Of course, no discussion of security would be complete without due reference to the Theotokos, the Mother of God, who is par excellence the invincible Protectress of us all. Also integral to any discussion of security from a theological vantage is the important role that the angels play as protectors in our lives. The role of the Theotokos and the angels warrants considerable attention in its own right, and therefore will be explored in separate reflection pieces.
Our contemporary world is longing for a genuine and lasting security. Though the notion of security has been understood and maintained differently over time; the world has always longed for this security, and indeed we feel the need for it more palpably now than in previous days. It is my belief and prayer that, through the intercessions of the saints, this security will assuredly prevail and permeate our world. I ask as you read and share this reflection piece that you offer prayers to our God, asking in particular for the intercessions of the saints in your daily prayers so that our world may realize this very real, sacred, and permanent kind of security, which ultimately God grants and maintains in His wisdom and in His love for us.
Archbishop of America