March 25, 2012
Feast of the Annunciation
Day of Greek Independence
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
For almost two centuries our celebration of the Feast of the Annunciation as Greek Orthodox Christians has been joined by the commemoration of the struggles for independence by our forbearers in Greece that began in March of 1821. These two observances have been and continue to be very important to us, for they represent a deep connection of our Church and our heritage, of faith and life, that offers a unique witness to the world.
When we contemplate and celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation, we are presented with a sacred event in which God revealed His love for us and His divine plan for our restoration to life and communion with Him. At the Annunciation, in an awe-inspiring manner, God announced through the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that He is going to be incarnate and born by her as God and man.
This miraculous event in the history of our faith is one that we celebrate each year. We do this because the Annunciation is both a beginning and a fulfillment. It is the time and place when Christ took upon our humanity in order to redeem us from sin, evil, guilt and death; and for centuries, many had hoped for the day when God would make a new covenant with all of humanity, a covenant of grace and faith. This happened at the Annunciation
The Feast of the Annunciation is also connected to our commemoration of Greek Independence Day not only because of the day of the 25th of March for both, but because each presents significant themes that connect our faith and our lives, as well as our identity as Greek Orthodox Christians with our Hellenic legacy and heritage. The struggle for independence by our fathers and mothers was born out of an affirmation of the right of every human being for free will and choice, a right granted by God. This combined with the desire for freedom and self-determination, inspired the people of Greece in 1821 to seek an end to centuries of oppression and to reclaim control of their lives and destiny. Further, these same people knew that their commitment to independence would require great sacrifice. However, this was a sacrifice, a willing offering of their lives, for the sake of justice, dignity, and freedom.
The struggle for independence by the people of Greece was also a beginning and a fulfillment. It was the fulfillment of the hopes of those who had lived and died under oppression, and of the vision of peace and happiness that many wished for their children and descendants. It was also the beginning of a new era, a renewal of a nation and a people. Through the struggle came the opportunity to rebuild and restore their communities and their lives, and to affirm openly and freely their heritage as Hellenes and Orthodox Christians.
The relationship of these two observances on this day gives us cause to commemorate the Feast of the Annunciation and Greek Independence Day in an appropriate way. Our priority is our worship of God and our expressions of gratitude and praise for what He has revealed and for His great work of salvation for us through Christ. We give thanks to Him, and we venerate the blessed Theotokos for her commitment to God’s will. We celebrate our creation in the image of God, which resulted in the creation of a humanity that has been honored and sanctified by Christ so that through faith our fellowship with God can be restored.
We are also inspired by the understanding of freedom and human dignity that is revealed to us by God, and in remembrance, we honor the many who have sacrificed so that we might have a beautiful heritage of freedom and faith. It is this heritage that we celebrate on this day. We commemorate the struggles and independence of our ancestors and of all free peoples. We also affirm that our understanding of this freedom and the source of the highest qualities of our humanity are found in God. With this witness of faith and truth, may we continue to offer to the world the fulfillment we find in Him and the beginning of an eternity in His presence filled with absolute freedom, ineffable joy and abundant life.
With paternal love in Him,
Archbishop of America