Encyclical of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America for the Feast of the Annunciation and Greek Independence Day
Mar 21, 2007
The Feast of the Annunciation
Greek Independence Day
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,
During this Holy season of Lent we are blessed to commemorate the Feast of the Annunciation on Sunday, the Lord's Day. We celebrate this feast in anticipation of what is to come in a few weeks and for all eternity. First, the relationship of this feast to the coming observance of Holy Week is significant. On this day the Incarnation of our Lord in the flesh was announced by the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary. This event had been foreseen and foretold by Patriarchs, Kings, and Prophets, and now God's divine plan for the salvation of humankind was revealed by the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary: “You will conceive in your womb and bear a Son and you shall call His name Jesus” (Luke 1:31). By the Holy Spirit coming upon her, and by the power of the Most High overshadowing her (Luke 1:35), the Virgin conceived, and the Son of God took upon flesh. He did this so that He might experience and then redeem our condition under the burden of sin and death. In the flesh, He became a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). He willingly accepted oppression and affliction so that He might bear our iniquities and make intercession for our transgressions (Isaiah 53:10,12). His humanity and His journey to the Cross began on this day.
The Feast of the Annunciation also anticipates the great and glorious Feast of Pascha. The message of the Archangel Gabriel was not one of suffering and death, but of power and glory. “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David” (Luke 1:32). The response of the Theotokos to this divine calling was one of commitment, joy, and praise. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my Spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46). Both the Angel and the Virgin knew that the One who was coming was bringing salvation and that life in His kingdom would never end.
In preparation for the Feast of feasts, this commemoration today presents us with these essential themes. The spiritual journey of Great Lent can be filled with struggles as we examine our own lives and contemplate the significance of what our Lord has done for us through His suffering and death. But we also are mindful of where our journey ends-in a celebration of life. It is a journey that includes the struggles and limitations of our humanity, the burdens of sin and death. But it also includes the experience of true and enduring hope, joy and peace through our faith in the One who gives eternal life, the One whose kingdom will never end. It carries us from the glorious day of the Annunciation and through the journey of Lent to the light of Pascha.
It is also on this day that we, as Greek Orthodox Christians commemorate Greek Independence Day. We honor the sacrifice and memory of the many who gave their lives for freedom and the establishment of the modern state of Greece. In 1821, our Hellenic forebears stood valiantly against oppression and occupation, strengthened by their rich heritage, their faith in God, their assurance of the invincible protection of the Theotokos, and their desire for self-determination. They knew that a difficult and costly struggle was before them, but their trust was in a power and in ideals that were essential to human and communal life. It is also fitting on this day that we honor the countless others who suffered during the four centuries of occupation. Their faith sustained them during this very difficult and tragic period. Although they experienced great pain and loss, they found strength in the presence of One who knew their sorrow, but who also offered them peace and life, and hope for a final victory.
As we gather for the Feast of the Annunciation, I extend to you my deepest wishes for a blessed feast day and observance of Greek Independence Day. May we be thankful for what we have and for the freedom to live, worship, and serve our Lord. May we also be mindful of where our trust and faith must be. Through our Lenten journey, through the challenges of life, and even through the tremendous struggles of history, we must look to the One who will save His people out of sin and into the blessedness of His eternal kingdom.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America