Encyclical of Archbishop Demetrios for the Feast of the Annunciation and Greek Independence Day
Mar 19, 2008
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,
On this blessed day we gather in worship to commemorate a very special event that revealed God’s divine purpose and work for our salvation—the Feast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. In a city in Galilee called Nazareth the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she would, "conceive in her womb and bear a son, and call His name Jesus" (Luke 1:31). The significance of these words is truly unique. On this day, what had been unknown was revealed. The divine plan for our salvation that had been established for ages was now manifested. The restoration of humanity by means of the grace of God would now be accomplished through the Incarnation of Christ.
The announcement to the Virgin Mary of the birth of Jesus also revealed as a new reality the Kingdom of Christ. Speaking of Christ’s birth, the Archangel stated, "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Luke 1:32-33). The Theotokos marveled at all of these things, wondering how this could be possible. How could a young maiden with no husband, no royal status, no political authority, living in city held in disdain by many Jews, in a time when a foreign power ruled the land, be the mother of the heir to the throne of David? How could a young maiden as she be the one who would inaugurate a new eternal kingdom, namely, Christ’s Kingdom? Could anyone ever dare to think that the “King of kings” and “Lord of lords” would come in this manner, taking on our humanity in the most complete way?
Through great faith in the will, power and grace of God, the Virgin Mary accepted this divine calling and provided us guidance in understanding life in the kingdom of God. Christ came into the world to restore our relationship with the One who gives us life, a relationship which had been broken by sin and death. He came so that the grace of God could transform us in a blessed and eternal communion with Him filled with joy and peace. He came to release us from the bondage of sin and evil so that we might be free to live and grow toward our divine potential. These were realities of a spiritual nature that were not in the purview of human beings. All of this would not be accomplished by worldly authority and power, but through love, sacrifice, humility, and obedience.
To the announcement of the coming of Christ and His eternal kingdom, the Theotokos responded in faith, "Let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38). By faith she accepted a unique calling, knowing that only true life, joy, peace, and freedom are found in communion with God. She affirmed her belief in the coming of the Son of God who would fulfill the promises of old and reign over His people forever. It is precisely her example that guides us both in our celebration of this Feast and in our lives in His kingdom. By faith we accept the presence of Christ in our lives. We lay aside the things that entangle us in sin and lead to death, so that we might be restored to a new and eternal life.
It is on this day of the Feast of the Annunciation that we also commemorate the Day of Greek Independence. In 1821 our forbears, an oppressed people longing for freedom and self-determination and inspired by their rich Hellenic heritage and Orthodox faith, began the difficult fight for independence. In their minds and hearts was the knowledge that God did not create human beings to be enslaved and exploited by others. Rather, He created all people to be free to know and worship Him, to strive and realize the heights of human potential, and to establish a just society guided by divinely revealed principles and truths. Our courageous and heroic fathers and mothers were inspired by the witness of the Theotokos and her faith in the unseen. They knew that the path to freedom, peace, joy, and life would be one of tremendous sacrifice. They believed. Most important, they believed in God.
On this Feast of the Annunciation and Day of Greek Independence, let us affirm our life and purpose of living on Earth. Let us affirm our hope in the One Who will reign forever; a hope that inspires and sustains each and all noble and heroic efforts towards establishing freedom, peace, and justice in our world. May God be with all of you.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America