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Encyclical of Archbishop Demetrios for the Feast of the Annunciation, Day of Greek Independence

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Mar 17, 2005

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 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,

As we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation this year, we remember an event of major significance. For on this day, the Archangel Gabriel announced to the Blessed Virgin Mary the uniquely Good News: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). In the face of such an awesome message, we are struck by the purity of trust and the strength of faith in Mary's response to the angel: "Let it be done to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).

The Virgin Mary's response is more than just a declaration of her great faith. Her words mark the moment when the Theotokos became the first person to receive the Good News and the only person to become the Mother of God. These words also mark the beginning of a new humanity perpetually connected with God in body and soul, a human family committed to the pursuit of service and love according to the will of God. At the same time, these words of the Most Holy Virgin constitute a reversal of the painful legacy of death and separation from God left to our human race by Adam and Eve, our original ancestors. The lifelong commitment of the Theotokos to the will of God, expressed by her words, is thus a restorative act of the highest order that functions to reconcile our entire human family to the caring embrace of Almighty God. On this day we therefore affirm as Orthodox Christians, united in our love of one another and in our ultimate trust in God, the vital importance of our absolute commitment to Him on a personal, family, and community level.

Our Holy Orthodox Church also considers the wider social and political implications of this Feast of March 25, as it pertains to the noble struggles of peoples for national independence over the course of world history. It is in this context that we celebrate March 25 also as the Day of Greek Independence. We remember on this day the inspiring journey of faith and trust exhibited by the people of Greece in 1821, who came together after centuries of oppression under Ottoman captivity. In the midst of considerable fear and doubt, these brave Hellenes displayed before the entire world a pursuit of freedom and independence that was bold, confident and resolute. They demonstrated before a perceptive and watchful international community the ultimate liberty and security that followed from renouncing ephemeral self-interested desires and pursuing instead community, national, and universal ideals. Faced with the prospect of indefinite subjugation, they faithfully declared their independence; and, under the protection of the Theotokos, they achieved a final victory and established their free state.

My beloved Christians, as we gather together on this day to mark this glorious Feast of the Annunciation, as we reflect upon the return of our human race to God made possible through the commitment of the Theotokos to His will, and as we consider the broader implications of her attitude and actions for genuine freedom for all nations in our world, I pray that her words of joyful obedience to God may be ours. May we be able to respond with the same trust and faith in the Lord, "Let it be done to me according to your word". May the intercessions of the Theotokos keep and protect us always as community and as nation, and lead us to a life of freedom in dependence on the only Lord, our God.

With paternal love in Christ,

+DEMETRIOS
Archbishop of America

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