His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros
Metropolis of San Francisco Greek Independence Day Youth Virtual Event
March 26, 2022
Your Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos,
Our Ministry Chair, Katerina Iconomou,
Beloved Clergy and Youth Ministry co-workers,
Dear Children in the Lord,
Ζήτω τὸ Ἑλληνικὸ Ἔθνος! Ζήτω τὸ Εἰκοσιένα!
I greet all of you with these joyful expressions that praise our observances of March 25th – the Day of the Annunciation and the Day of the Inauguration of the Greek Revolution.
We cry out: “Long live the Greek Nation!” and “Long live 1821!” And there are many other such expression of joy and triumph. Sometimes we just say “Ζήτω” – “Live”! because in this simple affirmation of life, our liberty and our pursuit of happiness, so exquisitely expressed in the American Declaration of Independence, are included in that single word.
The participation of so many of you today in this virtual gathering and celebration is a sign of the health of our communities, both in respect to our Faith and in respect to our Culture and History.
Allow me to congratulate everyone involved in the Metropolis Greek Language and Culture Ministry which is sponsoring today’s event. These emphases are often overlooked in the spiritual life of our people. But what I want to emphasize today is that nothing in the Church happens in a vacuum. We have a history – a glorious history that extends back in time thousands of years, even before our Lord Jesus Christ appeared on earth.
We have a culture – a civilizational experience that is the foundation of all the grand aspirations of Western Civilization – democracy, the art of politics, drama, poetry, arts and sciences, and the essence of all philosophical pursuits. And we have a language, a language God in which chose to enshrine the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Think about it, in the lands of Palestine where our Lord was born, the language of his youth was Aramaic, and that of worship and learning was Hebrew. But the language that everyone knew in the surrounding world, that had been defined by Alexander the Great three hundred years before our Savior’s Birth, was Greek. And that is the language of the New Testament – of the Gospels, the Epistles and the Book of Revelation. This is something of which to be very proud.
Therefore, my beloved young people: In celebrating Greek Independence Day, we celebrate in unison with the Church’s Feast of the Annunciation. For they both speak of freedom. The Heroes of 1821 fought for self-determination and the survival of their way of life.
The “Yes” that the Virgin said to God on the Day of her Annunciation by the Archangel Gabriel is about the deeper liberty in the human heart and soul. And this deeper freedom is rooted in our Lord Jesus Christ, Who said:
And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.[*]
It is the faith, the hope, and the love that endure in the heart, that truly make you free. This is the freedom that our Ancestors kept alive during centuries of occupation. This is the freedom that enables one to endure slavery, war, persecution, marginalization, and prejudice. It is the freedom of our minds, of our conscience, of our souls before God. There is no political freedom that can offer what God can offer, as the Lord Himself said:
“Everyone who sins is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever, but the Son abides forever. Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you are truly free.” [†]
Freedom from oppression by others means that we make choices for ourselves, without coercion. Witness what the Ukrainian People are fighting for at this very moment – to be free from those who would dominate their lives.
But freedom from sin looks like this: you reject hatred and choose to love; you reject jealousy and choose generosity; you reject bearing grudges and choose to forgive. This kind of freedom makes you truly free.
That is what today is truly about. Freedom in the depths of our souls, and gratitude for the freedoms won by our ancestors that we enjoy.
Thank you for your enthusiasm and your dedication to these remembrances!