Protocol No. 11/18
February 6, 2018
Feast of Saint Photios
Saint Photios National Shrine Day
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great
a cloud of witnesses…let us run with perseverance
the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1)
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,
As we commemorate the Feast of Saint Photios the Confessor, Patriarch of Constantinople, we offer our prayers and support for our beloved St. Photios National Shrine in the year that marks the 250th anniversary of the arrival of the largest Greek colony to America. In 1768 hundreds of Greek immigrants arrived in New Smyrna and St. Augustine, Florida after an arduous journey by ship from their distant homelands. Their hopes for a better life were challenged by the conditions and demands they met.
They were subjected to a harsh environment and poor accommodations. Disease and sickness added to their misery, as many died within the first five months after their arrival. The brave survivors continued in the inhumane conditions of their servitude for nine years until those remaining revolted, left New Smyrna and returned to St. Augustine. It was this group of our valiant forbearers who met for worship and fellowship at the Avero House, where our National Shrine is located today. It was here that they were finally free to live, flourish, and pursue the opportunities and potential offered in their new home.
This story of struggle and tremendous challenges, of hope and faith, is remembered and cherished on this day when we also reflect on the life and witness of Saint Photios. As a champion of our faith, as an inspired theologian, and as a spiritual leader, he faced threats, imprisonment, and persecution. However, in the face of great trials and adversity, Saint Photios did not waiver in his faith in God, his love of Christ, and his hope in the grace and truth of our Lord.
This is our inheritance as Greek Orthodox Christians in this country as we look to both the witness of Saint Photios and of the early Greek immigrants and settlers who persevered. They are among the cloud of witnesses, together with generations of our fathers and mothers who followed them and who endured the challenges and sorrow of leaving their homeland to find opportunity here in America. We are strengthened by their courage. We are inspired by their faith. Through our remembrance of their plight and their sacrifice, we are renewed by the grace of our Lord to face the challenges and trials of our contemporary world. As we commemorate the feast of Saint Photios, as we honor the blessed memory of our Greek ancestors who came to this land so long ago, and as we show our support for our Saint Photios National Shrine, may our minds reflect on their witness and our hearts be filled with the love of God, a true love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. (I Corinthians 13:7)
With paternal love in Him,
Archbishop of America