Feast of the Annunciation
Today is the quintessence of our salvation and the manifestation of the mystery from eternity.
The Son of God becomes the Virgins Son,
and Gabriel announces the Good News of grace.
(From the Dismissal Hymn of the Feast)
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 and Afternoon Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In the Feast of the Annunciation we hear once more with renewed admiration the great declaration of the Theotokos: Gevnoitov moi katav tov rh`ma sou. Be it done unto me according to your word. How beautifully this one sentence expresses the power of God's grace in our lives! With this saying, Panagia accepted the announcement of the Archangel Gabriel that the Lord had chosen her to be the Mother of God and to give birth to our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.
But this saying - Be it done unto me according to your word - indicates more than just a declaration of her great faith, more even than an understanding of her most exalted calling as the Mother of God. These words mark the moment when the Theotokos became the first person to receive the Good News, the first person to experience an intimate union and inseparable fellowship with the Lord. These words also mark the conception of the Church, the beginning of a new humanity perpetually connected with God in body and soul, a society of men and women who renounce their individualistic self-existence and pursue a common life of love according to the will of God alone. At the same time, these words of the Most Holy Virgin strike a death-blow to the self-seeking, egotistical mode of being which our human race inherited from our first parents.
For in Paradise, our mother Eve chose death through self-will, self-love, self-sufficiency. Eve received the beguiling words of the serpent, that if they transgress the commandment of God they shall be as gods (Gen. 3:5), and so introduced the rebellion of self-existence into the heart of humanity. But at the Annunciation, the Mother of God chose life - life in communion with God, life in cooperation with God, life in conformity with the will of God. In accepting the message of the Angel, Panagia renounced every demand for her individual rights and ambitions and self-fulfillment.
The legacy of Eve and Adam to their children is the story their will for individual survival; it is the story of blaming one another and hating one another, even to the point of killing one another, as in the case of Cain and Abel. The legacy of the Theotokos is the restoration of humanity to its original mode of existence, in a life of loving dependence upon God for all things. Panagia's words of absolute trust in God contain the whole of the story of Jesus Christ's victory over both death and the fear of death (cf. Hebrews 2:15). They contain the story of the reunion of the human family as a community, a community whose members freely love and freely serve one another, even to the point of freely dying for one another.
Be it done unto me according to your word.
These words of faith and unselfish commitment contain also the story of Greek Independence. For in the history of 1821, we find at work the same spirit of bold surrender to the will of God, the same spirit of absolute trust in the power of the Almighty. Once again, among the enslaved people of Greece, a rebirth and transformation took place; a genuine reunion occurred. The fractured population of Hellas, divided and oppressed for four centuries, came together again as one people, one nation, one family under the protection of the Holy Mother of God. As a people, they renounced their individual needs and concerns for self-preservation and individual success or survival. And for the sake of one another - for the sake of their entire people - they offered themselves up, even unto death, in the cause of freedom. For the sake of a new mode of existence as a nation, they chose to surrender themselves completely to the will of God, stepping forward in faith and in hope.
And God rewarded their selfless sacrifice. Once again He regarded the humble estate of His servants (Luke 1:48). Once again He put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of low degree (Luke 1:52), granting to the noble fighters of 1821 the invaluable gifts of freedom and independence.
My brothers and sisters in Christ,
The preservation of this invaluable freedom and independence will always depend on our will to overcome any selfish, self-centered attitude as individuals and as a nation, to be ready for any sacrifice for the common good, as did the heroes of 1821, and to gladly submit ourselves to the grace and will of God, as did our Panagia.Through her intercessions, may our celebration of the Feast of the Annunciation and of the Day of Greek Independence be blessed with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America