March 25, 2010
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 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,
We celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation of our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary chanting these words, “Today is the crowning of our salvation and the revelation of the mystery that is from all ages.” In the Announcement of the Archangel Gabriel to the Theotokos, God offered His divine plan for our salvation. In the same event the nature and purpose of the message of the Gospel was made known. God’s grace and the means of salvation were revealed, the good news was proclaimed by His messenger, and the hearer and receiver of the Word of God responded in faith.
The event of the Annunciation was foundational for the Gospel, a message of God’s love that would be carried to the ends of the earth. The means for our salvation through the Incarnation of the Son of God had been established before all ages. The time of the revelation had come, and God chose the recipient of this divine blessing and sent the heavenly messenger to her so that all humanity would know of His grace. This act of God towards us and for our salvation defines the Gospel. The Gospel is the Evangelismos, the annunciation of the “good news” of God’s love and the path of restoration to life and eternal communion with Him.
The will of God was joyfully announced by the Archangel Gabriel. The role of the messenger presents us with a second aspect of the Gospel that is celebrated in this Feast of Evangelismos. The Gospel is and must be proclaimed. It is shared by those who are sent to offer to all the saving message of God. Jesus proclaimed that He was the fulfillment of the message of salvation (Luke 4:19). The Apostles were commissioned to go to all the nations and to preach the Gospel and teach what Christ had taught them (Matthew 28:18-20). All who receive the Holy Spirit are called to be witnesses of Christ throughout the entire world (Acts 1:8). For the Gospel to be received it must be heard. For it to be heard it must be proclaimed. For it to be proclaimed, we must be willing to share the Gospel through both word and deed.
The Feast of the Annunciation is a significant day in our spiritual heritage. This is also a day upon which we observe an important commemoration of our cultural heritage, the Day of Greek Independence. As both our spiritual and cultural heritage are joined together in our Hellenic identity, so this sacred feast of the Church and this day of remembrance and celebration of freedom are linked in a very unique way. The Gospel of salvation revealed in the Annunciation to the Theotokos is the message of our spiritual freedom in Christ. This ultimate freedom from sin and death is essential to any understanding of the freedom and self-determination that is enshrined in the establishment of modern democracies. We were created by God to be free to live in fellowship with Him and free from all that injures and destroys life. We were also created to live in relationship with one another, using our freedom to establish societies that are free from oppression, exploitation, and tyranny. These were the aims of our fathers and mothers who offered their lives and property so that the people of Greece might be free, and this is a freedom that we still have and cherish.
On this day may we remember and be grateful for the freedom we have inherited, both in Greece and in America. May we use this freedom, not to satisfy personal desires, but for the wellbeing of all. May we use it to proclaim a Gospel of salvation and freedom that will not only bless and guide us through our sojourn in this world, but will also lead us into eternal life in the kingdom of God.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America