July 4, 2011
For you, brethren, have been called to liberty;
only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh,
but through love serve one another. (Galatians 5:13)
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,
On this annual celebration of freedom and the commemoration of the founding of this nation, I greet you in the love of our Lord who offers to us enduring liberty leading to a creative life on earth and ultimately eternal life. Our liberty in Christ frees us from the bondage of sin and death through the power of the Resurrection and the presence of the Holy Spirit. As the Apostle Paul states in his Epistle to the Galatians, this liberty is to be led by the Spirit and should not be an opportunity to do the works of the flesh or fulfill selfish desires. Instead, this freedom should produce and nurture the fruit of the Spirit, leading each person in love and acts of service toward others (Galatians 5:22).
Our love and service toward others as Orthodox Christians and the building up of the community of faith is also the foundation for our relationship with the broader community in which we live. Civic engagement is an important facet of our lives, as we express concern for the social environment in which we live and for those with whom we share it. This was a principle that was recognized by the founders of our country. A democratic government and a stable and free society necessitate the active participation in the political and civic life of the nation. They affirmed that participation should not be forced or coerced, but they also recognized that the well-being of the nation would be dependent on a robust and responsible engagement by the people.
One challenge is that this freedom which we celebrate on the 4th of July each year can paradoxically be the negative opportunity for selfishness, greed, and apathy, leading to a decline in engagement and a lack of concern for others in our communities. This is why our Orthodox Christian faith has so much to offer. Our civic engagement is a manner in which we express the love of God. It is our vocation as His people to labor for an environment where people have the opportunity to live securely, to be free, and to flourish. In addition, we offer a witness of the nature and power of true freedom, as we unite the freedoms we have in this country with the manner of life we live in Christ.
On this Independence Day, may we commemorate the many blessings of freedom and life that we share in this country. May we also consider our engagement within our communities and how we share our faith and the love of God through our service to others. For each and every person may we seek all that is good, just, and leads to a blessed life in God, which guarantees true freedom.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America