Feast of Saint Photios and
Saint Photios National Shrine Day
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,
Each year on February 6, we celebrate the Feast of Saint Photios the Great, a saint of our Orthodox Church who served as Patriarch of Constantinople in the ninth century. Renowned for his theological acumen, for his defense of the Orthodox Christian faith against heresy, and for his ecumenical leadership which enlightened the way for the expansion of Orthodox Christianity to the Slavic Lands, St. Photios leaves a legacy that continues to motivate and inspire.
In appropriate tribute to the enduring ministry of St. Photios, our Holy Archdiocese, through the vision of our beloved Archbishop Iakovos of blessed memory and the efforts of his contemporaries, formally established the St. Photios National Shrine in Saint Augustine, Florida, on February 27, 1982. This Shrine tells the memorable and moving story of the first 400 Greeks who arrived in Florida at the colony of New Smyrna in 1768, and who relocated to Saint Augustine 10 years later. Their story is certainly one of bitter hardships and difficult work conditions, but it is also an important story of faith, courage, love, and passion for freedom. Today, the Shrine stands as a brilliant beacon that serves as an active witness to our spiritual and cultural legacy as Greek Orthodox Christians living in America.
Each day, people from many walks of life enter the Shrine and learn about the history of our people. Many people encounter the beauty of the Shrine almost as if by accident, as it occupies the prominent Avero House, built in 1741, in the heart of the "Spanish Quarter" of the city of Saint Augustine, the oldest city in America. All are invited to pray in the Shrine chapel and experience its beauty and tranquility. Many of our faithful make an annual pilgrimage to the Shrine, journeying from across our country to pay tribute to the legacy of Saint Photios and to those early Greek colonists.
This year, the annual pilgrimage to the Shrine is all the more significant in that 2007 marks the 25th anniversary of its official opening. Accordingly, many special festivities are being planned in connection with this occasion. As is our good custom, our National Ladies Philoptochos Society will be leading us in collecting funds for the continued progress of the ministry of our Saint Photios National Shrine, and a special tray will be passed throughout our congregations on Sunday, February 4. Your contributions will directly aid the general operations of the Shrine and empower it to continue as a vibrant and active witness of Christian hope, history, and inspiration to others.
I pray that the Lord Jesus Christ, through the intercessions of St. Photios, be with all of you on this joyous feast and always, and that His infinite protection and wisdom may guide you along the path of righteousness and salvation.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America