February 6, 2010
Feast of Saint Photios
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,
On this feast day of Saint Photios the Confessor, we have the blessed opportunity to honor the life and work of an amazing Patriarch and Theologian of our Holy Orthodox Church. We also commend the witness of our beloved Saint Photios National Shrine in St. Augustine, Florida. This relationship of the name of a great Father of the Church and the Shrine was initiated in 1969 by Archbishop Iakovos of North and South America. Together with leaders and donors of our Greek Orthodox Church in America, he recognized the historical significance of the Shrine, which was a place of worship for a small group of Greek immigrants in the late eighteenth century. He also realized the role the Shrine would serve as a witness of our faith. Just as Saint Photios was a beacon of truth in a very challenging time, so too the Shrine would offer a witness of the beauty, power, and holiness of Orthodox Christianity.
True to his name, Saint Photios labored to see hearts and minds illumined with the light of truth. He did this in the face of great adversity, not by the power of ecclesiastical office or the use of political force, but through love and humility. His witness of truth brought him scorn, imprisonment, and exile; but when he was restored to his office, he did not seek retribution. Knowing and experiencing the transformative power of the divine grace imparted by the presence of the Holy Spirit, Saint Photios worked for peace and reconciliation within the Church. In all circumstances he was a luminary of the love of God and the presence of Christ.
This has been the nature of the ministry of the Saint Photios National Shrine since its dedication in 1982. In addition to preserving the memory of the first Greek immigrants to North America and presenting important facets of the Greek American experience, the Shrine enlightens visitors on the vitality, holiness, and truth of our Orthodox faith. The solemn beauty of the chapel, the engaging presence of the iconography, the opportunity to pray, and the offering of resources for encouraging faith invite persons to open their hearts and minds to the presence of God and the witness of the Holy Spirit.
The witness of the Saint Photios National Shrine would not be possible without the generosity of its founders and of the many throughout our Holy Archdiocese who continue to support this ministry. This year the Shrine will be conducting its annual pilgrimage on February 5-7. I encourage you to attend these events for the blessing you will receive and to show your support. Further, on Sunday, February 7 we will be led by the members of our National Philoptochos Society in collecting a special offering for the work of the Shrine. On this day and as an ongoing commitment, I encourage the faithful and parishes of our Archdiocese to be a part of the preservation of our past and a witness of our faith through the ministry of the National Shrine. May the example of humility and love of Saint Photios and of all the Saints illuminate the way of our lives, leading us to generous offerings and to expressions of our gratitude to God.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America