February 6, 2008
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,

On the annual Feast of Saint Photios the Great, we come together in prayer and worship to commemorate one of the great luminaries of our Holy Orthodox Church. A passionate scholar and person of deep faith, Saint Photios served as Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople during the 9th century. Among his many contributions to the Church, he is remembered for authoring, among many other works, the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit, a thorough treatise on the procession of the Holy Spirit, which continues to serve as a basic text in contemporary theological education. He is also remembered for his extraordinary foresight in advancing the missionary work of the Church, supporting the work of the beloved Saints Cyril and Methodios in their preaching of the Gospel in the Slavic lands.

The legacy of Saint Photios continues to shine with equal brilliance in our current day. This is testified not only by our commemoration of him on February 6 each year in our Orthodox Church, but also by the active work of the Saint Photios National Shrine built in his honor, a revered institution of our Archdiocese for over 25 years. This sacred Shrine serves as an important witness to the religious and cultural legacy that was brought to America by the first Greek colonists in the eighteenth century. They arrived on the shores of Florida in 1768, enduring many struggles as they worked to build a new life in what at that time was known as the colony of New Smyrna. Just a decade later they relocated to St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest city in the United States. 

Their story in coming to America is one of many economic hardships and struggles, but it is also a story of hope, of courage, and of the paramount importance of freedom, including religious freedom. Today, the Shrine stands as an active witness to the history and faith of these early immigrants, our ancestors. On a daily basis, people from all walks of life enter the Shrine and learn about our history. Over time, the Shrine has become a regular place for educational instruction for young students in the 5th through 8th grades across the state of Florida, who learn firsthand important lessons of early immigration to the United States. Additionally, many of our faithful make an annual pilgrimage to the Shrine, journeying from parishes across our country to pay tribute to the legacy of Saint Photios and to those early Greek settlers, and to pray in the Shrine chapel and experience its tranquility. 

As in past years, this year on Sunday, February 3, our National Ladies Philoptochos Society will be leading us in collecting funds for the continued progress of the ministry of the Saint Photios National Shrine. Your contributions will directly aid the general operations of the Shrine so that it may continue to actively serve as a beacon of inspiration that gives proper tribute to this Great luminary of our Church, Saint Photios, and preserves the vibrant history of our faith and culture in America, which we generously share with all who visit. With your support, and by the guiding hand of Almighty God, our Saint Photios National Shrine will continue to shine the light of truth before people so that they may know the Lord Christ, Who said, I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12).

May our Lord, through the intercessions of Saint Photios, shine His light within your hearts, and may His blessings be upon you forever.

With paternal love in Christ,

Archbishop of America