March 25, 2013
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,
On this blessed and glorious Feast of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, our hearts are filled with joy and amazement as we see the abundant love and divine wisdom of God. We worship Him in joy, for through the Annunciation and the Incarnation of our Lord salvation has come. We are astounded as we encounter the revelation of His grace in a manner beyond human comprehension.
This amazement of the ways of God was expressed by the Theotokos. In reply to the announcement of the Archangel Gabriel, “You will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus,” she asked, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” (Luke 1:31-34) This was not an expression of doubt by the Virgin Mary, but of awe of the divine plan of God. In the hymns of Great Vespers we sing her response: “How can you speak to me of things that pass man’s power; how, tell me, shall I become the spacious habitation and the holy place of Him who rides upon the Cherubim?”
The wonder of the Theotokos concerning the great mystery of our Lord’s Incarnation affirms our response of amazement when we embrace the incomprehensible. Certainly, the wisdom of God is beyond human understanding, but we have been given a glimpse of it through the revelation of His grace. In the words of the Apostle Paul we can marvel, “O, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways are past finding out!” (Romans 11:33); and in our awe we know that what may be foolishness to some, is the revelation of His power and love to those who are being saved (I Corinthians 1:18).
In following the example of the Virgin Mary, our response to God’s wisdom and revelation should also show our faith and commitment. While she pondered “how can He whom nothing can contain dwell in the womb of a virgin whom He Himself has formed” (Hymn of Orthros), she also expressed her faith in the power of God and her commitment to His divine will for her life. In response to Gabriel’s proclamation, “For with God nothing will be impossible,” she exclaimed, “Let it be to me according to your word!” (Luke 1:37-38)
On this Feast of the Annunciation, we are invited to embrace the incomprehensible. We are beckoned to approach this mystery. As we celebrate this Feast, we respond in awe of the great and glorious revelation of God’s power and grace; and as we commune with our Incarnate Lord in our midst, we affirm our faith in Him and our commitment to do His will. We venerate the beautiful example of the Theotokos, and in amazement of what God has done for us, we trust Him to fulfill all things and lead us unto eternal salvation.
It is also on this Feast that we commemorate Greek Independence Day, remembering the struggle of our forbearers and cherishing our freedom. As we recall the significant historical relationship of our two observances, let us also remember how faith in God, commitment to His will, and awe of His great power and wisdom inspired our ancestors to stand for liberty, justice, human dignity, and life. Certainly, these were longings of many generations who suffered under occupation and oppression; but in 1821 these blessings of freedom began to become a reality for the people of Greece. On this day when we remember their sacrifice, may we affirm the power of faith in God and renew our commitment to offer a witness of the guiding and inspiring role of our faith within our Hellenic heritage.
May we also give thanks to God for the blessed witness of the Theotokos, who through the Annunciation shows us how to encounter the ineffable wisdom and power of God. Let us join with her, the Saints, and the heavenly hosts in awe of Him. Let us respond to the revelation of His saving grace with faith in His promises and commitment to His will and to the work of His Kingdom.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America