March 25, 2014
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,
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation, the crown of our salvation and ultimate human restoration, and the revelation of the mystery that is from all eternity. We worship in adoration and thanksgiving the Son of God who became the Son of the Virgin. We join with the Archangel Gabriel and the heavenly hosts in honoring the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. In the midst of this solemn and holy Lenten season, we exult in this manifestation of the grace of God for our liberation from evil and guilt.
Our worship and praise of God is our response to a truly marvelous event, just as it was the response of the Theotokos. Following the appearance of the Archangel and the Annunciation of the conception of Christ, the Virgin Mary traveled to the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth. When she entered the house, Elizabeth exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:42) Reflecting her communion with God and the power of His presence and mercy, Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name, and His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.” (Luke 1:46-50)
In this beautiful offering of worship, the Theotokos affirmed the revelation of the true nature of the life connected with God. Mercy will abound. Mercy would come to those who humbled themselves before God. As in the case of the Theotokos, our willing obedience to God will fill our lives with mercy and grace.
The beautiful witness of the Theotokos offers us guidance as Orthodox Christians as we celebrate this revelation of grace and mercy and commit ourselves to Him as she did. Just as the praise and joy of the Theotokos came from the depths of her being, our communion with God should lead us to give all of ourselves in our worship of Him. In addition, our lives should be focused on seeking the will of God, living according to the truth of the Gospel, and revealing the immensity of His mercy in all that we do.
It is also on this day that we commemorate Greek Independence Day and the valiant struggle of our beloved ancestors to gain their freedom and secure it for generations to come. Certainly, the heroic cause in 1821 was linked to the Feast of the Annunciation, a feast revealing the power of faith and trust in God’s mercy and grace. At the same time our celebration also affirms the tremendous strength and the cherished relationship of our Orthodox faith and Hellenic heritage. As affirmed in that day, faith in God and the desire to worship Him openly and freely encouraged many to engage in this epic struggle. In addition, faith had engendered an awareness that life under oppressive Ottoman rule was not what it should be. The kingdom of God was about justice and mercy, free will and kindness, love and hope. With this vision and a deep conviction that God would bless their sacrifice and efforts, the people of Greece began their fight for independence. Trusting in God, they knew that even if death came before freedom was gained, His divine promises would be fulfilled, and they would be blessed with complete and eternal freedom.
Today, we have the unique and blessed opportunity to celebrate the miraculous revelation of God in the Annunciation to the Theotokos together with the heroic and just struggle of our Hellenic forbearers. Historically and in our commemoration, these two events are linked by communion with God, the truth and vision of life as He created it to be, and an unwavering trust in His promises. May we join together on this day and let our souls magnify the Lord and our spirits rejoice in God our Savior for the great things He has done for us. May all our services and observances on this day offer a witness to the world of His holy name and His abundant mercy, which extends without limits from generation to generation.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America