July 4, 2008
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,
The annual observance of Independence Day is an instance for us to be thankful for the peace, freedom and opportunities we have in this nation, the United States of America. It is a day when we celebrate ideals that have been realized for the benefit of humankind, when we remember what so many have offered for the sake of liberty, and when we recommit ourselves to the cause of freedom and to building a society that upholds all that is good and just.
To do this requires knowledge of the past, an awareness and careful analysis of how the past has shaped the present, and how it contributes to our future. This is the example provided to us by many of the founders of this nation. Looking to antiquity, they valued the ideals of personal freedom and self-governance, as well as the virtues of bravery, patriotism, fortitude, and perseverance. They knew the veracity of these ideals, and they saw this nation as the modern heir of the ancient republics.
In the debates over the United States Constitution, frequent references were made to ancient authorities, such as Aristotle, Cicero, and Polybius, and to their analysis, concerns, and critiques of governance. Questions were asked about successes and failures in upholding unity, freedom, rights, and security. Could a “more perfect union” be formed that would established a balanced relationship between states and the national government? In establishing a new nation, they knew the great ideals, accomplishments, and failures of the past; they engaged in careful analysis and debate over the nature and function of government; and they did this with an optimistic view of the future, knowing that this new government was for a growing nation that would face many challenges.
As citizens of this nation and as Orthodox Christians, we are able to offer something very unique to understanding the past, to the challenges of the present, and to preparing ourselves for the future. As people of faith, our past is intertwined with the revelation of God’s love for humankind, and our future will culminate in blessed communion with Him for all eternity. Because of this, we know that our faith is essential to affirming and upholding ideals that are good and true for all human beings.
We also affirm the necessity of discernment as we address the needs and challenges of our world. Through prayer, through fellowship and ministry with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and through spiritual growth, we gain a deeper understanding of the genuine needs around us and of how to address these in ways that promote life, strengthen the person, and build relationships. Further, we draw upon the wisdom offered to us by God through Holy Scripture, the Church, and the lives and witness of the Saints. We have a great treasure of divine truth that not only spans millennia of human existence, but that also addresses the greatest challenges, needs, and potential of life and relationship.
Finally, we know by faith that all that is good and true will be affirmed and accomplished through love. The greatest sacrifice for our ultimate freedom which is freedom from sin and death was made by our Lord Jesus Christ through love. When we look to the past, we find truth and hope in the One who has shown us abundant love and offers unlimited life. We find assurance in knowing that He continues to be in our midst today and forever.
As we celebrate Independence Day, let us be mindful of the relevance and necessity of faith in what we learn and cherish from the past and what we must choose for the future. Let us be thankful for a free society in which we can speak the truth in love. We have a beautiful and life-giving witness to offer to all in our nation and throughout the world, the witness of a faith that brings peace to the soul, truth and understanding to the mind, life to our hearts, and true and enduring freedom to our lives.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America
July 4, 2008