American Independence 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 Day and Afternoon Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
The annual celebration of July 4th as a national holiday commemorating the independence and founding of the United States of America is an occasion for affirming the necessity of freedom for the proper existence and advancement of all aspects of civilization. Freedom as a guiding principle in the establishment and preservation of our society ensures that we will have a political and social environment that recognizes the power and potential of the human mind and will.
Many of the intellectual and political stalwarts of the founding generation of America not only cherished and advocated this premise, but they also had a genuine awareness of the uniqueness of the time in which they lived—a time that saw the inception of a nation and a system of government that was an unprecedented product of the political and social experiences of human history.
For each of us as Orthodox Christians, this correlation of freedom and time is much more significant for several reasons. First, while we are citizens and residents of a country that provides tremendous freedom and opportunity, we are also citizens of the kingdom of heaven, living in “the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:21) and blessed with the exalted vocation of growing in faith, gathering in worship, and serving in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord. Second, while uniqueness of time in terms of specific historical events may be acknowledged, as the Church we must always be aware of the uniqueness of today. In quoting the Apostle Paul we recognize that today is “the acceptable time…the day of salvation, so that through great endurance…by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, and truthful speech,” (2 Corinthians 6:2-7) we may share the abundant mercy of God and affirm the transforming power of His presence in our homes, parishes, throughout our nation and our world. It is only in our relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that the true nature and extent of freedom is known and the divine potential of our mind and will is revealed and attained.
As we commemorate independence and the founding of this nation, let us also celebrate our freedom in Christ; and in each day, each Liturgy, and in every blessing and act of love and ministry may we recognize the uniqueness of our time for salvation, for service, and for the revelation of God’s glory within the richness of this freedom.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America
To be read from the pulpit on Sunday
July 1, 2001 following the Divine Liturgy.