March 25, 2011
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,
During this season of Great and Holy Lent, we are blessed with the joyful celebration of the Feast of the Annunciation of our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. It is an occasion for joy, as this Feast comes during a time of intense reflection and prayer and offers a witness of the power of faith through the life of a uniquely holy woman who was committed to the will of God.
The power of faith through the witness of the Theotokos is very evident to us during Great Lent through the chanting of the Salutations of the Akathist Hymn. In these beautiful verses of veneration, we sing of the magnitude and meaning of the Virgin Mary becoming the Mother of our Lord, of being the womb in which God became incarnate. In faith she received the announcement of the Archangel and voiced her acceptance of God’s will. In faith she became the “initiator of spiritual renewal” and the “doorway of sacred mystery.” Through the power of faith, she became the “bridge leading from earth to heaven,” the “key to the doors of Paradise,” and the “gate of salvation.”
The faith of the Theotokos brought great blessings to her and to all humankind. In the insightful verses of the Akathist Hymn we acknowledge her as the one “through whom joy shall shine forth,” “through whom the curse shall vanish,” and “through whom we are vested in glory.” Christ accomplished all of this for us, because the faith and willingness of the Theotokos provided the means by which He entered humanity for our salvation.
This witness of the power of faith brings encouragement and hope to our lives. It is a supreme example of what can be accomplished by faith, of the power of God to transform our lives, of the joy in following His will, and of the assurance of His grace and promises. It reveals to us through the life of a woman chosen by God for a most sacred task, that faith initiates and guides our spiritual renewal and opens our hearts and minds to the mysteries of His love and wisdom. Through the example of the Most Holy Theotokos we see that faith in God leads us on the path to Heaven, reveals the way to Paradise, and opens the gate of salvation so that we can live in eternal communion with Him.
On this Feast of the Annunciation, we as Greek Orthodox Christians commemorate a day and events that also revealed the power of faith. This Day of Greek Independence is joined to our festal observances for historical reasons related to the revolution in 1821 and the struggle for freedom of our honored fathers and mothers. But it is also a commemoration that has a tremendous spiritual significance. The struggle for Greek Independence came after centuries of oppression during which the power of faith united families and communities, preserved and nurtured identity, and engendered hope. In the fight for independence, it was faith in God that engendered courage in the face of injustice, affirmed the priority of human dignity, and emboldened the effort for liberty as an essential quality of human life and potential.
Thus, this day, being both the Feast of the Annunciation and the Greek Independence Day, offers a true and enduring witness of the power of faith: faith which connects and nurtures our hearts and minds in truth leading us to stand against any oppressive force which destroys life and diminishes human dignity; and faith which leads us to Christ, brings the grace of God, and grants to us a blessed and abundant life on our earthly journey towards eternity.
On this sacred Feast of the Annunciation and in commemoration of Greek Independence Day, may your faith be strengthened through our worship and observances. May you contemplate and treasure the examples of faith of the Most Holy Theotokos and of our Hellenic forebears, and may the power of faith lead you to the hope, grace, and salvation offered by our Lord Jesus Christ.
With paternal love in Him,
† D E M E T R I O S
Archbishop of America