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 Day and Afternoon Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation, we commemorate an event of extraordinary significance. The hallmark of this important feast of the Church is represented by a most remarkable encounter between the Archangel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary. Their dialogue with one another, beautifully narrated in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke (verses 26-38), presents us with an astonishing depiction of faith, a faith whose power rests in its courageous human honesty and its extraordinary trust in God.
In this passage, we are presented with a powerful human model in the person of the Virgin Mary, who is our exemplar of authentic openness and perfect trust. Truly, the Archangel Gabriel’s appearance and his announcement unto her was a stunning phenomenon that evoked considerable fear in her heart. Yet she overcame her initial fear by being receptive to the immeasurable love and power of God. Indeed, the Archangel’s initial announcement roused considerable doubts in her mind. Yet she laid her doubts to rest by listening to the voice of the angel saying that she would bear a son through the power of the Holy Spirit. She fully believed that “with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37). It was her openness to God’s love and her unshaken faith in Him that gave her the freedom to respond to the Archangel Gabriel’s statement with the courageous declaration, “let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
From the example of the Theotokos, we learn the importance of cultivating a heart that is open to God’s ineffable love, and a mind that is ready to consider the miracles that are possible with Him when we lay aside our disbelief and wholeheartedly embrace faith. In the face of natural, human responses of fear and doubt, we are presented with a testimony of true love, indomitable courage, and never-ending hope in the person of the Theotokos, whom we hail as “full of grace” (Luke 1:28) and whom we venerate as truly “blessed among women” (Luke 1:42).
The significance of these qualities is heightened when we consider that the Feast of the Annunciation also commemorates the Independence of the Greek nation in 1821, when Hellenes and phil-Hellenes came together to overcome the forces of subjugation and hostility that had oppressed them for four centuries. Throughout their struggle, a struggle that was riddled with continuing events generating fear and doubt, the Greek people held as their invincible champion the Theotokos, a fervent intercessor and protector in times of peril. It was she, the one who had overcome all fear and doubt by completely trusting in God, to whom they turned for solace, hope, and confidence in the miraculous power of God. With her as their model, the Greeks were able to summon the courage to proceed with a fight that seemed to have no prospect for victory. Yet they were victorious because “with God nothing would be impossible” (Luke 1:37), and because “all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23). Today, the Day of Greek Independence and the Feast of the Annunciation offers to all peoples of every nation a day of celebration that extols the victory of faith and love over all forces of fear, and the triumph of the power of God over every shadow of doubt.
As we draw inspiration from the Virgin Mary on this joyous day, and as we reflect more deeply upon her uncompromising willingness to serve as a vessel of the Lord’s will, I pray that, through her intercessions, we overcome our every human fear and doubt, and that we grow always in our appreciation of the infinite love of God and in His power to work great wonders in our lives, as He did on the Twenty-fifth of March, in 1821.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America