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
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Every year the spirit of Hellenism takes pride in the commemoration of October 28, which we know as "OXI Day." As a people joined by belief and by blood with those brave Greek patriots, we celebrate the steadfastness and courage of a nation that said "NO" to fascism, "NO" to injustice, and "NO" to slavery. Every successive generation of Hellenes gives thanks to God, therefore, when they celebrate the glorious memory of the Twenty-eighth of October.
For the generation who lived through that momentous point in time, however, "OXI Day" is more than a memory. The passage of fifty-nine years has not in the least dimmed the recollection of these events, and the urgency and immediacy of that day remain fresh in the mind for life. All across Greece on that fateful morning in 1940, a sound went up throughout all of the cities and towns, the sound of sirens and claxons. Walls that before had echoed only with the tolling of the church bells now reverberated with the din of alarms. Under any circumstances, this eerie and unearthly wailing of the horns would have had an unnerving effect, and all the more at a time when Europe was descending into the inferno of another world war.
But the people of Greece did not panic on October 28, 1940. Men went calmly to their closets and retrieved their military uniforms. Women went about their necessary tasks, and the children assisted as they were able. With level-headed determination, the citizenry of Greece mobilized against the coming invaders. With steadfast resolve, the government of Greece delivered their resounding "NO!" to the Axis aggressors.
This example of poise under pressure is one of the finest treasures of the Hellenic heritage and is at the heart of the legacy of "OXI Day." There can be no doubt about it--the people of Greece on October 28, 4940 chose the harder path, the path of resistance. Had they opened the gates to the invaders, much bloodshed and many deprivations would have been avoided. That brave generation of Hellenes, though, refused to submit to oppression, even at the cost of their homes, their land, and their lives. Theirs was an act of self-sacrifice that clearly proclaimed the humanitarian ideals of their Orthodox Christian faith and their ethnic heritage. Not only so, but by delaying the Axis onslaught in the Balkan Penninsula, the Greek nation which said "OXI" contributed to the eventual downfall of the Fascist powers in Europe. They chose to fight and even to die so that their children and the children of other nations might live in liberty.
For this reason we as Greek-Americans cherish the memory of "OXI Day" with doxologies and with celebrations. But for us the Twenty-eighth of October is more than a memory: it is the embodiment-in the flesh and blood of our parents and grandparents--of the highest ideals of the Greek people. In their brave words and deeds we see all of the highest virtues of our Hellenic heritage: passion for justice, courage in the time of trial, unity in the midst of conflict, and willingness to offer up oneself for the good of others. On this day we pray, therefore, that we might also be worthy inheritors throughout our own lives of the legacy of "OXI Day."
May the Lord bless our celebration of October Twenty-eighth and seal its example in our souls forever.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America