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,
It is with gratitude to God that we greet the arrival of the Twenty-Eighth of October, “OXI Day.” This annual occasion commemorates a significant event in the history and life of the Hellenic people; for on this day in 1940, the nation of Greece issued a resounding “No” - “OXI” - to the dark forces of Fascism, revealing to a world at war the courageous character and virtuous spirit of Orthodox Christian Hellenism.
Truly, this great event in the history of the Greek people is not confined to the boundaries of one nation; rather, the decades-old cry of “No” by the Greeks of yesteryear holds today a universal significance and relevance for all peoples throughout our world who value life over death, who espouse liberty over bondage, and who cherish peace over war. The geopolitical realities of our contemporary era challenge us to consider the events of October 28, 1940, in a remarkably modern way. Now as then, there exist a host of forces in our world that threaten the progress of peace and reconciliation across diverse communities and nations.
Today, however, the whereabouts and machinations of these forces have grown in their cunningness, subtlety and secrecy, giving rise to an age marked by heightened levels of tension, stress, and threat-related alertness. In such a time, there exists an especially timely, distinct, and Christian applicability to the word “No.” As the bearers of a precious Hellenic, American, and Orthodox Christian heritage, we have a particular responsibility to say “No” to bigotry, fanaticism and violence, to follow the footsteps of our forebears, and to cultivate courage within our hearts.
The events of October 28, 1940, impart many lessons concerning the virtue of courage. Foremost, they teach us that courage is not exemplified by rash displays of brute strength or force, but, rather, through unyielding commitment to peace and freedom. They also teach us that courage is not characterized by frantic, instinctual response to an unjust aggressor, but, rather, by decisive, sustained, and powerful action that results in an uncompromising support and a wholehearted defense of what is just, true, noble, and free.
Thus, the call to courage does not belong solely to the realm of human history or epic struggles; it extends far beyond that realm and applies to all persons and communities that face various challenges. As our communities develop viable alternatives to the social ills of poverty and crime within their immediate surroundings, we are reminded of the courageous dimension of ministry and philanthropic action. As we address threats to justice and peace, problems of moral decay, and the erosion of sacred institutions, we are strongly reminded of our call to courage. Further, we also see many contemporary and pastoral applications of courage. These examples were seen clearly in the actions of our Hellenic forefathers and mothers decades ago, and they continue through the testimony of the Saints, with whom we are in a living communion and in whom the presence of God continues to be a strengthening and life-giving reality.
The call to courage is universal. As we celebrate the Twenty-Eighth of October, it is precisely this universal applicability of Christian courage that we commemorate. In living up to the example bequeathed to us by our noble ancestors, I pray that our gracious God may always grant you continued strength and faith to lead a life of righteousness, justice and mercy, so that you may be able to say “No” - “OXI” - to anything that is sinful, evil, or that threatens the freedom we have in Christ. I pray that you will always be able to exemplify in your lives the inspiring Biblical exhortation: be strong and of good courage (Deuteronomy 31:6).
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America