Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)
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, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, the members of our Parishes and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Each year on the twenty-eighth day of October we honor our Hellenic heritage by commemorating a valiant stand that was made against the tyrannical forces of fascist rulers and governments. On this day in the year 1940, the people of Greece chose not to defile their venerable love of freedom and justice by bowing to the demands of a ruthless dictator. Instead, they attempted to thwart the oppressive advance of the enemies of liberty by issuing a resounding “No!” – “No” to a foreign occupation that would in turn advance the malevolent cause of fascism; “No” to becoming a conduit for the military forces of imperialists; “No” to compromising a rich Hellenic and Christian heritage that had nurtured an understanding of what was just, noble, and true.
In taking this stand, the people of Greece upheld honorable ideals and offered a testimony to truth in a time when many faltered under the threats of evil regimes. They chose to think and act in a manner that revealed the deep religious and cultural roots of a national identity and an understanding of life that had been cherished and perpetuated not just for centuries, but for more than two millennia.
This response of “No” to the demands of a dictator had a tremendous spiritual and cultural depth, and it was followed by an enduring impact. This reply to the forces of fascism was not one that was offered from shallow interpretations of sovereignty or self-aggrandizing national interests. It was a “No” that was forged from the knowledge and experience of what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and gracious. It was a response that was rooted in our Hellenic and Christian understanding of excellence in terms of human potential and achievement by means of the spiritual and intellectual abilities given to us by God. It was a response that called all peoples of this earth to recognize that anything worthy of praise, worthy of an affirmative commitment of life and country, should reflect these ideals and thus be focused on sustaining life and freedom in the face of adversity.
Down through the ages, myriads of Saints and Martyrs of our Holy Orthodox Church have responded to adversity with such authentic faith and character. They have embraced the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and have had their lives transformed through the contemplation and application of what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and gracious. They strove for excellence in their spiritual lives, attaining the highest knowledge and experience of truth and divine grace, always reserving praise not for any earthly power or movement, but for God alone.
This is our legacy of faith as Orthodox Christians, and this is also our legacy as Hellenes and Philhellenes. We live in a world that is in critical need of voices of truth, honor, justice, and grace. All around us are various trends and movements that demean human dignity, and that should be confronted with true and enduring ideals of what is pure and excellent. In this time and in this place, in the spirit of our Christian forbearers and our Hellenic heritage, we are in a unique situation to respond to any power that seeks the destruction of life and freedom with a resounding “No,” and then to offer love, hope, and salvation that comes from the eternal kingdom of God.
May our celebration of OXI Day honor those who gave so much in faithfulness to truth, honor, and freedom; and may we affirm our resolve to remain faithful to our Lord, offering Him thanks for our blessed heritage and His saving grace.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America