Protocol Number 128/10
October 28, 2010
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,
On this annual observance of OXI Day we join with our brothers and sisters of Greek descent around the world, with philhellenes and with all who cherish freedom and self-determination in a commemoration that stands as a witness to the necessity of unyielding adherence to universal values and perseverance in faith. On the morning of October 28, 1940, the resounding “NO” given by Greece to the fascist leader of Italy in response to the demand to surrender without a fight and allow the occupation of Greece by a foreign power, was a reply echoed in the streets by the people as they recognized immediately a very real threat. They saw a threat cloaked in abusive power and political machinations that had subjugated other nations. They recognized a force of tyranny that had advanced in deception, leading so many others to compromise their ideals and their faith or to suffer under regimes that valued military might and world domination over the well-being and rights of people.
One source of this response to the evil forces of destruction, hate, and oppression was a very rich heritage of Hellenic values. In addition to the love of freedom and self-determination, ideals that had been denied during occupations of previous centuries, the people of Greece valued very highly faith, community, civic engagement and a democratic form of government, all areas of life and relationship that are able to mature in a free society. If the forces of Fascism were allowed to continue their advancement into the nations of Europe and the world, these values would not only be suppressed, but in so doing the great potential of human life, achievement, benevolence, and spiritual well-being would be twisted for the agendas of tyrannical rulers.
The other source of the response of “NO” to surrendering and occupation was the tradition and spirit of Orthodoxy, a strong tradition of perseverance that had sustained many generations in Greece through centuries of occupation and oppression, through economic and political hardships, and through the tensions of shaping a nation and attempting to recover elements of culture, language, thought, and identity. When the reply was given to the demands of Mussolini, the people of Greece knew the challenges that were to come. The response of “OXI”, of “NO”, revealed a willingness to sacrifice for what was true, good, and just. As in times past, perseverance inspired by faith and based on these values was the only response that was faithful to the highest ideals of Hellenism and to the truth of the Gospel concerning our human existence and the grace and will of God as offered by our Orthodox faith.
The adherence to universal and eternal values of Hellenism and the perseverance in Orthodox faith as we live in this world connects the celebration of OXI Day and the honoring of our heritage and Hellenic identity with our Orthodox faith, our love for God, and our commitment to the work of His divine kingdom. This is essential as we live in the contemporary world because we are in a great conflict with rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness (Ephesians 6:12). Around us are forces that seek to destroy life and faith, and also freedom and human dignity, and we must be watchful and diligent to recognize them, to stand firm shouting a resounding “NO”, and persevering under all conditions for the sake of truth and for the advancement and enhancement of the conditions of freedom and justice for all.
As we commemorate October 28 and OXI Day, may we remember the stand of the people of Greece against the forces of tyranny and the sacrifices that were made for freedom. Let us also be mindful of the strength that we can find in our heritage of faith and identity which will lead us to heroic deeds and great victories for the spiritual well-being and salvation of others and for the coming of the eternal kingdom of God.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America