Feast of Saint Photios and
Saint Photios National Shrine Day
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, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I address you on the glorious Feast of Saint Photios the Great. On this day, we honor the enduring legacy of a brilliant luminary of our Holy Orthodox Church who served as Ecumenical Patriarch during the 9th century. St. Photios is remembered for his resolute defense of the Orthodox faith from heresy, for his profound writings on the person of the Holy Spirit, and for his warm embrace of other cultures, as demonstrated by his foresight to dispatch the revered Sts. Cyril and Methodios to the Slavic lands as missionaries of Christ's Gospel.
As Greek Orthodox Christians, we also celebrate this Feast with high reverence because it commemorates the lives and hardships endured by the first Greek immigrants who settled in Florida in 1768 in the colony that came to be known as New Smyrna. Within ten years, due to oppressive environmental conditions and inadequate provision for their basic needs, the Greek community relocated to Saint Augustine. It was here that a structure known as the Avero House, built in 1741, became the center of the religious and social life of these early immigrants. Today, this building stands as a Shrine appropriately named after Saint Photios, having been purchased by our Archdiocese in 1966. The Shrine maintains an active chapel and a newly renovated museum, thus actively promoting a healthy integration of faith and culture, an integration which can be rightfully attributed to the legacy of Saint Photios.
Each year, many Greek Orthodox Christians journey to the Saint Photios Shrine to learn about this history of our early Greek forefathers. The Shrine, however, is much more than a destination of spiritual pilgrimage. Rather, it stands on its own as a ministry of active witness, reaching out each day to scores of people from all walks of life who visit the Shrine. With continued expansion plans underway, the Shrine envisions the usage of interactive audio-visual learning tools that will enable its many daily visitors to grow in their own spiritual and intellectual enrichment as they learn about the legacy of St. Photios, the history of the early Greek people in America, and the treasures of our Orthodox faith. In this way, the Shrine serves as beacon of light that reminds us of our constant obligations to share our fruits with others, as articulated by Christ, "Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).
As in past years, this year on Sunday, February 5, our National Ladies Philoptochos Society will be leading us in collecting funds for the continued progress of the ministry of our Saint Photios National Shrine. Your contributions will directly aid the general operations of the Shrine, so that it may continue to minister actively to others by documenting the dynamic and vibrant history of our faith and culture in America, and by providing a place of quiet prayer and contemplation for all people.
It is my fervent prayer that the Lord God may be with you this and every day, and that you may continue to grow in your faith and in your love toward Him and toward your every neighbor.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America