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,
The Feast of the Annunciation is a day of paramount significance in the Orthodox Church, one which extols the important role of the Theotokos in the salvation of all humankind. The good tidings of grace announced on this day by the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary speak with clarity: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). Presented with such an awesome message, Mary’s response was one of utmost trust and faith: “Let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
This response of the Virgin Mary displays in a magnificent manner the virtues of devout faith in God, unconditional trust in His divine plan, loving openness to His ways, and resolute acceptance of His will. The decision of the Theotokos to embrace the will of God--to give birth to His Only-begotten Son--had a profound effect upon the human condition. In joyful obedience to the will of God, the Virgin Mary reversed the legacy left to us by Adam and Eve, a painful legacy of separation from God. With her words and actions of loving acceptance, she became the means of a restorative act of the highest order, an act of reconciliation. Through her, Christ came into the world in order to bring the human race once again into a proper relationship with God, to reconcile people to God and to one another.
Our Holy Orthodox Church affirms on this day the vital importance of reconciliation in our personal lives and in our contemporary world. Such a reconciliation of human beings to their Heavenly Creator and to one another, a restorative act facilitated by the Theotokos, carries far-reaching social implications. In the presence of strife and the threat of war, our contemporary world is in special need of favorable conditions for security and freedom--conditions which allow peoples from differing cultures, nations, and religions to coexist in peace where hostility and the plagues of evil succumb to the conciliatory power of the love and presence of Christ Jesus our Lord.
This desire for social and political conditions that favor life and freedom marked the struggle of our forefathers for independence. In that conflict of the early nineteenth century, known as the epic of 1821, Hellenes banded together in opposition to hostility and oppression, willingly sacrificing their lives so that the Greek nation and sovereign state could exist once again and future generations would be free to live in a country that promoted true worship of God and genuine relationships among fellow human beings. This legacy provided the foundation for the Hellenic nation to flourish, to bring honor to a rich Hellenic and Orthodox heritage, and to join the nations of the world in upholding ideals of peace, justice, and respect for the innate dignity and freedom of the human person as created in the image and likeness of God. Today, the Day of Greek Independence and the Feast of the Annunciation offer to us a day of joint celebration that extols faith in God’s providence, devotion to His will, and reconciliation amongst all human beings of all nations of the earth.
As we gather together on this day to mark this glorious Feast, and as we reflect more profoundly upon the restorative act that came through the Virgin Mary, may her words of joyful obedience be ours. May we say unto the Lord, “Let it be done to me according to your word,” so that we may offer the redemptive voice of faith and reconciliation to our contemporary world. During this Lenten season, I pray that we are especially mindful of this our special role as Orthodox Christians, so that, through the intercessions of the Theotokos, reconciliation, peace, and freedom may come to characterize our personal relationships with God, our nation, and all nations of the world.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America