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For Wisdom teaches self-control and prudence, justice and courage; nothing in life is more profitable for men than these.

Wisdom of Solomon 8:7b

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

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Fourth of July is a day for heartfelt celebration, not only for us living in America, but also for the entire world. For in our observance of American Independence Day, we commemorate far more than just the 226th anniversary of a political declaration: rather, we honor the timeless ideal of freedom that the founders of this nation cherished. “Liberty or death!” was their watchword. They risked their homes, their possessions, their families and their lives, not for wealth or fame or the fleeting pleasures of this world, but for the enduring cause of freedom. Brave were their words in pursuit of independence; braver still were their deeds.

Thus, while we speak of a day of independence, we are obliged also to speak of a day of real dependence. For we, the inheritors of this legacy of liberty, owe to that first courageous generation an incalculable debt. On every Fourth of July, America acknowledges that her freedom has always been dependent on the bravery and sacrifice of those who throughout the years have suffered and fought and died for the ideals of democracy and human equality. In a very real sense, the forefathers’ experience of oppression and tyranny has continually enriched the American national character with a certain determination and optimism that, combined with its courage, has made so much of this nation’s prosperity and success possible.

As Greek Orthodox Christians, and as heirs of the cultural legacy of Hellenism, we can appreciate in a special way the bond between liberty and bravery. It is no coincidence that the national anthems of both the United States and Greece mention this connection. Both nations were formed as “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Both nations hail their freedom as something which has been tested throughout the years and always “made brave even as in the beginning,” kai san prota andreiomene. The history of both peoples has proved that true bravery has a freedom which no tyrant can shackle, and true freedom bestows a valor which no oppressor can discourage. Both America and Greece have been inspired from the beginning by a single liberating principle of faith—that humankind is formed in the likeness of its Creator and has therefore an inherent dignity and freedom which may never allow itself to be debased or destroyed. For those who would be free, the call to courage, freedom, and human dignity is a continual mandate. The quality of our national life depends every day on those who dare to risk their own life, liberty, and happiness in this cause.

On this July 4th, 2000 our Greek Orthodox Church in America gathers for the 35th Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania—the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed. On this glorious occasion, the Holy Archdiocese of America will give thanks to God for our freedom, both spiritual and political. But on this Day of Independence, we also acknowledge our dependence on one another, inasmuch as the Church is a body, a living organism with many members. Our Clergy-Laity Congress is a visible expression of our belief that the proper growth and working of the body of Christ depends on the selfless contribution of every member—whether lay or ordained—according to the spiritual gift that is granted to each for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7, Eph. 4:7,16).

This kind of sacrificial stewardship is a lifelong act of courage, borne of a desire to become a co-worker with Jesus Christ in His work of liberating humankind from spiritual darkness and restoring it to the divine likeness and glory. Since we have such a hope, as Saint Paul says, we are very bold (2 Cor. 3:12), for as citizens and patriots of the Kingdom of heaven, we labor bravely for the Day when the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom. 8:21), the Day of Independence for all peoples and all things.

This is the reason for our freedom. This is the object of our bravery. This is the honor of all God’s saints (Ps. 149:9), to live and even to die in the cause of His redeeming work of love. May the Lord bless our nation, our Church, and our Clergy-Laity Congress in this year of grace 2000.

 

With love in Christ

our Liberator and Lord,

†DEMETRIOS

Archbishop of America