An Archiepiscopal Encyclical was issued by Archbishop Sotirios of Canada on the Feast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos and the Celebration of Greek Independence Day.
In his speech, the Archbishop of Canada stressed “on the occasion of our double feast, let us live today in freedom from sin. Let us praise God and be grateful to the Virgin Mary. Let us maintain the values laid down by our ancestors. Let us celebrate the heroism of those who sacrificed for our freedom. Let us show the same bravery in safeguarding our homeland and Orthodoxy. Let us instill the same ideas and principles in our children. This is the best way to celebrate our double feast. When we do all of this, God will bless us, and we will continue on the enduring path of our nation which has been so unique in world history.
Read below the Encyclical of Archbishop Sotirios of Canada
Their Graces, Reverend Fathers, Honourable Presidents and Esteemed Members of the Boards of Directors, Members of the Philoptochos Societies, Teachers, Students and Youth Members of the Communities, and to the Entire Plenitude of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Canada
Rejoice, Mary Full of Grace…
Archbishop Sotirios of Canada
The Archangel Gabriel descends to earth, to carry out the will of God. He stands in awe before the Virgin. Tenderly he says to her: “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you.” Gabriel goes on to say: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son… The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God… For with God nothing will be impossible.” And to all this Mary responds: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”
“Today is the summary of our salvation, and the revelation of the age-old mystery. For the Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin, and Gabriel announces the good news of grace.”
The Virgin finds grace from God because she is full of grace. She is genuinely open to listen to and submit fully to God’s will. That is why God is with her. Let us now ask ourselves: do we possess this same openness to God’s will for God to be with us as well? Can we similarly be immersed in God’s grace, in order for Christ to dwell within us and guide us to salvation?
The Virgin says, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” How often do we say, “thy will be done”? And when we say it, do we always say it wholeheartedly because we mean it, or are we simply uttering the words with our lips? Do we make God’s will part of our daily life? Do we always try to accomplish the will of God in everything we do? The salvation that Christ brings will be ours, and our return to the heavenly paradise will be assured, but only in the case of a genuine disposition and openness to always comply with the will of God.
However, today’s commemoration is two-fold. We celebrate the annunciation of our freedom and our salvation from the bonds of sin, but we also rejoice in the announcement of the freedom of the Greek nation and Orthodox Christians.
“Such a day was chosen by the kind-hearted Mary to ask the Lord of all, He who gives life to the lifeless, to look down on how slavery is crushing the Christians who are celebrating today in such reverent worship.”
God heard the fervent prayer of the kind-hearted Mary, but also the prayer of the suffering Christians. During the four hundred years where “fear overcame everything, and suppressed it in bondage,” the Christians never forgot the true God. They suffered endlessly, but they kept their faith. Their faith preserved Hellenism and now bestows on them their freedom.
An earthly angel is sent by God in the form of Metropolitan Germanos of Old Patras. And he brings the message of uprising and freedom. Metropolitan Germanos raises the banner of the Revolution, and blesses and swears in the fighters in the Name of the Holy Trinity. There is an uproar everywhere. The injustice, the pain and the cry of Christians is transformed into a surge of bravery which cries out: “Step aside, rock, so that I can pass.” The heavy stone rock crushing the chests of Greece and the Christians starts to crumble. Freedom, in all its dignity, begins its stride in a small part of Greece.
The Greeks have performed miracles since antiquity. No other nation shares the long and glorious history of Greece. No other nation has offered so much to humanity. The Greeks reached their heights with the golden age of Pericles, but also in the splendour of the Byzantine Empire. The nation had disintegrated but sprung to life again, like the phoenix from its ashes. In more modern times, Greeks have lived through great trials and tribulations, such as the Balkan Wars, the First World War, the Asia Minor Catastrophe, and the Second World War. Throughout it all, the nation managed to emerge valiant as ever, and is today an equal member of the European Union.
There are a few questions which naturally arise. Why did the Greeks not continue to prevail like in the golden age of antiquity? Why did it all fall apart in 1453? Why did we suffer through the Asia Minor Catastrophe? The answers to these questions are not easy. Perhaps it was because when we had found ourselves in prosperity, we surrendered to opulence. Perhaps we forgot God Himself. Perhaps we discarded the values of honest work, ethical behaviour, and respect for God and humankind.
Today the Greek nation prospers within modern state of Greece, but also throughout the whole world wherever there are Greeks. The same dangers lurk everywhere. And every Greek must be very watchful and vigilant. We must constantly ask ourselves: do we respect the universal values that the ancient Greeks proclaimed to the world? Are we Orthodox Christians? Do we really understand our Orthodox faith? Are we continuing to build on the foundation of Hellenism and Orthodoxy? If we lose track of these guiding principles, we will be uprooted, torn apart, and lost.
My blessed Christians, on the occasion of our double feast, let us live today in freedom from sin. Let us praise God and be grateful to the Virgin Mary. Let us maintain the values laid down by our ancestors. Let us celebrate the heroism of those who sacrificed for our freedom. Let us show the same bravery in safeguarding our homeland and Orthodoxy. Let us instill the same ideas and principles in our children. This is the best way to celebrate our double feast. When we do all of this, God will bless us, and we will continue on the enduring path of our nation which has been so unique in world history.
Long live Greece! Long live Canada! Long live Freedom!
With fatherly love and blessings,
GREEK ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE OF CANADA