Beloved Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

The double celebration of the Feast of the Annunciation and Greek Independence Day always has special meaning for us as Orthodox Christians and Greek Americans. At its heart is our belief that our loving God “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) and through this mystery, our deification, our theosis, has been made possible. As the Doxastikon for the Feast of the Annunciation states, “Now God becomes man, that He may make Adam God.”

For us, theosis means restoring the likeness of God that was tarnished in the primordial sin of Adam. One of those characteristics that is restored, if we are to be like God, is freedom. As God is free, we are free. When the Archangel Gabriel revealed the news to the Virgin Mary, the angel said Mary’s son, “will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33). Mary freely accepted God’s will, with the simple “let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, she proclaimed the meaning of freedom in her song, “He has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of low degree” (Luke 1:52). For Mary and her people, restoring the kingdom of Israel was as much a political message as it was a spiritual message.

For us, in Jesus Christ, we have expanded our understanding of the message of freedom to mean freedom from the tyranny and oppression of death. As we read in the document, For the Life of the World, “The world we inhabit is a fallen order, broken and darkened, enslaved to death and sin, tormented by violence and injustice. Such is not the condition God wishes for his creation; it is the consequence of an ancient estrangement of our world from its maker.” (§4)

The Good News of the Annunciation is that this tyranny will be overturned because in Jesus Christ, His teachings, and ultimately in His Resurrection, we are set free. A recurring phrase during the Feast of the Annunciation is “the world is freed from the ancient curse.”

The desire for freedom as expressed in the Feast of the Annunciation motivated and inspired our ancestors to overthrow their Ottoman oppressors in 1821. Those brave Greek heroes began a war for independence that would last for seven years until they could say that their land was free from the curse of slavery. Throughout our Metropolis this week, we will raise flags, recite poetry, and sing songs that honor their struggle and celebrate their victory.

The parallels to the war in Ukraine today should not be lost to us. As we see daily in the news, brave men and women struggle to remain free. Inside Ukraine they risk everything and have seen their homes and lives destroyed by indiscriminate bombing. Millions of people, mainly women and children, have become refugees. To give perspective, it is as if the entire populations of San Jose and San Francisco had abandoned those cities in less than one month. All of this is because of the power of the idea of independence and freedom. These ideas are deeply ingrained within us as Orthodox Christians because the ethos of our faith is encapsulated in today’s Feast and its apolytikion, “Today is the crown of our salvation and the manifestation of the mystery that is from all eternity. The Son of God becomes Son of the Virgin and Gabriel announces the tidings of grace…”

My beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord, as we celebrate this Feast and the gift of salvation granted to us through the Virgin Mary’s acceptance to bear Jesus Christ, let us also open our hearts so that we, too, may put aside our own worldly desires, seeking only to please God and to discern His will for our lives, so that we, like the Theotokos, might become bearers of the Good News that is Jesus Christ.

God bless you all. Hronia Polla!