Beloved in the Lord,
“When you are living on your knees, you rise up.” This line from the hit musical “Hamilton” perfectly sums up the spirit of our celebrations for March 25th. The Greek people, who had lived on their knees under oppression for nearly four centuries rose up and began their struggle to create an independent and free nation. As Thomas Jefferson wrote to Adamantios Koraes in 1823, the American people, “possessing ourselves the combined blessings of liberty and order, we wish the same to other countries and to none more than yours which is the first of civilized nations...” and thus prayed for the success of the Greek struggle for independence.
But before the Greek people rose up, they bent their knees before the Almighty God on the Feast of the Annunciation, a Feast with an Apolytikion that begins “Today is the crowning of our salvation and the manifestation of the Mystery which is from eternity.” Their faith in God and their hope for liberation were connected because they had been taught that the Incarnation of Christ freed humanity from the bondage of death.
So, we too, bend our knees in praise of Almighty God who sent the Archangel Gabriel to announce the Good News to Mary that she was to give birth to the Savior. As Gabriel said, “He will be great, and will be called Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of His father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:32-33) And we too, rise up to proclaim the Good News that God, in His love for the world, has sent His only Son “to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” (Luke 4:18)
We bend our knees before God and remember those who gave their lives for the freedom of others, whether in wars of independence or as martyrs in the face of persecution. And we rise up with the strength to face adversity and to confront those who use bigotry and intolerance as instruments of power.
We bend our knees before the Theotokos, who said to Gabriel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) Like the Angels, we “marvel at the Great work of Your incarnation; for they saw the unapproachable God viewed by all as an accessible Man dwelling with us, and hearing from all, ‘Alleluia.’” (The Akathist Hymn). And we rise up behind her, the “invincible Champion,” “mighty,” and “unassailable.”
Beloved in the Lord, whether or not you are of Greek ancestry, this cultural celebration still has meaning for all, because as Americans, we are all heirs of the spirit of liberty that gave birth to our nation. And all Orthodox Christians exult in the Feast of the Annunciation because today we celebrate the inauguration of our salvation, our freedom from the bondage of sin and death.
May our Most Merciful God grant you and your loved ones a splendid Pascha; and to those who celebrate their namedays, I extend a special wish for God's abundant blessings upon you.
With Love in Christ,
+ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco