To celebrate something properly, you must evaluate it. To appraise and draw proper conclusions from it. To find that the event in question is worthy of celebration. This celebration should not only give proper honour and respect to the event, but must also extend something to the people who commemorate it. Otherwise, what value would there be in any celebration?
To evaluate and appraise any event properly, you must evaluate it in the context of the time in history that it happened. To live and experience the event as much as possible . To feel the pulse and energy of the event. To appreciate why the event happened, and under what conditions it took place. To understand if it should have taken place at all; how difficult it was for its participants; and what was the final result.
The Greeks in 1821 had been in servitude for nearly 400 years. Their morale was destroyed. Their dignity was non-existent. Protective laws for them did not exist. Human rights were unheard of. The Ottoman occupier, at any moment, could demand that he be carried on the shoulders of any Christian and oblige him to carry him one kilometer, like a beast of burden. The Ottoman occupiers did this either out of necessity, or to humiliate the subjected Greeks. They saw their divine Christian faith being broken apart by the whirlwind of a religion that was promoted and spread by the sword. Worst of all, the enslaved Greeks saw the slaughter of their own flesh and blood. In a truly demonic plan to prevent the Christian Orthodox faith from being passed on to the Greeks and other enslaved Christians, the Ottoman Porte established the hated Janissary corps. They snatched the children of Christians from the arms of their mothers, and forcibly converted them and raised them as Muslims. These formerly Christian children were turned into fanatic and crazed Muslims, taught to hate Christianity and their own parents and families. They were turned into the Taliban militias and terrorists of that sad era, and were taught to slaughter their own parents and their siblings in the name of Islam.
This was the situation in which the Greeks lived in the Ottoman Empire – and not only the Greeks, but all enslaved Christians in 1821. As the famous poem states: “Everything was kept in check through fear and bullying and all were oppressed by slavery.” Everything was dark and bleak, with no hope for the future.
Alone and utterly deserted was every Greek then. For 400 years, he raised his hands in despair, begging for help. He waited. But every time he saw a ray of hope that assistance would come from outside, dark clouds covered the sun and every glimmer of hope was lost. He remembered his glorious ancient Greek history. The zenith and glory of the Byzantine Empire. His great happiness for many millennia. And now, like another Adam, he is in exile in his own home: a slave, crying and grieving his wretched life.
His weeping and wailing, though, turns to indignation. His pain sets him on fire and he explodes. The famous poem again reminds us of his condition, which says: “Mother, I tell you, I can not continue to toil for the Turks. I can’t, I refuse, I have no more strength left in me; my heart is grieved beyond sorrow. I will take my rifle, and hide in the hills, and there become a freedom fighter... “
The Greeks rise up in revolt, against all odds and all logic. But they had faith. Faith in the true God. Faith in themselves. And faith in the goal they wished to achieve: freedom at all costs!
They were sworn in the Name of the Holy Trinity to fight to liberate their beloved homeland. Every Greek warrior fought for “the Holy Orthodox faith of Christ, and for home and country.” Their armed struggle succeeded. Tender freedom was enjoyed in only a small part of the Greek homelands. It caressed and gladdened the hearts of free Greeks. It also gave courage and hope to the still enslaved Greeks.
Everything from the foregoing, must be evaluated in light of the final goal that was achieved. The final result of the Revolution of 1821 was freedom. The evaluation of freedom can not be estimated and compared to anything else. It is invaluable and worthy of every celebration. It should be remembered by all Greeks and celebrated by recalling this great event and what it has given to every person of Greek ancestry.
Today, Greece is going through and suffering its most severe moral, ethical and economic crisis. Together with Greece, worldwide Hellenism and Christianity are also hurting and suffering. Today, however, every Greek, but especially the Greeks living outside of Greece, must celebrate the Anniversary of March 25th, 1821.
Let us celebrate it with Doxologies. Let us celebrate it with School commemorations, poems, dances and songs. Let us celebrate it with parades. But let us also celebrate it by evaluating our personal actions and commitments today. Let us see where each of us stands with regard to our Greek traditions. How Greek is your soul and your heart? How Christian and Orthodox are your beliefs? As parents, how much do you strive to ensure that you pass on our cherished Greek Orthodox customs and traditions to your children? Let each person make this evaluation for themselves. And once they have considered the answers to these questions, let each person act accordingly and according to their conscience. Should they stay on the same path, doing what they have always done, or change course? The goal is always the same. To remain committed and faithful Orthodox Christians. Proud Greeks. Good people. Let us stay on track and take care that our children and our descendants will never lose their way. Let us do all we can so that they will always remain Greek and faithful Orthodox Christians, so that they can use these gifts to achieve perfection.
Blessed Christians: keep these admonitions and thoughts close to your hearts and souls. Encompass within your hearts and souls, Greece and Orthodoxy, so that you may constantly and incessantly feel and experience every kind of greatness passed on to us by our ancestors. Long live March 25th, 1821! Long live Greece! Long live Canada! Long live freedom
With fatherly love and fervent prayers,
+ Metropolitan Archbishop Sotirios of Toronto (Canada)