Under the Jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
Apolytikion: Today marks the crowning of our salvation and the revelation of the mystery before all ages. For the Son of God becomes the son of the Virgin, and Gabriel proclaims the grace. Wherefore, we also cry out with him, "Hail, O full of grace, the Lord is with you."
Reverend Fathers, Honourable Presidents,
Esteemed Members of the Community Councils,
Philoptochos Societies, Teachers, Students and Youth,
And to the Entire Plenitude of our Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto (Canada)
How Freedom is Lived
The Byzantine Empire had reached its highest point of glory. In the grand Cathedral of Hagia Sophia, the Slavs experienced its glory and heavenly worship. From this experience, they at once decided to embrace Orthodox Christianity. Living in the glory and opulence of the Byzantine Empire, its citizens became rather delicate and indolent. In the end, instead of returning to hard work and progress, they cast all their hope in God. In Constantinople before the conquest in 1453, over three hundred religious processions took place each year. The citizens expected everything to be given to them by God, and refused to exert themselves. The Byzantine Empire expired on the indolent bed of opulence. The black veil of slavery now covered all the people and the once glorious Empire.
After four hundred years in slavery, the Greeks, who resembled the prodigal son of Scripture, finally came to themselves. They took their brave decision. They began their revolt against tyranny and oppression. They were victorious. They gained their freedom. They encountered many challenges and difficulties, but they gained their much sought after freedom which filled their hearts with the joy of liberty.
Hellenism is again able to bask in the radiance of God’s Light. It lives and breathes freedom. It works hard and begins to see progress. It passing through great difficulties, but always is ruled by its ideals. The Greeks fought and laboured in order to practice freely their holy faith in Christ; for the freedom of the Motherland; and for their families. They could now breathe openly the oxygen of freedom, and this allowed them to surpass themselves and express their inner strengths.
We live here in Canada, in this paradise on earth, and we will celebrate again this year the anniversary of March 25th 1821. It is the celebration of the Greek revolt against the Ottoman Empire. The celebration of victory. The celebration of freedom.
We will celebrate with Doxology services of thanksgiving. With parades. With Greek School celebrations and performances. With Gala Dinners and panegyric speeches. All these are wonderful ways to celebrate this great National Holiday, but most important is how we live and experience this God-given freedom that is our inheritance from this celebration.
A free person has the right to choose how to live. Does he choose to be the master of his own destiny, or the proverbial water carrier in service to others and being dictated by circumstance?
If you do not elect to become your own master, then you lose your freedom. The master of himself and his own destiny is committed to his ideals. He recognizes and respects the true values in life. He believes in God. He recognizes and honours His Creator. He lives by the teachings and experiences his faith honestly and sincerely. He respects moral and ethical laws. He strives at all times and always to do the will of the True God. He calls upon the help, the wisdom and the illumination of God, but does not expect everything from Him. He knows that he has not been created for a life of luxury, pleasure and opulence, but for a life of heroism and brave decisions. He recognizes that the pleasures of life will make him a slave of opulence and greed.
He lives and enjoys his freedom, respecting the law. He becomes an exemplary citizen. Useful in society. His house is a real nest of safety and protection for his family. An indestructible tower. He educates his children with true formation of character, and not only with factual knowledge. He cares not only for creating a good and comfortable home, with proper nutrition, and educating his children in the best schools and universities. He takes care of all this and it is true that the Greeks in Canada have done a wonderful job in attaining this for their families. However, the Greek lives out his legacy of freedom when he also strives to cultivate proper character in his children. This is done by implanting in them the Hellenic-Christian ideals of the Orthodox Christian faith. He lives this out by going to Church with his children and worshipping as a family every Sunday. It is confirmed that within the Greek Orthodox schools and Religious Education programs in our Communities, not only are the Hellenic-Christian ideals and values taught, but they are also lived and experienced as one true family. In short, they are giving society young people imbued with a proper cultivated character.
“Greece never dies” and the Greek who is truly free, where ever he lives around the world, does not die.
My beloved Christians: I invite you all to celebrate the anniversary of March 25th and Greek Independence Day with celebrations, festivals, Doxologies and parades – living out and experiencing this gift of freedom on a daily basis. God signed into existence our freedom. In order for us to always enjoy it, we must always live it out daily; essentially; honourably; and with sincerity of purpose. Let us not risk losing this God-given gift!
With fatherly love and fervent prayers,
Metropolitan Archbishop Sotirios of Toronto (Canada)