Dionysios Solomos, the famous Greek poet, praises freedom in the national anthem of Greece in an admirable way. He also speaks about an array of other subjects. In one of the verses he says, “The doors do not easily open when need knocks on them.”
It has been said a thousand times that freedom is a God-given gift. It is an important characteristic of man’s perfection. Without freedom, man cannot be perfect.
Every person must have, at the very least, the right to political, economic and religious freedom. Without political freedom, a person becomes a slave. Without economic freedom, other people control him and “pull the strings” in his life. Without religious freedom, he becomes a proverbial hunchback, not able to look upon the heights of heaven.
Our Greek ancestors lost every freedom in 1453: political, economic and religious. They tried to reclaim their freedom but it was not easy. They asked help from everywhere but their plight was ignored. This is the reason why the poet wrote the aforementioned verse, “The doors do not easily open when need knocks on them.”
They suffered for many centuries but in the end, they achieved their goal. They made superhuman efforts in 1821 to reclaim their freedom and by the grace of God they were successful.
Yet, despite the many difficulties they faced during their four hundred years of slavery, it appears they did not learn from it. History shows that Greeks did not appreciate their freedom as they should have. We did not acquire the virtues of humility and prudence that are so important to being successful. Many times, we made great mistakes that brought us to the edge of the cliff.
In modern Greece, we have typical political freedom. We do not enjoy economic freedom and, of our own volition, we are on a path to abolishing our religious freedom. We act without humility and prudence. We will indeed be worthy of our fate, but why should our descendants pay the price for our mistakes?
We live in Canada, where things are much better than life in our Motherland. We celebrate Greek Independence Day once again this year with pride. It is proper and right for us to celebrate, to commemorate the day with doxologies, feasts, parades, dances and other festivities. In all this, though, we must never forget humility and prudence, because even here, frantic voices are heard and actions are taken that are not worthy of the principles of our freedom and our Hellenic ideals.
Whatever happens, whatever some mindless people might do, “Greece never dies.”While this is true, we must ask: Should Greece suffer? Is it necessary that Greece falls down every so often only to get up again after great effort? The thing required is heroism at every moment, and the two pillars of heroism are humility and prudence.
Man lost his spiritual freedom when he disobeyed God’s commandment and was exiled from paradise. The All-Merciful God gave him a second chance though. At the Annunciation of the Theotokos, He announced that He would send His Only-Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, the True God, the Messiah, the only Redeemer and Saviour of the world, so that man would regain his freedom and be able to return to paradise. Each one of us from that moment had the ability and freedom to return to paradise and it is up to each one of us to make good use of our freedom. What we need is sincere faith in God, a good will and a firm resolve to follow the God-man Jesus Christ and always do His will, so that we do not lose our second chance at salvation, but are able to walk safely on the path that leads us back into the loving embrace of God.
Greek Orthodox Christians of Canada: Embrace humility and prudence. Celebrate Greek Independence Day, indeed freedom itself, with all your soul. Celebrate the Annunciation of our Theotokos. Open your hearts to receive the grace and freedom that God is offering. Thank the Theotokos who brought us Christ the Redeemer and who throughout our history stood beside us and helped us as the Champion General.
Pray fervently that our Almighty God will grant humility and prudence to those who hold the future of Hellenism in their hands, whether they are in Greece or in Canada, or in any other part of the world. Greeks everywhere are one body. One soul. One faith.
Long live March 25, 1821! Long live Greece! Long live Canada! Long live freedom!
With fatherly love and fervent prayers,
Metropolitan Archbishop Sotirios of Toronto (Canada)