October 28, 2011
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The remembrance of October 28, 1940 through our annual observance of OXI Day is our excellent opportunity to honor the courage of those who stood firm in the face of tyranny and to cherish the freedom that we have inherited due to their great sacrifice. This is a day of memorial for the people of Greece who were unwilling to defile the liberty gained by earlier generations by cowering under the threats of totalitarian regimes. The response of “NO” to the demands of tyrants and their destructive agendas was a true and exemplary act of courage for all humanity. This is also a day of gratitude and thanksgiving. In calling to mind the great sacrifices of that era, our hearts are grateful for what has been offered for the sake of freedom, self-determination, and truth. Our response continues to be an annual offering of memorial and praise to our fathers and mothers and of thanksgiving for the blessings of our heritage which brings joy and peace to our lives.
In this spirit of remembrance and gratitude we must also recognize that OXI Day presents a great challenge. Certainly, this is a challenge to greater levels of civic engagement and awareness so that we are able to offer what is good and just in our communities and nation. It is also a challenge to protect and nurture a responsible and mature understanding of freedom which does not use liberty as an opportunity for engaging in carnal activities, but as an opportunity for serving one another in love (Galatians 5:13).
The challenge of OXI Day calls every person to stand firm for truth in the face of tyranny, to identify evil even when we are powerless, to be courageous in the midst of oppression, and to champion justice and confront violence with hearts and minds of peace. The response of “NO” on October 28, 1940 revealed an unwillingness to sacrifice ideals for the sake of convenience and deny a heritage of freedom and democracy to avoid hardship. It was a firm denouncement of evil agendas which were fueling machines of power with the destruction of human life and communities. Further, the Greeks of OXI gave an example of courage and hope that inspires us to know what makes us free and to offer these assurances to all of humanity.
We do this when we remember OXI day and accept its challenge. When we stand firm on the witness of our heritage, grounded in the truth of our faith in God, we will be able to confront evil with a boldness that reveals the One who has defeated sin and death and offers assurance of life. As people of faith, who do not have a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (II Timothy 1:7) in the service of God and humankind, we will be able to annunciate a resounding “NO” to any person or force seeking to destroy life and well-being or to abolish liberty for the sake of domination. In accepting this challenge, we will continue to champion the needs of those who do not have the freedom or are not allowed the rights that foster a quality of life and security befitting all human beings.
On this OXI Day, I encourage all of the faithful throughout America, all who are the beneficiaries of this heritage of freedom and courage and of great faith and sacrifice, to remember the courageous deeds of our past and to accept the challenge of this day for our future. In faith and truth and in the strength of God, may we stand firm as witnesses of the love that overcomes evil, the justice that affirms what is good, and the peace that gives us hope in any condition of life from now to eternity.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America