The Annunciation of the Theotokos

Celebrated March 25

Of all the solemn days in Orthodoxy the day of March 25 is one not only of religious significance but of political significance as well, allowing the Greek Orthodox to commemorate God's message to Mary and the independence of Greece on the same day.

The expression, "For God and Country," has real meaning for the Orthodox Greek on the 25th day of March, a day on which he can celebrate two events without diminishing either one for the obvious reason that devotion and patriotism have the same emotional root -- love. If Christianity could be compressed into a single word, that word would be love. The same holds true for patriotism.

Uppermost in the true Greek's mind on March 25, however, is Mary, chosen from all the women in the world to be the Mother of Jesus Christ. When the angel Gabriel brought the momentous message from God this day, the gentle Mary must have felt a solemn pride, but at the same time a disquieting apprehension at the prospect of this awesome responsibility. Assured by the Archangel, Mary's answer was a simple: "Let it be according to the will of God," and the rest is glorious history.

The world of Mary of two thousand years ago is envisioned as one in which life was simple and free of the complexities that plague the modern world, but in that age of self-sufficiency there were problems which would be insurmountable today. The mother of that day was all things to her family, and it can safely be said that when the Archangel Gabriel departed, the prospective Mother of God must have for several moments felt terribly alone, Everyone knows about the nativity and the mission of Jesus Christ, but the details of the days, months and years in between are known but to Mary and to God.

The political importance of March 25 is fully realized only when the suffering of four centuries is called to mind. In 1458 the Ottoman hordes overran all of Greece and most of the Balkans and held hostage a people whose culture dated back more than two thousand years, and who gave more to the world than it could ever receive in return, and it seems that the world just stood by while the cradle of democracy and Christianity was being defiled by a scourge that would have undone a less hardy breed.

Hopelessly outnumbered, Greece endured nearly four hundred years of brutal oppression, but the spirit of its people knew not a single moment's weakness. The fires of rebellion that the Turks thought they had snuffed out, but which had smouldered in Hellenic hearts for almost 400 years, were kindled into a conflagration on 25 March 1821, not by a bemedalled general but by a man of the cloth, Bishop Germanos of Patras, Greece, who chose the day of the Annunciation knowing God would be on the side of the Greeks.

The good bishop held the Cross of Jesus Christ aloft on the 25th day of March, 1821, and proclaimed freedom for all Greek Orthodox Christians. It was a motion seconded by every Greek in the country. In addition to engaging in a war for independence, the Greeks were actually waging a holy war because it was not only Greek against Turk but Christian against Muslim, and the subsequent Greek victory was a triumph of Christianity.

from Orthodox Saints, v. 1
by Fr George poulos, Holy Cross Orthodox Press.

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