My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
+In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
O Theotokos, You are the source of compassion, make us worthy to have sympathy for others. Look upon a people that has sinned, show Your power as always, For we have placed our hope in You, And to You we say, Rejoice, And did Gabriel of old, the Archangel of the bodiless Angelic hosts.
O Most superlative glorified Virgin Mother of God, We sing hymns of praise to You, For through the Cross of Your Son, Hades was vanquished and Dead died. We who had died were raised up, And made worthy of Eternal Life. We received again the original delight of Paradise. As we give thanks to You, we glorify Christ, Our Mighty Savior and Merciful God, Who loves mankind.
THE HOLY FEAST-DAY OF AGIA SKEPI, OXI (OHI) DAY, AND THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN PEOPLE OF GREECE
While most of the Orthodox Christian world celebrates the Holy Protection, or Agia Skepi, of the Theotokos on October 1st according to ancient Orthodox tradition, Hellenes (Greeks) celebrate the Holy Protection on October 28th as a special holiday in order to invite the secular government of Greece to honor the Thetotokos (Mother of God) for her special protection over the Greek people during World War II.
The celebration of Holy Protection dates back to 626 A.D., when the miraculous intervention of the Theotokos saved the city of Constantinople from the Avars (Turkish-Mongolian Nomads), and it was officially established that October 1st be the date to honor this great miracle. All Orthodox Christians celebrated this feast on October 1st until 21 October 1952 when the Holy Synod (Council) of Greece decreed (Συνοδικές Εγκύκλιοι, Τόμος Β΄ Αθήνα 1956, σελ. 649) that from henceforth there was to be celebrated in Greece a dual feast of the Holy Protection and the National holiday of 'OXI', which commemorates Greek freedom from Italian occupation, on October 28th. A Service was specially written by Elder Gerasimos Mikragiannanites for this feast on October 28th.
--Taken from Mystagogy: The Website of John Sanidopoulos
On the Feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos or Agia Skepi (October 28th) we implore the defense and assistance of the Queen of Heaven: "Remember us in your prayers, O Lady Virgin Mother of God, that we not perish by the increase of our sins. Protect us from every evil and from grievous woes, for in you do we hope, and venerating the Feast of your Protection, we magnify you."
Though celebrated outside of Greece on October 1st, the Feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos was transferred to October 28th after World War II with the annual commemoration of OXI (OHI) Day. This was done to commemorate the great help and protection of the Theotokos to the Greek Nation throughout its history, and especially during World War II during which many miracles are reported.
The role of faith in Virgin Mary in Epirus is also outstanding during the Second World War. Her role was catalytic not only because she constituted the basis of people's faith, but also because, with her miraculous interventions, she proved to have been the greatest ally of the Greek army on the snowy and rough mountains of Epirus.
Of course, miracles and apparitions were reported in many regions of Greece during the war, but at the front, at the Greek-Albanian borders and on Pindus, Virgin Mary was the Protector and the Leader of those who fought for their country under difficult circumstances. Their faith was so strong that they could see her encouraging them and "covering" them protectively, while they were fighting on the snowy mountains of Pindus and Albania.
It was precisely on August 15th, 1940, off the eastern coast of Greece near the Aegean island of Tinos, an island especially dedicated to the Holy Virgin more than any other, that a great tragedy struck. As thousands upon thousands of pilgrims were celebrating the joyous Feast of the Dormition (Koimesis) of the Theotokos, the crew of a Greek light cruiser called Elli was also participating in the festivities off shore. Suddenly the ship was torpedoed and sunk by an Italian submarine. The wharf of Tinos was also torpedoed amongst the festivities. This initiated the beginning of Greece's involvement in World War II.
Greece (Hellas) officially entered the war on October 28, 1940. This is celebrated annually as Ohi Day (No Day) commemorating dictator Ioannis Metaxas' (1936-1941) refusal of the Italian ultimatum. The ultimatum demanded of Greece to allow Axis forces to enter Greek territory and occupy certain unspecified "strategic locations" or otherwise face war. Upon his declaration it is reported that thousands of Greeks (Hellenes) stormed the streets and began shouting 'OHI' to the Italian ultimatum. On April 6, 1941, Hitler attacked Greece for the first time and united his German forces with those of the Italians.
The relationship between the Theotokos and the modern Greek Nation stems back to the Roman Empire, but was revived in modern times during the Greek Revolution of 1821. For this reason, in Athens on the 25th of March in 1838, when the first celebration of the Greek Revolution took place, by a decree of King Otto it was determined that the 25th of March would be celebrated as the day of National Regeneration, although the Revolution has started a few days earlier. In fact, the choice of this particular date shows the importance and the major role that Christianity played in the lives of Greek people, as the "time" that the Greek Revolution broke out was also considered the "time" for religious elation. As the poem by Popi Matsouka - Zachari from Arta titled "The Message of 25th March" indicates.
Panagia and Freedom
Two sacred words
Two words with a meaning
That fills our hearts
With thrill and awe.
The Mother of all people
And cherished Freedom
That dream of all people
With a heavenly glow, they shed light on
Two visions, two unfading ideas
Don't ever stop,
They are both yours:
the Mother and Freedom
And the hearts of all of us are with you!
FROM HIS EMINENCE ARCHBISHOP DEMETRIOS OF THE GREEK ORTHODOX ARCHDIOCESE OF AMERICA
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we commemorate OXI Day on October 28 and remember the valiant stand of the people of Greece in 1940 against the advancement of the forces of Fascism, we are aware that struggle for freedom and peace and against tyranny are very much a part of our modern world. Just as some of us and most certainly our fathers and mothers saw and experienced the brutality and inhumane actions of an occupying force, so too we are witnesses today of persecution, violence, and death.
This is why the response of OXI, of "NO", to the Axis powers and their threats stands as a brilliant example of courage in the face of overwhelming power, resilience in the midst of tremendous adversity, and strength that came from a firm commitment to cherished ideals and from faith. It was evident in October 1940, and even more in April 1941, that the forces of Greece were no match for the huge and frightening Axis war machine. However, the people of Greece took an amazing and courageous stand against the fascist and Nazi armies. The very same stand was evident in the year of horrendous occupation of Greece by the Axis forces. The Greeks remained strong, hoping for the day when freedom would return. This strength was sustained by an identity and heritage that was rooted in ideals that emphasized the highest qualities and potential of our humanity. Certainly, their identity was also shaped by a firm belief in the strength that comes from the Almighty God.
In his letter to the Ephesians the Apostle Paul encourages the faithful to be strong "in the Lord and in the power of His might." He emphasizes that the greater struggle "is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:10-12). In using the analogy of armor, he affirms that this is a spiritual battle and that our strength in the Lord comes from the weapons of truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and the salvation and from perseverance in prayer" (6:13-18)
It was with this spiritual armor through communion with God and His power that many faithful have withstood the forces of evil. In truth and holiness and with a deep faith and hope in salvation, many blessed Saints faced persecution and death. With love of peace and life in response to brutal hostility, many more have endured. Under occupation by ruthless foreign powers, in suffering, and with the loss of freedom and security, many have found strength in the power of His Might and the assurance of His promises.
On OXI Day we affirm this as our inheritance and our legacy. We also acknowledge the valiant stand of the people of Greece as an example for our contemporary world. From the witness of our forebears and the guidance of our Orthodox Christian faith, we know that the threats of tyranny and violence are ultimately overcome by affirming the absolute value of life, by resisting the ideologies of hatred and death, by living in righteousness and seeking peace. With our faith in the invincible assistance that comes through the grace of God and with our labors to share the Gospel with others, we bear witness to the world that our strength, an enduring and eternal strength, comes from our Lord and the power of His might.
On this OXI Day may we offer prayers of remembrance and gratitude for those who courageously said "NO" to tyranny. May we also honor their witness by our faithfulness to the ideals of our Hellenic heritage and Orthodox faith, knowing our strength comes from God. May we also on this day continue to offer our sincere prayers and support for those who live in fear and under oppression and tyranny, knowing that they will find solace and refuge in God in their time of great need.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God