Greek Independence Day - March 25, 1821

GREEK INDEPENDENCE DAY - MARCH 25TH 1821

Greek Independence Day (Greek: Ελληνική Επανάσταση), national holiday celebrated annually in Greece on March 25, commemorating the start of the War of Greek Independence in 1821. It coincides with the Greek Orthodox Church's celebration of the Annunciation to the Theotokos, when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she would bear the Son of God.

Greece had been enslaved by the Ottoman Muslim Turks since the fall of the Queen City of Constantinople in 1453. The Greek revolt was precipitated on March 25, 1821, when Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the flag of revolution over the Monastery of Agia Lavra in the Peloponnese. The cry "Freedom or death" became the motto of revolution. The Greeks or Hellenes experienced early successes on the battlefield, including the capture of Athens in June 1822.

The Greek people were later assisted by the Russian Empire, Great Britain, Bourbon France, and several other European powers, while the Ottoman Turks were aided by their vassals, the Eyalets of Egypt, Algeria, Tripolitania, and the Beylik of Tunis.

During this time, there were several revolt attempts by the Hellenes to gain independence from Ottoman control. In 1814, a secret organization called the Filiki Eteria planned to launch revolts in the Peloponnese, the Danubian Principalities, and in Constantinople and its surrounding areas. The first of these revolts began on 6 March 1821 in the Danubian Principalities, but was soon put down by the Turks. The events in the north urged the Greeks in the Peloponnese into action and on 17 March 1821, the Maniates declared war on the Ottomans. This declaration was the start of a spring of revolutionary actions from other controlled states against the Ottoman Empire.

By the end of the month, the Peloponnese was in open revolt against the Turks and by October 1821, the Greek under the leadership of Theodoros Kolokotronis had captured Tripolitsa. The Peloponnesian revolt was quickly followed by revolts in Crete, Macedonia, and Central Greece, which would soon be suppressed. Meanwhile the makeshift Greek navy was achieving success against the Turkish navy in the Aegean Sea and prevented Ottoman reinforcements from arriving by sea.

Following years of negotiation, three Great Powers, Russia, Great Britain and France, decided to intervene in the conflict and each nation sent a navy to Greece. Following news that combined Ottoman-Egyptian fleets were going to attack the Greek island of Hydra. The allied fleet intercepted the Ottoman-Egyptian fleet at Navarino. The battle began after a tense week-long standoff, ending in the destruction of the Ottoman-Egyptian fleet. With the help of a French expeditionary force, the Greeks drove the Turks out of the Peloponnese and proceeded to the Ottoman controlled part of central Greece by 1828. As a result of years of negotiation, Greece was finally recognized as an independent nation in the Treaty of Constantinople of May 1832.

The heroic struggle for liberty and independence along with the philhellenic movement (an admiration for the ancient Greek civilization) in Europe inspired many intellectuals and politicians abroad to support the Greek cause and contribute to the War of Independence.

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

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

Uppermost in the genuine Greek's mind on March 25th, however, is Panagia (All-Holy Mother of God), chosen from all women in the world and throughout time, to be the Mother of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. When the Archangel Gabriel delivered the divine message from the Almighty God this day, the meek, obedient and pure Mary replied, "Let it be to me according to your word."

The honor we give to Mary also signifies our view of Who Jesus Christ is. From early times the Church has called her Mother of God (Gk. Theotokos), a title which implies that her Son is both fully man and fully God. As His Mother, Panagia was the source of Jesus' human nature; yet, the One she bore in her womb was also the eternal God.

"The political importance of March 25th is fully realized only when the suffering of four centuries (400 years of slavery) is called to mind. Hopelessly outnumbered, the small country of Greece endured this brutal oppression, but the spirit of its Christian people knew not a single moment's weakness.

The venerable bishop Germanos 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 Hellene in the country. In addition to engaging in a war of independence, the Greek people were actually waging a holy war because it was not only Greek against Turk but Christian against the Muslim, and the subsequent Greek victory was a triumph of Christianity."

GREEK INDEPENDENCE DAY

(House of Representatives - March 19, 2002)

[From the Congressional Record.]

The gentlewoman from New York, Mrs. Maloney is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mrs. MALONEY:

"History tells us that in 1821 Greece rose up in a bloody revolt against the repressive might of the Ottoman Empire. Determined to end 400 years of slavery or die in the attempt, Greek patriots began their unyielding struggle for liberty and independence.

The legend says that on March 21, 1821, Bishop Germanos of Patras hoisted the Greek flag at the monastery of Agia Lavra in the Peloponnese in an act of defiance that marked the beginning of the war of independence.

At a time when we in the United States are fighting to preserve our democracy from terrorists, I find a great deal of significance in our firemen raising the American flag at the World Trade Center after the attack on September 11. That act symbolized our war for democracy and freedom, as did the flag at Agia Lavra many years ago."

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GOD BLESS AMERICA AND GOD BLESS GREECE!

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,

The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George