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 struggles 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 years 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 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 a 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.