3 July 2023
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The annual celebration of Independence Day in our country is an opportunity for all to reflect on the value of freedom, its role in the history of the United States of America, and the opportunities it provides for life, relationships and well-being. The value and priority of independence is evident throughout the history of our nation. The struggles to achieve it have made possible all the great accomplishments and progress of our nation through the freedom to think, to speak, to progress, to invent, and to succeed.
Our Founding Fathers declared, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” That declarative statement was a watershed moment in world history. It marked a new age in political thought, one that sought to shape the laws of man to ensure that the God-given rights and dignity of every individual would be upheld without discrimination. This political revolution sought to achieve not only the emancipation of the human person, but also the emancipation of the human soul.
As Ukrainian Americans and Orthodox Christians we celebrate this freedom. More than ever, in the time of the attempted invasion by Russia of our ancestral homeland, we recognize the blessings that freedom has provided to our families and ourselves as we live, work, and worship in the United States of America. We also recognize the value of freedom in emphasizing our heritage and identity. We are free to share this heritage in an environment that values freedom of expression and the open sharing of ideas and diversity.
We have much to offer from our historic heritage as well. As members of this society and as Orthodox Christians we know we are truly free when our pursuits and goals are not for ourselves but for the benefit and spiritual well-being of others and for the honor and glory of God. Our freedom to speak is an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel. Our freedom to live securely is freedom to place our ultimate trust in God. Our freedom to achieve is the opportunity for spiritual growth in communion with God and to guide others to do the same. Our freedom to believe is that being inspired with the Grace of God, we have the ability to be powerful and beautiful witnesses through our worship in truth and love.
Our country is built by immigrants, and each of our families has a migration story - some recent and others in the distant past. Each generation of Americans has faced its own set of grave challenges to the basic principles of our political system of thought. Over nearly two and half centuries, “We the People” have survived revolution, civil war, pandemics, the Great Depression, World Wars, the Cold War, social turbulence regarding race relations, terrorist attacks and much more. These days we face new challenges, caused by international pandemic and economic threats, ongoing wars in countries across the globe and senseless mass murders happening in our cities, towns and villages. These challenges require our sincere engagement in the process of preservation of the sanctity of life and our moral and social precepts – both civil and spiritual.
Historically, we have always overcome darkness and emerged brighter, fueled by optimism, faith and a common bond of civic responsibility to one another. Our nation has never triumphed over a moment of crisis in a perfect state. There always has been, and likely always will be, room to do better as individuals and as a country. The tragic ongoing shootings are evidence enough that we have a long way to go and that there is much work yet to be done.
Our Church’s teachings and our Faith continually reinforce our obligatory bond to one another. We must work each day to ensure that all those who suffer and who are oppressed be set free and that they be allowed to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As brothers and sisters in Christ we must embrace unity and diversity in thought and action.
Our American dream cannot be shattered. It is up to each of us to live that dream and to assist others in doing the same. We urge everyone to open their hearts to the needs of the other today—to recognize the opportunities before us to accompany those in difficult situations and to stand in solidarity with those fighting for justice.
As we join with family, communities and as a nation in the observance of Independence Day and the celebration of freedom, may we affirm our commitment to sharing the true freedom we have to improve the lives all our fellow citizens in any type of need. May God bless you and may God bless the United States of America.
By the Grace of God, Metropolitan of the UOC of the USA
By the Grace of God, Archbishop of the UOC of the USA