Statement of the Council of Bishops of the UOC of the USA on the 243rdAnniversary of US Independence
Beloved brethren in the Lord:
In a few days we will celebrate Independence Day as one nation under God. Whether you call it the Fourth of July or Independence Day, the tradition goes back to the American Revolution. As students of history we know about the representatives of the 13 colonies gathering in June 1776, to consider a resolution that would declare that independence from Great Britain. First, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence on July 2nd and then just two days later, its delegates adopted the document drafted by Thomas Jefferson - Declaration of Independence.
The day of 4thof July is indeed a time to celebrate the freedoms that we enjoy. This day was envisioned by our Founding Fathers on the first Independence Day when in 1776 John Adams wrote this about the Fourth of July:
"It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with shows, games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."
It is of importance that this first manner in which John Adams felt the day should be celebrated would be "by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty." This would do us well to remember this fact. Our Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence at grave risk to their welfare for they knew that, if caught, they would be executed for such an act. However, with the courage of principle, they declared that their rights did not come to them from any monarch or parliament, nor did their rights come to them by being free-born Englishmen. Instead they wrote that:
"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."
Boldly they proclaimed that our most fundamental rights come to us from God our Creator. We forget this at our own peril. Our most fundamental rights do not come to us from any president, congress, court, or even from the fact that we are Americans. Our most basic and important rights come to us from God. We give thanks that we live in a country where so many have sacrificed so greatly so that we may enjoy these rights, but we cannot lose sight of the source of these rights: God alone to whom we owe of first and highest allegiance. God spoke to the people of Israel through Moses and reminded them of this very fact:
"Therefore, keep the commandments of the Lord, your God, by walking in his ways and fearing him. For the Lord, your God, is bringing you into a good country, a land with streams of water, with springs and fountains welling up in the hills and valleys, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, of olive trees and honey, a land where you can eat bread without stint and where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones contain iron and in whose hills you can mine copper. But when you have eaten your fill, you must bless the Lord, your God, for the good country he has given you. Be careful not to forget the Lord, your God, by neglecting his commandments and decrees and statutes which I enjoin of you today, lest when you have eaten your fill, and have built fine houses and have lived in them, and have increased your herds and flocks, your silver and gold, and all your property, you then become haughty of heart and unmindful of the Lord, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.... Otherwise, you might say to yourselves, "It is my own power and the strength of my own hand that has obtained for me this wealth." Remember then, it is the Lord, your God, who gives you the power to acquire wealth, by fulfilling, as he has now done, the covenant, which he swore to your fathers. But if you forget the Lord, your God, and follow other gods, serving and worshiping them, I forewarn you this day that you will perish utterly. Like the nations which the Lord destroys before you, so shall you too perish for not heeding the voice of the Lord, your God" (Deuteronomy 8).
As Americans, Ukrainian-Americans and most importantly as Christians, we have reason to be filled with gratitude at all times. We must express that gratitude to God, Who gave our forefathers the opportunity to find a home in America, to our Founding Fathers who set forth those principles that constitute our creed and to all the generations and those that who have defended our nation and still do today.
Beloved in Christ! We cherish our rights and freedoms. We must be willing go to great lengths to preserve them for ourselves, for our children, and for generations to come. As you celebrate Independence Day, thank God for all He makes possible in your life!
Let us be mindful of our need of God and his goodness to us. Perhaps this prayer, often attributed to George Washington, helps put this celebration into a proper focus:
“Almighty God you have given us this great land of the United States of America as our heritage. We humbly pray that we may always remember your generosity and faithfully do your will. Bless our land with honest industry, truthful education and an honorable way of life. Defend our liberties and strengthen the resolve of all those who have come from various places in the world to make the United States of America their home. Lead us to choose the sometimes more difficult “correct” instead of the sometimes much easier “wrong”. Help us to appreciate the opportunities that are ours as we struggle to bring harmony to an unsettled world. May we balance our concern for justice with a willingness to display mercy. May our concern for security be tempered with a willingness to take risks that will produce worthwhile change for the good of all people. O Lord, we pray for your guidance as we work together in the best interests of our communities, our nation, our world. When times are prosperous, let our hearts be thankful and in troubled times, let our deepest trust and faith be forever in You. For You are a Merciful and Loving God and we give glory to You – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.”
By the Grace of God, Metropolitan of the UOC of the USA and Diaspora
By the Grace of God, Archbishop of the UOC of the USA