His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
Speech at the AHEPA banquet
Theophilos Hall at Spanos Pappas Saint Nicholas Community Center
Tarpon Springs, Florida
January 5, 2022
Your Eminence Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta,
Your Grace(s), dear Fathers and Presvyteres,
Beloved Brothers and Sisters of the AHEPA Family,
I am delighted to be with all of you tonight as we begin the festivities around this wonderful and enduring tradition of theophany here in Tarpon Springs.
Due to the recent apostolic visit of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew a few months ago, I recall that it was His All Holiness who presided over the solemnities of the celebrations for the centenary of the Epiphany here in 2006. With the latest visit of our Patriarch, we inaugurated the centenary of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, which will be celebrated throughout this year and will culminate in July with the Clergy-Laity Congress in New York.
But since we also celebrate Saint John the Baptist, I think it is fair to say that your Centenary, sixteen years ago, was a sort of Precursor, a “Prodromos”, if you will, of the Centenary of all Archdiocese.
And not only from the Archdiocese, as you all know very well. AHEPA also commemorates 2022 as its own hundredth anniversary. And so we see the beginnings of the two pillars of the Homogeneia in our wounded land – the Archdiocese and the AHEPA.
It is therefore for this reason that I am proud to stand before you this evening to receive – on behalf of the Archdiocese – the first AHEPA Twin Pillars of Hellenism award. It is spiritually invigorating to witness AHEPA’s commitment to Orthodoxy and Hellenism. You manifest every aspect of your acronym:
You thrive as the quintessential American.
You are truly and totally Hellenic.
You understand the educational component of our culture and our Paideia.
You are progressive in your vision and dreams for Homogeneia.
And as an Association, you are a true society of comrades in arms.
* * *
AHEPA! One pillar established a hundred years ago, with the other, our sacred archdiocese – the first eparchy of the ecumenical throne. Together we stand for what is best, as well as what is noblest and truest in our common Greek Orthodox tradition.
However, these two pillars are not made of stone or wood, but of flesh and blood. And tonight we honored one of the great living pillars of our community – the Honorable Michael Bilirakis. He served in the United States Congress for twelve terms, representing the district in which we find ourselves tonight. And then he was replaced by his son, the Honorable Gus Bilirakis.
As the saying goes: “Like father, like son”. Of course, we are very proud of their achievements. And in honoring the father tonight, it seems to me that AHEPA is honoring the entire community of Greeks from this area of Florida.
For Greeks who came here from the islands and other parts of Greece – to build a new future for themselves and their children – this part of America reminded them of home. They adhered to the American way of life, but without losing their own habits which they brought with them from Greece. And that’s what makes AHEPA so important to our identity as Greek Americans and as Orthodox Christians.
AHEPA represents those efforts of the past and the vision of the future that combines the best of all worlds. And being part of this annual Epiphany event is proof of that. This holiday is dedicated to transforming all aspects of our lives; for what is more widespread in the world and more necessary to our lives than water? Wherever there is life, there is water.
My dear brothers and sisters,
As we enjoy the festivities tonight and in the days ahead, let us hold fast to the twin pillars of our Orthodox and Greek traditions. They will never let us down. They will never crumble. They will always remain firm and impassive – from generation to generation. And they are the foundation on which we will build the next hundred years of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association!
Thank you for all you do and may the Lord bless us all!