His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
Remarks at the AHEPA banquet
Theophilos room of the Spanos Pappas Saint-Nicolas community center
Tarpon Springs, Florida
January 5, 2022
Your Eminence Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta,
Your Graces, 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 Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew a few months ago, I remember that it was His All Holiness who presided over the solemnities of the celebrations of the Centenary of the Epiphany, here in 2006. With the last visit of our Patriarch, we have 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-Lay Congress in New York.
But since we are also celebrating St. John the Baptist, I think it’s safe to say that your centenary sixteen years ago was kind of a forerunner, a “Prodromos”, if you will, of the entire centenary. archdiocese.
And not just from the Archdiocese, as you all know very well. The AHEPA also commemorates 2022 as its own centenary. And so we see the beginnings of the Two Pillars of Omogeneia in our wounded land – the Archdiocese and AHEPA.
It is therefore for this reason that I am proud to stand before you this evening in order to receive – on behalf of the Archdiocese – the first AHEPA Twin Pillars of Hellenism Prize. It is spiritually invigorating to witness AHEPA’s commitment to Orthodoxy and Hellenism. You manifest all aspects of your acronym:
You thrive as the quintessential American.
You are truly and utterly Hellenic.
You understand the educational component of our culture and our Paideia.
You are progressive in your vision and dreams for Omogeneia.
And as an Association, you are a true society of comrades in arms.
* * *
AHEPA! A pillar established a hundred years ago, together with the other, our sacred archdiocese – the first eparchy of the ecumenical throne. Together, we stand up for what is best, as well as what is noblest and truest of 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 we are in 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 by honoring the father this evening, it seems to me that the AHEPA pays homage to the whole community of Greeks from this region of Florida.
To the Greeks who came here, from the islands and other parts of Greece – to build a new future for themselves and for their children – this part of America reminded them of their home. They embraced the American way of life, but without losing their own habits that they took with them from Greece. And this is what makes AHEPA so important to our identity as Greek Americans and as Orthodox Christians.
AHEPA represents the efforts of the past and the vision of the future that combines the best of all worlds. And being a part of this annual Epiphany event proves it. This holiday is about the transformation of every aspect of our lives; for what is more widespread in the world and more necessary for our lives than water? Wherever there is life, there is water.
My beloved brothers and sisters,
As we enjoy the festivities this evening and in the days to come, let us stand firmly on the two pillars of our Orthodox and Greek traditions. They will never let us down. They will never fall apart. They will always stand firm and unmoved – 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 everything you do and the Lord bless us all!