His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
Remarks at the AHEPA Banquet
Theophilos Hall at the 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 this evening, as we commence the festivities around this wonderful, enduring tradition of Theophany here in Tarpon Springs.
Because of the recent Apostolic visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew a few months ago, I am reminded that it was His All-Holiness who presided over the solemnities of the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Epiphany celebrations, here in 2006. With our Patriarch’s most recent visit, we inaugurated the Centennial of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, which will be celebrated throughout this year and culminate in July with the Clergy-Laity Congress in New York City.
But since we are celebrating St. John the Baptist as well, I think it is safe to say that your Centennial sixteen years ago was a kind of Forerunner, a “Prodromos,” if you will, of the Centenary of the entire Archdiocese.
And not just of the Archdiocese, as you all know so very well. AHEPA also commemorates 2022 as its own one hundredth anniversary. And thus, we behold the beginnings of the Two Pillars of the Omogeneia in this blesséd land of ours – the Archdiocese and AHEPA.
It is for this reason, then, that I am proud to stand before you this evening in order to receive – on behalf of the Archdiocese – the inaugural 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 quintessentially American.
You are genuinely and utterly Hellenic.
You understand the Educational component of our culture and our Paideia.
You are Progressive in your vision and dreams for the Omogeneia.
And as an Association, you are a true society of comrades in arms.
* * *
AHEPA! One Pillar established one hundred years ago, together with the other, our Sacred Archdiocese — the premier Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne. Together, we uphold what is best, as well as what is most noble and true of our shared 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 succeeded by his son, the Honorable Gus Bilirakis.
As the saying goes: “Like father, like son.” Of course, we are very proud of their accomplishments. And in honoring the father this evening, it seems to me that AHEPA honors the entire community of Greeks that hail from this region of Florida.
For the Greeks who came here, from the islands and other parts of Greece – in order to build a new future for themselves and for their children – this part of America reminded them of home. They bought into the American way of life, but without losing their own ways that they carried with them from Greece. And this is 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 for the future that combines the best of all worlds. And being a part of this annual Epiphany event proves the point. This feast is all about the transformation of every aspect of our lives; for what is more prevalent in the world, and more necessary to our lives than water? Wherever there is life, there is water.
My beloved brothers and sisters,
As we enjoy the festivities tonight and in the coming days, let us stand firmly on the Two Pillars of our Orthodox and Greek Traditions. They will never let us down. They will never crumble. They will always stand firm and unmoved – from generation to generation. And they are the foundation upon which we will build the next one hundred years of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association!
Thank you for all that you do, and may the Lord bless us all!