By His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
At the 46th Annual Folk Dance and Choral Festival
Sheraton Phoenix Downtown
February 16, 2023
Beloved brother Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco,
Your Graces and Reverend Fathers,
Esteemed Trustees of FDF,
Parents, Benefactors and Supporters,
Participants of the 46th Annual Folk Dance and Choral Festival,
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Once again, we are here in Phoenix at our Annual FDF, in order to rise to the occasion, and to celebrate our faith and our culture.
And that is precisely what we are going to do!
We will rise with dance steps that defy gravity.
We will rise with music that lifts our hearts, as well as our feet.
We will rise with songs that speak across all generations.
We will rise with hands joined together in a circle of love.
And we will rise with one another – with respect, with generosity, with faith, and with friendship.
This Folk Dance and Choral Festival is one of the premier events of our Sacred Archdiocese of America, and you should all be very proud of your participation in it, as well as of support of it.
For the next few days, you will all rise to the occasion, and you will all be the pride of our communities and our Archdiocese. I would like to encourage each and every one of you to do three things over the coming days. I say, “three,” for this period of Triodion, and to honor our Triune God, Who is worshipped and adored in the Holy Trinity.
First: Make a new friend while you are here — at least one. The time that you have together is precious, and the opportunity to share such moments as these is even more so. Maybe that means you have to go a little bit outside of your comfort zone. But just as you will stretch your legs and arms to fulfill your dance steps, you can also stretch your hearts to open to others. This latter stretching is the Dance of the Divine Trinity, which is a ceaseless flow of love, and a dance that goes on forever.
Second: Spend some time meditating in your hearts and minds about what this celebration means to you as an individual, and to you as a member of the Greek Orthodox Church. The essence of music and dance is movement – whether in physical space, or along the scales and harmonies of the universe. But the truth is, we are always on the move – none of us is perfectly still. We move toward what is good, and pure, and positive. Or, we can move in opposite directions as well.
That is why I want you to spend some time during these days thinking about what this all means, and how it can reveal a trajectory for your lives. But like the Prophet Elias learned on Mount Carmel, the meaning of our lives is not found in the great events, but instead in “the still, small voice” that we hear in the silence of prayer and meditation. Therefore, do not neglect to take some quiet time for yourselves here at FDF; for it will make your experience of these happy days even more powerful.
And finally, the third thing that I would like all of you to do is to have fun! That’s the simplest one of all. Your smiles are infectious, especially in a world where tragedy often strikes with brutal swiftness. And we saw this happen last week in Türkiye and Syria, when powerful earthquakes hit the region without any warning – leading to widespread destruction and, worst of all, the loss of many thousands of innocent lives.
Therefore, we all need moments and events such as our present gathering here in Phoenix, in order to introduce a sense of joy back into our lives. And so, in commending all of you for your enthusiasm and love, I pray that these coming days may be filled with abounding happiness and joy for us all. And by the grace of God, may some of our love shine around the world, too, so as to bring a measure of comfort to those who have lost so much.
Thank you, and may the Good Lord bless us all!
Photos: GOARCH/Brittainy Newman