Elkins Park, PA – The celebration of the Feast of the Annunciation and Greek Independence day were commemorated at Annunciation Greek Orthodox church on Sunday. The event brought together the parishioners for a memorable day that united them in faith and freedom.

Following services, the church members gathered in the blue and white decorated hall. There, spirited family members greeted each other before settling in to their seats to see the children of the Greek school. The students had prepared poems, songs and theatrical performances that would fill the room with pride. One by one, and group after group they read their lines and sang to beaming parents. Camera’s recorded up the pride filled moments.

It was a day that the Greek language would reaffirmed it’s place at Annunciation. Each teacher and student participated in the afternoon program that was accomplished nearly all in Greek. One of the children had even recited a lengthy poem that left mothers in a gasp. Behind me I overheard one mother say, “ I can’t believe it. How do they do it, we don’t speak that much at home?” In just the last year, the Greek school had done a 180 degree turn with the Greek language. The oldest Greek community in Philadelphia had evolved and the generational change had taken it’s toll on the community. English had become the dominate language at the school.

But their efforts to reintroduce Greek language and Greek teachers was had impacted the community and it was reverberated again on this day. Beaming students, full of pride and confidence stood tall as they recited their lines. From the National Anthem of Greece to the poem of “The Tsoliades” and everything in between, it was all Greek. Like a small Greek village, parents cheered on the students as they displayed their wordsmith abilities.

Greek school teacher, Mrs. Dimitra Afthinou Spiliotis marked the special occasion and set the tone for the day. Her speech commemorated the two historic moments, the Feast of the Annunciation and Independance day. Both celebrations are part of the fabric of this community and tell the story of their ancestors. Her speech wove the two together under the arm of freedom in a profound and sincere manner, touching all who looked on. At one point during the speeches, parishioners joined hands. It symbolized and linked together the community for years.

Today, our students honor the heroes of that era, known and unknown, in their own special way. The significant moral of the day is to teach them that Freedom is an act of life, a constant struggle. It is not a cushion to rest upon. In war, he who gains Freedom is the one who is ready to sacrifice his life. During peace, Freedom must not be taken for granted but it must be protected. Therefore, the spirit of 1821 must always inspire us and lead us. Our ancestors handed us a contract of ecumenical value written in blood. Let us prove that their sacrifices were not in vain. We honor this holy struggle, but above all our Greek roots, the history of Hellenism, and our restless faith in Orthodoxy.

Finally, let us all make the sacred promise to keep ourselves bonded to the Greek spirit, to feel proud of our origin and our language, and to pass on this unquenchable flame to our children. Only then, will we be worthy of those who offered their lives in order for us to enjoy the most valuable gift. Because, yes, dear brothers and sisters in christ, Freedom demands “virtue”, “courage” but above all “sacrifice”.

Excerpt: Greek school teacher, Mrs. Dimitra Afthinou Spiliotis 3/29/2015