On Friday, November 6, fifteen seminarians, readers, senior servers, and subdeacons gathered at St. Sophia Seminary for three days of study, worship, and fellowship. The evening began with Daily Vespers in the Three Hierarch chapel. Very Rev. Bazyl Zawierucha, the provost of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary and the organizer of the retreat served as the celebrant while the retreat participants sang the responses, chanted, and sang. His Eminence Archbishop Jeremiah of South America and His Grace Bishop Daniel of the Western Eparchy of the UOC of the USA blessed everyone with their prayerful attendance.
After a wonderful dinner of Lenten Ukrainian cuisine, the participants attended the first lecture: “Beauty and Harmony of Liturgical Services in the Resurrectional Prokimena”, given by Rev. Fr. Anthony Perkins. He began his talk with an exhortation to the participants to embrace their roles and help reevangelize their parishes through commitment to Church order, beauty, and Truth. He went on to describe the Prokimen as a musical icon of the Incarnation through the wedding of the preternal Word (i.e. the Psalms) and created beauty (i.e. music). The session ended with a practicum of each of the Resurrection Prokimen.
Saturday morning began at 8:00 AM with a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy with His Grace Bishop Daniel presiding. Fr. Bazyl, Fr. Anthony, Fr. Ihor, and Rev. Dn. Mikhail Sawarynski concelebrated while the retreat participants served in the altar and at the kliros. In his homily, His Grace, Bishop Daniel inspired everyone to commit themselves to Christ and answer their calling to serve Christ with diligence and love.
After Liturgy, Rev. Dn. Mikhail gave a lecture, “Introduction to and the Practical Us of Liturgical Books”. He described how the services were put together and went over the variations in services over time and across traditions. Some participants seemed overwhelmed by the complexity of our services and a few noted that their parish did not have all of the requisite books (e.g. the complete Menaion), but everyone left the lecture with an increased appreciation for the logic and beauty of Orthodoxy and a desire to serve with greater precision. During the Q & A, Fr. Bazyl and Dn. Mikhail gave very practical advice on implementing the typika/ustav in local parishes.
Lunch was a real feast as everyone enjoyed the ancient Johnson City, NY - Ukrainian dish of “spiedies” and many more traditional specialties (one participant was particularly enamored with the holobtsi and mushroom sauce).
On Saturday afternoon, Fr. Bazyl gave a practical class on “Liturgical Form and Function – How to Serve in the Holy Altar”. After providing the context of our service, he described how each of the particular elements (from anticipating the needs of priests during Liturgy to proper pacing when reading the Psalms) all work to God’s glory, the beauty of the services, and our own sanctification. He stressed the need to service humbly, reverently, gracefully, and with close attention to the proper order (as interpreted by the parish priest). Just as there is a harmony in music that brings us into greater union, so to is there a harmony of motion.
Saturday ended with Great Vespers, served by Fr. Bazyl and Fr. Dn. Mikhail, and a talk on vocations by our vocations director, Very Rev. Stephen Hutnick. The next morning capped the experience with the hierarchical celebration of the 100th anniversary of our Ukrainian Orthodox cathedral parish in Carteret, NJ, St. Demetrius.