UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
PALM SUNDAY AT ST. PANTELEIMON PARISH IN BROOKLYN, NY
On Lazarus Saturday we stood in Bethany with our Lord before the tomb of His friend Lazarus and witnessed the reality of the shortest verse in Scripture: “Jesus wept.” We witnessed the fullness of His humanity and the heartfelt Love of God for the jewel of His creation – humanity – as He gazed upon it in a state of death, for which it was not created. At the same time, however we bear witness to Christ God in all His Power – in the ability to raise us from the dead. Lazarus – the friend of Christ represents the kind of relationship with our Lord that we all should strive for. Lazarus also represents all humanity and his resurrection from the tomb offers us the first taste of the General Resurrection of all mankind at the great and final judgment by our Lord. We all become aware that there is life beyond our earthly pilgrimage.
Having witnessed all this we join with the many people who had come to Bethany for Lazarus’ funeral and to comfort his sisters Martha and Mary, who so beautifully expressed the faith of humanity in the power of our Lord. We join the many more who came after the raising of Lazarus to see if it was true – all of whom became believers in Jesus Christ as the long awaited Messiah. Then on Palm Sunday we join in welcoming Him as He triumphantly enters the Holy City of Jerusalem to the cries of “Hosanna! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord! The King of Israel!” (Jn. 12:13)
It was in this joyful moment that His Eminence Metropolitan Antony entered the Parish of St. Panteleimon in Brooklyn, NY to lead the devoted clergy and faithful in the celebration of Divine Liturgy and blessing of the willow and palm branches symbolic of the day. The Church was filled to capacity and beyond with five hundred faithful who came to offer their praise and worship of our Savior and to receive the willow branches holding them up as symbols of Christ’s victory and their decision to live virtuous Christian lives. This is why His Eminence blessed all the faithful present within and without the Church with Holy Water following the blessing of the willows – because it is a day that they must be instilled with deep faith to endure the difficult days of Holy Week and beyond without falling victim to the power of the crowd, crying out “Crucify Him!”.
The parish priest V. Rev. Mykola Fylyk was first to welcome the Metropolitan at the entrance of the Church followed by members of the Parish Board of Administration and Sonia Roshnivka, who with deep emotion verbally embraced His Eminence with the love of all the faithful present and asked to his prayers for all. The Divine Liturgy was beautifully celebrated with responses sung by the men’s ensemble “Domine” visiting from Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine along with the parish choir under the direction of Petro Karabijnevych. His Eminence was accompanied and assisted during the Liturgy by seminarians Subdeacon Ivan Chopko and Volodymyr Jaworskyj. Also participating in the celebration were V. Rev. Volodymyr Muzychka, pastor of St. Volodymyr Cathedral, New York City and V. Rev. Mykola Andrushkiv, newly received into the ranks of our Church’s clergy and assisting at St. Panteleimon parish.
Metropolitan Antony has visited St. Panteleimon parish on Palm Sunday for many years and talks about the visit for weeks after each year’s visit. He speaks of the personal joy at witnessing so many of the faithful present with the hope that the willow branches they receive from him will remind them throughout Holy Week and the entire year following the Feast of Feasts – the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – that theirs is a sacred responsibility to live virtuous lives and to live in the Love of the One who gave Himself as a ransom for their salvation. His Eminence reminded everyone present that the willow branches are not just for display in their homes to prove that they were in church at least this one Sunday, but to give direction to their lives.
The most amazing thing about the feast in St. Panteleimon Parish is that the Divine Liturgy does not begin – with the blessing of His Eminence – until 12:30 p.m. The parish is blessed to be able to utilize Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church for Divine Liturgy each week, but must do so following the completion of the Greek Divine Liturgy. The Liturgy this day was not complete until 4:30 p.m. and no one departed early because of other “Sunday” things to do. The church was full of children who were so very excited to witness the beauty of the Liturgy and to be sprinkled with Holy Water holding their willows in hand.
Photos by Alex