UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Consecration of New Holy Table and Iconography
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Broome St. – New York City
A beautiful fall day of 18 October, 2014 was the background after nearly five years of careful preparation, planning and arduous spiritual and physical effort, as the faithful of Holy Trinity Cathedral, along with their parish priest and Spiritual Father V. Rev. Todor Mazur, finally arrived at the blessed day on which the heart of their parish family – a new altar – along with a completely icon written interior of their church edifice – were consecrated by His Eminence Metropolitan Antony and His Grace Bishop Daniel. Eighteen clergy from local Ukrainian and Romanian Orthodox parishes, along with a mentor of Fr. Mazur from the Ukrainian Vicariate in Romania, Fr. Ilia and hundreds of faithful gathered for the richly spiritual and moving services and Agape feast, which followed. It was a nearly ten hour celebration that left none of the participants fatigued, but rather filled with spiritual joy and love.
The moving force behind the entire renewal project for the cathedral was specifically, Fr. Todor who meticulously and methodically oversaw the writing of the iconography by the iconographer in residence for the entire project Mr. Constantine, a native of Romania, whose love for our Holy Church and gratitude for the talents God has gifted him with, enabled him to create a spiritual monument as a gift in return to God, which will serve to inspire any individual – Orthodox or not – who enters the Church. Metropolitan Antony called Constantine forth at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy to introduce him to the faithful and to express the gratitude of all for his immense effort and to assure him of prayers that God will bless him abundantly for using his talents properly. His Eminence also advised Constantine to remember the words of our Lord: “Well done good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, therefore I will make you the ruler over many things, enter into the joy of your Lord.” (Matthew 25:23)
The liturgical services began with the consecration of the new Holy Table (Altar) in the Sanctuary of the Church. The Table symbolizes both the Tomb of Christ and the Throne of God. The Orthodox Altar Table is very specific in its design consisting of a lower surface and four corner posts, which support the upper surface of the Table. Each portion of the Table is blessed by the Bishops with Holy Water and put together during the service. It is a four-foot square cube structure with open sides. When the upper surface is placed on the fours posts, wooden pegs (nails) are placed into holes on the four corners, which extend into the posts beneath. The pegs are pounded into place with stones by the bishops and clergy, which is a loud process reminding the faithful of the nails and hammers utilized to hang our Lord on the Cross during the crucifixion and then sealed with wax-mastic, which symbolizing the sweet smelling spices Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus used to anoint the Body of Christ prior to burial. These stones are not discarded they are placed beneath the consecrated Holy Table. The Table is washed with warm water and rose fragrance and then anointed with Chrism with in the form of three crosses – where the Gospel, the Diskos and the Chalice will rest during Divine Liturgy .
In the center of the lower surface a fifth post rises up to the center of the cube supporting a container that holds the holy relics of a Saint place there by the consecrating hierarchs. In this particular Holy Table the Bishops chose to place the relics of the Holy First Called Apostle Andrew, the founder of the Holy Church of Ukraine, who the clergy and faithful of the parish will ask for prayers in behalf of the parish family for all time.
The relics were placed into the Holy Table following a procession along the along the police closed Broome Street (because there is no space to proceed three times around the Church itself as liturgically prescribed) of the great number of clergy and faithful present. The procession quickly drew the attention a few hundred people from the surrounding buildings and many tourists. It was a moment of Orthodox witness to the world.
The procession with the relics paused before the closed doors of the Church as the Bishops served a brief service preparing for the entrance of the relics into the Church. The Metropolitan made the sign of the Cross on the doors with the relics and proclaimed: “The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory!” and then carries the relics into the Sanctuary where they are placed within the Altar Table forever reminding those who worship in the Church that it was built upon the blood of our Lord and the Holy Martyrs, who will pray unceasingly for all.
The Holy Table had been covered with its first cover, a fitted white cloth “shirt” as it is called, which represents the winding sheet in which our Lord was wrapped for burial after His Precious Body was removed from the Cross. The Table was then bound with a long rope cord, which wraps around the four corner posts sixteen times forming a cross on each side of the alter and represents the rope used to bind the hands of our Lord as He was brought before Annas and Caiaphas to be judged before His crucifixion. After the placing of the relics, the final outer covering of brilliant color and design representing the glory of the Throne of God, is placed. The clergy then proceeded to the nave of the Church to bring all the liturgical vessels and items utilized at the Table for placement by the Bishops.
At the conclusion of the consecration of the Holy Table, Metropolitan Antony and Bishop Daniel proceeded to anoint the renovated Church and to bless the magnificent iconography throughout, from ceiling to floor, from the vestibule, choir loft, throughout the nave and into the Holy Sanctuary. The faithful struggle to place themselves also under the spray of the Holy Water of the blessings.
Singing the responses for the entire consecration service were members of St. Andrew Memorial Church Choir (South Bound Brook, NJ) under the direction of Dr. Michael Andrec. Several members of the parish, including the sons of Fr. Todor, Daniel and Subdeacon Adrian and visitors from Ukraine assisted the choir in the chanting of the many Psalms and other readings utilized during the service. In thanking the Choir, Metropolitan Antony commented on the fact that the Choir is very accustomed to singing during Divine Liturgy, but to sing the lengthy service of a Church consecration is a very different matter and took a great deal of preparation.
Immediately following the Consecration service the Hierarchal Divine Liturgy was celebrated by His Eminence Metropolitan Antony. (Bishop Daniel departed to represent our Church at the official ground-breaking for the reconstruction of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at Ground-Zero, which was completely crushed ad destroyed by the falling buildings of the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001. This church will stand as a gleaming marble focal point of prayer right next to the memorial structures where the Twin Towers originally stood.) The Divine Liturgy was an emotionally moving service during which the presence of the Holy Spirit was abundantly experienced by the clergy and faithful. Singing the responses for the Liturgy was the premier Ukrainian Chorus of New York City – the Dumka Choir – under the direction of Maestro Vasyl Hrechynsky. Metropolitan Antony, in expressing the gratitude of all present, commented that this was the first time Dumka had sung the responses for an entire Divine Liturgy and that it was a magnificent accomplishment for the Glory of God and the edification of the faithful present.
At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, Metropolitan Antony spoke about a tradition he first witnessed in 1997 following his participation in the Consecration of a renovated Ukrainian Orthodox Church, part of the Ukrainian Vicariat of the Romanian Orthodox Patriarchate, in Sighet, Romania at the invitation of then Patrarch of Romania, His Beatitude Teoctist. Bishop Justinian, the presiding hierarch for the consecration, invited all the faithful – over 6,000 present – to visit and venerate the Holy Table. According to tradition it is the only time in the life of a parish community when anyone other than clergy and altar servers are permitted to do so. Fr. Todor, born and raised in Romania requested that the tradition be observed for this day. It was a very emotional time to witness the complete devotion and humility of the faithful who came forth praying for their loved ones and themselves at such a holy moment.
The day’s festivities concluded with an Agape Feast at the Ukrainian Home in Ukrainian Village on the lower East Side of Manhattan – just a short distance from Holy Trinity Church, which is located in the heart of New York’s Chinatown. Mrs. Hoshovsky served as Master of Ceremonies for the Feast, fulfilling her responsibilities in a lively and loving way, which left no room for boredom in the room. Children of the parish school sang the Ukrainian and United States national anthems and other songs and Dumka Choir performed once again. Fr. Dean Ilia from Romania, spoke of his long relationship with Fr. Todor Mazur, Dobrodiyka Olena and their sons and expressed his deep gratitude for the invitation for share in the joy of the present celebration.
Fr. Todor expressed his deep gratitude to all present for the consecration and to all the faithful of the parish who had in any way contributed to the work, which concluded with the celebration. The most evident feeling throughout the entire day was the incredible depth of love that all the faithful members of the parish and beyond have for Fr. Todor Mazur. Words cannot express the depth of this feeling of love…it was just so completely evident, as was the depth of love Fr. Todor had for each of them. It was a beautiful thing to experience such love.
The great celebration in the life of Holy Trinity Cathedral concluded on Sunday morning – 19 October. Bishop Daniel returned to celebrate Divine Liturgy and award hramotas of blessing to those individuals who have contributed so much to the life of the parish and the process of renovation now completed. Another Agape Feast followed Divine Liturgy, which saw the participation of the vast majority of the hundreds of faithful who were present the day before!
Photos by Subdeacon Volodymyr Sukanets