UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA Pilgrims Pray at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher
Lighting a candle is a way of extending one's prayer to Almighty God and showing solidarity with the person on whose behalf the prayer is offered.
In lighting of candles we remember and truly live the words of Our Lord: "I am the Light of the World." The Light of Christ was truly experience by the pilgrims of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA in the early hours of Sunday morning, November 16, 2014, when surrounded by several thousands of pilgrims from around the world, three bishops led a procession to the grave of the Savior for the celebration of the Holy Mystery of Eucharist.
Prior to that, in the last hours of Saturday evening the group of Ukrainian Orthodox pilgrims left the hotel to visit the Holy Sepulcher for the Divine Liturgy. The walled city was empty, the maze of pathways, dark and narrow, are normally full of people of all faiths, crisscrossing each way, during the day.
The pilgrims walked along the slick marble and imperfect steps, and entered the Holy Sepulcher, arguably the most important religious site on the globe. Dark, decrepit, crumbling …overwhelmingly humble is this site. In Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian museums, a testament to modern humanity’s accomplishments, are the Ritz Carlton of museums. In Jerusalem, the site of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and tomb…one has an overwhelming feeling that humanity may forget soon…when one sees the humble, dilapidated condition of the Holy Sepulcher. As Bishop Daniel noted, the site’s humility, if that is what one can call neglect, mirrored Christ’s humility and divine perfection. The contrast will bring you to your knees.
With the blessing of His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and All Palestine, His Grace Bishop Daniel, Very Rev. Fr. Volodymyr Steliac and Rev. Fr. Anthony Perkins participated in the Divine Liturgy at Holy Sepulcher Church. The prayers of three bishops, among which was His Grace Bishop Daniel, representing Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, proclaimed the petitions in Greek, English, Ukrainian and Church-Slovanic languages. With over 50 priests and over 300 faithful receiving Holy Eucharist, the prayers of the faithful touched every soul not only in the Church of Sepulcher but also throughout the world…
…Church of the Holy Sepulcher - Church of the Anastasis (i.e. Resurrection) is the most important site in Christendom. The structure, which has been destroyed by invaders and rebuilt by the Greek Orthodox Christians, with cooperation of the emperors throughout the ages, holds within it the authentic places of Jesus Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. Renovations and restorations have been made as recently as the last two centuries, and even presently.
Upon entering the Church, there lies the stone where the body of Christ was anointed before burial. A colorful mosaic behind the anointing stone illustrates the events leading up to the resurrection. To the right, up a steep stairway, one comes upon Golgotha, also known as the "place of the skull," where Jesus was crucified.
According to tradition, this is the skull of Adam, buried there by Noah after the flood brought the ark to its resting place. By divine providence, the messiah was crucified in the same spot, his blood symbolically washing away the sin of Adam. At each side of the altar, preserved behind glass, lies the stone from the original site. Underneath the altar table, thousands of people each day venerate the hole in the ground where the True Cross once stood.
Down the stairs, to the left side of the anointing stone stands the aedicule marking the site of the tomb where Jesus Christ was buried after his crucifixion. Thousands of people come to venerate and visit the site each year. As the main custodians of the shrine, the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulcher, the monastic order of the Greek Orthodox Church, ensures that the shrine remains open to all people regardless of ethnicity or religion.
Across from the All-Holy Tomb is the Greek Orthodox katholikon, which is centered in between dreadful Golgotha and the Life-Giving Tomb, and is the largest church in the Holy Sepulcher. Liturgies are celebrated throughout the week, including nighttime vigils, in both Golgotha and the Tomb. Holy Week and Pascha are the culmination of the entire ecclesiastical year, especially in the Holy Land. At the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the ceremony of the Holy Light is watched by the world. It is a miraculous event in which the Greek Orthodox Patriarch enters the empty aedicule wearing only a white garment, and is sealed inside, where he prays. Throughout history, an unexplained fire has spontaneously lit the candles of the Patriarch, or sometimes pilgrims waiting outside. The fire, which jubilantly announces the resurrection, is shared with the other five Christian representations of the Holy Sepulcher and is also carried to every corner of the globe.
Other important sites within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher include the prison of Christ, where Jesus was held before being led to Golgotha for crucifixion, the site of his flagellation and the crowning of thorns. The sound of whipping and grunting has reportedly been heard by pious Christians who venerate the site, especially on Great Holy Friday. Down a stone stairway, deep within the enormous structure of the church, lies a cave-like chapel marking the place where St. Helen found the True Cross. A piece of the Cross can be found inside the office of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, open for all to venerate, as well as significant relics from saints such Mary Magdalene, St. John the Baptist, St. Basil the Great, St. Panteleimon, as well as many others.
Although invaders throughout the centuries wreaked havoc on the original, once larger structure, the magnificence of the church lies in its enormity. It encapsulates within its great stone walls, the sites where God, through his own sacrifice, offered salvation to his entire creation…
… On the way out, at 4:30 am, one sees nuns and common folk alike, young and old, some not able to walk, some strong, all kneeling to kiss the stone and pray, without ever looking up, at the slab that Christ’s body was placed upon after he was taken off the cross. If you wonder how they know whether the events of the crucifixion occurred, you have only to see the guardians of the tomb, and imagine two thousand years of unbroken dedication to protecting, sharing, fighting for, and preserving Christ’s messages, even when no one listened or listens…
As Bishop Daniel was leaving the Holy Church of Sepulcher, hundreds of Orthodox Christians (including those of Ukraine, USA, etc.) approached to receive a blessing; a blessing of a spiritual father of the Church, who following in the footsteps of Christ, minutes before proclaimed the words of Christ at the Holy Supper: “Take, eat – this is My Body, which is broken for many for the remission of sins! Drink of it, all of you; this is My Blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins…”
In the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the pilgrims of the Church joyfully chanted in Ukrainian and English languages: “Christ is Risen from the dead; trembling death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!”
As this years pilgrims of our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA we wish you could see it with your own eyes… Consider embarking on the life-changing and spiritually uplifting trip next year. For more information, call the office of His Grace Bishop Daniel at (732) 356-0090.