UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Theophany of our Lord Celebration with Bishop Daniel in Jones, Oklahoma
On Sunday 17 January 2016, His Grace Bishop DANIEL assisted by three subdeacons and seven altar servers presided over a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at his parish of St Mary Dormition Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Jones, Oklahoma.
Upon his arrival to the parish’s temple, Archimandrite Raphael, Parish President David Hobza, welcomed the Bishop and Mrs. Constanta Palivoda presented a traditional beautifully baked bread and salt.
Following the Liturgy, a full lunch with a great variety of both local and ethnic foods was prepared and served by the ladies of St Mary's Ukrainian Orthodox Sisterhood. St Mary Church is quite isolated from the rest of the Ukrainian Orthodox communities in the United States, the nearest neighbors being Las Cruces and Los Alamos in New Mexico on one hand, and churches in the Chicago area on the other. Bishop Daniel, one of our few connections with the UOC of the USA, is therefore always welcomed by the parish and especially so by the pastor.
This year St Mary Church had other special guests: Tanya Matsyshena and her mother Yana Matsyshena from Vinnitsa, Ukraine. Tanya was born missing one leg and ever since has been supported by the parishioners of the parish and the Shriner's Hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana. Now that she is 10-years-old and her old prosthetic device cannot be modified again, it is necessary to construct a new one for the delightful young lady.
In his sermon Vladyka Daniel spoke of the significance of the feast of Theophany. “We’re blessing the waters as a physical reminder of the responsibility we have to care for the earth,” said the bishop. “Each year, we place a cross into the waters asking Jesus Christ to send down the Holy Spirit for the cleansing and sanctification of the water… The triple miracle which took place on this occasion — the opening of the heavens, the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove and the testimony of God the Father — completely convinced Saint John that Jesus Christ was the awaited Messiah. The visible descent of the Holy Spirit on the Messiah was exactly what Saint John was waiting for, because at the very beginning, when he was sent to preach as a prophet, God told him: "Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He Who baptizes with the Holy Spirit." Consequently, from that moment John the Baptist could unmistakably and without the slightest doubt testify to all that Jesus is the Messiah and the Lamb of God that takes upon Himself the sins of the world. Soon after the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ, John sent some of his disciples to Him: the brothers Andrew (the First-called Apostle) and Peter and the brothers James and John (the Theologian). They joined Christ and became His first disciples and apostles… The Feast of the Theophany, or the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ, is, along with Pascha, one of the most ancient Christian holidays. It is dedicated to our Lord’s Baptism in the Jordan River. From ancient times Christians celebrated this feast day with great enthusiasm, because it reminded them of their own baptism and stirred them to a deeper consciousness of the power of this Mystery… As we celebrate today the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Jordan, let us thank God for the free gift of salvation through the grace of baptism. Let us also earnestly ask him for the grace to keep us faithful to our baptismal promises to say no to Satan and all his false promises and to say yes to God even unto death.”
It would be an untruth to say that Bishop Daniel “sprinkled” those present with Sanctified Water, a great untruth indeed. His Grace literally flooded the entire temple and saturated every person there, through and through, with holiness.
Immediately following the Divine Liturgy, Vladyka Daniel escorted by Archimandrite Raphael and Seminarians Volodymyr Yavorskyi and Tadei Surak traveled to a home of 108 years old parishioner of the parish family – Mrs. Mary Erbin, who is one of the founding members of the parish community. During their visit, Bishop Daniel communed the homebound parishioner and shared with her the joy the Feast of Theophany of our Lord.
The feeling of festal joy was palpable as the hymns of Theophany were sung in the candlelit church; as His Grace blessed the temple; and as the parishioners prayerfully greeted their archpastor and drank deeply of the newly-blessed waters. All appreciated the time Vladyka spent with the parish, manifesting the episcopal ministry through his prayer, teaching, encouragement, and fellowship, and especially on this, the Great Feast of Theophany.
The ladies of the Sisterhood, once again, served a luncheon for everyone present. But in this life, all good things must come to an end, and Wednesday morning Father Raphael and seminarians Tadei Surak and Volodymer Lavorskyi drove His Grace to the airport for his next episcopal visitation. The seminarians will depart for St Sophia Seminary in New Jersey two days later. They will all be very much missed.
Theophany Celebration with Bishop Daniel in Oklahoma - 01/20/16
Photos by Brittany Foglesong and Seminarians Volodymyr Yavorskyi & Tadei Surak