Sts Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Palos Park, IL Celebrates the Feast of Holy Protomartyr Stephen With Vladyka Daniel
This winter has been quite unusual with jumping temperature from fifties to below zero in Fahrenheit and with little to no snow at all. At first it seemed like we were going to have the Nativity of Jesus Christ without snow at all. This would be the first time since I remember myself. However, snow did fell; we had white Christmas on the third day of Nativity.
This Year’s calendar was quite unique as well. Christmas and New Year both fell on a Sunday. The Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord and God Jesus Christ fell on a Saturday. Therefore, parishioners and friends of our parish had no reason not to come and celebrate all together the feast of the Feasts. Even though the temperature was bitterly cold, the temple of Sts. Peter and Paul was overfilled with worshipers, standing room only. The magnificent choir beautified the services with its singing of Festal Divine Liturgy followed by joyous caroling. The service was spiritually uplifting. Nicely decorated temple, burning candles, chatter of wrestles kids all added up to the glorious celebration. After the Divine Liturgy, faithful and guests of Sts. Peter and Paul enjoyed delicious banquet in honor of the Newborn King. Children of Sunday school were visited by St. Nicholas, who couldn’t do it in December due to his very busy schedule and weather conditions. The story of St. Nicholas was read by children to the delight of the filled church hall.
The second day of Nativity, the Synoxis of the Mother of God, was celebrated on the following day, Sunday. The celebration continued with the Divine Liturgy and more caroling.
On the third day of Nativity we were blessed with a visit of His Eminence Archbishop-Elect Daniel - President of the Consistory; Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy. His Eminence Daniel accompanied by Fr. Ivan Lymar, pastor of St. Volodymir cathedral in Chicago, IL and Very Rev. Fr. Vasyl Sendeah of Sts Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Palos Park, IL led the faithful in the Divine Liturgy, honoring St. Stephen the Protomartyr. After the Divine Liturgy everyone was invite to carol at the rectory and to enjoy provided luncheon. Attending parishioners and guests had the opportunity to venerate the actual relics of St. Stephen, which were brought by Vladyka Daniel. His Eminence, preached to us about the first martyr Stephen and what it really means to be the real follower of Christ, who is willing to sacrifice his life for Christ. He spoke of love which made St. Stephen be able to do what he has done to preach Christ through His life until the very last breath. Real examples of living in the love of Christ were shared by His Eminence. If those people were capable of spreading Christ’s love thorough their actions of compassion, so we too can share Christ’s love with the others by being Christ to those who are in need.
I had this wonderful opportunity to witness the power of Christ’s love in action, as His Eminence Daniel along with seminarian Ihor Protsak and my family made surprise visit to carol at a house of a homebound Josephine Hobert. You could see the tears of joy in her eyes as her first to be missed Christmas, was not missed anymore. According to her own words, she was going to miss Christmas celebration at the Church for the very first time, because of mobility issues, but the Christmas was brought to her. The true spirit of Christmas filled the house as carol after carol was song with such a joy by everyone present. All of a sudden it turned to be so warm and cozy in the house… filled with the love of the Newborn King, Jesus Christ our Lord. He was indeed among us, you could feel His presence. This feeling is hard to describe, but it felt heavenly. If this unique, awesome feeling is a pre-taste of His Heavenly Kingdom, we have a lot to look forward to.
I wish you all to have such experience this Nativity Season. We all can achieve that by simple sharing of Christ’s love with those who surround us. But first, we have to except His love by submitting our hearts to Him. Surrender to Christ’s love and He will lead you to experience the sweetness of His Heavenly Kingdom, yet here, on this earth.
Fr. Vasyl Sendeha
The Feast of Holy Protomartyr Stephen in Palos Park, IL - 01/12/2017
Photos by Seminarian Ihor Protsak and Donna Nevels