The spiritually uplifting day had finally arrived, as the parishioners of the Protection of the Holy Theotokos Ukrainian Orthodox church, in Allentown, PA, gathered excitedly on the steps of their church. Saturday, July 27th2019 was the day that long-time friend, colleague, and instructor, Deacon Richard Jendras would be ordained into the Holy Priesthood of the Holy Orthodox Church.
As the hour of ordination arrived, the clergy gathered at the entrance, joining the faithful who waited to greet His Eminence Archbishop Daniel. Seeing their beloved Vladyka coming up the walkway, the youngest children squirmed out of their mother’s hands and ran forward to present His Eminence with bouquets of colorful flowers. Squeals of joy and laughter ensued as Archbishop Daniel gathered them all in a single large bear hug.
Presented with an elegant korovai by members of the Parish Board, His Eminence stepped forward to accept the formal pastoral greeting from Very Rev. Anthony Perkins, who then led the way in to the nave as the choir sang “From the rising to the setting of the sun, the name of the Lord is to be praised. Blessed be the name of the Lord, from henceforth and forever!”
The beautifully gilded church soon filled with parishioners and visitors. The clergy participating in the Divine Liturgy were brothers in Christ from various Orthodox Traditions – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the Orthodox Church of America, and the Carpatho-Rusyn Metropolia. Assisting His Eminence and the clergy were seminarians from the St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary, Subdeacon Ivan Venhryn, Yaroslav Bilohan and Pavlo Vysotskyi. The cathedral choir, under the direction of Natalia Honcharenko-Andrec of St. Andrew the-First Called Apostle Ukrainian Orthodox Memorial Church (South Bound Brook, NJ) chanted responses to the achpastoral Divine Liturgy.
The reading was from the Gospel according to St. Matthew 9:18-26, which reiterated the power of one’s faith in Christ. The congregation heard how the woman who had suffered bleeding for twelve years was healed merely by touching the hem of Christ’s robe. “Be of good cheer, daughter, your faith has made you well.” (Matthew 9:22) This miracle was followed by the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter who had died and been brought back to life because her father’s faith in Christ.
Very Rev. Stephen Hutnick delivered a moving and compelling sermon, reiterating the importance of our faith in Christ. He reminded those listening that through our level of faith we are either saved or condemned. Fr. Steve explained that if we wish to be successful in even the smallest things throughout our days, we need to realize that we will only succeed with Christ’s help. Nothing is too inconsequential, or menial, for us to seek His assistance and guidance.
As the congregation stood in silence, contemplating these words, and their deeper meaning, Deacon Richard censed the icons one last time as a deacon. At the conclusion of the Great Entrance he stepped to the back of the church, flanked by two deacons. He was no longer arrayed in his deacon’s robes but was wearing a simple white pidryasnyk, which is worn by all priests under their vestments. This garment represents the baptismal robe, and is the “robe of salvation”: the white garment in which every Christian is clothed on his day of baptism, symbolizing the new humanity of Jesus and life in the Kingdom of God.
The two deacons took Deacon Richard by the elbows and slowly led him forward towards the altar, stopping three times to allow him to prostrate before God. As the procession arrived before the Royal Gates, the two deacons called out, “Command! Holy Master, bless him who is before thee!”
With these words, Deacon Richard was led into the Altar, where he was now taken by priests who led him three times around the altar table, stopping to kiss each corner. As they reached the Northwest corner of each rotation, Deacon Richard knelt before Archbishop Daniel, kissed his Epigonation/Palitza, which is the diamond shaped cloth that hangs from his right hip and denotes him as a “soldier” of Christ, symbolizing the Word of God fighting against evil.
Having completed three rotations, Deacon Richard knelt at the Southwest corner of the Altar Table, rested his hands upon the table, and leaned his head upon his hands. Vladyka Daniel covered his head with his Epitrachelion and his right hand, as he read the Prayers of Cheirotonia over him. He then raised up Father Richard and with the newly ordained priest quietly standing to one side, the hierarch then presented each item of the priestly vestments to the faithful proclaiming “Axios” starting with the stole or epitrachelion which goes around the neck and shoulders. It is the sign of the pastoral office and symbolizes the sheep (Christ’s flock) that he now carry’s upon his shoulders.
After the Epitrachelion came the cuffs, which when put on before Liturgy, remind the priest as he reads the psalms, that his hands belong to God. The cuffs were followed by the belt with which God “girds him with strength”, and finally by the outermost garment, the phelonion. This garment represents the priestly life and is donned before Liturgy as the priest recites Psalm 132, “Thy priests, O Lord, shall clothe themselves in righteousness, and the saints shall rejoice with joy always now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.”
Now fully vested, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, led Father Richard onto the ambo and presented him to the faithful with a resounding “Axios”, which was echoed back by the congregation, “Axios!”
The Liturgy now continued, with Father Richard concelebrating with his brother priests. Unseen by most of the faithful, a very poignant moment took place as following the consecration of the Holy Gifts, Archbishop Daniel called the new priest to the front of the Altar and handed him the consecrated Lamb saying: “Receive thou this pledge, and preserve it whole and unharmed until thy last breath, because thou shalt be held to an accounting therefore in the Second and Awesome Coming of our Great Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
As the Royal Gates reopened, His Eminence handed the Chalice to Father Richard who proceeded to offer Communion to the faithful who had lined up to receive the Gifts which the Lord had lovingly prepared and was offering to them.
At the conclusion of the service, His Eminence took a moment to share some wisdom with the new priest, reiterating the importance of the role he now undertakes in the Church of Christ, and asking that those gathered pray fervently for the good health and the Lord’s blessings upon Fr. Richard. Finally, Archbishop Daniel presented Fr. Richard with a formal Hramota/Certificate of his ordination to the Holy Priesthood of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
Before presenting the cross for veneration, His Eminence explained to the parishioners, that while priests pastor the flock, members of that flock also play a vital role in the success of the Church. One such individual was long time Parish Board President, Nikolai Fartuch. Vladyka praised him for all his hard work over the years, his selfless dedication to the Church, and awarded him with a Centennial Medal in gratitude and recognition of his devotion to Christ.
Proudly wearing the medal, Mr. Fartuch joined the parishioners as they all came up to venerate the cross presented to them by newly ordained Father Richard Jendras, who will now be serving the parish.
The faithful approached with smiles, congratulating and hugging the newly ordained priest before departing the beauty of the church, and taking the joy of Christ which was renewed in them out into the world beyond.
The luncheon, in honor of the newly-ordained priest of the Church, was skillfully prepared and presented to all in attendance by the cathedral’s Sisterhood.
Text by Elizabeth Symonenko
Photos by Seminarian Yaroslav Bilohan