Подвійне свято в Духовному Осередку - Митрополії УПЦ США
After weeks of grey days, the sun finally burst through the clouds, and joyfully lit up the Metropolia Center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. On Saturday, the 30th of September, the Orthodox Church commemorates St. Anthony the Great, the patron saint of His Eminence Antony, Metropolitan and Prime Hierarch of the UOC of the USA and the Diaspora.
Ascending the church steps were the clergy and faithful from nearby parishes, as they arrived to not only celebrate Metropolitan Antony’s Name’s day, but, also his birthday. However, they were in for a treat, because there would be an additional celebration – the ordination to the Deaconate of Subdeacon Myroslav Mykytyuk.
With the subdeacon humbly dressed in white, standing on the solea holding the bishop’s staff, the Royal Gates swung open revealing His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, and His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the UOC of the USA, resplendent in their hierarchal vestments that gleamed brightly in the morning light.
In preparation for the commencement of the Liturgy, the clergy descended from the altar to form two columns flanking the hierarchs who came and stood in the middle of the nave. With the Metropolitan’s blessing, V. Rev. Yuriy Siwko, pastor of St. Andrew Memorial Church, announced, “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: now and ever, and unto the ages of ages!” from the altar, and the choir burst forth in praising the Lord.
At the Small Entrance, having presented the Holy Gospel to the bishops for veneration, the priest carrying the Gospel proclaimed, “Wisdom! Aright!” and returned to the altar, followed by the remaining clergy, and finally by the hierarchs, as the choir sang, “O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ. O Son of God!”
As the Trisagion was prayed, the faithful crossed themselves and bowed low before the Thrice Holy God, lost in prayer… as the deep, strong voices of the clergy, sang out “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, Have mercy on us!” their voices resonating through the nave up into the dome, to be mingled with the softer voices of the choir who echoed back “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, Have mercy on us!”, transfixing all in a prayer that swirled around and above them, thinning the lines between the earthly and the spiritual realms.
On this joyous occasion, the day’s Gospel proclaiming the Beatitudes (Luke 6:17-23) was read in Ukrainian by His Eminence Metropolitan Antony and in English by His Eminence Archbishop Daniel.
“He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.
Looking at his disciples, he said:
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.”
These words were even more poignant than usual today, in the presence of a young man who was just embarking on his spiritual path in the Lord’s Vineyard, and a Metropolitan of the Church, with years of experience tending to the Vineyard. One just opening his eyes, and the other with opened eyes, leading the way for others.
The Liturgy continued, ebbing, and flowing, as prayers were lifted for the healing of all who were ill, especially those who suffered from the coronavirus at the root of the current pandemic, and for the wellbeing of those who were caring for them, as well as for all people everywhere, that the Lord should safeguard, protect, and have mercy upon all.
An hour into Divine Liturgy, led by their hierarchs, the faithful began to solemnly recite the Creed.
“I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth and of all things visible and invisible….”
There voices were joined by the heavenly voices, accented by the chiming of the church bells which were marking 11 o’clock.
“And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages.”
“Light of light; true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by Whom all things were made…”
The bells continued to chime throughout the entire recitation of the prayer, and as the choir sang “Amen” the bells let out their final toll.
After the Anaphora, as the Hymn to the Theotokos was being sung, Subdeacon Myroslav emerged from the Altar and headed to the back of the church.
A voice echoed from the altar, “Command!” The two subdeacons flanking the candidate for the Deaconate, took hold of him, and led him forward to stand in the center of the Nave, where he made a prostration. Again was heard, “Command!”, and the young man was led closer to the Altar, stopping and prostrating before the icon on the tetrapod. A third time “Command!” was exclaimed, and as the words “Holy Master, bless him who is before thee,” were uttered, Subdeacon Myroslav was greeted before the Altar by two priests who escorted him in through the Royal Gates where he prostrated before his bishop, Archbishop Daniel, who was seated at the Northwest corner of the Holy Table.
Having received the blessing, Subdeacon Myroslav rose up, and being escorted by two priests he was lead around the Holy Table three times. Each time, he kissed each of the four corners of the Altar Table followed by the hand and epigonation (palitsa) of the seated Bishop. The epigonation (the diamond shaped article hanging below the bishop’s knee) holds a dual meaning. First, it denotes the celebrant as a "soldier" of Christ. Second, it symbolizes the Word of God, fighting the wiles of the enemy. After the third time around, Archbishop Daniel stood up as Subdeacon Myroslav kneeled at the southwest corner of the Holy Table, placed his right hand over his left hand on the edge of the Holy Table, and then placed his forehead on top of his hands.
Placing his own hands atop of the candidate’s head, Archbishop Daniel read the Prayer of Ordination:
“O God our Savior, who by Your incorruptible voice did appoint unto Your Apostles the law of the Diaconate, and did manifest the first Martyr, Stephen, to be of the same; and did proclaim him the first who should exercise the office of a Deacon, as it is written in Your Holy Gospel, “Whosoever desires to be first among you, let him be your servant”: Do Thou, O Master of all, fill also this Your servant, whom Thou hast graciously permitted to enter upon the ministry of a Deacon, with all faith, and love, and power, and holiness, through the inspiration of Your Holy and Life-Giving Spirit; for not through the laying-on of my hands, but through the visitation of Your rich bounties, is Grace bestowed upon Your worthy ones; that he, being devoid of all sin, may stand blameless before Thee in the awesome Day of Your Judgment, and receive the unfailing reward of Your promise. For Thou art our God, and unto Thee are due all glory, honor, and worship, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages, Amen.”
As the Archbishop was praying, and the Lord was acting, all the people present, clergy and laity, raised their voices and repeatedly sang “Lord have mercy! Господи помилуй!”
As the prayers were completed, newly ordained Deacon Myroslav rose to his feet and stood facing the people, as Archbishop Daniel took each piece of the new deacon’s vestments, blessed them and presented them to the people before placing them upon the young man.
First was the orarion, which is the deacon’s stole that is draped over his left shoulder allowing him to raise the front portion with his right hand, like a raised angel’s wing, while reading the litanies, and performing other tasks. As His Eminence stepped forward and raised the orarion before the people, he exclaimed “Axios!” and the people replied, “Axios! Worthy! Гідний!”
Next Vladyka presented the cuffs, which remind the deacon that he serves by the power and Grace of God, not on his own merit, and are a symbol of the bonds that tied the Savior’s hands during His Passion. The cuffs were followed by a Service Book, from which the Deacon will read the prayers during the services. Next His Eminence presented the people was a ripida/church fan. The ceremonial fan is used during processions, and always stands by the Holy Table. This fan depicts the six-winged Seraphim, and was presented to the Deacon because he now, like the Seraphim, serves at the Altar Table of God.
The final presentation made by the Archbishop was the Deacon himself, as he led him out onto the solea and presented him to the faithful. Axios! Axios! Axios!
As the Liturgy continued with the singing of the Lord’s Prayer, Deacon Myroslav now serving beside the Altar Table, prayed fervently for the Lord’s guidance.
During the Communion of the Clergy, the seminarians sang several Christmas Carols before the Royal Gates swung open and His Eminence Archbishop Daniel walked out followed by Deacon Myroslav who was holding the Holy Chalice. We can only imagine the trepidation and awe of Deacon Myroslav as he held the very Body and Blood of Christ in his hands for the very first time. Having prayed the pre-Communion prayer, Archbishop Daniel took the Chalice from him, and proceeded to commune all the faithful who approached in fear and love.
After the Dismissal, as the Divine Liturgy concluded, and Eminence Metropolitan Antony gave his blessing, Fr. Taras Naumenko came forth and prayed that the Lord grant many years to His Eminence Metropolitan Antony as he celebrates his birthday and Name’s day. The clergy, choir, and faithful (even those watching the livestream from their homes) all broke out in a loud and joyous rendition of “Mnohaya Lita! God grant you many years!” Another round of “Mnohaya Lita” followed as the words were sung for the newly ordained Deacon.
With the walls still reverberating with song, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel joined Metropolitan Antony on the solea. Vladyka Daniel took this opportunity to greet His Eminence Metropolitan Antony on behalf of the clergy and faithful of the Church, on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of his seventieth birthday and namesday.
Archbishop Daniel stated that he joins the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who sent a letter of greeting earlier in the week, in expressing his great honor and joy at serving alongside the Metropolitan. It is clear that the Ecumenical Patriarch treasures Vladyka Antony’s input in the world of Orthodoxy, and values his caretaking of the flock of Christ.
Vladyka Daniel stated that we all pray the Lord grants Metropolitan Antony good health and many years of service in the life of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church so he can continue to touch the lives of many men, women, and children across our country and throughout the Diaspora where he serves as Metropolitan.
Archbishop Daniel recalled when he was a deacon, and Fr. Stephen Hutnick first introduced him to then Archbishop Antony. At the time Vladyka had not yet taken the name of “Daniel” and was known by his baptismal name of “Volodymyr”. Therefore, in gratitude to Metropolitan Antony, his Spiritual Father, in appreciation and acknowledgement that it was due to his leadership and spiritual care, that today he was able to pass on the Grace of God, which came to him through Metropolitan, and he was able to pass on to Deacon Myroslav, Archbishop Daniel gifted Metropolitan Antony a panagia with an icon of Equal-to-the-Apostles St. Volodymyr. Vladyka Daniel stated that he was known as “Volodymyr” on the day they first met, and may this panagia serve to remind His Eminence of their first fortuitous and God inspired meeting.
Graciously accepting the thoughtful gift, Metropolitan Antony took a moment to greet all those who were presented. He explained that this was only the third time he was able to stand at the Altar of God and serve with his brother Archbishop Daniel and all the clergy, in nearly a year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he has mostly been living in isolation, with only his dog and cat for company.
The Metropolitan stated that on one hand this has been the most difficult year of his life. He was always social, and enjoyed visiting parishes, and being among the people; being able to touch them and share the Word of God with them. The isolation forced him into a new way of life. Not being able to physically travel, His Eminence turned more introspective and undertook spiritual travel instead. He stated that he became closer to his patron saint, the Venerable St. Anthony, and was able to better understand and relate to the life the saint had lived – choosing to isolate himself from people, seeking solace in the desert in hopes of coming closer to God. In the self-imposed isolation the humble monk did in fact grow nearer to Christ, in so much that Christ rewarded him with wisdom and the strength to guide others, and the others came. Soon thousands of people trekked through the desert in search of the wisdom of St. Anthony.
Therefore, His Eminence continued, that while this was a difficult year, it was also one of the best, in that he had the time and the silence to focus himself, still his spirit and quiet his thoughts, allowing him to gain a deeper understanding of his own monastic calling, for even though he and Archbishop Daniel are both monks, their paths have led them to live amongst the people, in the public eye, instead of being sequestered in the peaceful solitude of a monastery.
In this year, Metropolitan Antony explained, he has gotten a deeper understanding of himself, and a better understanding of those around him. While not being able to associate with the clergy, seminarians, or faithful has laid heavy within his heart and soul, he now has a greater understanding of what it is to be “alone with God”, and to be a true monk following the example of his patron saint. He reminded us all of St. Anthony’s struggles, and that we all, as we come nearer to God, face a barrage of temptations as the evil forces try to push us away from God and salvation. St. Anthony fought against them each day until he reposed in the Lord at the age of 105, and so should we also fight and remain strong throughout our own lives.
His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, took a moment to express his heartfelt gratitude to Archbishop Daniel for his care and kindness. Without his support over the previous year, he would have suffered greatly not being able to personally be in the office or visit the parishes and faithful. The Metropolitan hailed Archbishop Daniel’s many accomplishments and selfless sacrifice in his tireless caring for the flock of Christ, the successful running of not only the St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary, and the administrative aspects of the Church, but also being a pivotal instrument of the Lord in the Unification Sobor in Ukraine, in unifying the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and achieving the granting of the Tomos. His Eminence stated about Vladyka Daniel, “From the moment he sat down in front of me, I knew, through the Holy Spirit, that I had found my successor… even before he had spoken a single word to me.”
Turning towards the newly ordained deacon, Metropolitan Antony stated that on this day the Holy Spirit has descended upon him, into his very heart and soul, and that this will allow him to be more than even he can imagine. He told Deacon Myroslav that he is being transformed, today into a deacon, and soon into a priest, and to remember to do all works through God. He told the deacon that he cannot say he is tired, for only those who depend on their own energies get tired. He is not to depend on himself, but, on God. Today, he was filled with the Grace of God, the same Grace we all receive upon our baptisms, but is given in a deeper sense to those who are ordained into the priesthood. Metropolitan instructed Deacon Myroslav that he is to depend upon this Grace throughout his life, and through it make all decisions. He must allow that Grace to well up inside him, heal and protect him, and allow him to then minister to others in the service of God, for all his life.
His Eminence told the new deacon that he is never to think he is alone, or that he needs to deal with earthly people in earthly terms. No. He is always to deal with them in heavenly terms. He is to allow God to work through him always, and through him, to work in the people.
Metropolitan Antony continued in his advice for the young man, which holds true for us all, that when we become angry or judgmental of others, we are not allowing the Grace of the Lord to work within us. It is that Grace which will allow us to see how Christ sees others. Therefore, His Eminence reminded the deacon to always allow the Grace of God to flow through him.
With these final words he bestowed his blessing upon the young man, as Archbishop Daniel came to join them on the solea and to say a few words.
His Eminence Archbishop Daniel greeted all those present, as well the family and friends of the deacon who were watching the live broadcast. Turning to the deacon he told him that today he has attained the ability to truly carry the Cross of Christ. He explained that today they all embrace him spiritually, and encourage him to successfully complete the tasks placed before him. He is to now be like St. Stephen, the first deacon, and the first martyr for Christ, who gave his life to protect and defend God. His Eminence stated that now Deacon Myroslav stands and serves at the Altar Table, and he is never to be afraid to defend the Faith. There will be many temptations, but he is to remain strong. The faithful want to see in their clergy something they only aspire to, but themselves have not yet achieved. They wish to see the perfect example of Christianity, which will inspire them to continue in their own struggles towards perfection. Therefore, His Eminence reminded the young deacon that he has now an added responsibility and a deeper calling.
Turning to the camera, Archbishop Daniel, addressed Christina, Deacon Myroslav’s wife, stating that today she became an even more integral part of her husband’s life. Today, as he has taken on new responsibilities, so she has also taken on a greater role to uphold the standards of Christianity and to spread the seeds of Faith to the people of the world.
Also addressing the camera, His Eminence Metropolitan Antony greeted and thanked Deacon Myroslav’s family, explaining that both his father and grandfather are clergy in the Church. His Eminence thanked the parents and grandparents, who were watching, for nurturing such an extraordinary and faithful son, and for raising him to serve Christ and his Church. Bestowing his blessings upon the family members, His Eminence turned as Deacon Myroslav stepped forward.
The young deacon first greeted Metropolitan Antony with his birthday and namesday, wishing the Lord’s blessings upon him. He thanked his Metropolitan for all the years of guidance, education and love he had shown to him, as he walked up and gifted him a large bouquet of roses.
Turning to Archbishop Daniel with a second bouquet of roses, Deacon Myroslav continued by thanking His Eminence for ordaining him to the Holy Deaconate, and for all the guidance and care he had bestowed upon him over the years. He promised that he would go forth and put all his efforts towards doing the best he can in serving the Lord. He thanked him for his spiritual example of selflessness and dedication, and for being the Spiritual Father to all the seminarians, for taking an interest in their lives and wellbeing. As a Spiritual Father, His Eminence always discerned their needs, even when they did not know what they were, and through gentle guidance and words he always managed to direct and strengthen them.
Turning back to the camera, Deacon Myroslav thanked his wife for always encouraging and supporting him, and for not being afraid to join him on this spiritual journey through life. Thanking his parents and grandparents for raising him in the Spirit of Christ, the young man acknowledged that if not for their care and direction, he would not be standing here today.
He continued by thanking all his family and friends for their support and concluded by thanking his brother seminarians with whom he has studied, learned, and gained a greater understanding of life and Church.
The seminarians approached and explained to him that today is a day they will all remember. Gifting him a bouquet of flowers, they stated that they will be praying that God strengthen him, give him patience as he continues to travel upon his chosen path. Assuring him of their continued prayers, they in turn asked for his.
The seminarians than turned to Metropolitan Antony and gifting him flowers, greeted him with his Birthday, and expressed their heartfelt gratitude, as their Spiritual Father, for his invaluable support and understanding, and wished him many healthy and blessed years.
As the everyone once again broke out in a jovial rendition of “God grant you man years,” His Eminence bestowed his final blessing upon everyone, and presented the Cross for veneration to the faithful.
As the words were sung, the people jostled forward. While their smiles remained hidden behind masks, they nonetheless shown brightly through the eyes, as everyone greeted His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, and Deacon Myroslav on their special day.
As the bells tolled the Noon-hour, the faithful descended the steps of the Memorial Church, and returned to the world, their hearts overflowing with warmth and joy, making them oblivious to the chill breeze that tousled their hair and turned their cheeks red.
Once again peace returned to the Metropolia Center, and yet every hour on the hour the bells continue to toll, preaching the Word of God, ensuring all those within earshot that Christ is King, and that His Vineyard is green, with new vines growing and baring fruit.
Warmest greetings to His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, a long-time laborer in the Lord’s Vineyard, and a strong branch bowing under the weight of much fruit. Eis polla eti Despota!
Heartfelt congratulations to Deacon Myroslav, the newest laborer in the Vineyard, and a green shoot that promises to bare much fruit in the coming years. Axios!