The chilly morning air did not stop the faithful of Lyndora, Pennsylvania, as they flocked to Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox parish. As 10 AM neared they rushed up the many steps of the church and quickly walked to find a place to stand just in time. For right behind him came His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.
Greeting His Eminence at the door was Rob Prokopchak of the parish board, who welcomed Archbishop Daniel on behalf of all the parish organizations. He asked for His Eminence’s prayers and explained that next year the parish would be celebrating their centennial and invited him to return to celebrate with them.
Archbishop Daniel stated that it was his pleasure to return to this parish, almost a year into the current COVID-19 pandemic. In the previous hundred years the parish had not had to deal with such a situation. He continued by exclaiming his great joy at seeing so many individuals in attendance. He was pleased that even while honoring pandemic restrictions, wearing masks, sanitizing hands, not kissing or hugging, the people had not feared to come and attend Divine Liturgy.
Stepping forward, His Eminence accepted the blessing Cross presented to him by parish pastor Rev. Yurii Bobko, and with it blessed all those present before proceeding to enter the temple as the seminarians who had joined him from the Saint Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary, sang “It is truly meet..”
It is truly right to bless thee, O Theotokos, ever blessed, and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim.
Having prayed before the icon on the tetrapod, His Eminence entered the Altar, and the Divine Liturgy commenced. With the assistance of Deacon Myroslav Mykytyuk, the service moved along at a rapid pace. The Gospel Reading was from Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 15: 21-28). Everyone stood transfixed as His Eminence read how the Canaanite woman called to Christ to have mercy on her, and to heal her possessed daughter. When she was shushed and ignored, she did not give up, but came up to Christ and stated, “Lord, help me!” Christ answered her stating that it would be wrong to take the bread from the children and throw it to the dogs, to which she bravely replied that even dogs eat the crumbs off their master’s table. Jesus, amazed at her faith, healed her daughter.
Vladyka Daniel extrapolated upon the Gospel narrative in his sermon. He explained how this mother had probably exhausted all other means available to her in an attempt to heal her daughter. He stated that he understood just how this woman had felt, relating it to his own mother’s struggles searching for help with his younger brother who suffers from epilepsy. It takes an exorbitant amount of strength and faith to continue searching for help, as did the woman in the Gospel Reading. She calls to Christ, “Jesus, Son of David!” (which is the Messianic call) and begs him to heal her daughter, even when she was told to go away.
Today’s Gospel narrative is especially relevant to us during the pandemic, having experienced many loved ones and acquaintances suffering from the coronavirus, being placed on ventilators, struggling to breath, struggling to live, and many losing their battle. Our anguish and fear compel us to run to the Lord and ask Him how we can deepen our faith with all the illness and suffering around us.
The woman from Canaan went before Christ in all humility, realizing that she had no other hope, other than Christ. His Eminence pronounced that if we had even a minuscule amount of genuine faith, even the tiny size of a mustard seed, God would readily enter and act in our lives. We believe in Christ 99.9%, but, that .1% messes us up and we wonder why miracles do not occur in our lives.
Miracles do occur, every day around us, we just do not pay attention, and do not notice them. We need to yearn for and invite God into our lives. During the pandemic lockdown, when churches were locked and were only permitted to livestream, the faithful still came, they knocked on doors, and when they could not enter, they stayed outside the doors, in their faith remaining near to God. We all need the presence of God in our lives.
While Christ came and preached to the ancient civilizations, He threw crumbs of His teachings in front of all the world, for everyone to consume. The crumbs lie everywhere about us, but we do not have the wherewithal, nor the strength to gather them. We cannot fast and prepare ourselves to go to Confession, and we choose to ignore the Gift of the Eucharist, and yet we expect that God help us the moment we decide to call upon Him.
We need to actively search for the crumbs that have fallen from the Lord’s table. Notice and appreciate your loved ones, your spouse, your family members and friends, financial wellbeing, spiritual growth, and all the good that is about you.
We can only feed others, if we first are willing to eat of the crumbs, the Word of God. Only then will we be able to feed others, through the way we live, sharing the presence of God in our lives and those around us.
His Eminence concluded by instructing us to not be afraid to eat the crumbs, to search them out and gather them, and then go out and preach the Faith to the world.
Leaving everyone in deep thought and contemplation, His Eminence returned to the Altar and the Divine Liturgy continued. When it was time for Holy Communion, the faithful all stepped forward, eager to partake from the Table of the Lord. His Eminence took a moment to explain that while he will be administering Communion to the faithful, He encouraged Fr. Yurii to give the Holy Eucharist to his newly baptized son, Ethan Yurii. What greater honor can a father have, than sharing the Body and Blood of Christ with his son? The child obediently, with lips smacking, accepted the Gifts, at which point Fr. Yurii passed the Chalice back to Archbishop Daniel, who proceeded giving Communion to all those who approached.
With final prayers, the service concluded all too soon. After the dismissal, Archbishop Daniel once again addressed the congregation. He thanked Fr. Yurii for always broadcasting the services for those who are not able to physically attend. His Eminence thanked the young priest for his dedication to the parish and thanked those present for not being afraid to attend in person but coming to support their parish.
Stepping up Fr. Yurii in turn thanked His Eminence Archbishop Daniel for visiting the parish, inviting him to return with Metropolitan Antony next year to celebrate their Centennial. He further expressed his gratitude to the seminarians for singing during the Divine Liturgy, explaining that it brought back many fond memories of traveling across the States with Vladyka Daniel and visiting all the different parishes, and families.
Before dismissing the faithful, His Eminence reminded them that while it is Super Bowl Sunday, it is SOUP-er Bowl Sunday as well. A day to fundraise for St. Andrew Society, which helps those in need throughout the world. While the pandemic has made it impossible for everyone to sit and enjoy hot bowls of soup, nonetheless, the need is there, and His Eminence encourage people to donate, if they could, towards the worthy cause.
Looking to the camera, Archbishop Daniel took a moment to explain that Sts. Peter & Paul Parish in Lyndora, PA, follows the Gregorian Calendar, lest anyone was confused by the day’s Gospel Reading. The parish has already celebrated the Meeting of the Lord in the Temple. However, since the seminarians, and the Archbishop have come from New Jersey, which follows the Julian Calendar, they have not yet celebrated Streetenya, and therefore, they are still permitted to sing Christmas Carols. Therefore, mixing the old and the new, the seminarians of St. Sophia Seminary joyously sang Nova Radist Stala (A New Joy). Their voices echoed through the church building, bouncing off the walls, and spiraling up in the dome of the church, joining with the voices of the Seraphim which were depicted in the dome, to glorify God.
With the joyous sounds of singing, the faithful approached to bow low before the icon on the tetrapod before leaving the church. While some returned to their homes, others made their way to the parish hall to spend some social-distancing time with each other. One last chance to notice the crumbs that were immediately around them, to appreciate them, consume them, and with satiated bodies, and souls overflowing, they would take those crumbs back with them into the world, and spread the Faith, proclaiming the Good News of Christ.
У неділю, 7 лютого, Його Високопреосвященство Архієпископ Даниїл завітав до парафії Св. Петра і Павла у м. Линдора, шт. Пенсильванія з Архіпастирським візитом. Настоятель парафії о. Юрій Бобко разом з головою парафії Роб Прокопчак привітали Архієпископа, зустрівши його за українською традицією з хлібом та сіллю. Перед початком Літургії, при зустрічі, настоятель храму попросив Владику помолитись за усіх парафіян, особливо у цей непростий час пандемії.
Святкове Богослужіння очолив сам Архієпископ Даниїл. Йому співслужили настоятель парафії о. Юрій Бобко та нововисвячений диякон Мирослав Микитюк.
Разом з парафіяльним дяком, пані Лідією Рудольф, участь у літургійному співі взяли і семінаристи Свято-Софіївської Семінарії, котрі прибули на відвідини парафії разом з Архієпископом.
Під час літургії Високопреосвященніший Архієпископ Даниїл згадав та помолився не лише за парафіян храму, але й за усіх священнослужителів та парафіян, котрі спочили у Господі. Архієпископ під час Богослужіння також помолився за припинення епідемії коронавірусу. Окремо, під час заупокійної літії, владика згадав Дайну Федину, парафіянку парафії св. Петра і Павла, Янгставн шт. Огайо, котра через важку хворобу відійшла у вічність.
На проповіді владика Даниїл закликав усіх з вірою споживати “крихти”, що падають зі “столу” Господнього. Цими крихтами владика назвав Святе Причастя, яке є дане усім нам по всьому світу для спасіння. Архієпископ Даниїл закликав усіх не проходити повз того “столу”, що живить наші душі, не проходити повз присутності Божої, що знаходиться у кожному храмі на святому престолі.
На завершення літургії парафіяни сподобились прийняти святе причастя з рук Архієпископа Даниїла, з дотриманням усіх необхідних норм під час пандемії. Визначним було перше причастя новоохрещеного Ітана-Юрія.
Після Божественної літургії усі зібрались у церковному залі за святковим обідом, знову ж таки з дотриманням усіх карантинних норм. Під час обіду Архієпископ Даниїл заохотив усіх бути жертовними, особливо у цей день неділі Суперболу, коли традицією нашої Церкви є організовувати фандрейзери для залучення коштів для людей у потребі.
Photos by Subdeacon Yaroslav Bilohan
Text by Elizabeth Symonenko and Subdeacon Mykola Zomchak