Twenty-five priests, three deacons and over two hundred faithful joined His Eminence, Archbishop MICHAEL for the celebration of Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers at Holy Resurrection Church in Wayne, NJ. A sun-drenched, 60-degree day was the perfect setting for this celebration that began with a procession of the clergy from the parish center to the church. After the official greeting by the host rector, Archpriest Stephen Evanina, His Eminence expressed his profound joy at being able to share this celebration with not only our own OCA clergy, but with so many others from various Orthodox jurisdictions.
Under the direction of Stratos Mandalakas and Michael Geeza, the responses were sung beautifully by The Spirit of Orthodoxy Choir, a pan-Orthodox choir comprised of singers from throughout the New York and New Jersey areas.
In his inspirational homily, His Eminence asked everyone in attendance to “please pray for the unity of our Church in America on this Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy.” He noted that all the Orthodox in our land do share the same Faith, worship the Triune God in the same divine services, and receive the same Mysteries – that has been and is our unity. He praised the concelebrations and cooperation of the hierarchs in America, the working and serving together of the clergy, and the participation of all the faithful in services and events such as this Sunday of Orthodoxy, the scheduled Lenten Lectures, and the various Retreats during the Great Fast, that will take place in New Jersey.
But the Archbishop lamented that these are still occasional activities, after which we return to our own jurisdictions. He reviewed the Scriptural, patristic and canonical reasons why there should be only One Church — with one self-governing Synod — in one land. And he envisioned what great things could be accomplished if this were the case: “Picture 55 bishops marching on the White House, appealing for peace in Syria! Consider how low our health care costs would be if we had a national plan for all the Orthodox parishes, seminaries, and organizations in our country! And finally, imagine 55 bishops concelebrating an outdoor Liturgy in Yankee Stadium, the bases loaded with hundreds of clergy, and the stands filled with tens of thousands of Orthodox Christians. What an event for our young people to participate in … they would see how many more of them there are than just what is in each parish! What a message it would send throughout our country – how strong we really are.”
In conclusion, His Eminence reiterated: “Please pray for the unity of our Church in America. After all, the Lord Himself prayed to His Heavenly Father: ‘… that they may be one … so that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me’ (John 17:21).
The service concluded with a thunderous recitation of the Synodikon and Nicene Creed by the clergy and faithful together, as well as acknowledgments of all the visiting clergy who served. His Eminence offered his deepest gratitude to the faithful of Holy Resurrection parish for hosting the celebration and to everyone in attendance.
The faithful enjoyed a delicious Lenten supper and fellowship provided by the parishioners of our host parish. Glory to God for such a beautiful event!