DIOCESE OF EASTERN AMERICA AND NEW YORK: October 16, 2013
Metropolitan Hilarion Leads 60 th -Anniversary Celebrations at St Seraphim Church
On Saturday, October 12, 2013, the 20 th anniversary of the Translation of the Uncorrupt and Healing Relics of St John of Shanghai and San Francisco the Miracle-Worker, celebrations began of the 60 th anniversary of St Seraphim of Sarov Russian Orthodox Church in Sea Cliff, NY. An enormous number of worshipers gathered at the church, which since 2012 has been a Memorial Church to the Reestablishment of Unity Within the Russian Orthodox Church, and welcomed the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God "of the Sign.”
Divine Liturgy was led by His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, who had just returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, along with the parish rector, Protopriest Serafim Gan, representatives of other Local Orthodox Churches, clerical members of the staff of the Synod of Bishops and of the Synodal Cathedral of Our Lady “of the Sign,” and a host of clergymen from throughout the diocese. After the washing of the hands, His Eminence bestowed oraria upon long-time acolytes of St Seraphim Church, Peter Wolkow and Andrew Makarov, for their many years of service. During the minor entrance, His Eminence granted the kamilavka to Protodeacon Eugene Kallaur for his worthy service as deacon. The parish choir, under Nicolas Miro, sang splendidly.
Before Communion, Protopriest Yaroslav Belikov, Rector of St John of Shanghai Church in Boston, read a sermon, in which he said:
Today marks the 20 th anniversary of the uncovering of the relics of St John of Shanghai and San Francisco the Miracle-worker. After his sarcophagus and metal tomb, very rusted, were opened, the body of the saint was found to have been uncorrupt. Still, a great portion of his vestments had faded, rotted away in parts and crumbling. The Parish of St John in Framingham, MA, received a small portion of the relics—from the under-sakkos and mantle he was buried in—which were removed 20 years ago, and are now in a reliquary that is before you today next to the icon. The icon itself also contains a portion of the relics.
When the relics were found to be intact, a new set of episcopal vestments was ordered, in which the body of Vladyka John was garbed on the eve of his canonization. The Lord has bestowed upon me the honor of witnessing many miracles which occurred at the crypt of the hierarch.
On October 25, 2011, when I was still a clergyman of the Cathedral of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow,” I participated in the revesting of the relics. His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America, knowing that I was being sent to the recently-founded parish dedicated our saint on the East Coast, gave his blessing for me to take the sub-sakkos in which St John was canonized in 1994. Through the efforts of our parishioners, this reliquary was made: in its middle we see an icon of St John with a portion of his relics, on either side of the icon are portions of his mantle and sub-sakkos, in which he was originally buried in 1966, and in the lower middle part, the sub-sakkos in which he was glorified. I wish to add that several miracles had already occurred before this reliquary by the prayers of St John: two immigration problems were unexpectedly resolved, two court cases were settled, several sick people were healed. It is very interesting that a woman parishioner who helped fold the sub-sakkos and sewed a velvet background for the reliquary had suffered pain in her right hand for many years: after completing her work on the reliquary, the pain in her hand disappeared.
It was no accident that most of the new Orthodox churches built in the whole world have been dedicated to St John of Shanghai and San Francisco the Miracle-Worker.
Vladyka John was the epitome of the manifestation of Christian virtues, we would even say the “classic Christian virtues.” Despite all the distractions and obstacles in spiritual life that our age inflicts upon Christians, St John fasted like one of the ancient ascetics, prayed for long periods at a time, fed the hungry even when he had nothing to eat, and established orphanages.
But at the same time, St John showed us how to solve the problems set forth in the 20 th century in a Christian way, very difficult and completely different in many ways from the challenges of previous centuries. World war, revolution, emigration, another world war, displacement again, litigation… In all this we see wonderful instances when the living example of Vladyka John demonstrated for us how a Christian must behave.
We often have the impression that Christianity is a religion for the weak. One must always humble oneself, forgive our enemies, surrender everything, give our neighbor all we have. The concept of the Christian religion as one for the weak, often proffered in a mistaken context by the enemies of Christ, describes only one aspect of the teachings of the Savior. Christianity is a religion of the powerful in spirit, and calls for the strengthening of the spirit of man. Humbling ourselves to forgive our enemies requires great courage and great spiritual power!
We must not forget that our Divine Teacher calls upon us to stand firmly for truth, to resist evil with force, especially when it is directed against our neighbor, against the Church, against our Homeland. In helping one’s neighbor, we must not wait for him to reach out to us first. St John showed us a wonderful example: he did not wait for an orphan to come to the orphanage, he would actively seek means for maintaining his orphanages, and on the other hand, Vladyka would seek out orphanages all over Shanghai. And this was during the Japanese occupation!
I wish to touch upon another activity of his: legal immigration.
During China’s Cultural Revolution, all Europeans were expelled from China. Many Russians were forcibly or by deceit deported to the USSR; their fate was at best unfortunate. Some made their way to the USA through Australia, but suddenly America shut her doors, and Russians had nowhere to go. The Philippine Government agreed to receive anyone, and several thousand refugees, with no knowledge of the local weather or customs, were settled on a deserted island named Tubabao. It was uninhabited because typhoons would hit it every year, destroying everything in their path. Russians settled there in the summer of 1949, with the hope of soon gaining visas to the US. But the American immigration authorities clamped down on the issuance of visas, and the Russians were fated for an unknown future on this deserted island. Vladyka John consoled the refugees with prayer and faith in God. The saint wrote letters to Presidents and leaders of many nations in North and South America, pleading with them to accept the exiles, but nothing came of it. Vladyka did not give up, but traveled to Washington DC, and began to visit many senators and congressmen, arguing for them to change the laws so that the émigrés from China could find a home. On Great Wednesday in 1950, after 15 hours of uninterrupted discussions, a rewritten bill went to voting in the Senate, and the fate of the Russian refugees was resolved. I would like to point out that the saint acted with bravery: no forgiveness of enemies, no humility, no concessions, but the opposite: forcefulness, pressure: for this was his archpastoral service to his neighbor.
I wish to point out three things in particular:
Vladyka John was an example how we can find new ways of acting on our Christian virtues under changing circumstances, not to avoid new places and civilizations, but to use them to serve God and man. Vladyka John also showed how within the framework of the law, we can and must boldly serve our neighbor, courageously stand up for the unfortunate, help the needy.
Finally, besides St John, we know of no other saint who worked successfully in the area of immigration, and so when such matters concern our loved ones, we prayerfully turn to our heavenly intercessor, the miracle-worker. Amen.
At the end of the service, there was a short moleben of gratitude and the consecration of new, unique frescoes devoted to the signing of the Act of Canonical Communion in Moscow in 2007, and the history of the Russian Church Abroad.
Before the veneration of the cross, Many Years was sung, as well as Eternal Memory to Patriarch Alexy II and Metropolitan Laurus, as well as to long-time rectors of St Seraphim Church Bishop Mitrophan (Znosko-Borosky), and Protopriest Daniel Dumsky, and the founders, benefactors, those who beautified the church and its divine services, the parishioners and worshipers.
His Eminence then congratulated the rector, clergymen and parishioners on the 60 th anniversary of St Seraphim Parish, wishing them blessed successes in their service to god and the Russian Orthodox people of Long Island. Inhisresponse , FrSerafimsaid :
Your Eminence, I express my heartfelt thanks to you for your archpastoral presence at the altar of St Seraphim Memorial Church, for the prayers you lifted up on this “chosen and holy day,” the celebration of the 60 th anniversary of our parish, for the consecration of the new frescoes which glorify the reestablishment of unity within the Russian Orthodox Church and the history of our Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
Brothers and sisters, we mark important dates not for their own sake, but to remember where we come from, to humbly lift up our prayers of gratitude to God for the fact that the seeds planted by our predecessors have taken root and brought forth fruit. In these prayers of thanks to God, our prayers for the deceased, for our present and our future, in communing of the Holy Mysteries of Christ, in the memorializing and celebration itself, we must seek renewal of our inner strength for continuing to carry our service in this holy place. May St Seraphim and St John be our intercessors in reinvigorating our lives and our work. Your Eminence, dear Vladyka, please make your archpastoral prayers for this, too.
His Eminence was then given a gift of an icon from the parish.
MetropolitanHilarion , duringthefestivetrapezathatfollowed , gaveAlexandraLeonidovnaZezulin ; AnnaMitrofanovnaShohoff ; RostislavVladimirovichPolchaninoff ; OlegGennadievichSampsidis; Tatiana Borisovna Speransky and Tamara Miloradovna Joukoff theSynodal Medal of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God" of the Sign,” III Level; the Chief Warden of the parish, Protodeacon Paul and his wife Anna Sergeevna Wolkoff; Ekaterina Ilyinichna Kallaur; Reader John and Natalia Makarov; Sergei Panteleimonivich Shohoff; Lydia Vladimirovna Krassovsky; Ilya Nikolaevich and Elenga Igorevna Zeraktho; Elizabeth Mikhailovna Miheev; Nikolai Mikhailovich and Marina Dimitrievna Miro; Alexei Serafimovich and Maria Olegovna Slobodskoy; Peter Iosifovich and Sofia Andreevna Jarostchuk; Alexander Alexeevich and Irina Georgievna Kwartiroff; Theodore Georgievich and Liudmila Rostislavovna Selinsky; Gennady Sergeevich Karasev; Tamara Pavolovna Zhardetskaya and Paul Alexandrovich Zherdetsky special blessed gramatas from the President of the Synod of Bishops. Vladimir Valerievich Sushko was given a prayer book with an inscription from His Eminence.
AL Zezulin and AS Slobodskoy said some very interesting words about the history and present status of St Seraphim Parish. Mr Slobodskoy, touching upon the work of its clergymen, gave the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia a commemorative album, in Russian and English, on its rich history, published by Protopriest Eugene Kallaur. Protopriest Leonid Kishkovsky (Orthodox Church in America) said some kind congratulatory words, as did Priest Alexandre Antchoutine and Deacon Nikolai Kostur, who read a congratulatory letter from His Grace Bishop Longin of Novo-Gracanica (Serbian Orthodox Church).
During the reception, George Feodorovich Selinsky showed a video of a documentary on St Seraphim Memorial Church, which contained very rare footage of St John, Metropolitan Annastassy (Gribanovsky, +1965); Archbishop Averky (Taushev, +1976); Hierodeacon Laurus (Shkurla, +2008, future First Hierarch of ROCOR); and others. It is interesting to note that as a hieromonk, Vladyka Laurus participated in the great consecration of St Seraphim Church.
Fr Serafim, congratulating all those who received awards and expressing his thanks to the clergymen and all participants in the celebration, said:
I take this opportunity to ask from the bottom of my heart your forgiveness for all the flaws in the life of our parish, which I was entrusted to lead, for all our weaknesses, alas, for all that requires correction and for all that remains unfinished… But I thank everyone for your understanding and good will towards me, for all the obvious failings and weaknesses of your rector, and ask that you continue to zealously labor for your parish church and those who attend its services, for the present and future of our parish.
I turn to you today, dear parishioners and worshipers of our Memorial Church, with the hope that just as a lampada is ignited by the flame of a candle, so may you all and I be renewed with the grace-filled power of today’s feast day. I ask that you pray, and actively work for, this to be.
After the prayer of thanksgiving, Protodeacon Nicolas Mokhoff of the Synodal Cathedral intoned Many Years to all those who received awards.
Price of the album: $40 (hard cover, 296 pp with photographs)
Orders can be sent to:
St. Seraphim’s Russian Orthodox Church
131 Carpenter Ave.
Sea Cliff, NY 11579.
or via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org