The community of St George Serbian Orthodox Church celebrated the Triumph of Orthodoxy on the first Sunday of Great Lent, March 5, 2017. The day began with a church full of faithful Christians gathered for Divine Liturgy. During the service, Fr Aleksa offered a sermon on the challenge of remaining true to our Orthodoxy in the midst of this busy and distracted world. Through all the peripheral noise, however, he reminded us that the voice of our Lord Jesus Christ calls out to us saying, “Follow me.”
Near the end of service, all in attendance immediately put the words of the Gospel into direct action as they answered the call to “follow.” Lined up in joyous procession, the community followed the Gospel, carried by Fr Aleksa, around the church. With icons in hand, those present listened to, or sang, the troparion of the “Triumph of Orthodoxy”:
We venerate Your most pure image, O Good One, and ask forgiveness of our transgressions, O Christ God. Of Your own will You were pleased to ascend the Cross in the flesh to deliver Your creatures from bondage to the enemy. Therefore with thanksgiving we cry aloud to You: You have filled all with joy, O our Savior, by coming to save the world.
After reading the Synodicon and Creed, parishioners once again entered the church for dismissal.
During the evening of the Sunday of Orthodoxy, St George Serbian Orthodox Church, for the second year in a row, hosted a Pan-Orthodox gathering. With faithful from all over Stark County, the community realized our Orthodox unity in prayer. The choir, under the direction of Stephen Winovich, sang hymns derived from the chant traditions of many of the jurisdictions present, and the stichera at “Lord I Call” were offered by a local Greek cantor, George Rafilitis.
The evening’s presentation was offered by the Very Rev. Dr. Daniel Rogich, a homegrown member of the St. George parish who now tends to the flock of the nearby Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. Fr. Dan offered a thought provoking evaluation of Orthodoxy in America over the last 100 years, offering us a “grade” in five distinct areas, including our personal piety, our sense of mission, our liturgical life and participation, and our educational efforts. The inspiring talk left those in attendance with a desire to go out into the world and strive for improvement!
After the seminar, Fr. Aleksa welcomed all those present to a Lenten meal at the St. George Event Center, including the following nine participating, guest clergy: Fr. Dan Rogich and Fr. Dn. Labib Bardawil of Holy Trinity (GOA) in Canton; Fr. Nick Gamvas of St. Haralambos (GOA) in Canton; Fr. Michael Corbin and Fr. Basil Shaheen of St. George Antiochian in Canton; Fr. Spiro Keyhays and Fr. Dn. Orestes Varonis of St. George (GOA) in Massillon; Fr Stacey Richter of Holy Assumption (OCA) in Canton; and Fr. Ionel Satnoianu of St George Romanian in Canton.
The day’s events served as a joyful reminder to all Orthodox Christians in Stark County that liturgically and socially we are all part of one body - regardless of the ethnic heritage that underlies the foundation and traditions of our individual communities.