On Monday, April 17, the second day of the feast of the Glorious Resurrection of Christ – Pascha, the clergy and faithful of St. Alexander Nevsky Diocesan Cathedral in Howell, NJ, welcomed His Eminence Hilarion, Metropolitan of Eastern America & New York.
The Divine Liturgy on this bright and joyous day was led by the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, co-served by Bishop Irinej of Eastern America (Serbian Orthodox Church) and Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan (vicar of the Eastern American Diocese), and local clergy:
- Protopresbyter Valery Lukianov (dean of New Jersey)
- Archpriest Serge Lukianov (cathedral dean)
- Archpriest Rafael Melendez (Albanian Orthodox Church)
- Archpriest Boris Slootsky (cathedral cleric)
- Archpriest Leonid Goferman (rector of Holy Virgin Protection Church in New Brunswick, NJ)
- Archpriest Seraphim Chemodakov (cathedral cleric)
- Archpriest Zoran Radovic (rector of St. George Serbian Church in Elizabeth, NJ)
- Priest Serge Ledkovsky (deputy rector of St. Vladimir Memorial Church in Jackson, NJ)
- Hieromonk Tikhon (Gayfudinov; abbot of Holy Protection Skete in Buena, NJ)
- cathedral Protodeacons Leonid Roschko & Paul Drozdowski; as well as
- Protodeacon Dionysius Lvov (cleric of the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign in New York City, accompanying the metropolitan).
Preceding the beginning of the Liturgy, clergy and faithful met the myrrh-streaming icon of the Mother of God “The Softener of Evil Hearts,” which concludes its journey across the parishes and monasteries of the diocese.
Afterwards came the solemn greeting of Metropolitan Hilarion, who brought with him a great sanctity: the Holy Fire, delivered to America from Jerusalem the previous evening. Clergy dispensed the Fire to all the faithful, unified by paschal Divine services in the New World and the Holy City.
Before Communion, Fr. Tikhon (Gayfudinov) addressed the faithful with a sermon in which was said, in part: “Christ is Risen! Two-thousand years ago, these words were spoken for the first time in human history. Only three words, but those which changed the history of mankind, changed the order of the universe. These words, which were once spoken in Jerusalem, they traversed the entire world, leapt from lips to lips, from generation to generation, and now we also hear them. We hear them and rejoice, that Christ is truly risen. We hear them and rejoice, that the Lord resurrects us also with Him. We hear and rejoice, to this effect, for our own selves. Two-thousand years ago these words sounded from the lips of those people who truly with their own eyes saw this miracle, saw this solemn victory of life over death. They were witnesses of this great event. You and I cannot be witnesses of this in the literal sense, but we are witnesses in the spiritual sense, and we know that in the first years of Christianity a large role was played by those who saw the Lord Jesus Christ in His lifetime (hearing His teachings and words, seeing his miracles), and his resurrection from the dead… Today in the Gospel reading we are reminded of St. John the Forerunner, who called all people to repentance, so that with a clean heart, with clean thoughts, good motives, and a clean life they could greet the Heavenly Kingdom, which Jesus Christ brings to us, which condescends from Heaven to the earth. Thus, brothers and sisters, may we, meeting Holy Pascha through the repentance of Lent, accept this Divine Grace, which heals us, treats us, teaches us to do good, love our neighbors as our own selves, and live prayerfully.
Traditionally, many children gather in church for the second day of Pascha: students at the parish’s Russian School, as well as the children of regular parishioners of the cathedral and neighboring parishes. Most of the worshippers at Liturgy communed of Christ’s Holy Mysteries.
Upon completion of the Liturgy, a procession was held with the participation of the children, who carried icons and gonfalons alongside the adults.
After the procession, His Eminence congratulated the clergy and parishioners with the "Feast of feasts," wishing them the joy and grace that the Lord bestows on us through His Resurrection. Metropolitan Hilarion thanked the clergy, singers, and sisterhood, who helped arrange and carry out the greatest feast of the year. His Eminence especially thanked Sergey Fomin, who for many years has been traveling to America with the Icon of the Mother of God "Softener of Evil Hearts" in order to comfort and strengthen the faithful, and greeted all of the children gathered for the feast. The Metropolitan likewise greeted Bishop Irinej, thanking him for the conjoint prayer. In memory of the first visit to the Diocesan Center, the Serbian hierarch was gifted a copy of the myrrh-streaming icon “Softener of Evil Hearts”.
In turn, Bp. Irinej thanked everyone for the warm welcome, and again took the opportunity to thank the First Hierarch of ROCOR for his outpouring of love and refuge in the Synodal cathedral in New York the Serbian mission of New York met Pascha there, since in the previous year the Serbian Cathedral burned down after the paschal service). Afterwards the protodeacons intoned many years to all those gathered.
After the service, the hierarchs, clergy, and children spread out across the church property, where the traditional children’s Easter egg hunt competition was held. The cathedral sisterhood then offered a festal luncheon for the clergy and faithful in the parish hall.