Christ is Risen – Indeed, He is Risen!
With Paschal joy, after two challenging years because of the pandemic, on the Sunday of St. Thomas, May 1st, 2022, we were able to celebrate our Parish Feast Day – Slava here at the Holy Resurrection of Christ in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.
Our joy was even greater since His Grace, our Father and Bishop of Eastern America, Kyr Irinej arrived on the eve of the feast on Saturday to make this celebration of our Parish all the more beautiful and to preside over the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy the following day.
For all of us here, every time His Grace Irinej comes, it becomes a special day when all our parishioners can have some time to talk to him and benefit from his edifying sermons, which, as always, in his words of comfort and spiritual wisdom bring such needed deeper understanding of how to live a spiritual life. His Grace, our Bishop and Father Irinej visited us on Forgiveness Sunday before the beginning of the Great Lent and now, upon His second visit in a short time we felt like there is no greater blessing for our Parish but to have him again in or midst and hear the voice of our Shepherd, much needed for the benefit of all of us. Let us pray that these visits become more frequent, and we hope that we can celebrate with our Bishop and Father Irinej for many years to come together in our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
During the sermon, His Grace Irinej taught us about the spiritual meaning of the Gospel Reading on this Antipascha as a Gospel of renewal and fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah about Christ, the Suffering Servant, His death on the cross, who would have a rich man in death, and burial by the wealthy Joseph and Nicodemus. Continuing, our Hierarch said that St Thomas needed to touch the Lord, so that he could believe. As we, along with him, strive to find who we really are in our relationship with our Risen Lord. Through the exclamation of St. Thomas, we all confess: My Lord and my God! Yet, the need for touch was denied to the Myrrh-bearing women because they already believed, but it was offered to St Thomas, and through him to all of us, to taste and see how good our Lord is in a most tangible way every time we partake of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
We would like to thank the Reverend Fr. Christopher Rocknage and Reverend Deacon Bojan Gligorevich from our neighboring sister Parish of St Nicholas the Wonderworker from Steelton for joining us in concelebrating the Divine Liturgy, as well as the choir director Mrs. Nina Radanovich for leading the St Nicholas choir during the service and their beautiful singing.
Toward the end of the Divine Liturgy, we all joined in a holy procession around the temple and blessed the Slava gifts of Wheat – Koljivo, wine and Festal Bread – Slavski kolach outside the Church entrance since our Parish Church was too small to fit everyone who came to share this joyful event with us.
After the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, our Bishop and Father Kyr Irinej spent some time with our youngest parishioners, the church school pupils, who had prepared many questions for their Bishop. At the beginning of the Slavacelebration, it was the little ones who prepared a surprise gift for our Hierarch, a book with a collection of their drawings and expressions of love for our faith, led by our Sunday School teachers Mr. Chris Giovanis and Mrs. Kyra Lentz.
During the celebration in our Church Hall, after the blessing of the food, a welcoming message was presented by the vice president of the Church Board, Mr. Joseph Rahalewich, and our Parish Priest, Fr. Borjan Vitanov, thanking everyone who made the effort to come and share this joy with all of us. The music in the Church Hall during the celebration was provided by “Sviraj” orchestra to whom we are always thankful for participating in our parish events.
This year’s Kum was Mr. Tom Vracharich, who gave a speech addressing the importance of today’s celebration and gave a brief historical overview of his deep family connections with the Holy Resurrection Parish starting from the 1920’s. At the end of his speech, he gave our Bishop Kyr Irinej a hand carved cane from Backa, which has a great family value.
His Grace Irinej said that he will keep this gift and add it to our Diocesan Center Museum in New Rochelle, New York and thanked our Kum Mr. Tom Vracharich for his noble gesture.
Our Bishop Irinej gave his closing remarks thanking everyone who prepared everything for today’s feast and all the guests who made the effort to come and celebrate with us this year’s Parish Patronal Feast.
At the end, we can only say: Glory to God for everything and let us hope that we will be able to welcome our Bishop and Father Kyr Irinej more often and celebrate for many years to come.
Many Years, Eis polla eti Despota! Na mnogaja ljeta!