UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Nativity Celebrations in Chicago Deanery!
By Subdeacon Vasyl Pasakas
The Nativity of our Lord celebrations became more festive and spiritually uplifting for the faithful of Chicago Deanery of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church f the USA, as His Grace Bishop Daniel visited the parish communities of St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago, IL on January 6-7, 2012; Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox parish in Bensenvile, IL on January 8, 2012 and Sts Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox parish in Palos Park, IL on January 9, 2012.
On Nativity/Christmas Eve – January 6, 2012, His Grace Bishop Daniel led a Great Compline service at St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago, IL. In his sermon the bishop greeted the faithful of the cathedral community on the most glorious Feast of the winter season of the Church’s Calendar – the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, stating: “…Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." These words of the angel of the Lord to the shepherds in Luke’s gospel (2:10) are not referring to the past but addressed to you and to me today. The angel spoke into a world where poverty, injustice, violence, sickness and death were daily present. Has anything changed since then? Are we not despite all the technical and scientific progress suffering the same problems?
I had the chance to visit the orphanages in Ukraine that are sponsored by our Church this past December. To see the missionaries of our Church working among disabled children with that charming smile of love when you can see the indifference of the word to the needs of the poor and disabled revealed me the powerful message of the angel into a broken world: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” not only for a few. And here is also the reason: “For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord” (Luke 2:11). The Savior does not appear as warrior to clean the world with power and might. No, he came among us as a disarmed child – and he remained disarmed until he stretched out his arms on the cross to embrace the whole world in a divine act of love.
The “humility of God” goes so far that saint Paul in the first letter to the Corinthians dares to say: “For our sake (God) made (Jesus) to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor 5:21). Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, the basic conditions of the world and our daily life may still be the same like at the times of Jesus’ birth. What should have changed in the meantime is the heart of those who listen carefully to the message of the angel and believe in it: “Do not be afraid – a Savior has been born for you… Don’t you think that the world around you would become a little bit better and brighter if you acted with a heart that is really touched by the divine love in the crib who seems to tell us of the Divine reason for His Incarnation... I wish you and your families a Christmas in peace and joy. “Do not be afraid ... a Savior has been born for you!”
Following the liturgical celebrations of this year’s Christmas Eve, the bishop joined the faithful of the cathedral parish community for a Christmas Eve supper, featuring 12 traditional dishes, which were deliciously prepared for about 60 parishioners by St. Olha Sisterhood of the cathedral parish family.
On January 7, 2012 – the feast day of the Nativity of Christ, His Grace lead a Divine Liturgy at the cathedral, while the pastor Archimadrite Pankratij, Very Rev. Andriy Shelvakh, Rev. Nicholas Dilendorf, Protodeacon Anriy Fronchak and over a dozen of altar serves concelebrated and assisted the bishop. The cathedral temple was prayerfully overwhelmed by the presence of the faithful of the Church who joined their spiritual father and hierarch for the celebration of the Nativity of Christ.
In his sermon the bishop stated: “Our faith reminds us that the infant Jesus came to share with us more than a smile, and more than a moment of affection. This infant, born of the Virgin Birth-Giver of God, comes full of grace and truth, and filled with enduring love. This infant is here to break down our fears, to overcome our sins, to dispel our apathy, to save us from the brokenness of our world and our lives – and to show us that because we are precious in God’s eyes, although wounded, we are loved. Indeed, through the birth of this infant, we are given the blessed opportunity to come to know the God who has given us life… The times in which we live continue to be filled with challenges, which cause us to search desperately for meaning and purpose, for consolation and peace in our lives. May the blessing of Christmas be that we are not too proud or sophisticated to look upon the face of Jesus and find that for which we hope. Indeed, his plan for us is quite simple. In his birth and in his life, Jesus offers us a pattern for how we are to live. When we are humble and wise enough to follow his example of selfless love and to open our lives in service to one another, God’s love is given room to abound all the more within our hearts, to create therein a true and lasting peace, and to establish the path that leads to our salvation… Thank you for the privilege of serving as your Bishop and for allowing me to journey with you in faith. Thank you as well for your willingness to embrace the life of Christ and to respect and treasure his presence as he comes to us each day in his Word, in the Most Holy Eucharist and in his people: those created in his image and likeness. In so doing, you keep alive the true meaning and the real work of Christmas/Nativity.”
Following the Liturgy, the bishop blessed about 50 sets of liturgical vestments for clergy and altar servers, which were donated by the parishioners of the cathedral community of liturgical celebrations in the life of the community. Archimandrite Pankratij expressed his gratitude to the parish board of administration and parishioners for the kindness and generosity in offering the Christmas gift to the cathedral parish family in the form of generous donations for liturgical adorations.
On the second day of Christmas, the Synaxis of the Most Holy Birth-Giver of God, Bishop Daniel visited Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Bensenville, IL, where he served the Divine Liturgy and visited the parishioners and the youth of the parish as they caroled and presented Nativity play – “Vertep” to the bishop and the faithful of the community. Very Rev. Bohdan Kalynuk, Protodeacon Andriy Fronchak of St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago, IL and Deacon John Charest of Sts Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox parish in Palos Park, IL assisted the bishop in the liturgical celebrations and shared in the joy of watching the youth of the parish family embrace with their hearts the true meaning of the Nativity of Christ in their lives.
In conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, greeting the faithful of the parish with the feast of the Nativity of our Lord, the bishop stated that “…One of the amazing effects of Christmas – Jesus Christ becoming one of us - is that it transforms and enlarges all our relationships. If the Lord of the Universe, of all Creation, chooses to change his relationship with us by becoming one of us, in principle all our relationships with each other are changed and deepened… Understandably, the relationships which we call ‘family’ will always have a privileged place in our thinking about what it means to be human. Human beings are deeply affected, and hopefully enriched, by who their parents and siblings are.” Bishop Daniel called upon the parishioners of the parish family, and especially the youth, to treasure their parents and honor them with love and respect.