UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
CONSISTORY OFFICE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Caroling for Christ: Bethlehem Story Made Once Again Alive at the Metropolia Center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
By Rev. Fr. Vasyl Pasakas
With about 200 participants in the second annual “Caroling for Christ” concert sponsored by the Consistory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, some 350 people witnessed a powerful and spiritually uplifting event at the Ukrainian Cultural Center of the UOC of the USA on Saturday, January 16, 2016.
As last year, His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, Primate of the UOC of the USA bestowed his blessing on this hopefully annual event under the auspices of the Ukrainian Language and Religion School of St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Memorial Church in South Bound Brook, NJ under the leadership of director - Pani Halyna Marynets.
Participants from Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and New York represented the parishes and parochial schools of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA as well as Ukrainian Catholic communities in the immediate NJ area.
During the concert of Carols, the story of salvation was told through songs and artistic expressions of ancient performances of VERTEP.
"During this holy season of Christmas, it is with great joy that we hear again the narrative of our salvation -- of God's creative love and the human family's rejection of that love, the Message of hope prophesied in the time of old; the glorious message of the Incarnation, revealed and accepted by the Most Holy Birth-Giver of God, heralded by the angels and sent out to the whole world by the proclamation of the Gospel," stated Bishop Daniel in his conversation with parents prior to the beginning of the concert. Addressing the participants and visitors of the Annual Concert, Vladyka Daniel also reflected upon the importance of nurturing the sacred traditions of Ukrainian Orthodoxy, as they proclaime the Nativity Mystery through the sacred music of carols. Moreover, Bishop Daniel also shared a story of his own spiritual upbringing, while telling everyone about the turbulent past of Soviet occupation of Ukraine, when the traditions of Nativity season where preserved by the generations of Ukrainian Orthodox and Catholic Christians that practiced their Faith in the catacombs: basements, forests – hiding from the persecution, yet keeping the Faith alive.
Opening the program, which was masterfully led by Olenka Hoshovsky of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in New York, NY, His Grace Bishop Daniel, speaking on behalf of His Eminence Metropolitan Antony and the Consistory of the UOC of the USA welcomed the participants and guests of the program with a short overview of how the idea to begin such community event came into existence. It was truly due to the input of the parishioners of various parishes of the Church that a simple idea to gather children of various Ukrainian Language and Religion parochial schools became a reality, yet opening the platform not only to caroling but also to prayerful reflections by the children, their parents and teachers.
One after another the representatives of various schools: St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Memorial Church in South Bound Brook, NJ; Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in New York, NY; Protection of the Birth-Giver of God Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Allentown, PA, Assumption Ukrainian Catholic School of Perth Amboy, NJ and St. Andrei Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Jamaica, NY took the stage singing carols, reciting poetry and proclaiming the Glad Tidings of Christ’s birth! Hymns and carols, each carefully chosen to complement the Scripture passages of the season, were performed in Ukrainian, Romanian and English languages.
In conclusion of the program, the participants and those in attendance were treated to a theatrical presentation of a traditional Nativity story – VERTEP – masterfully performed by the parishioners of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in New York, NY under the pastoral leadership of Very Rev. Fr. Todor Mazur.
During the afternoon event, Metropolitan Antony called upon those in attendance to pray, never forgetting God's majesty and that we should always trust in Christ’s presence and share it with those around us.
"Let us remember, in His name, the poor and the helpless, the cold and the hungry, the oppressed, the sick, the dying and those who mourn, the lonely and the unloved, the aged and the children, those who do not know the Lord and those who have turned away from the Lord," stated Metropolitan Antony in his conclusion remarks.
As the afternoon hours came to conclusion, Metropolitan Antony and Bishop Daniel presented all participants with the gifts of love, expressing their gratitude to the children and adults in attendance.
After the services, His Grace Bishop Daniel, President of the Consistory of the UOC of the USA stated: 'It was wonderful to see so many children at the concert at the Metropolia Center of the Church. Children and their parents and teachers travelled long distances in some cases to reflect on the humble birth of a child who brought light and hope to our world. I was so glad to be able to share in the Christmas story with them. If they left being connected to each other, sharing the joy of Nativity season, then the Consistory of the Church has done its job through this kind effort.'