Parish Celebrations in Glen Spay, NY with the Hierarchs of the Church
The mountaintops, covered by an ethereal mist, flanked the narrow and twisting passage that the faithful took before taking a sharp right turn and ascending to the mountaintop, just as Moses had, in search of the Lord.
Driving upward, and upward, passing roads named “Taras Shevchenko” and “Ivan Franko”, they finally reached the Ukrainian Orthodox parish of Saints Peter and Paul in Glen Spay, NY. The drizzle paused for a moment, and the clouds opened to allow the bright sunshine to gleam off the golden onion domes atop the church, adding an additional sense of awe to the faithful. The church, built in 1972, was celebrating its parish Feast Day, and people and people congregated from far and wide to join in the festivities.
On Sunday morning, with cross in hand, V. Rev. Orest Poukhalskii stood in the Narthex, along with his parishioners, who awaited to greet their hierarchs with flowers, and the traditional bread and salt. The faithful all burst out in smiles as they spotted His Eminence Metropolitan Antony (Metropolitan & Prime Hierarch of UOC of the USA and Diaspora), and His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, (President of the Consistory and Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy). Accompanying the hierarchs were Fr. Myrok Korostil and Hieromonk Sophroniy, as well as a number of seminarians from the St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary – Subdeacons Mykola Zomchak and Ivan Venhryn, Yaroslav Bilohan, Myroslav Mykytuyk and Oleh Kravchenko. As the hierarchs made their way inside, the heavens once again opened, and the rain returned, pattering upon the roof of the church as the choir burst out in song.
As the Divine Liturgy flowed, the faithful kept arriving, until the church was filled to capacity. As always Archbishop Daniel delivered a sermon that would not soon be forgotten. Having read from the Gospel of Matthew about the multiplication of five fish and two loaves to feed over 5,000 people, His Eminence explained that we all have been given fish and loaves. The Lord was able to take these limited items, which were at His disposal, and feed thousands. We have all been granted fish and loaves with which the Lord expects us to follow His example and feed those who are around us.
Vladyka told a story of a man, who standing before the family icon corner during evening prayers along with his young son, prayed that the Lord help their neighbor who was in need, and that the Lord should ease his burden and grant him assistance. Having concluded the prayers, the young son turned to his father and asked why he was asking God to help this man. Why don’t they go next door and help him themselves? Certainly, we should pray that God assist others, but, we should also act and allow Him to help those in need through us.
His Eminence challenged everyone present to look for that opportunity to assist someone, be it a visit to the nursing home to bring a smile to an elderly person, or to help someone carry heavy bags of groceries to their car. There are always opportunities for us to help, we simply need to open our eyes and see them.
With everyone contemplating their new assignments, the faithful prayed all the harder that the Lord should open their eyes, so they are aware of the opportunities to serve those around them. As the choir sang their hearts out, the Liturgy ebbed and flowed, and everyone could feel the Grace of the Lord surrounding them.
Having concluded the service, Fr. Orest took a moment to thank the hierarchs for their visit, and to greet the parishioners and guests who had ascended to mountain top to meet with the Lord on this day. He then invited everyone to remain behind to enjoy a lovely lunch prepared by the sisterhood.
Having venerated the Cross, the faithful burst out of the church, umbrellas in hand. However, to everyone’s surprise the rain immediately petered to stop and as the people descended the steps, the sun burst forth, sparkling like diamonds off the raindrops hanging from the trees.
Under the gleaming white tent, everyone found a spot to sit and enjoy the meal, and each other. Laughter permeated the grounds as the people enjoyed fellowship, sharing stories and reminiscing about years gone by. The tent swelled as more people arrived from the neighboring Ukrainian Greek Catholic parish up the road, to help celebrate the parish that has graced the mountain top for 46 years. Having concluded the meal, everyone joined in singing traditional and religious Ukrainian songs, recite poetry and give heart-felt speeches.
His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, who was visiting the parish for the first time, was so impressed that he promised to visit them again soon.
As Metropolitan Antony gave the closing prayer, everyone got up to ask for the bishops’ blessings, and to hug each other in fond farewells. The separation of friends would be short, as in a few days, they would all once again gather together, this time in South Bound Brook, to celebrate the Centennial of the Ukrainian Orthodox of the USA on July 26-28, 2018!
Parish Celebrations in Glen Spay, NY - 07/22/18
Text by Elizabeth Symonenko - Photos by Seminarian Yaroslav Bolohan and Elizabeth Symonenko