The sacred day of Meatfare Sunday welcomed everyone to St. Anthony of the Desert Mission – a community of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, with the temperatures in low 80s.
About 100 faithful of the local Las Cruces, NM mission family gathered in their temporary space (which is graciously offered by St. Andrew Episcopal community of Las Cruces, NM) for the Eucharistic Divine Liturgy served by His Eminence Archbishop Daniel – the spiritual father of the Western Eparchy of the UOC of the USA.
Entering the worship space of the mission, Vladyka Daniel was greeted by the pastor of the congregation - Very Rev. Fr. Gabriel Rochelle, bearing the cross and by Reader Blake Davenport, chairman of the parish council, who presented His Eminence with the traditional bread and salt.
Before the liturgy, a seminarian of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary of the UOC of the USA Aaron Nathaniel Holloway was tonsured Reader and set aside as Subdeacon for the parish. Vladyka Daniel shared with Subdeacon Aaron Nathaniel thoughts on the ministry of the subdeacon and charged him to study the Scriptures and the prayers of the church in continual preparation as a reader and subdeacon.
St. Anthony has been blessed with numerous Subdeacons and Readers, and one deacon of blessed memory, Deacon David Mascarenas. One previous subdeacon is now Fr. Theophan Mackey of St. Job of Pochaiv parish in Los Alamos NM. Subdeacon Vladimir Michael Laven continues to serve the parish, and Deacon Ted Brinegar now serves as Deacon in OCA. However, this year’s archpastoral visit of Vladyka Daniel also brought an opportunity for the parishioners to witness the ordination to Deaconate of Subdeacon Clinton Dean Joseph Kifolo.
In his sermon Vladyka Daniel stated: “… Christ is telling us in the Gospel Narative for the Meatfare Sunday, that in order to repent, we must extend our love to our neighbor. This parable of the Last judgment is about love.Christian love. By virtue of our baptism, we are all ultimately called in some way to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, visit the sick… - these are the requirements of our class, class of life, and the final exam is yet to come… When? Instead of when, we should ask, are we ready?
When Christ comes to judge us, what will be the criterion of His judgment? The parable of the Last Judgment answers: love—not a mere humanitarian concern for abstract justice and the anonymous “poor,” but concrete and personal love for the human person—the specific persons that we encounter each day in our lives.
Christian love is to see Christ in another person, whoever he or she is, and whom God, in His eternal and mysterious plan, has decided to introduce into my life, be it only for a few moments, not as an occasion for a “good deed” or an exercise of charitable deed, but as the beginning of an eternal companionship in God Himself.
The parable of the Last Judgment is about Christian love. Not all of us are called to work for “humanity,” yet each one of us has received the gift and the grace of Christ’s love.
We know that all persons ultimately need this personal love—the recognition in them of their unique soul in which the beauty of the whole creation is reflected in a unique way. We also know that people are in prison and are sick and thirsty and hungry because that personal love has been denied them. And, finally, we know that however narrow and limited the framework of our personal existence, each one of us has been made responsible for a tiny part of the Kingdom of God, made responsible by that very gift of Christ’s love. Thus, on whether or not we have accepted this responsibility, on whether we have loved or refused to love, we will be judged…”
Assisted by Very Rev. Fr. Gabriel Rochelle, Rev. Fr. Thephan Mackey and Deacon Theodre Brinegar, Archbishop Daniel was formally presented with a candidate for the Holy Deaconate of the Church – Subdeacon Clinton Kifolo. In the prayerful bowing in front of the bishop, veneration of his hand the sacred altar, the candidate for the ordination knelt in front of the altar of the mission community, as the archbishop recited the prayer of ordination.
Suddenly, raised from a posture of prayerful submission, the newly-ordained deacon was embraced by the powerful AXIOS! WORTHY! – the exclamation of the Christian community, recognizing the call to service and his desire to serve as he is set aside to care for the needs of the mission community along with Fr. Gabriel. In his short instructions to the newly-ordained Deacon Clinton, Vladyka Daniel stated “…I would ask you from this day forward, remember two important responsibilities: One, that you are entrusted with the Holy Gospel. You don’t own this book; you are a trustee like all the rest of us, to share this great news about Jesus Christ. Every time you read the Gospel at Liturgy, think of this day and how this task is entrusted to you… Second, you are now particular servants of the Eucharist, a role that belongs to the deacon, who stands by the priest and presents the chalice of the Precious Body and Blood of the Savior…” Archbishop Daniel concluded.
Once the Liturgy concluded, Archbishop Daniel presented Centennial Medals to the parishioners of the mission community that have work tirelessly for the spiritual and physical welfare of the community: Pani-matka Susan Steinhaus, Verlaine Elizabeth Davies, Subdeacon Vladimir Michael Laven and Very Rev. Fr. Gabriel Rochelle, who recently celebrated his 80thbirthday.
Following the Divine Liturgy, a festive potluck offered the eighty some people who gathered different foods to savor and the opportunity to once again socialize with each other and approach the bishop with the requests for prayers and blessings.
At about 5am on Monday morning, Archbishop Daniel and seminarians subdeacon Ihor Protsak and Yaroslav Bilohan departed Las Cruces, NM for the Spiritual Center – Metropolia of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA in South Bound Brook, NJ.
Photos by Seminarian Yarosalv Bilohan