AXIOS! Fr. Alexander Smoktunowicz Ordained to the Holy Priesthood
AXIOS! Fr. Alexander Smoktunowicz Ordained to the Holy Priesthood

ГІДНИЙ! Хіротонія Нового Священнослужителя Діаспори

On the 5th of June, 2022, beneath a crystal clear blue sky, the faithful gathered in the Protection of the Birth-Giver of God Ukrainian Orthodox parish in Munich, Germany.  The parish, nestled in the beautiful countryside of Bavaria, is home to a flourishing Ukrainian Community, which has recently welcomed hundreds of refugees from Ukraine.

On this beautiful Summer morning, hundreds filled the church in eager anticipation of the arrival of His Eminence Archbishop Daniel (in his capacity of the Spiritual Father of the Western-European Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Diaspora).

Bells joyously chimed as His Eminence arrived and was greeted at the door by the parish administration with the traditional bread and salt.  The faithful smiled joyously as they followed His Eminence as he entered the nave and was greeted by Parish Pastor Very Rev. Fr. Valentyn Smoktunowicz – Dean of Germany Deanery, who was on this day celebrating his 60th birthday, was surrounded by his three children who take an active part in parish life – Deacon Alexander, a graduate of the St. Sophia Seminary who would this day be ordained to the priesthood, his son David, who serves in the Altar, and his daughter Anastasia who chants in the choir.

Surrounded by numerous priests who were in attendance from Romania, the Georgian Patriarchate, and the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, His Eminence blessed the faithful and stepped forward to stand in the center of the nave as Fr. Valentyn began serving the Divine Liturgy.  His Eminence was assisted by seminarians of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary: Readers Maksym Zhuravchyk and Andrii Vatrych, and seminarian Mykola Stefanyk.

Everyone paid attention as Deacon Alexander read the Gospel Reading from John 17:1-13, listening how Christ implored God the Father to take care of those who had been entrusted to Him.  The moving Gospel made God’s love evident, and all those gathered felt that love as it flowed through them.

Archbishop Daniel gave a thought-provoking sermon, speaking of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council.  The Council, held in Nicea in 325 A.D. was the first of its kind and was called in order to clarify Church teachings and condemn a few heresies that were taking hold.  Anywhere from 230-318 bishops participated.  Among them were notable saints including - Nicholas of Myra (St. Nicholas), Athanasius the Great, Spyridon of Trimythous, Alexander of Alexandria, and Paphnutius of Egypt.

His Eminence explained that these bishops, who had already dedicated their lives to serving the Lord, did not grow complacent in their roles.  They took an active interest in ensuring the integrity of the Faith, and worked towards the wellbeing and salvation of the flocks entrusted to them.

The First Ecumenical Council set a precedent for all subsequent Councils.  During the gathering the bishops renounced Arianism, developed the Paschalion used to calculate the date of Pascha, and produced the original version of the Nicene Creed. 

All this was accomplished through much effort and prayer.  Even when things became difficult, the hierarchs kept working at it, knowing that by the guidance of the Holy Spirit they would succeed in strengthening the Church.

It is that same self-sacrifice, the emptying of self, that is required of all of us, especially those who are called to be ordained into the Holy Priesthood.  Looking over at Deacon Alexander, he advised him of this fact, that much is required of the clergy, and in order to be successful and to fulfill one’s calling, the priest must be selfless and like the bishops at the First Council of Nicea, work diligently to uphold the truths of the Christ, to preserve the integrity of the Church, and to lead their flocks to salvation.

With these deep words to ponder, the Liturgy continued.  During the Great Entrance, Deacon Alexander exited the Altar and made his way to the back of the church, holding the Aer over his head.  As Archbishop Daniel received the Gifts and placed them upon the Altar, he donned his mitre, blessed the faithful, and then took a seat at the corner of the Altar.

From the Narthex was heard, “Command!” as the candidate to the priesthood, Deacon Alexander made a prostration, and was lead through the Nave to the Altar, pausing to prostrate once again before the icon upon the tetrapod.  The words, “Command! Holy Master, bless him who is before thee,” echoed through the church as Deacon Alexander entered the Altar and was presented to Archbishop Daniel who awaited him.  Having received the hierarch’s blessing, Deacon Alexander was led around the Altar Table, pausing at each corner to kiss the table, and prostrating before the Archbishop.

This whole time the choir joyously sang:

Hear us, you martyred Saints who have fought the good fight and received crowns, entreat the Lord, to have mercy on our souls.

Glory to you, Christ our God, the Apostles' boast and pride, the Martyrs' fervent joy whose preaching is the consubstantial Trinity.

O Isaiah dance with joy, for the Virgin is indeed with child and brought forth a son, Emmanuel.  Who came both as God and man, Day-at-the-Dawn is his name, and by magnifying him, we call the Virgin blessed.

With three rotations completed, Deacon Alexander kneeled at the Southwest corner of the Altar table leaning his head upon his hands which rested on the table. Vladyka Daniel covered his head with his Epitrachelion and his right hand, as he read the Prayers of Cheirotonia over him, while the clergy, the choir, those present at the Liturgy, and those attending over the live stream all prayed and sang “Lord, have mercy!” 

As prayers from around the world were raised, His Eminence prayed,

The divine grace, which always heals that which is infirm and completes that which is lacking, ordains the most devout Deacon Alexander to the office of Priest.  Let us, therefore, pray for him, that the grace of the All-Holy Spirit may come upon him.

O God, great in might and inscrutable in wisdom, marvelous in counsel above the sons of men: You the same Lord, fill with the gift of Your Holy Spirit this man whom it has pleased You to advance to the degree of Priest; that he may become worthy to stand in innocence before Your altar, to proclaim the Gospel of Your kingdom, to minister the word of Your truth, to offer to You spiritual gifts and sacrifices; to renew Your people through the font of regeneration, that when he shall go to meet You, at the second coming of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, Your only-begotten Son, he may receive the reward of good stewardship in the order given to him, through the plenitude of Your goodness.

For blessed and glorified is Your all-holy and majestic name, of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now, and ever and to the ages of ages.

Archbishop Daniel then raised newly ordained priest Alexander to his feet, removed the deacon’s stole and presenting each item of the priestly vestments to the faithful he vested the new priest, each time proclaiming “Axios!” which means “worthy”.  As the church reverberated and the heavens echoed with “Axios”, the angels joining the people below in the heavenly proclamation of joy, Archbishop Daniel presented the new priest with a service book, and then brought him fully vested forward to present to the people and introduce them to newly ordained Father Alexander.

With relief on his face the newly ordained priest approached his wife, Kateryna, embracing her warmly, as she would be traveling this journey with him.  He then turned to his father, Fr. Valentyn and embraced him as well before returning to the Altar, for the first time to serve as a priest.

The new priest greeted the concelebrating priests with a holy kiss, then stood at the altar and concelebrated the Divine Liturgy with them, holding the Aer that was just recently upon his shoulders, over the Holy Gifts during the proclamation of the Creed. Thus, the Divine Liturgy continued with the new priest shining in his new white vestments leading the way, supported by the senior clergy.

After the consecration of the Holy Gifts, Father Alexander came and stood before the Altar as Archbishop Daniel handed him the consecrated Lamb saying:  “Receive this Divine Trust, and preserve it whole and unharmed until your last breath, because you will be held to an accounting therefore in the Second and Awesome Coming of our Great Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ, at which time He will demand It from you.”

After reciting the Lord’s Prayer, the clergy partook of the Holy Gifts, this being the first time that Father Alexander communed as a priest.  The Royal Gates opened and having recited the Prayer Before Communion, His Eminence permitted the newly ordained priest to be the one to administer Holy Communion to the faithful, who had lined up to receive the Gifts which the Lord had loving prepared and was offering to them.  Archbishop Daniel stood closely behind, supporting the young priest in the process, as one can only imagine the emotions going through Fr. Alexander’s head as he held the very Body and Blood of Christ, and communed the faithful.

As the choir sang Father Alexander recited the prayer behind the ambo, as Archbishop Daniel gave the final blessing and dismissal. 

With the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, His Eminence once again presented the newly ordained priest Alexander, as the parish reverberated “Axios!” as he called up the priest’s young wife, Kateryna.  His Eminence explained the Fr. Alexander’s priestly path includes the partnership and participation of his wife, and to help strengthen her for this new vocation, Archbishop Daniel took her to the side, and prayed over her, that the Lord should bless and strengthen her as she supports her husband in his ministry.

As Dobrodiyka Katernya stepped down, His Eminence turned his attention to the faithful who had joined in this wonderful celebration.  On behalf of His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, Prime Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Diaspora, Archbishop Daniel once again congratulated the newly ordained priest, and expressed his warmest greetings to all the clergy present, the Ukrainian Consul-General in Germany, Mr Yuriy Yarmilko, as well as all the faithful.

As the choir sang Mnohaya Lita, Fr. Valentyn was presented with flowers and gifts from the parish in honor of his birthday.  Once again, the church erupted in a loud rendition of Mnohaya Lita as the faithful joined their voices to those of the choir.

The festivities continued as everyone gathered for a luncheon, where they spent a relaxing afternoon greeting old friends, making new friends, sharing stories, and rejoicing that a new priest has been ordained to serve in the Lord’s Vineyard.

May God bless newly ordained Fr. Alexander and grant him many years!  Mnohaya Lita!  Axios!

AXIOS! Fr. Alexander Smoktunowicz Ordained to the Holy Priesthood

Photos by Reader Maksym Zhuravchyk

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