In the blue twilight of the evening of Tuesday, October 17, 2023, a warm glow emitted from the doors of the St. Andrew Memorial Church in South Bound Brook, New Jersey, as the clergy and guests made their way to the church. The main entry way was flanked by yellowing trees towering over dozens of panels depicting the fallen warriors of Ukraine. A sign of the reality and brutality of a war inflicted upon Ukraine and the world by the Russian Federation.
Leaving behind the darkness of the fallen world, the faithful found solace and inside the church, beneath the loving gaze of the large mosaic icon of Christ. Having attended the second day of the Annual Clergy Conference of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Ukraine, the church was filled by men ordained to serve in the Lord’s vineyard, men who took an oath to preach and teach and bring those entrusted to them to salvation in Christ.
Tonight, the clergy gathered for just that purpose. Joining His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, Prime Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of USA and the Diaspora, and His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the UOC of the USA and Consistory President, the clergy prayed for the protection, guidance, and salvation of the Church’s youth.
Earlier in the year, under the direction of Mrs. Natalie Kapeluck-Nixon, Director of the UOC Youth Ministry, the children cast their votes to pick two patron saints for the youth of the Church. Much consideration went into the voting process, ensuring that the lives of the various saints were read and understood. After the ballots were counted, the Director announced that Saints Christina of Tyre and Saint Julian of Tarsus would be the patron saints of the youth of the UOC of the USA.
Holy Martyr Christina lived during the third century in Tyre, modern-day Lebanon. Her father, governor of Tyre, wanted the exceptionally beautiful girl to be a pagan priestess. He, therefore, placed her at age 11 in a tower with gold and silver idols. St. Christina begged God to reveal Himself and was visited by an angel who revealed Christ to her. St. Christina smashed all the idols and as a result endured many tortures at the hands of her father, including beatings, being burned, and having a large stone put around her neck in an attempt to drown her at sea. Each time an angel protected her. In terror, her father ascribed this to sorcery and he decided to execute her in the morning. That night he suddenly died. Subsequent governors subjected St. Christina to many more cruel tortures including cutting off her tongue. The martyr took her tongue and threw it in the governor’s face, and he was instantly blinded. Finally, the torturers executed St. Christina with a sword.
The Holy Martyr Julian of Tarsus was born in the Asia Minor province of Cilicia. He was the son of a pagan senator, but his mother was a Christian. After the death of her husband the mother of Saint Julian moved to Tarsus, where her son was baptized and raised in Christian piety.
When Julian reached age 18, a persecution against Christians began under the emperor Diocletian (284-305 AD). Among those arrested was Saint Julian. They brought him before the governor Marcian for trial, and for a long time they urged him to renounce Christ. Neither tortures nor threats, nor promises of gifts and honors could convince the pious youth to offer pagan sacrifice and deny Christ. The holy confessor remained steadfast in his firm faith.
For a whole year they led the martyr through the cities of Cilicia, everywhere subjecting him to interrogation and tortures, after which they threw him in prison. After continued imprisonment and the young man’s refusal to deny Christ, they tied the Martyr Julian into a sack, filled with sand and poisonous snakes and scorpions, and threw him into the sea. The body of the sufferer was carried by the waves to the shores of Alexandria, where it was found by Christians and given a proper burial.
Through the intercession and example of these two young martyrs the youth of the Church have strong mentors and protectors. In today’s ever darkening society, the youngest members of the Church are continuously faced with difficult decisions and situations. It is easy to get lost in all the propaganda and misinformation they are exposed to. Therefore, more than ever, it is crucial that the Church continue to pray for the safety and salvation of the children of the Church.
An icon of the two young martyrs was commissioned and written by Church iconographer Michael Kapeluck. Copies were made of the icon and during the evening service, the hierarchs blessed them all before distributing them to the clergy present in order to be taken back with them to their home parishes. In addition to the regularly served Akathist to the Birth-Giver of God – the Nurturer of Children served monthly, additional services and prayers will be raised to benefit the youth, to grant them wisdom, guidance, integrity, maturity and dedication to Christ and His teachings, and not to wander off the narrow path which leads them to salvation.
With icons safely tucked away, the clergy walked out of the warm and glowing church into the darkness outdoors. The brisk autumnal breeze chilled them, but, their souls remained warmed by the prayers just uttered, their faith in the Lord, and their assurance that Christ will protect and guide the youth of the Church and grant salvation for numerous generations of Orthodox Christians.
TROPAR (St. Julian)
Your holy martyr Julian, O Lord, through his suffering has received an incorruptible crown from You, our God. For having Your strength, he laid low his adversaries, and shattered the powerless boldness of demons. Through his intercessions save our souls!
TROPAR (St. Christina)
O Lord Jesus, unto Thee Thy lamb doth cry with a great voice: O my Bridegroom, Thee I love; and seeking Thee, I now contest, and with Thy baptism am crucified and buried. I suffer for Thy sake, that I may reign with Thee; for Thy sake I die, that I may live in Thee: accept me offered out of longing to Thee as a spotless sacrifice. Lord, save our souls through her intercessions since Thou art great in mercy.
Photos by Subdeacon Maksym Zhuravchyk