AXIOS! WORTHY! ДОСТОЙНИЙ! Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA is blessed with a new priest - Rev. Fr. Andrii Vatrich
AXIOS! WORTHY! ДОСТОЙНИЙ! Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA is blessed with a new priest - Rev. Fr. Andrii Vatrich

The responsibility of priests in the Orthodox Church is multifaceted, encompassing sacramental administration, pastoral care, spiritual guidance, and educational leadership. Their presence is integral to the cohesion and growth of the Orthodox Christian community, providing a spiritual foundation that sustains and nurtures the faithful in their journey of faith, and leads them to salvation in Christ.

In order to be prepared to take on such a heavy responsibility, the candidate for priesthood undergoes years of study, practice, and preparation.  Graduating from the Saint Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary with a Degree of Master of Divinity, Deacon Andrii Vatrych was about to enter the ranks of millions of men before him, who had heard the call of Christ to follow Him and become fishers of men.  On this day Deacon Andrii would become a priest in the Orthodox Church, through the laying on of hands by His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy and Consistory President of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.

Clergy and faithful gathered in the Three Holy Hierarchs Seminary Chapel, on Saturday the 17th of February to witness the ordination, and to celebrate the chapel Feast Day.  Overnight it had snowed and the in the morning the Metropolia Center was covered by a soft and thick white blanket of snow, as everyone arrived for the celebration.

Inside the chapel the icons seemed to glow warmly, welcoming the guests in from the cold.  As the chapel filled the local clergy, vested in brilliant vestments of blue and gold gathered at the entrance to great Archbishop Daniel as he arrived.  Rev. Vasyl Pasakas greeted the hierarch and presented him the cross with which he blessed all those present.

In the presence of and with the blessing of Metropolitan Antony, Prime Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the UOC of the USA and Diaspora, Archbishop Daniel began serving the Divine Liturgy.  As the Seminarians of the St. Sophia Seminary chanted the hymns, prayers and responses, those faithful who were present felt transported to the heavenly realms. 

The Gospel Reading was Luke 17: 3-10 where the Lord advised the apostles how to increase their faith, and how to remain humble in their service to God and others.  Archbishop Daniel stepped down from the ambo and delivered a moving sermon.  In the small nave the sermon felt intimate, as if the bishop was speaking to each person individually. 

With everyone moved by the teachings of the archpastor, the Divine Liturgy continued as the Archbishop, clergy, and faithful prayed for God’s mercy, peace, love and visitation, remittance of sins, and strength, along with peace in the world.

At the conclusion of the Great Entrance, Deacon Andrii who had stepped to the back of the nave, was joined by Deacons Pavlo Vysotskyi and Roman Marchyshak.  As the Cherubic Hymn faded away, Deacon Pavlo loudly called out “Command!” at which the candidate to the priesthood, holding the Aer over his head prostrated, was assisted back to his feet by the other two deacons and brought forward.  Once again he loudly proclaimed, “Command!” and Deacon Andrii prostrated, and was then led up the steps to stop before the Royal Gates, where having once again prostrated,  and upon rising was presented to Archbishop Daniel who was awaiting them by the deacons who proclaimed, “Command! Holy Master, bless him who is before thee.”

The archbishop, wearing his mitre, was seated in the bishop’s chair which had been placed just to the side of the Altar.  As the candidate kneeled before His Eminence, the archbishop blessed him and gave him counsel.  He removed the Aer from the deacon’s shoulders and placed it upon the Altar table, as two priests came forward, Very Rev. Yurij Siwko and Rev. Vasyl Pasakas , and taking Deacon Andrii by the arms led him around the Altar table, stopping to kiss each corner.  Reaching the Northwest corner, Deacon Andraii kneeled before the sitting Archbishop and kissed his Epigonation/Palitza, which is the diamond shaped cloth that hangs from his right hip, and denotes him as a "soldier" of Christ, and symbolizes the Word of God, fighting the wiles of the enemy.

Once again two priests, Very Rev. Milorad Orlic and Rev. Ivan Tchopko led Deacon Andrii around the Altar table, repeating the process, while the clergy sing:

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.

During his final rotation, Deacon Andrii was escorted by Very Rev. Vasyl Sendeha and Very Rev. Vitaliy Pavlykivskiy.  With three rotations completed, the young deacon kneeled at the Southwest corner of the Altar table leaning his head upon his hands which rested on the table itself. Vladyka Daniel covered the deacon’s head with his Epitrachelion and his right hand, as he read the Prayers of Chirotonia 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 Andrii 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 Andrii to his feet and removed the deacon’s stole and presenting each item of the priestly vestments to the faithful proclaimed “Axios” and vested the new priest, each time proclaiming “Axios!”.  First came the epitrachelion, which translates to “what is worn around the neck.”  The epitrachelion represents the priesthood.  St. Patriarch Germanos of Constantinople (+733), related it to the Passion of Christ, “The epitrachelion is the cloth that was put on Christ at the hands of the High Priest,“ writes Germanos, “and that was on His neck as He was bound and dragged to His passion.“ This passion-symbolism of the epitrachelion is reflects the Grace of Priesthood, along with the “yoke” it entails.  As the faithful proclaimed “Axios! Axios! Axios!” Archbishop Daniel placed the stole over the new priests head, and then presented the belt/zone before tying it around the priest’s waist.  The zone denotes the priest’s readiness to serve the Lord and is also a sign that he is bound to Christ.  “Blessed is God, Who girded me with power, and hath made my path blameless…” (Ps. 47:32-33).

In putting on the epimanika or cuffs, first on the right hand and then on the left, he prays: “Thy right hand, O Lord, is glorified in strength; Thy right hand, O Lord, hath vanquished the enemy, and in the multitude of Thy glory hast Thou crushed the adversaries (Ex. 15:6). “Thy hands have made me and fashioned me…” (Ps. 118:73). The cuffs are symbolic of the bonds of Christ and serve as a re minder that a minister of the Church must rely not on his own strength, but on the help of God.

Next came the phelonion, the outer garment, which is symbolic of the robe placed upon Christ during His Passion, the scarlet robe which clothed the Savior as the soldiers ridiculed Him, for  crimson cloaks were considered imperial garments.  This garment reminds the priest of his royal dignity and is an illustration of divine light, righteousness, and joy.  And finally the Archbishop hung a gold cross around the young priest’s neck.

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 having received the Metropolitan’s blessing, he then brought him fully vested forward to present to the people and introduce them to newly ordained Father Andrii.

With a bashful smile, and tears of humility and joy shining in his eyes, Fr. Andrii stepped down from the ambo to rejoice with his biggest supporter, his wife Anna, and exchange a quick hug before returning to the Altar.  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 Andrii 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 Andrii communed as a priest.  As the Royal Gates reopened, His Eminence entrusted the Chalice to Father Andrii who proceeded to offer Communion to the faithful with trembling hands.  Archbishop Daniel stood closely behind, supporting the young priest in the process, as one can only imagine the emotions going through Fr. Andrii’s head as he held the very Body and Blood of Christ, and communed the faithful.

At the conclusion of the Liturgy, as the choir sang, Father Andrii came out to recite the prayer behind the ambo, as Archbishop Daniel gave the final blessing and dismissal, before reading aloud the proclamation and declaration of Fr. Andrii’s priesthood.  With a final blessing, Fr. Andrii nervously expressed his deep gratitude and humble realization of the great responsibility entrusted to him.  He thanked the hierarchs for their unwavering support and encouragement, before thanking his brother seminarians, his wife and family, and all the faithful for their love and prayers. 

Before the conclusion of the service, Fr. Andrii’s wife, Anna, stepped up before the icon of the Holy Birth-giver of God, as Archbishop Daniel prayed over her, blessing her, and asking the Lord’s Grace upon her as she works alongside her husband in the Lord’s vineyard.

The joyous event continued as everyone made their way to the seminary dining room to enjoy a delicious lunch and spend time encouraging the young priest, sharing stories, giving advice, and simply enjoying the joy of the moment in the company of their church family.

May the Lord bless Fr. Andrii and Dobrodiyka Anna, as they start their journey together leading others to Christ.  Mnohaya Lita! Axios! Axios! Axios!

AXIOS! WORTHY! ДОСТОЙНИЙ! Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA is blessed with a new priest - Rev. Fr. Andrii Vatrich

Photos by Subdeacon Maksym Zhuravchyk and Mykola Stefanyk

(73 images)

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