Archpastoral Prayer For Ukraine With the Clergy and Faithful of St. George Ukrainian Orthodox Parish in Yardville, NJ
Archpastoral Prayer For Ukraine With the Clergy and Faithful of St. George Ukrainian Orthodox Parish in Yardville, NJ

Архіпастирська Молитва за Україну з Духовенством та Парафіянами

Української Православної Громади св. Юрія Переможця у Ярдвил, Н. Дж.

On Sunday, May 15, 2022, as the sun gleamed brightly off the dome of St. George Ukrainian Orthodox Parish, nestled in the quiet town of Yardville, New Jersey, the faithful began to arrive.  On this day the parish was celebrating their Feast Day, and were blessed to have His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, joining them.

The quiet morning was broken, as laughter was heard from the parish rectory.  The children, dressed in their brightly colored vyshyvanky giggled and squirmed as their hierarch appeared before them.  With smiles and warm greetings, the children, along with their parents and instructors turned towards the church.  The children reached into their baskets and began to strew colorful petals and blossoms, as they led the way to the church, carpeting the pavement in pinks, reds, and purples.

Thus, led by the flower brigade, along with men carrying church banners of St. Volodymyr and St. Olga, and a number of Altar Servers, Archbishop Daniel arrived at the open doors of the church.  Ascending the steps, he was greeted with the traditional bread and salt by the parish administrators, and entering the Nave was welcomed by parish priest, V. Rev. Peter Levko.

The beautiful parish was even more stunning this day with new iconography.  The family of Michael and Natalia Stepanovych sponsored icons of Archangels (written by Xena Uman) which were blessed by His Eminence.  Giving his blessing to the faithful who greeted him, Archbishop Daniel stepped into the colorful church, the golden halos of all the saints glowing all about those gathered beneath.

With His Eminence, robed in crisp white vestments with red and blue ornamentation, standing in the Nave, amidst the faithful, Fr. Peter began the Divine Liturgy.  Assisting were the Seminarians of the St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary – Subdeacon Yaroslav Bilohan, Subdeacon Paylo Vysotskyi, Reader Maksym Zhuravchyk, Reader Andrii Vatrich, Andriy Akulenko and Roman Marchyshak.  As the choir sang, their voices ebbing and flowing melodiously under the direction of Deacon Valentyn Olijnyk, the service moved along. 

The Reading this day was from the Gospel of John 5:1-15, telling of the Miracle at the Pool of Bethesda.  On the Sabbath, Christ happens to walk by a man lying near the pool, who without assistance was not able to reach the water after the angel stirred it, before someone else leaped in before him.  The man had been there for 38 years awaiting a miracle.  Jesus walks by and seeing his predicament, asks if he wishes to be made well, and then watches as the man obediently takes up his bed and walks away.

Expounding on this during his sermon, Archbishop Daniel, extrapolated that quantity is not quality.  38 years of lying in pain, does not equate to 38 years of living one’s life.   As humans we “want” more, but sometimes quality is worth far more than quantity.

The Lord did not create us to lay about and wait for something to happen in our lives.  He created us to live and to be in control of our lives, and through them to impact the world around us.  In this story we see a man who is still, and watches as the world changes about him.  That is no way to live.  God graced this man with certain gifts and skills, and the world is not availed of them if the man sits idle.  Imagine this man’s life for the last 38 years.  Babies have been born, completed their education, wed, raised their own children, and even may have seen their first grandchild born, while this man simply sat and watched, while in pain.  We have a toothache and cannot wait to have the dentist help us, but, this man was crippled for almost four decades, and nobody showed him mercy by helping him into the pool.  In all those years, nobody made an effort to help him.

Like this man, there are times in our own life when we seem at an impasse.  We do not know what, or how to proceed.  We wait for the perfect moment.  We delay living, due to the parameters we have set up for ourselves.  But why do we wait to live?  If we need help, then we need to seek help, so that we can live our lives. As Christians, we are to imitate Christ, and daily we are to look about ourselves for people who are stuck in their lives, lying by the pool, and need help to reach the water.  Every day we ought to be mindful of the situations those around us find themselves in, for it is on us to help them, so that they too can continue living their lives. 

As His Eminence returned to the Altar, he had left the faithful with much to contemplate and think about, as they wondered if someone they knew was in need of assistance.  Together they prayed the Creed, repeated the many petitions to the Lord for health, safety, and prosperity of the world, and with bowed heads in unison recited the Lord’s prayer.

As the children ran to get in line for Holy Communion, the adults also humbly followed.  Having received the Body and Blood of Christ, washed anew, spirits lifted, the faithful, with renewed resolve and vigor once again bowed their heads as His Eminence prayed for the wellbeing of Ukraine, a cessation of the atrocities being perpetrated by the Russians against innocent civilians, and a return to peace.  Hie also prayed that the Lord return His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, Prime Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Diaspora, to good health, granting him a speedy and complete recovery after his surgery earlier in the week.  Additionally, His Eminence asked that they also remember in their prayers, Stepan, the brother of Seminarian Maksym, who has been injured in Ukraine.

As the choir sang Mnohaya Lita, the faithful approached to venerate the cross, and accept a small icon card from His Eminence in honor of this day.  Having fed their souls, with warm smiles and twinkling eyes the faithful made their way to the parish hall to continue the celebration of the Parish Feast Day and feed their bodies.

During the delicious banquet, the parishioners and guests caught up on the latest news, which families had graduations to celebrate, which had new additions, and who had heard what about the ongoing war in Ukraine.  Tears of joy, and tears of sorrow, mixed, as the microcosm of humanity contemplated the world around them.

As the last of the plates were cleared away, the children of the Ukrainian School climbed on stage and chased away all the sorrow and worry and replaced them with joy and hope.  The youngsters dressed in their Ukrainian vyshyvanky sang and recited poetry, making their parents and teachers proud.

The Seminarians stepped into the spotlight and also sang a variety of Ukrainian folk songs, concluding with a soulful rendition of Plyve Kacha.  The song is a lament. It is about a young soldier, a young recruit going off to fight in foreign wars and his dialogue with his mother as he asks what will happen if he dies in a foreign land with nobody to bury him.  It is a poignant and solemn reminder of the ongoing battle Ukraine faces against Russia, from the days of the Maidan to the current unprovoked attack.

As the young men sang, the adults lowered their heads, many wiping away tears, as the children gazed in wonder not sure why everyone was crying.  As the seminarians concluded the song, everyone remained in silence for a matter of seconds, before returning to the present, realizing that as they celebrated, people in Ukraine were fighting for their very survival. 

The song was the perfect segue to the next segment of the banquet, special announcements.  A loud applause followed the declaration that the Sisterhood had made a generous donation to the UOC of the USA, followed by the announcement of individual parishioner donations.  With gratitude His Eminence accepted the parish donation of $37,000 to aid Ukraine.

With smiles the ladies of the Sisterhood happily accepted the flowers presented to them by Archbishop Daniel who declared that the parish was built on the labor of their love.  It is the continuous and unfaltering dedication of the sisterhood, their selfless efforts, that have helped this parish flourish and prosper.

The St. George parish has been active over its history in its support of the Church and of Ukraine.  With the current crisis in Ukraine the parish has stepped up its efforts welcoming several refugees, holding fundraisers, and praying.  On this day, Archbishop Daniel was honored to present a gift of love on behalf of the parish to the refugees.

With the formal celebration concluded, the faithful lingered in the parish hall enjoying spending time with their hierarch and each other.  In good camaraderie the hours wiled away, until the sun hung low in the western sky. 

Bidding their farewells, the faithful returned to the world, re-energized and with a renewed commitment to make a positive change in the world around them – near and far.  With such a faithful and dedicated flock, the parish of St. George has a bright future.  Many years to the parish as they celebrate their Patronal Feast Day!  Mnohaya Lita!

Archpastoral Prayer For Ukraine With the Clergy and Faithful of St. George Ukrainian Orthodox Parish in Yardville, NJ

Photos by Subdeacon Yaroslav Bilohan

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Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
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South Bound Brook, NJ 08880

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