Saturday, February 28, 2009

Vladyka Mykhayil Celebrates Divine Liturgy in Chortkiv Region

Click on each picture below to see an enlarged version.

On Sunday, October 26, 2008, while in Ukraine, I had the opportunity to celebrate the Sacred Liturgy in our parish of St. George the Great-Martyr just outside of Chortkiv in the Ternopil Oblast. The pastor, Protopresbyter Volodymyr Svarychevskyj and his family and parishioners were most gracious hosts.

The people in the Chortkiv region are not only kind and welcoming, but also truthful and without pretension. They have been so wonderful to me each time that I've been there. In fact, I have become so comfortable with the place, that I call it my "home in Ukraine."

Chortkiv, like much of Ukraine, has a long and interesting history. It lies in the heart of historic Galicia (Halychyna) and was long an important and pivotal location for the Kozak movement.







Metropolitan Mykhayil Visits Eparchy of Mukachevo

After many years of anticipation and several visits to Ukraine, I had the opportunity to visit the cities of Uzhorod and Mukachevo, in the Transcarpathian Oblast. This beautiful area has so much meaning to me, not only because it is the area where my grandparents were born and from which they came to the United States with their parents, over 100 years ago, but because it is the seat of the historical Eparchy of Mukachevo.

The Mukachevo Eparchy is believed by some, to have its origins in the ministry of SS. Cyril and Methodius. History first records a Bishop Ivan of the ancient St. Nicholas Monastery on Cherchna Hora (Monk's Hill), as Bishop of Mukachevo in 1491.

Be that as it may, the faith certainly took deep root in the region, in the period of Kyivan-Rus. Bishops administered the eparchy from their residence at the St. Nicholas Monastery. In 1780, Bishop Andriy Bachinskyj moved the headquarters of the eparchy to nearby Uzhorod, and obtained the present cathedral church for use by Bishops of Mukachevo. This he accomplished with the help of Hapsburgian Empress Maria Theresa, a rather good friend to church during the long period of Hungarian rule in the area of Subcarpathian-Ukraine.

A special meeting at the city limits of Mukachevo took place with Fr. Taras Lovska, the rector of the Uzhorod seminary. He and several students were traveling from Uzhorod to Ivanivtsi for a liturgy, as our car was passing through. Fr. Taras, whom I had met a month earlier in New Jersey, during the seminary concert tour, was kind enough to take the time to stop and visit for awhile with us.

I was blessed to have my good friend, Fr. Ivan Shemet, vice-rector of the seminary in Uzhorod to guide me to the historic sites. I know Fr. Ivan from his time doing pastoral internships in the United States during his summer breaks from seminary studies in Rome. He showed us around the newly-built seminary, dedicated to the memory of Bishop Feodor Romzha, which, with the help of donations from the US and elsewhere, is progressing according to the most modern of educational standards. There as the opportunity to reacquaint with some of the students I had met during their US visit.

Father Shemet then took our party to the Cathedral of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The cathedral is a striking structure with its neo-Greek columned facade and two imposing towers. It stands on a hill, above the Uzh river and is visible from almost every vantage point in the city. Unfortunately, the current Bishop of Mukachevo, Vladyka Milan Sashik was out of the country at the time of our visit and could not meet with us.

Inside, the church furnishings, altar and iconostasis are of the Ukrainian baroque style, very similar to the Church of St. Andrew the First-Called in Kyiv (the patriarchal cathedral of the UAOC).

To be in the Uzhorod cathedral was a heart-moving experience. This was the church of which I had only heard about and seen pictures of for my entire life. I did not rush through the visit, but much time in prayer, thought and meditation.

Perhaps the most moving of all opportunities, was to pray before the relics of the Blessed Bishop-Martyr Feodor Romzha, located beneath an altar on the left side of the cathedral. He was the last bishop of Mukachevo, before the Soviet liquidation of the eparchy and its subsequent takeover by the Russian Orthodox Church. Bishop Romzha was martyred - poisoned in a Mukachevo hospital by order of the NKVD, after an unsuccessful attempt to take his life in an orchestrated roadside "accident." I felt the spirit of the holy bishop in the cathedral that day, guiding as he would, the revival of the Ukrainian Church in Zakarpattya. I certainly prayed for his intercession for the work of our church in the Diaspora.

Fr. Ivan introduced me to a priest of the cathedral, Fr. Andriy, who was preparing to celebrate an afternoon Divine Liturgy. Together, they took me on a special private visit to the cathedral crypt.

There, in the catacombs beneath the church, are buried many of the former bishops of Mukachevo and other important clerics and nobility. Disgracefully, the Russian Orthodox disturbed much of the crypt and scattered the remains, when they were forced to vacate the premises after the independence of Ukraine. DNA research, with the assistance of samples from living relatives in the United States, positively identified the remains of Bishop Romzha. The work is continuing today for many of the others interred there.

An inspection of the exterior premises of the cathedral showed the restoration work being done on adjacent building of the chancery and consistory offices and bishop's residence. During the totalitarian regime, they had served as a library, and other uses convenient for Soviet needs. Now, having been restored to the eparchy, they are in need of much repair, before they can be occupied once again.

Fr. Ivan also showed our party (which included my friends from Chortkiv and my cousin Mariana from Snyatyn), to the historic "zamok" or Castle of Uzhorod, which stands just a few blocks from the cathedral. Dating from the 12th century, the castle has gone through many renovations. In 1646, it was the site of the signing of the Union of Uzhorod. Later, in 1648, it was host to a large delegation of Kozaks, escorting an emissary of Bohdan Khmelnytsky to the Transylvanian Prince Rakotsi. For many years, it was the seminary of the Eparchy of Mukachevo, right up to the time of the Soviet liquidation of the church. Today it is a historical museum of Ukrainian culture and folklore.

Later that evening, upon our return to Mukachevo, we stopped at the ancient St. Nicholas Monastery. Amazingly, it looked just like pictures I had seen for years. The wall along the approach to the compound, the church building, all seemed quite familiar. What was not familiar was the atmosphere that dominates the location.

Unfortunately, the monastery on Chernecha Hora is one which has not yet been returned to the church and remains a convent for Russian Orthodox nuns. Vespers was just about to begin upon our arrival. As with other visits I have made to monasteries that are under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate, (Pochaiv, Percheska Lavra, etc), the experience tends to be more militaristic than spiritual. While the services are certainly celebrated with compunction, it is not without its disadvantages. The watchful eye of a nun carrying large candle-lighting instrument made sure no one was out of order. We can only pray for the day that this beautiful and historically important religious gem is once again in the hands of the native church.

That day ended with a return to the Mukachevo city-center and an evening meal and stay at the apartment of relatives. We were all happy to be together. For me, I had so much to reflect on and many memories to treasure, from this visit to the heart of my religious heritage.

My personal thanks to Father Ivan and Father Taras for their gracious hospitality. Our prayers are with all those in the Eparchy of Mukachevo, as they continue the process of the restoration of the church in Zakarpattya in a free and independent Ukraine.

+Vladyka Mykhayil

Click on each image to view a larger version.


A visit with Father Taras Lovska and seminarians at the city-limits of Mukachevo


In front of the main entrance to the Blessed Feodor Romzha Theological Academy in Uzhorod


Father Ivan and myself by the icon of Blessed Bishop-Martyr Feodor in the seminary foyer


One of the students is completing the iconographic mural on the wall of the seminary refectory


The interior of the new seminary church. It stands separate from the main facility and is still uncompleted.


The main doors of the seminary church


Mosaic icons grace the beautiful facade of the Cathedral of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross


The majestic classical iconostasis of the Uzhorod Cathedral


Standing before the holy table within the cathedral altar


The "high place" with the bishop's throne and icon of the Resurrection of Christ


Above the gates to the cathedral crypt are the words, "We will arise, in old Church Slavonic orthography


Above the steps leading down to the crypt is an icon of the Resurrection of Lazarus with the Gospel passage, "The one who believes in me, even though he should die, will live(John 11:25). Below the icon is quoted the prokeimenon of the liturgy for the departed, "Their souls shall dwell with the blessed."


The resting places of various bishops of Mukachevo, canons of the Uzhorod cathedral and others, still under restoration after desecration by the Russian Orthodox


A plaque marks the place where Bishop Romzha was originally entombed


After his martyrdom, Bishop Romzha was buried in this vault. After the Soviet takeover, no one was allowed to visit the spot for many decades.


A granite memorial to Bishop Romzha was placed near the original burial spot, before the transfer of his relics to the main body of the cathedral. Candles are still often light there.


With Father Andriy in the cathedral crypt


A larger view of the original vault of Bishop Romzha


The tomb of Bishop Andriy Bachinskyj, who led the church during a period of great progress and organization of eparchial life


Father Ivan Shemet and I in front of an altar in the crypt used for memorial services


Upon returning to the church interior, another view of the beautiful baroque altar and baldichino


The sanctuary walls are covered with beautiful frescos. The altar table and baldachino, liturgically proper and typical of the Ukrainian baroque style, is similar to that in St. Andrew Church, Kyiv and many others.


The relics of the Blessed Bishop-Martyr Feodor Romzha, beneath an altar on the left side of the cathedral.


The episcopal throne of the bishops of Mukachevo


Matching the bishop's throne is the ornate pulpit, with an icon of St. John Chrysostom, known among the church fathers for his preaching.


A discussion on the cathedral steps draws attention to a plaque honoring Bishop Bachinskyj, who acquired the Uzhorod cathedral for the eparchy.


The historic 12th. century Castle of Uzhorod


With Father Ivan Shemet at the Castle of Uzhorod


The St. Nicholas Monastery on Chernecha Hora in Mukachevo

Monday, February 2, 2009

ABOUT THE USE OF BLESSED WATER

Water sanctified on the feast of Yordan is still available in many Orthodox churches. It will usually remain for at least several more weeks. The feast of the Theophany (also known as Epiphany or simply, Yordan), is, along with Pascha and Pentecost, one of the most important festivals of the church calendar.

Every year, in the weeks following the feast, it the custom of our church to make this special water very available and accessible to the people. Thus, although the feast has past, the water remains as a reminder of its significance and importance in our spiritual lives. The church wishes that the faithful “embrace and partake of the water with great joy” as the hymn sung following the blessing service states.

Water is blessed by the church at other times of the year, such as during pilgrimages and on the patronal feast of a temple. This is referred to as the “small blessing of water” and the service does not possess the same sense of urgency of intention as does the “great blessing of water" celebrated on the Theophany. The prayer used on this feast day envisions the mystical repetition of Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River, through the liturgical actions, the references to biblical events and the prayerful remembrance of God’s activity of salvation in the history of the created world.

Unlike other blessed water, the church calls this water, “Jordan Water,” and the prayers ask that the “blessing of Jordan” may descend upon it - the same blessing which effected the waters, as Christ descended into the river to be baptized. Many Orthodox liturgical theologians interpret the water blessed on the feast of the Theophany as “another sacrament” and teach that the “Jordan Water” indeed possesses a “sacramental presence” of the Holy Spirit - the same Spirit who, in the form of a dove, confirmed God’s benediction upon the ministry of Jesus, at the time of his baptism.

The water is blessed with the invocation of the Holy Spirit, to “dispel all evil powers, visible and invisible.” It is our custom to drink the water in times of illness or distress and to sprinkle it in the home during any occasion of spiritual disturbance, unease or anxiety. The people should take as much water home with them as they may need and also, bring some to those who are homebound or in a sanatorium.

Make use of this water, dear friends. For us, it is a comfort in our daily tasks and challenges, a spiritual remedy for the despair brought on by our faults, a source of confirmation upon our good intentions and our efforts towards doing what is right and a living sign of God’s presence with us, in each and every moment.
+Vladyka Mykhayil

Monday, October 6, 2008

UZHOROD SEMINARIANS VISIT THE UNITED STATES

On Sunday, October 5, seminarians from the city of Uzhorod in the Transcarpathian Region of Ukraine offered a concert of sacred and liturgical music at the auditorium of the Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel in Passaic, NJ. Some pictures of the event are below

Click on this link to read the entire article at uaoc.org news.


The concert in the cathedral auditorium was well attended.


Metropolitan Mykhayil, Archpriest Taras Lovska and seminarians.


The redecorated auditorium with its excellent acoustics was a good setting in which to hold a concert of sacred music.


The icon of St. Michael the Archangel, patron of the cathedral, on the iconostasis, erected by Bishop Stephen J. Kocisko in 1965.


The Metropolitan with Reader Jack Figel of Epiphany of Our Lord Church in Annandale, Virginia.


The seminarians were happy to pose with Vladyka Mykhayil and Fr. Lovska. Many were gathered around, outside of the camera's view.


The Metropolitan stands before the cathedral iconostasis which was fully completed in the 1980s.


Bishop William Skurla, Eparch of Passaic, shown here with Metropolitan Mykhayil, welcomed the seminarians and audience at the conclusion of the concert.


Protodeacon Roger Medina in front of the icon of Christ the Teacher on the cathedral iconostasis.


Vladyka Mykhayil inspects the many beautiful additions to the cathedral church that have been accomplished since his last visit.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

THE LUKAN JUMP - THE PERIOD AFTER THE FEAST OF THE CROSS


The typikon (ukaz) directs that the continuous reading of the Gospel of St. Luke (18th. Week after Pentecost) begins on the Monday after the Sunday after the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. The Apostolic readings (or Epistles) remain on the same continuous schedule as they have been and there is no skip forward associated with these.

Therefore, in most years, during the period of St. Luke, the Gospel and Epistle readings follow different schedules and are each taken from a different week after Pentecost. The Sundays from this point forward are actually referred to by two names - for example - on October 5 of this year, we observe the 16th. Sunday After Pentecost and the First Sunday After the Cross.

Various interpretations have been given for this sudden interruption in the reading of Matthew’s Gospel and the switchover to the beginning of Luke. The most often cited is the celebration of the feast of the Conception of St. John the Baptist on September 23 (October 6 civil date). Because of its proximity to the beginning of the ecclesiastical new year and the church’s desire to remember the events of salvation history in order during the course of the year, it was sensible to begin reading from Luke’s Gospel, since only in Luke is the story of the Baptizer’s conception and birth recounted.

As time went on, newer feasts were added to the church calendar, including the Nativity of the Mother of God on September 8/21 (5th-6th centuries). This resulted in lesser attention given to the original intent of the sudden changeover to the Lukan cycle.

One final point of interest is that while Greek and Arabic calendars and those based on them (including many Ukrainian ustavs) have always observed the “Lukan or September jump,” Russian usage mostly ignored it. Only in the 20th century, through the influence of the noted liturgical scholar N.D. Uspensky, has the Moscow Church begun to restore the proper beginning of the Lukan cycle and today most Russian-based calendars reflect its role in the Orthodox typikon. +Vladyka Mykhayil

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

CANONICAL VISITATION TO BROOKLYN PARISH

Read related news article on uaoc.org news.


The Brooklyn Bridge, a popular landmark in New York, was the very first thoroughfare to connect the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, 125 years ago. Here the majestic towers are seen on the morning of September 21, 2008.


Father Kasyanov carries the Gospel Book during the Small Entrance procession.


The Metropolitan blesses the entrance and venerates the Gospel Book.


The clergy stand at the "high place" during the prokeimenon.


Vladyka Mykhayil chants the lesson from the Holy Gospel.


The Metropolitan commemorates the living and the deceased while the cherubic hymn is completed.


At the Great Entrance, His Eminence commemorates His Beatitude MEFODIY, Predstoyatel of the UAOC, the other bishops of our church, the clergy, religious and the intentions of all the faithful.


The Great Entrance.


The Symbol of Faith


"Let us lift up our hearts . . . "


Fr. Kasyanov assists the Metropolitan in putting on the small omophorion.


The faithful come forward to receive the bread of life and the cup of salvation.


"I will take the chalice of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord. Alleluia."


Metropolitan Mykhayil pronounces the dismissal of the Liturgy.


Father Kasyanov offers words of welcome to the Metropolitan.


While Fr. Yuriy speaks, Vladyka Mykhayil is seated at the throne behind the altar.


The beautiful "medovnyk" decorated with an icon of the Mother of God.


The "medovnyk" is blessed with a special prayer.


A group of the parish council gather with the Metropolitan and the pastor for a photo.


Metropolitan Mykhayil on the banks of the East River, with the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges in the background. Also visible is one of the artistic waterfalls that have graced lower New York during this past months.


The Statue of Liberty, symbol of the freedom, hospitality and justice for which the United States stands, is seen glistening in the sun of that late summer day, September 21, 2008.
 
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