December 20, 2016
New York City: Feast of "Protectress of the Russian Diaspora" celebrated in Synodal Cathedral

On Friday the 9th and Saturday the 10th of December, Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America & New York led the All-Night Vigil and Divine Liturgy for the patronal feast day of the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign in New York City.

His Eminence was co-served by archpastors who had recently participated in the December session of the Holy Synod: Archbishops Mark of Berlin & Germany, Kyrill of San Francisco & Western America, and Gabriel of Montreal & Canada, Bishops Nicholas of Manhattan (vicar of the Eastern American Diocese) and Irenei of Sacramento (vicar of the Western American Diocese), as well as Bishop John of Naro-Fominsk (Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA); Archimandrite Roman (Krassovsky; head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem), Archpriests Alexander Belya (dean of New York City), George Konyev (chancellor of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA), Andrei Sommer (senior priest of the Synodal Cathedral), and Alexandre Antchoutine (dean of Long Island & the Hudson Valley); and an array of Synodal, diocesan, and Patriarchal clergy. Praying in church during Liturgy was Archpriest Serafim Gan (chancellor of the Synod of Bishops).

In these festal days, the divine services proceeded under the aegis of the marvelously adorned wonderworking Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God – Protectress of the Russian Diaspora. The hierarchal choir sang under the direction of Peter Fekula. The church was filled with worshippers, faithful, and monastics from New York and neighboring states, the majority of whom communed of Christ’s Holy Mysteries.

Delivering a sermon on the example the Most Holy Theotokos sets for the faithful and on her Icon "of the Sign," Bishop John of Naro-Fominsk said, in part: "This icon of the Most Holy Theotokos has become renowned for its many miraculous appearances in the history of our Church, beginning in the 13th century. When the forces of Andrew Bogolubsky attempted to lay storm Great Novgorod, the citizens of that city, seized with terror at the possible sacking that awaited them, heeded the prayers of the Holy Church and, led by the metropolitan, took the Icon of the Mother of God "of the Sign" and climbed the city walls, processing around them and praying that the enemy might not take the city by force. Seeing this multitude of soldiers and civilians walking the ramparts, Andrew Bogolubsky’s militiamen hardened their hearts, and began to release volleys of arrows, one of which struck the Icon of the Mother of God. And then a miracle took place: the fear of God seized the attackers, and they fled in fear. That very day the feast "of the Sign" was established, honoring the sign by which the Most Holy Virgin had given to all who believed on it, freeing them from every misfortune. Several centuries later, at the root of a tree not far from Kursk, the Most Holy Theotokos once more showed her mercy, revealing the Kursk Root Icon, also called "of the Sign." A multitude of people have visited the chapel built on that site, in order to venerate the spot and receive the Icon’s blessing."

Bishop John noted, that "If we remember the life of the Most Holy Virgin, we will see that the greatest of her character traits was humility: she accepted everything in her life as the will of God, including too the appearance of the Angel and the tidings of her conception of Him, Who would wish to save the world, with great humility and without any thoughts or musings that could encourage personal pride. And, thanks to this disposition of heart and soul, she received that miraculous grace to intercede for mankind before the Throne of the Almighty."

His Grace called on the faithful to remember the virtue of humility, falling before the Kursk Root Icon "of the Sign," asking for God’s mercy and grace to be granted unto us, that our lives might be corrected, that through the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos we might obtain that treasure that she herself obtained in her time, when she gave all of herself and her heart, her will, and her essence to the service of God."

Upon completion of the service, the hierarchs and clergy served a short moleben before the holy Kursk Root Icon.

Metropolitan Hilarion congratulated all of his brother-archpastors, clergy, and faithful with the feast, thanked all of them for their shared prayer, and presented the senior-most hierarchs – Archbishops Mark of Berlin & Germany and Kyrill of San Francisco & Western America – the Order of St. Raphael of Brooklyn of the Russian and Antiochian Orthodox Churches.

In honor of the 20th anniversary of his priestly service and for his zealous labors on behalf of the Holy Church, Fr. Serafim Gan was presented a gramota from the President of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. In honor of his zealous labors in the vineyard of church singing, a gramota from the President of the Synod of Bishops was presented to Anatoly Panchoshny, longtime member of the Synodal choir.

A festal luncheon was organized for the clergy and faithful by the cathedral sisterhood in the church hall.

Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese