July 14, 2016
Howell, NJ: Double Hierarchal Liturgy celebrated for Patronal Feast of Our Lady of Tikhvin Church

On Saturday, July 9, the feast day of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God, Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America & New York celebrated Divine Liturgy in Our Lady of Tikhvin Church at St. Alexander Nevsky Diocesan Cathedral in Howell, NJ. His Eminence was co-served by Bishop Nicholas of Salavat & Kumertau (Republic of Bashkortostan, Russia), currently visiting the Western & Eastern American Dioceses with the blessing of the hierarchy of the Russian Church Abroad, and who had taken part in the celebrations in honor of the 50th anniversary of the repose of the Holy Hierarch John of Shanghai & San Francisco, held in San Francisco, CA.

The hierarchs were co-served by diocesan and visiting clergy: Protopresbyter Valery Lukianov (dean of New Jersey, pastor emeritus of the church), Archpriests Serge Lukianov (diocesan secretary, dean of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral), Mark Burachek (rector of Our Lady of Kazan Church in Newark, NY), Rafael Melendez (Albanian Orthodox Church), Petro Kunitsky (cleric of Holy New Martyrs & Confessors of Russia Church in Brooklyn, NY), Boris Slootsky (parish cleric), George Zelenin (rector of St. Michael’s Church in Paterson, NJ), and Zoran Radovic (rector of St. George Serbian Church in Elizabeth, NJ); Priests Alexey Bykon (cleric of New Martyrs Church), Seraphim Chemodakov (parish cleric), and Serge Ledkovsky (deputy rector of St. Vladimir Memorial Church in Jackson, NJ); Protodeacons Vasily Milonow (cleric of Holy Protection Memorial Church in Ottawa, Canada), Nicholas Lukianov, Leonid Roschko, Paul Drozdowski (parish clerics), and Dionysius Lvov (cleric of the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign in New York City).

Prior to the start of Liturgy, His Eminence awarded parish altar server Mykola Ivanchuk the right to wear the orarion.

Present during the festal divine services on Friday evening and Saturday morning in the Tikhvin Church was a wonderworking copy of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God, given to the church by Olga V. Astori-Astafiev. The icon owes its nickname – the "Royal Icon" – to its origins: the holy image originally belonged to the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, who in the year of the 300th Anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty bestowed it as a blessing upon her seamstress Trofimova – Olga’s mother.

Upon conclusion of the Liturgy, a multitude of the faithful communed of Christ’s Holy Mysteries. Metropolitan Hilarion congratulated the clergy and parishioners on the occasion of their patronal feast day, and addressed the faithful with a sermon. His Eminence noted that the original Tikhvin Icon, just as the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God, wound up in America after the Second World War, and remained for many years in Chicago. However, unlike with the Protectress of the Russian Diaspora, not many were given an opportunity to pray before this icon, and because of its large dimensions, the Tikhvin Icon rarely traveled. Only before its return to Russia in 2004 were the faithful of New York able to pray before the wonderworking image.

Metropolitan Hilarion spoke about the Tikhvin Icon’s history: "The holy icon was painted by the Apostle and Evangelist Luke, and was located in the Church of our Lady of Blachernae. When the Turks captured Constantinople, the icon vanished, only to reappear in Rus’ in the 14th century miraculously: the people saw the icon on Lake Ladoga, floating above the water. The holy icon was housed in a church near the city of Tikhvin, from whence the icon received its name. During the reign of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, a monastery was built in place of the church, and the icon remained there until the Second World War – and has remained there hence since returning to Russia.

Church dean Fr. Serge Lukianov greeted the Metropolitan and Bishop Nicholas and noted that this year marks the 80th anniversary of the parish’s founding; he also pointed out that this is the only church in America and in the entire Church Abroad named in honor of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God. On behalf of the clergy and parish, Fr. Serge presented Metropolitan Hilarion with a carved wooden panagia, and presented Bishop Nicholas with an identical panagia, as well as an icon of the Holy Right-Believing Great Prince Alexander Nevsky with a commemorative plaque.

The parish sisterhood invited the clergy, guests, and faithful to a festal luncheon, after which Fr. Serge acquainted Bishop Nicholas with St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and its icons and relics.

Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese