March 15, 2016
Stratford, CT: Bishop Nicholas performs Archpastoral Visit to Holy Presentation Parish

On Meatfare Sunday, March 6, Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan visited Holy Presentation Church in Stratford, CT, and celebrated the Divine Liturgy. His Grace was co-served by Archpriests Andrei Semyanko (parish rector) and Constantine Semyanko, and Protodeacon Serge Arlievsky (cleric of Holy Dormition Convent "Novo-Diveevo" in Nanuet, NY).

During the Sixth Hour, Bishop Nicholas elevated Reader John Martin to the rank of subdeacon, and during Liturgy ordained him to the diaconate. The newly ordained Deacon John will carry out his service at St. Nicholas Church in Enfield, CT. During the Small Entrance, Vladyka awarded Fr. Constantine the right to wear the palitsa.

Upon completion of the Liturgy, Bishop Nicholas addressed parishioners with a sermon. His Grace said, in part: "In the New Testament, the Lord gave us His commandments: to love God with all our heart, to not steal, to not kill, to honor father and mother, to lead a life in the Church. But the Lord indicates and calls for all of us to be righteous, or blesséd: ‘Come, ye blesséd of my Father’ (Matthew 25:34). What does it mean to be blesséd? It does not mean to be rich, or comely, or intelligent. The Lord clearly and simply tells us in today’s Gospel reading that we must have compassion, empathy, and mercy in all things. This is what He says to the righteous, the blesséd: ‘For I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison and wrongfully condemned, and ye came unto me and prayed for me.’ Thus the Lord shows us that the blesséd are those people who love their brother and love those who hate them. In our day, very often compassion, and empathy, and love are lacking. All around us is lawlessness, and misunderstanding and hatred reign. We have a great gift – the seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit, by which the Lord has blessed us. And we must stand on this blesséd path of righteousness, and then it will depend on us how we attain to God and to the Heavenly Kingdom; it will depend on us not to leave the path…"

Bishop Nicholas noted that "One can observe all of the fasts, all of the rules, not miss a single church service, and yet if he has no compassionate love for his neighbor, then all the rest is in vain, because our heart has turned to stone… But if we will lead a pious life full of compassion and empathy, then we are already on the right path… We often judge or even spread rumors about people, instead of looking on, or else at least saying, ‘Hello,’ or ‘Greetings with the feast,’ ‘How are you doing?’ Even these simple words can bring a person to salvation. Let us consider this, brothers and sisters, and may the Lord God help us.

On the threshold of the Holy Forty-Day Fast, Bishop Nicholas called on all to enter these lenten days radiantly, joyously, and purely. "Lent is a time for repentance, desiring confession and spiritual struggle… Let us be blessed enough to enter into this spiritual journey, so that we might be crucified with Christ, and spend not just the day of Holy Pascha with Him. Let us consider, brothers and sisters: yes, it is terrible to be a sinner, but how joyous it is to be righteous. Let us try our best to follow and labor on this path."

Upon completion of the service, there was a blini luncheon offered by members of the parish sisterhood for the clergy, parishioners, and guests. Over lunch, Bishop Nicholas shared his impressions of his recent trip to Latin America. His story was of great interest to those present. Upon completion of the luncheon, the clergy and parishioners thanked Bishop Nicholas for his visit to the parish, shared prayer, and hierarchal support.

Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese