With about 100 participants in the fifth annual “Caroling for Christ” concert sponsored by the Consistory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA, some 300 people witnessed a powerful and spiritually uplifting event at the Ukrainian Cultural Center of the Spiritual Center of the UOC of the USA on Saturday, January 12, 2018.
Awaiting commencement of the program, people milled about the various vendor booths which displayed a myriad of Ukrainian items, ranging from shirts, cups and decals, to CD’s, and books. The St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Seminary booth offered icons, service books, prayer ropes and a variety of religious items for sale. Along the other wall of the Cultural Center the St. Andrew Memorial Church school of Ukrainian Studies had tables set up selling innumerable baked goods. There were cupcakes, tortes, pies, cakes, cookies and almost any type of baked good imaginable - all homemade with love.
With the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, Archbishop Daniel, in his capacity of the President of the Consistory of the UOC of the USA bestowed a blessing on this annual event under the auspices of the Ukrainian Language and Religion School of St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Memorial Church in South Bound Brook, NJ under the leadership of director - Pani Slava Danyschuk.
Participants from New Jersey and New York City and Metropolitan area represented the parishes and parochial schools of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA.
"During this holy season of Christmas, it is with great joy that we hear again the narrative of our salvation -- of God's creative love and the human family's rejection of that love, the Message of hope prophesied in the time of old; the glorious message of the Incarnation, revealed and accepted by the Most Holy Birth-Giver of God, heralded by the angels and sent out to the whole world by the proclamation of the Gospel," stated Vladyka Daniel in his conversation with teachers and parents prior to the beginning of the concert.
Opening the program, which was masterfully led by Oksna Danchenko of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in New York, NY, Archbishop Daniel welcomed the participants and guests of the program with a short overview of how the idea to begin such community event came into existence. It was truly due to the input of the parishioners of various parishes of the Church that a simple idea to gather children of various Ukrainian Language and Religion parochial schools became a reality, yet opening the platform not only to caroling but also to prayerful reflections by the children, their parents and teachers.
One after another the representatives of various schools: St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Memorial Church in South Bound Brook, NJ; Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in New York, NY and St. Andrei Ukrainian Orthodox parish of Jamaica, NY took the stage singing carols, reciting poetry and proclaiming the Glad Tidings of Christ’s birth! Hymns and carols, each carefully chosen to complement the Scripture passages of the season, were performed in Ukrainian, Romanian and English languages.
In conclusion of the program, the participants and those in attendance were treated to a theatrical presentation of a traditional Nativity story – VERTEP – masterfully performed by the parishioners of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in New York, NY under the pastoral leadership of Very Rev. Fr. Todor Mazur.
During the afternoon event, Archbishop Daniel called upon those in attendance to pray, never forgetting God's majesty and that we should always trust in Christ’s presence and share it with those around us. Moreover, the bishop called upon the teachers, parents and children to remember the traditions of Ukrainian Orthodox Church; to keep them alive through such prayerful traditions of caroling and Verteps that have been preserved and passed to us by our forefathers.
As the afternoon hours came to conclusion, Vladyka Daniel presented all participants with the gifts of love, expressing his gratitude to the children and adults in attendance.
The crowd was reluctant to disperse, lagging behind to speak with the hierarchs, take photos, and bask in the radiance of the moment. The children ran around regaled in their Ukrainian finery, ribbons flying as they chased each other and enjoyed showing off their costumes. With music still playing in the hall, the vendors were making last minute sales, as the cars began to pull up to pick up family members at the door. With final hugs and kisses, exchanges of addresses and phone numbers, old friends and new parted ways to make their way back to their homes. Tonight, those homes will once again be lit with the Light of Christ, as each person whether aware or not, took a bit of Christmas joy home with them in their hearts, to warm their hearth and their home.
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
Photos by Seminarian Pavlo Vysotskyi