It has become a tradition at St. George Ukrainian Orthodox parish in Yardville, NJ to hold a celebration of the parish feast day and to commemorate annual anniversaries of the parish on the Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearing Women. Another tradition that exists in the parish is that quite often both hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA visit the parish and preside over the parochial celebration.
The parish of St. George has been serving the Lord and the Ukrainian Orthodox community in Yardville, NJ for 65 years.
The history of the temple began in 1953 when the initiator of its foundation Gregory Sidorets received the blessing of Patriarch Mstyslav to build a temple and start the parish. To begin building the temple, faithful people have collected 310 dollars. On January 3, 1954, they held the first Divine Liturgy in a temporary building. The first rector was Fr. Nikolai Lyashchuk. Subsequently, the parish grew to more than 130 families, who in 1967 bought a farm in Yarvale and began to build a church temple.
On rainy Sunday of May 12th, 2019, which is also the day of the annual observance of the Mothers Day, about 200 faithful of the parish community welcomed His Eminence Metropolitan Antony and Archbishop Daniel for the parochial celebratory festivities. Very Rev. Fr. Petro Levko, pastor of the parih’s community as well as Mr. George Shtander, president of the parish board of administration greeted the hierarchs with the traditional bread and salt, calling upon the hierarchs of the Church to enter into the temple for the final blessing of the newly finished iconography beautification project that was sponsored by the parishioners and friends of St. George’s.
Prior to the beginning of the Divine Liturgy, Archbishop Daniel recited the prayers of blessing, while Metropolitan Antony blessed the icons in the sanctuary of the temple as well as the new icons in the dome of the church.
The Divine Liturgy was served by both hierarchs of the UOC of the USA with the assiatnce of Fr. Petro Levko, Fr. Volodymyr Khanas and Deacon Sviatoslav Hot. Following the Gospel reading, Archbishop Daniel prayerfully introduced to everyone in attendance a fifth-year student of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary, subdeacon Mykola Zomchak, who with the blessing of Metropolitan Antony, delivered a sermon for the Myrrh-Bearing Women Sunday, thus fulfilling his academic requirement for the Homiletics class.
In his reflection, seminarian subdeacon Mykola stated: “Dear brothers and sisters, we all live our lives and whether we want it or not, whether we all like it or not, - we all have duties and responsibilities. There are different types of responsibilities… as Christians, we are responsible before God, we are responsible before our family, friends, we are responsible before other people around us. Very often we are responsible not because we get something back - but because we love. Out of our love ….we have different duties and responsibilities as we live our lives…
Today we have a wonderful celebration! We remember the Myrrh-bearing Women who had such a responsibility to come and anoint the Body of Christ. And we joyfully celebrate today but we also know that there was much fear and sadness that they had at the time when Jesus died… They weren't happy of what happened but they were fulfilling their Duty their responsibility before someone whom they loved.
We really have to ask ourselves today was it Faith or was it Duty that called them to do what they did. Think about that! No one had ever risen from the dead! And even the One who had risen someone else from the dead is dead! … He is hanging on the tree…. With all the respect to the Myrrh-bearing woman it was not much of their faith it was not their faith that made them to go to the tomb and to anoint the body! They did this out of responsibility to someone Whom they loved! It wasn't faith that he was going to raise back up. It was a duty that comes from love...
...And when they were going to the tomb, they didn’t expect it to be empty, they were probably weeping all the way, because they knew they had to touch the body of someone they loved so much. But there was no life in His eyes, no beauty in His face. It was a destroyed body with no alive sign on it. There was no much faith, it was their duty.
And what a wonderful surprise they got… From fulfilling their duty of loving and nurturing they were the first to see the empty tomb.
When the angel told them to go, and to tell everyone that the Lord Has Risen from the dead! What а joyous news. The fear and sadness turned into great joy, just because of fulfilling their responsibility…
God is ourCreator and Father and He desires us only the best. If He wants us to obey the commandments – do it! If he wants us to live a righteous life – do it! Because life in obedience is a good life! It leads us to His doorstep. And in our daily life, There are many times we ask why am I doing this. If it’s blessed by God, if this is something that our brother or sister requires from us, if it’s not against the commandments – DO IT!
If we have been following the prayer Rule and we don't think God is listening to us - keep following, keep doing it. That's what the Myrrh-bearing women did. They were following the command, they were following a duty to love. From going to anoint the body of the Dead Savior - they found an empty tomb and their sorrow was turned to Joy.
And this is exactly how we are walking in this world. We are often walking with tears and sadness and despair - but keep the obedience, trust God, follow the Commandments of God... Let us love God and the people around.
And even though there is no body to anoint - there are many wounds in this world. Some of them are on people that are very close to us. Heal those wounds! If we have caused those wounds – be the ointment of humility that bounds before the person and says “forgive me”, I sinned against you ! If someone is waiting for you to forgive him – DO IT – allow that ointment to pour out from you… And even though there is no body to anoint - thank God – He Is Risen - … His Body is present in all of us here and outside these doors! Pour out that ointment, pour out that love and compassion on our brothers and sisters, so one day our Lord may pour that compassion, even greater compassion on us. Christ Is Risen!”
Numerous parishioners approached the chalice in order to receive the Most Precious Body and Blood of the Lord. While people communed, and throughout the entire Liturgy, parish choir under the leadership of Pani Inna prayerfully chanted Pascha hymns.
Following the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, upon the request and recommendation of the pastor and the parish board of administration, the Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA awarded several parishioners with the Centennial and Honorary Medals of the UOC of the USA as well as by the Blessed Certificates of the UOC of the USA. Among the recipients were:
- Olha Stryzhakivska
- George Shtander
- Anatoliy Lesynsky
- Dobrodiyka Maria Levko
- Pavlo Levchenko (posthumously)
- Anatoliy and Tetiana Mostrovski
- Inna and Yuriy Nikolukin
- Petro and Lesia Yarmak
- Paul Kopan
Once all presentations took place, the choir chanted a prayer for Ukraine, the entire congregation took a traditional formal photo and everyone in attendance transitioned to a parish hall for the luncheon and the Mother’s Day program prepared by the children of the parochial School of Religion and Ukrainian Studies.
Members of the parish’s Sisterhood, under the leadership of pani Olga Zaliznok-Ilchenkowelcomed the hierarchs and clergy at the entrance to the parish hall, presenting them with beautiful bouquets of flowers. The meal itself was a true AGAPE feast – meal of LOVE – prepared by the Sisterhood members. About 200 people left the luncheon properly cared for by dozens of dishes of delicious Ukrainian cuisine.
Following the joyful program that was presented by the children of the parish, dedicated to the Bright Feast of Pascha and Mothers Day, the choir members, children, teachers, parents and everyone in attendance, greeted His Eminence Archbishop Daniel on his 11thanniversary of Archpastoral Consecration and wished him Many Blessed Years in the ministry of Christ’s Holy Church.
Special gratitude was expressed to the sisterhood of St. Olga under the leadership of Olga Zaliznok-Ilchenko for preparing the banquet, and to Svitlana Ivasuk for cooking the delicious meal. Every member of the Sisterhood and teachers of the parish’s school received flowers from the hands of Metropolitan Antony and Archbishop Daniel. Mr. Zenoviy Halkovich, Financial Director of the Ukrainian National Federal Credit Union of New York, gave gift to the parish for the development of Saturday School.
The formal meal and luncheon concluded with a prayer, led by Metropolitan Antony, but the faithful remained in the parish hall, enjoying pastries and coffee, while honoring the MOTHERS of the parish.
Photos by Seminarian Yaroslav Bilohan