On Friday the 14th and Saturday the 15th of November, celebrations were held at St. Alexander Nevsky Diocesan Cathedral in Howell (Lakewood), NJ, in honor of the 30th anniversary of the episcopal consecration of His Eminence Hilarion, Metropolitan of Eastern America & New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, and the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Eastern American Diocese. The jubilee celebrations were held in the Diocese’s recently opened administrative center. For the first time since the great consecration of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the Divine Liturgy was concelebrated by 9 hierarchs. All of the festal divine services took place under the protection of the highly venerated icons of the Russian Diaspora – the wonderworking Kursk Root and myrrh-streaming Iveron-Montreal "Hawaiian" Icons of the Mother of God.
The celebrations began on the evening of November 14 in Our Lady of Tikhvin Church, one of the first Russian Orthodox churches in New Jersey, where a panihida was served for Metropolitan Hilarion’s parents, relatives, and spiritual mentors. The service was led by His Grace, Eastern American Diocesan vicar Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan. Prior to the panihida, Bishop Nicholas tonsured Alexis Silva (parishioner at San Juan Clímaco Mission in San German, PR) a reader. The archpastors and clergy then processed with the icons to St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, where Metropolitan Hilarion led the All-Night Vigil.
The service was adorned by the singing of the Holy Trinity Seminary Choir from Jordanville, NY.
On November 15, the festal services began with the greeting of the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad in Our Lady of Tikhvin Church and a procession with the wonderworking Kursk Root and Iveron-Montreal "Hawaiian" Icons to the diocesan cathedral. His Eminence Hilarion, Metropolitan of Eastern America & New York, celebrated the Divine Liturgy, co-served by his brother bishops and a multitude of clergy from the Eastern American and Australian Dioceses and the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA.
Clergy and faithful from across the parishes of the Diocese attended the festivities. The Diocese of Australia & New Zealand was represented by its vicar general, Archpriest Michael Protopopov.
Upon completion of the service, Metropolitan Hilarion addressed the clergy and faithful with a greeting:
Your Eminences, Your Graces, Reverend Fathers, dearly beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,
We have gathered together on this joyous and festal day to give thanks to Almighty God for the past 80 peaceful years since the founding of our Eastern American Diocese by the ever-memorable Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko).
My heart is overfilled with joy at seeing so many of our hierarchs, clergy, and faithful gather together to embody the words of the thanksgiving troparion, which we heard today – "zealously resorting unto Thee, we offer unto Thee thanksgiving according to our strength, and glorifying Thee as our Benefactor and Creator, we cry aloud: Glory to Thee, O God most bountiful!"
First of all, we offer thanksgiving to the Lord for the mercies of His Holy Mother in the image of her wonderworking Kursk Root and Hawaiian Icons. The Kursk Icon has been the Protectress of our Church Abroad for over 90 years, and has spent a great deal of that time within the borders of our Eastern American Diocese.
And if ever, in our weakness, we felt that this great and humbling honor was not enough, the Lord revealed a second wonderworking icon in Hawaii, whose myrrh anoints us with bountiful grace from Above. It began streaming myrrh upon the Reunification of the Russian Church, and is a reminder to us not only of our newfound unity, but also of the heroic struggles of Brother Jose, guardian of the Montreal Iveron Icon. Let us never forget his years of service to the Mother of God, and pray that by her intercession he may eternally abide with all the righteous in the Kingdom of Heaven.
We offer thanksgiving to the Lord for the righteous and ever-memorable archpastors, who have stood at the helm of our Diocese and have preserved inviolate the sacred traditions and customs of our Holy Orthodox Faith, firmly relying on the millennial experience of the Russian Church and all the saints who have been glorified in its bosom!
We offer thanksgiving to the Lord for the hundreds of pastors, deacons, and monastics who have toiled in our Diocese from its earliest years until the present day. Think of the joy that our departed clergy felt last night, when we commemorated all of them by name at the panihida! This prayerful interaction between the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant is the trademark of Holy Orthodoxy! Let us never forget the departed in our prayers, remaining eternally grateful to the Lord for our brotherhood in Christ!
Because of our sinful nature, we are not able to comprehend the unfathomable depth of Christ’s never-ending love for us. We cannot but humbly marvel at all of the countless blessings and mercies that the Lord has bestowed upon our Diocese throughout the past 80 years. The only way that we can truly express our gratitude to the Lord is through our faith. But let us be mindful of the words of the Apostle James, who said, "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:20).
As Orthodox Christians, we know of the good works that we are called to do, but, alas, ofttimes we ignore them. Therefore today, let us reaffirm our faith; not just any type of faith – but "faith, which worketh by love" (Gal. 5:6).
St. Theophan the Recluse teaches us that “faith and love are inseparable in the life of a true Christian.” But love for whom? What manner of love? – Love for both the Lord Himself and for our brother Christians. "On these two commandments," love for God and love for our neighbor, said the Lord, "hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:40).
This "faith, which worketh by love," has great strength – it can attract God’s grace and work miracles. Let us recall the Gospel lesson about the healing of the paralytic. "And Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee" (Matthew 9:2). This Lord performed this great miracle "seeing their faith," that is, the faith of the people who brought the paralytic to Him. Not a word is said here about the faith of the paralytic himself. Those who brought him to the Lord possessed both faith and love for their suffering neighbor. Otherwise, they would not have taken upon themselves the burden of carrying the paralytic on his bed to the Lord, to say nothing of lowering him through the roof of the house directly to the Savior’s feet.
This "faith, which worketh by love," was bountifully rewarded: first the Lord forgave the paralytic his sins, and then at His single word raised him from his bed of sickness.
This "faith, which worketh by love," is exactly the type of faith embodied in my spiritual mentors – great hierarchs, such as Bishop Sava (Saračević), Archbishop Averky (Taushev), Metropolitan Laurus, and of course the ever-memorable Metropolitan Philaret, who laid his hands on my sinful head 30 years ago and called down the grace of the Holy Spirit on my episcopacy. To this day, I receive encouragement and inspiration from my ordaining bishop, whose faith was richly rewarded by the Lord, and whose holy body now lays incorrupt within the walls of my spiritual home – the Lavra of the Russian Diaspora, Holy Trinity Monastery.
My only wish as your archpastor is for all of us to be saved by following the example of our forefathers’ faith, and cultivating within ourselves a burning love for Christ and our neighbor. That is all that I can wish for you today, my dear brethren – that we love one another.
I am grateful for the outpouring of love that has been shown to me in honor of the 30th anniversary of my episcopacy. I would like to especially thank Archpriest Serge Lukianov and the diocesan administration for organizing this most joyous celebration, and to every single one of you for traveling such long distances to be here today. Having spent over a decade of my episcopacy in Australia, I am overjoyed to welcome Archpriest Michael Protopopov and his co-travelers, who are here representing the Australian Diocese. I am grateful to the Lord for blessing me with not one, but two dioceses to shepherd and care for. There is no greater gift that an archpastor could receive than to simply pray together with his clergy and flock. For this I thank you.
As we return to our homes and parishes, let us remember the feeling of Paschal joy that we felt here today. Having gathered around One Chalice and communed of the Sacred Mysteries of Christ, let us hasten from this holy cathedral and proclaim the glad tidings of the all-conquering power of the Resurrection of Christ to the whole world, just as the myrrh-bearing women ran from the Tomb, having learned that the Lord has Risen! Let us harbor this feeling of joy and thanksgiving within our hearts, so that we may praise, bless, give thanks, hymn, and magnify His loving-kindness. Amen.
His Eminence was then greeted with words of congratulation by Metropolitan Alexander of Pereyaslav-Khmelnitsky & Vishnevoe (Ukrainian Orthodox Church) who, relaying greetings from the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Onouphry (a hierarch well-acquainted with Metropolitan Hilarion for many years), presented the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad the UOC’s highest award, the Order of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called, and a panagia set from the collection of the ever-memorable Primate of the UOC, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Vladimir. Bishop John of Naro-Fominsk, Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes, congratulated His Eminence on behalf of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA, and wished Metropolitan Hilarion God’s aid "in preaching the truth of the Gospel far from the lands where the Holy Apostles preached when they brought the Faith to Holy Rus’," and presented the Metropolitan with a panagia depicting all of the saints of the Russian Church who shone forth in America. His Grace George, Bishop of Mayfield, presented an embroidered Hierarchal Service Book (Chinovnik) on behalf of the Eastern American Diocese. Later, a hand-painted portrait of the First Hierarch was presented on behalf of the Diocese, as well. On behalf of Holy Cross Monastery in West Virginia, Metropolitan Hilarion was presented with an icon of the Kazan Mother of God. The Australian Diocese presented its own gift – a candle holder. On behalf of the New York City Deanery, dean Archpriest Alexander Belya presented His Eminence with a miter sewn by the nuns of Subcarpathian Rus’.
The hierarchs, clergy, and guests then proceeded to the hall at Russian House "Rodina," where a banquet had been organized, and where the interaction between the clergy and faithful continued. More than 400 people were in attendance. Addressing those gathered on behalf of the Fund for Assistance to the Russian Church Abroad, St. John the Baptist Cathedral rector Archpriest Victor Potapov announced the establishment of a special scholarship in honor of Metropolitan Hilarion, which will be awarded annually to a student of the Chicago Pastoral School. Fr. Victor also announced the publication of an historic picture book in honor of Metropolitan Hilarion’s 30th anniversary, entitled "The First Hierarch." Protopresbyter Valery Lukianov, rector emeritus of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, also addressed the First Hierarch with a greeting. Concluding the feast, Metropolitan Hilarion thanked all those present, especially Eastern American diocesan secretary Archpriest Serge Lukianov and the diocesan administration for their labors unto the glory of the Holy Church and in organizing the festivities.