Tuesday, the 30th of January dawned cool and crisp, with gentle snowflakes floating through the air, as the Metropolia Center awoke to a day of celebration. Today, the clergy and faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA honored their Spiritual Leader, His Eminence Metropolitan Antony who was celebrating his birthday, along with the 5th anniversary of being enthroned as the Metropolitan of the Church, as well as his Name’s day.
As the large snowflakes slowly twirled in the breeze and made their way down to the earth, people began to arrive at the St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Seminary, where a Divine Liturgy would be served in honor of Metropolitan Antony. With smiles on their faces everyone walked through the seminary and found their way to the Three Holy Hierarchs Chapel. The chapel gleamed in the candlelight, the halos of the saints on the icons glowing warmly. On the center tetrapod was an icon of St. Anthony the Great, along with his relics, making it so that one could almost imagine that the saint himself was present among us.
As His Eminence Metropolitan Antony and His Eminence Archbishop Daniel approached the seminary, Seminarian Subdeacon Volodymyr Yavorskyi greeted Vladyka Antony, thanking him for his guidance and support of the students. Seminarian Oleh Krawchenko presented His Eminence with the traditional bread and salt in the narthex before the hierarchs proceeded in to the chapel, where they were greeted by Very Reverend Anthony Perkins, who would be concelebrating the Divine Liturgy, along with about 25 priests in attendance, assisted by Deacon Adrian Mazur and Deacon Ivan Tchopko.
Surrounded by the clergy and faithful who traveled great distances to honor their beloved hierarch, His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, along with His Eminence Archbishop Daniel entered the chapel engulfed by voices raised in song, glorifying and praising the Lord.
The Divine Liturgy ebbed and flowed, almost carried on eagle’s wings, as the faithful rejoiced, and then became retrospective, and once again hopeful. The Reading was from the Gospel according to Luke, Chapter 17, when Christ taught the Beatitudes, “Blessed are you poor, For yours is the kingdom of God…” Metropolitan Antony read the Gospel in Ukrainian, and Archbishop Daniel in English, so that everyone gathered could avail themselves of the richness of the teaching.
As the senior clergy faculty member of the Seminary, Very Reverend Bazyl Zawierucha gave the sermon. He stressed the importance of the Beatitudes in our daily lives, and how as we come nearer to Great Lent we need to think daily upon our actions, and focus more on these teachings, working on our humility, meekness, and godliness. He continued by explaining that we are an example to others. Our actions, and words make an impact, and that we are blessed to have at the helm of our Spiritual Ship a man such as His Eminence Metropolitan Antony. He beseeched us to take a moment and ponder the heavy cross, responsibility and burden Vladyka Antony carries on our behalves. His Eminence has been chosen by God for this role in life, and we need to pray for him during all our church services, and in our private prayers; for by praying for His Eminence, and beseeching God’s mercy and Grace upon him, Vladyka Antony’s prayers for us are all the more powerful.
Father Bazyl implored us to realize that we are participating in a Liturgy in the presence of two bishops, that we will be partaking of the Eucharist in the presence of two bishops, and that we ought to be humbled at the mere realization of what is before us. Since the days of St. Ignatius to the present time, “where the bishop is, there is the Church.” Thanking His Eminence for his many years of dedication, service and sacrifice, Father Bazyl concluded the sermon, and the Liturgy continued, as those present contemplated with greater realization and awe what they were a part of today, and every day.
At the conclusion of the service, everyone joined in a rousing rendition of “Mnohaya Lita/Many Years” for His Eminence Metropolitan Antony. With a smile upon his face, Vladyka thanked everyone for their participation, but, did not miss the opportunity to teach, and to save his flock. His Eminence quoted his patron saint, St. Anthony the Great, “Whoever hammers a lump of iron, first decides what he is going to make of it, a scythe, a sword, or an axe. Even so, we ought to make up our minds what kind of virtue we want to forge, or we labor in vain.”
His Eminence explained, that if the craftsman starts his work, without first realizing what the final product will be, he destroys the material, and by the time he finally decides what it should be, there is not enough material left to create it. He urged us to also decide on our end goal, which should be to listen to the Lord and follow His teachings. He urged us to decide, and work towards that goal, one day at a time, chiseling away, until we have our end product.
The morning services concluded with the Troparian to St. Anthony the Great, as everyone came up to venerate his relics, “Emulating the demeanor of the zealous Elijah, and following the Baptist with forthright steps, O father Anthony, thou wast a dweller in the desert, and hast made the whole world steadfast by they supplications. Wherefore, entreat Christ God, that our souls be saved.”
With smiles upon their faces, everyone felt renewed, refreshed and re-energized as they slowly made their way to the Seminary Dining Room. After the prayer, everyone happily came up to the His Eminence Metropolitan Antony to greet him personally, express their gratitude and well-wishes, and shower him with flowers and gifts. Vladyka stated how overwhelmed he was with all the greetings, not only by those present, but, the messages on his phone, and social media from all around the world.
As everyone enjoyed the meal (prepared by Sr. Sophia Seminary Chef Mariya Morozovska), they also had the opportunity to chit chat, catch up with old friends, share the latest news, and thoroughly enjoy each other’s company. The meal concluded with the seminarians bringing out two cakes for His Eminence, one to celebrate his birthday, and the other in honor of his 5-year anniversary as Metropolitan of the Church. Once again the room exploded in a rousing rendition of Mnohaya Lita, as everyone settled down to enjoy the delicious cake prepared by Natalia Hlushko and Pani-matka Oksana Pasakas, of Short and Sweet Treats prepared by pani-matka Olena Shak.
Slowly the seminary began to empty, as the people with final hugs and kisses, made their way back to their homes. Their stomachs were full, and their souls were overflowing. What a wonderful way to celebrate His Eminence Antony, Metropolitan & Prime Hierarch of UOC of the USA and Diaspora. May God grant him many healthy and happy years! Eis polla eti Despota!!!