The Services of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus
On December 10, the feast day of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus performed Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign at the Synodal building in New York. He was joined by His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany; His Eminence Archbishop Hilarion of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand; His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America; His Grace Bishop Gabriel of Manhattan; His Grace Bishop Michael of Boston; His Grace Bishop Peter of Cleveland and a host of clergymen. His Grace Bishop Mercury of Zaraisk, Administrator of the Patriarchal parishes in the USA also prayed at the service. During minor entrance, His Eminence Vladyka awarded the skufia to Priest Joakim Provatakis, who ministers to the English-language community at the Cathedral.
At the end of Divine Liturgy, Archbishop Hilarion delivered an archpastoral sermon and read the Epistle of the Synod of Bishops. Before the veneration of the cross, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus gave a Synodal gramata [decree of blessing] to Sergei Yakushin, a tireless aide to the Cathedral's Warden, Vladimir K Galitzine. During a trapeza organized by the Cathedral Sisterhood, greetings were given by His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, Archbishop Mark, Bishop Gabriel, Bishop Mercury, Protopresbyter Valery Lukianov and Protopriest Gregory Kotliaroff.
Later that day, His Eminence Vladyka prayed at all-night vigil performed by Bishop Peter at St Seraphim Church in Sea Cliff, NY. The following morning, His Eminence officiated at Divine Liturgy along with Archbishop Kyrill and Bishop Peter, Protopriest Peter Perekrestov, Hieromonk Roman (Krassovsky) and the Parish Rector, Priest Serafim Gan, along with Protodeacon Pavel Wolkow and Deacon Alexander Jarostchuk. During the pre-Communion sticheron, Bishop Peter read the Epistle of the Synod of Bishops, and at the end of the service, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus addressed the worshipers:
"'Prepare to meet thy God, o Israel,' as Prophet Amos once declared. The prophet called upon the people of Israel to prepare for the worthy greeting of the birth of Christ, our Savior.
"During this time, the Holy Church, witnessing the approaching holiday of the Nativity of Christ, but not seeing within us the purity and splendor needed for the meeting of the Great Visitor of our souls and hearts, just as Prophet Amos did, begins to sing: 'Christ is born, give ye glory! Christ cometh from heaven, meet ye Him!'
"For this the Holy Church established the forty-day fasting period, so that during this time we could prepare ourselves for this great event, the holiday of the Nativity of Christ.
"We began this fasting period two weeks ago, and it continues now. The Holy Church knows that for the purification of our souls and hearts, we must curb our appetites with fasting and restraint and then must purify them in the mystery of confession, in the mystery of repentance.
"Embarking upon our trek towards Bethlehem, we prepare ourselves for it long in advance, but if we do not manage to appear at the manger together with the shepherds, if even guided by this time of fasting we do not hold true upon this righteous path, but stray and follow the path of Herod, then this is not the fault of the Holy Church—we alone are to blame.
"So, prepare to meet thy God, o Israel! Make bold, Christian soul, seek out the unclean in your life, the unworthy, and take care to correct everything in advance.
"If there is some stain upon you, it must be cleaned for the sake of the Holy of Holies; if there is conflict, harsh words or hatred, douse them with love for the coming Leader of the spiritual world. If pride or haughtiness tempt you, crush them with humility.
"Purify yourselves of all this, since the Lord is everywhere and sees everything. If we do not cleanse ourselves of all that is sinful through repentance, we will not experience the joy of the holiday of the Nativity of Christ.
"So, let us be ready, brothers and sisters, to meet the Lord. Adorn yourself, o Bethlehem! The Lord is nigh. The star is above us now. The Virgin and the Wise Men are approaching.
"Let us not tarry in meeting the Lord! Amen !"
After the festive trapeza, His Eminence departed for Holy Trinity Monastery (see photographs of this event at www.stseraphimschurch.org ).