January 5, 2012
Washington, DC: An Historic Event in the American Capital – The Primate of the OCA celebrated the Divine Liturgy in St. John the Baptist Cathedral

For the parishioners of Washington’s St. John the Baptist Cathedral, the first day of the new 2012 year turned out to be especially significant. On that Sunday, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated in our church by the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), His Beatitude Jonah, Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada. We consider the service on that blessed day to have been historic, as it was the first time that a bishop of the OCA led the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in a parish church of the ROCOR. (On December 10, 2011, His Beatitude and His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the ROCOR, had concelebrated in the Synodal Cathedral in New York City.)

At 9:40 AM, to the joyous sound of festive bells, our esteemed guest was greeted at the main entrance of the church with the traditional bread and salt by Dimitry M. Saretzky. He addressed a warm welcome to the head of the OCA, and asked His Beatitude to continue to pray for the strengthening of unity among Orthodox Christians both in the USA and in Russia.

His Beatitude’s procession into the church for the reading of the Entrance Prayers was accompanied by the combined voices of the two choirs of St. John the Baptist Cathedral ‒ the Slavonic-language choir under the direction of Y.A. Petcherkin, and the English-language choir under the direction of J. Brewer.

Concelebrating with Metropolitan Jonah were seven priests: cathedral rector Archpriest Victor Potapov, Archpriest Vasiliy Raskovskiy (cathedral cleric), Archpriest Vladimir Danylevich (cleric of the Entrance of the Theotokos Convent in Washington, DC), Priests John Johnson and Alexander Resnikoff (the rector’s assistants at the cathedral), Priest John Parker (rector of the Church of the Lord’s Ascension in Mt. Pleasant, SC), Hieromonk Damascenos (Haemmerli), as well as parish Protodeacon Leonid Mickle and Deacons Damian Dantinne and Victor Klimenko.

The divine service was very prayerfully conducted in Slavonic and English. A multitude of the faithful were communed of the Holy Gifts of Christ, from four chalices.

After the Divine Liturgy and New Year’s moleben, His Beatitude addressed the faithful with words of instruction:

"When we celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we celebrate not only His coming in the flesh 2000 years ago, we celebrate His coming to us – to be born in Him as He is born in us. Having taken on our humanity, we take on His Divinity. Having taken on our flesh, we take on His Godhead – by Grace. He came and became what we are, in order that He might make us what He is. He came in obscurity, in poverty, so that He might identify with our poverty. He became one of us, exactly as we are, so that He might make us as He is, and share His Glory, the Glory of the Only-Begotten of the Father Who is our Life, our Hope, the very reality of what we are and who we are. This is what it means to be a Christian – that our life is hidden with Christ in God. He is our true Life. He is the goal of our life. He is the substance of our life.

"What an enormous Feast of Grace the Nativity is. It truly is the Winter Pascha. It is the very feast of our being reborn in God. It is the feast of our experiencing the Kingdom of Heaven here and now, and of our being born into Heaven."

Following the homily and the traditional singing of the Polychronion, His Beatitude greeted the rector, clergy, and faithful. He said, in part:

"It is such a joy, such an incredible joy not only for me, but also, I know, for the rest of our Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, that we can once again, with the bishops and faithful of the Russian Church Abroad, come together to serve, because we are truly one Church. We have different church Administrations, and all that is simply on the human level. Truly, there is only one Church, one Orthodox Church, and God has brought us together again.

"For years, I have admired the work and the ministry and the sanctity that has been cultivated in the Russian Church Abroad in this land. As St. John of Shanghai said, ‘Perhaps the reason for the Diaspora of the Russian people was precisely to bring Orthodoxy to all these other places.’ Certainly St. John did, and he took it here to Washington.

"We remember him and all the other great, holy men and women, who struggled for so many decades to preserve the full integrity of the faith and now fully reintegrated back into the unity of the Russian Orthodox Church. There is nothing I can do but give thanks to God."

In response to His Beatitude’s words of greeting, rector Archpriest Victor Potapov expressed his heartfelt thanks to His Beatitude for his prayers, and for his inspired words of instruction and greeting. On behalf of the parish, he presented to His Beatitude a painted "Weep not for Me, O Mother" icon as a prayerful memento of the occasion.

A multitude of parishioners approached to venerate the Cross held by His Beatitude and to warmly thank and greet our dear guest.

Fellowship at an abundant festal meal prepared by the Holy Protection Sisterhood went on for a long time in a parish hall, filled to capacity. Even after the singing of the thanksgiving prayers following the meal, people continued to exchange with one another their impressions of the first day of 2012.

Glory to God for all things!

Archpriest Victor Potapov
Special thanks to Yuri Gripas for photos.

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