On Monday the 8th and Tuesday the 9th of August, Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America & New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, paid an archpastoral visit to the Church of the Holy Great-Martyr & Healer Panteleimon in Hartford, CT. His Eminence led the All-Night Vigil and celebrated Divine Liturgy in honor of the church’s patronal feast day.
The Metropolitan was co-served by parish rector Archpriest Dionisy Nalitov, Archpriest Constantine Semyanko (rector of Holy Presentation Church in Stratford, CT), Hieromonk Tikhon (Gayfudinov; abbot of Holy Protection Skete in Buena, NJ), Hierodeacon Panteleimon (Jigalin; cleric of Holy Dormition Convent "Novo-Diveevo" in Nanuet, NY), and parish Deacon Eugene Utnyukhin. At Vigil, the above-mentioned clergy were joined by Archpriest Brendan Crowley (rector of St. Nicholas Church in Enfield, CT).
Toward the end of Liturgy, Fr. Tikhon addressed the faithful with a sermon, in which he said, in part: "The Lord spoke to Adam and Eve, who had just committed sin, and told them that their life would be spent in labor and sorrow. Thus from the very first moments of man’s life on earth, he has been accompanied by sickness and suffering.
"We know that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself came into the world, not as a king or conqueror on a white horse with a multitude of servants, but instead came as a servant, and endured pain, sufferings, and all of the hardships of earthly life.
"Why are people given sickness and sorrow? The Holy Fathers affirm: in order for us not to be exalted, that we might not fall into the wicked pride that once consumed the morning star [Lucifer – trans.], who fell into the abyss of sin and deformity from the height of his holiness.
"The Holy Fathers speak to us about how, in equal measure to the height of man’s ascent in the virtues grows the danger of his fall due to pride. Thus sickness and suffering are our constant companions and the guardians of virtue: in order to, as we grow in virtue and do good works, we might not fall into the abyss of sin… At the same time, we note that those who do not grow in the virtues are not sent suffering… Many prophets, especially in the Old Testament, asked the Lord, ‘Why do those who are so ar from You live so well?’ The Lord appears to bless them, their lives are filled with goodness, while those who are only beginning to serve God run up against temptations. Joshua ben Sira wrote: ‘If thou desirest to service God, prepare thy soul for temptation.’
"And the physical ailments sent by the Lord, which help us to be healed from spiritual illness, also give us consolation, as they show us that in sickness we are not alone, but the Lord is with us. And a great consolation for us is the memory of the Great-Martyr Panteleimon, who is a healer of our souls and bodies."
Fr. Tikhon briefly spoke about the life of the Holy Great-Martyr Panteleimon: "The Lord, seeing his good heart, sent him a good Christian priest, Hermolaus, that he might teach him Christ’s word. Pantaleon, as the healer was called before baptism, received Holy Baptism and was renamed Panteleimon, which means ‘all-merciful.’ And inasmuch as he was a doctor, he had access to those in the higher classes, and thus a special missionary service: to prepare these people, who through their healing might know the greatness of Christ’s power.
"All of us are in need of this healing, and thus in Russia a huge number of churches is dedicated to the memory of the Holy Great-Martyr & Healer Panteleimon. People understand that without healing there can be no salvation, and so we turn to the healer Panteleimon, that he might grant us strength to battle spiritual sickness. And we ask St. Panteleimon, who stands before the Lord, that we might receive both healing from spiritual sickness and hope for eternal life by his miraculous aid."
Upon completion of Liturgy, Metropolitan Hilarion congratulated the clergy and parishioners with their patronal feast. Parish rector Fr. Dionisy thanked His Eminence for their joint prayer, and invited all to a festal luncheon.