On Sunday, July 28, the All-Diocesan St. Vladimir’s Day Celebrations were held at St. Vladimir Memorial Church in Jackson, NJ. The celebrations were organized by the Eastern American Diocese of the Russian Church Abroad, and dedicated to the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus’ and the 75th anniversary of the church’s founding. Clergy who came to the celebrations from America, Canada, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus greeted His Eminence Hilarion, Metropolitan of Eastern America & New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad. The archpastors, clergy, and multitudinous pilgrims piously greeted three wonderworking icons of the Mother of God that have graced the celebrations with their presence: the Kursk Root Icon, the myrrh-streaming Hawaiian Icon, and the Pochaev Icon.
Following the greeting, the clergy and faithful, flanked by Cossack representatives and young scouts from NORR (Association of Russian Explorers) and SGPA (St. George’s Pathfinders of America) camps, processed to the Memorial Church, where Metropolitan Hilarion celebrated the Divine Liturgy. The First Hierarch was co-served by Their Eminences, Archbishops Justinian of Naro-Fominsk (Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA) and Gabriel of Montreal & Canada; Their Graces, Bishops Meletiy of Khotin (vicar of the Diocese of Chernovtsy & Bukovina of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church), George of Mayfield (vicar of the Eastern American Diocese), Irénée of Quebec City (auxiliary of the Canadian Archdiocese OCA), and Jerome (Shaw; retired); and diocesan and visiting clerics.
During the Little Entrance, Memorial Church cleric Deacon Paul Drozdowski was awarded the double orarion, while after the Great Entrance, Hierodeacon Tikhon (Gayfudinov; cleric of the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign) was ordained to the priesthood as a hieromonk.
The Liturgy was celebrated in Church Slavonic and English, and the accompanying singing by the choir likewise proceeded in both languages. The choir of St. Vladimir Memorial Church sang prayerfully at the Liturgy under the direction of Deacon Alexander Petrovsky. Many singers came from afar in order to honor the memory of the Enlightener of Rus’, which gave the celebrations an especially universal feel.
At the entrance to the church, the wonderworking icons were presented for veneration by the faithful. The guardian of the Kursk Root Icon, Priest Nicholas Olhovsky, blessed the faithful with small copies of the icons, blessed on the miraculous images. Many of the faithful confessed their sins at this very spot, that they might partake of Christ’s Holy Mysteries on this triumphal day.
Protopresbyter Valery Lukianov, the senior-most clergyman in the Eastern American Diocese, addressed the faithful with inspirational parting words prior to Holy Communion.
Upon completion of the Divine Liturgy, the clergy and pilgrims went in procession around the territory of the Memorial Church. At its head the clergy processed with the wonderworking icons. Despite a threatening drizzle, the faithful continued to join in the procession along its entire route. Flanked by his brother bishops, Metropolitan Hilarion then performed the blessing of the water. In honor of the 75th anniversary of the Memorial Church’s founding, the scouts simultaneously released 75 doves.
The First Hierarch likewise blessed a new monument, installed in honor of the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus’ and the 75th anniversary of the Memorial Church’s founding. The memorial plaque is dedicated to the memory of three luminary hierarchs of the Russian Church Abroad, builders and adorners of the church: Metropolitan Laurus (Skurla), and Archbishops Vitaly (Maximenko) and Nikon (Rklitsky).
The First Hierarch greeted his brother archpastors, thanking them for the opportunity to share with them the joy of the feast. The Metropolitan then awarded a diocesan Gramota to Priest Serge and Mat. Tamara Ledkovsky for their manifest labors on behalf of the church community; and, in honor of its 75th anniversary, a Gramota was presented to the whole St. Vladimir Memorial Church community.
Upon completion of the Liturgy, the hierarchs, clergy, and guests were invited to a festal banquet. On the occasion of the St. Vladimir’s Day celebrations, the following dignitaries came and delivered congratulatory addresses to the clergy and faithful, who gathered not only from the many diocesan parishes, but even from every corner of the nation and from abroad:
- His Excellency Vuk Jeremić, 67th President of the United Nations General Assembly;
- His Excellency Vitaly Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN;
- The Deputy Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the UN;
- The Deputy Permanent Representative of Belarus to the UN; and
- His Excellency Thomas Mayr-Harting, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the UN.
The clergy and people of God sat for several hours of interaction under the aegis of the Russian Diaspora’s holy icons, joyfully reviving the bright traditions of the St. Vladimir’s Day celebrations.