On Saturday, October 14, the feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos, Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America & New York celebrated Divine Liturgy at Holy Protection Male Skete in Buena, NJ. His Eminence was co-served by diocesan secretary Archpriest Serge Lukianov, Hieromonk Vladimir (Zgoba; rector of "Unexpected Joy" Church on Staten Island, NY), Archpriest Boris Slootsky (cleric of St. Alexander Nevsky Diocesan Cathedral in Howell, NJ), Hieromonk Tikhon (Gayfudinov; skete abbot), and Protodeacon Leonid Roschko (cleric of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral).
Brought to the skete for the feats was an icon of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos currently traveling around the world, which contains a piece of the omophorion of the Heavenly Queen. The holy image was placed on an analogion in the center of the church for veneration by the faithful.
Gathering for the skete’s patronal feast was a multitude of the faithful from nearby locales in New Jersey, as well as others from New York and Pennsylvania. Many parishioners and guests communed of Christ’s Holy Mysteries.
Upon completion of Liturgy, Fr. Tikhon addressed the faithful with a sermon, in which he spoke about the history of the feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos, and noted how, "In 910, the Heavenly Queen saved the great city of Constantinople, just as today she never ceases to defend us with her omophorion." He continued, "We all pray to the Most Holy Theotokos because we understand that we are in need of spiritual protection. We pray because we understand that, without her, we can accomplish nothing good, nor even preserve our own lives… Thus it was, historically, that the barbarians who wanted to take Constantinople and were repelled by the prayer of the Mother of God, were our own ancestors, who had not yet at this time received the Holy Christian Faith. But inasmuch as they were touched by the greatness and might of the Mother of God, this affected these tribes, as yet unbaptized, and began to prepare them to receive Christianity."
Fr. Tikhin noted: "Today we have a great joy: joining us in prayer is the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Aboard, Metropolitan Hilarion, joined by several of the clergy. And another joy is that the venerable icon of the Protection of the Mother of God abides with us at the service. This icon was painted in Moscow by pious Christians, in order that she might spiritually unite the Russian people, scattered throughout the whole world. And the Mother of God today unites the Orthodox people with her holy omophorion. It is no coincidence that located within this holy icon is a piece of the very same omophorion, the very same veil, that the Most Holy Theotokos wore on her precious head during the days of her life on earth. A piece of this life-bearing cloth is here with us today. Let us pray to our Heavenly Mother and ask for the strength to complete our earthly journey with faith in Christ."
Upon completion of the service, the clergy and faithful processed around the church with crosses and banners.
Congratulating the clergy, abbot, and parishioners with the patronal feast, Metropolitan Hilarion expressed his joy at the renewed parish life taking place at the skete. His Eminence wished Fr. Tikhon good health for many years, in order that he might further fulfill his obedience: praying, nourishing parishioners, and supporting this place in worthy condition. The Metropolitan also thanked all those who prayed together on that day before the Lord’s altar, who labored and adorned the church for the feast. His Eminence thanked Mr. Eugene Korolev, head of "Under the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos" Foundation, for the opportunity to pray before the holy icon with a piece of her omophorion, which has already received the popular designation of "circumglobal."
Reminding parishioners and guests that on this radiant day the Holy Church also celebrates the memory of Venerable Romanus the Melodist, Metropolitan Hilarion congratulated the choir singers on the feast of their Heavenly patronal, as well as all those celebrating their namesday.
Fr. Tikhon thanked Metropolitan Hilarion and the visiting clergy for their joint prayer, and all those who labored for their work, inviting all to a festal luncheon.
The protodeacon intoned the Polychronion for the Most Holy Patriarch, the Metropolitan, the clergy, and skete’s abbot, and all of the worshippers.
Interaction between the clergy and faithful continued at the luncheon, and raffle was held to benefit the skete. Guests departed to the peal of bells, taking away with them in their hearts the joy of their shared prayer and the warmth of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos.