On Thursday the 27th and Friday the 28th of July, the feast of the Enlightener of Rus’, the Holy Equal-of-the-Apostles Great Prince Vladimir, the entire Russian Orthodox Church once more celebrated the anniversary of the Baptism of Rus’, which took place in 988 A.D.
Although the celebrations in honor of this event are held on the last Sunday in July, St. Vladimir Memorial Church in Jackson, NJ also celebrates its patronal feast day on July 28 itself. This year, divine services in the Memorial Church were led by His Grace, Eastern American Diocesan vicar Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan.
On Thursday evening, His Grace led the All-Night Vigil, co-served by diocesan secretary Archpriest Serge Lukianov, Archpriest Constantine Semyanko (rector of Presentation of Christ Church in Stratford, CT), Priest Serge Ledkovsky (deputy rector of the Memorial Church), Protodeacons Paul Wolkow and Eugene Kallaur (clerics of St. Seraphim Memorial Church in Sea Cliff, NY), Leonid Roschko and Paul Drozdowski (clerics of St. Alexander Nevsky Diocesan Cathedral in Howell, NJ), and Deacon Alexey Golubov (cleric of St. Nicholas Patriarchal Cathedral in New York City).
On Friday morning, Bishop Nicholas was greeted at the entrance to the Memorial Church by its warden, A.V. Levitsky, followed by Fr. Serge Ledkovsky and all of the clergy. His Grace was co-served by:
- Archpriest Alexander Golubov (cleric of St. Nicholas Patriarchal Cathedral)
- Archpriest Serge Lukianov
- Archpriest Mark Burachek (rector of Our Lady of Kazan Church in Newark, NJ)
- Archpriest Boris Slootsky (cleric of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral)
- Archpriest Zoran Radovic (rector of St. George Serbian Church in Elizabeth, NJ)
- Hieromonk Arseny (Manko)
- Archpriest Constantine Semyanko
- Archpriest Alexandre Antchoutine (dean of Long Island & the Hudson Valley)
- Archpriest Seraphim Chemodakov (cleric of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral)
- Priest Serge Ledkovsky
- Protodeacon Paul Wolkow
- Protodeacon Dimitry Temidis (cleric of Holy Protection Church in Nyack, NY)
- Protodeacon Serge Arlievsky (cleric of Holy Dormition Convent "Novo-Diveevo" in Nanuet, NY)
- Protodeacon Eugene Kallaur
- Protodeacon Leonid Roschko
- Protodeacon Paul Drozdowski;
- Deacon Alexey Golubov.
Parishioners from local churches gathered in the church; virtually all communed of Christ’s Holy Mysteries.
Upon completion of the Liturgy, the clergy and faithful held a procession around the Memorial Church. Upon their return into the church, Bishop Nicholas addressed those gathered with a sermon, in which he said, in part:
"Our Memorial Church is consecrated in honor of the Holy Equal-of-the-Apostles Great Prince Vladimir, while the lower church is consecrated in honor of his grandmother, the Holy Equal-of-the-Apostles Great Princess Olga. They obtained the True Faith, they found God. Today we remember the Gospel reading from last Sunday, when our Lord Jesus Christ came to a city where two blind men lived. They could not see, but they beheld the Light of God, and knew that the Messiah had come to them. They shouted, pleading, ‘Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us!’ In response, the Lord asks them a question: ‘Believe ye that I am able to heal you?’ They told Him, ‘Yea, Lord, we believe!’ And at that moment He healed them and they saw. They saw not only the earthly world about them, but also the True God – Jesus Christ.
"The ever-memorable Archbishop Athanasy of South America would say that the Holy Prince Vladimir was himself baptized, and baptized his entire people, while before this there reigned in Rus’, as it were, a lengthy darkness, a long night. But after the Baptism, everything became brighter, more joyous, more alive. And thus, our Heavenly patron was also blind, but sought the Faith, sought the Savior. And he found Him via a difficult path, and the Lord opened both his eyes and those of the entire people – one might even say that He continues to do so for the entire Orthodox world to this very day. From the very moment of their Baptism, they were no longer blind, and here began their struggle to change their entire lives, both personally and nationally. Everyone took up his cross and followed after the Lord. Today we likewise glorify all of the saints of the Russian land, who thanks to this event have shone forth in our homeland for more than 1,000 years. Let us be likewise, inspired by their example, taking up our cross, proclaiming through our own selves and through our personal struggles, as did the Holy Prince Vladimir, the triumph of the Orthodox Faith."
After the service, a bountiful luncheon was prepared for all in the parish hall, during which brotherly interaction continued. All now eagerly awaited the St. Vladimir’s Day Celebrations which will commence in two days’ time, in order to honor their Enlightener the Holy Prince Vladimir, who led his people to the salvific Christian Faith.