On Sunday, August 27, the Forefeast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America & New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, celebrated Divine Liturgy in the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign in New York City, co-served by Eastern American Diocesan vicar Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan, cathedral senior priest Archpriest Andrei Sommer, Archpriest Vasiliy Raskovskiy (diocesan cleric), Archpriest Ioann Chervinsky (cleric of the Diocese of Kursk), Hieromonk Tikhon (Gayfudinov; abbot of Holy Protection Skete in Buena, NJ), and Protodeacon Nicolas Mokhoff (cathedral cleric).
The divine service was held under the aegis of the Protectress of the Russian Diaspora – the wonderworking Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God, which returned home after a lengthy visitation to Europe.
The cathedral was filled with worshippers. Many are unable to come to church on weekdays, and as this year the feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos is on a Monday, they came on Sunday in order to venerate the Queen of Heaven and commune of Christ’s Holy Mysteries.
Upon completion of Liturgy, Hieromonk Tikhon (Gayfudinov), addressing the faithful with a sermon on the Gospel reading of the rich young ruler, said in part: "How often do we find the time to think not about the worldly, but the heavenly, not about the temporal, but the eternal..? Here the Lord responds to the inquiry of the rich young ruler about how to inherit the Kingdom of Christ: ‘Do you not know that you must keep the commandments?’ The young man responds that, since his youth, he has kept all of the commandments given to the Hebrew people by Moses… And this is not surprising, as he was a faithful Jew. But he understood that fulfilling the commandments alone was insufficient: there was no joy in his soul. And the Lord said to him: ‘If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.’ But this summons by God to perfection is not made to every man… the Lord calls all to salvation, but only the elect to perfection. Thus, He tells the disciples: ‘Leave your nets and follow Me.’ And they obeyed Him: they immediately left their nets on the ground, abandoned their previous lives, and followed after the Lord. Now, the apostles had put all of their hope in these nets: they were their livelihood, their guarantee that their children would not be in need, that they would be able to pay their taxes. But alongside these nets they left behind their entire past, and followed after the Lord."
Fr. Tikhon noted that the Lord did not say that a rich man could not enter the Heavenly Kingdom, only that it was difficult. And the Lord also makes no such parallel, that a rich man is necessarily a sinner, while a poor man is necessarily a saint. This means that the issue is not in wealth; rather, the discussion concerns one’s attitude toward that wealth. If we have in our hearts only a desire to obtain worldly riches, there will be no place left for the Lord. Therefore the Savior says, "Abandon this desire. Behold the birds of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap… yet the Lord feedeth them." And is not man’s soul more important to the Lord? And the first commandment that He spoke in the Sermon on the Mount is this: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." What is spiritual poverty? This is when man has the great virtue of understanding that everything he has is not an end, but a means. Everything that he has: property, family, work, friends – all of this is temporary. It was not for these that he came into this life, but to acquire spiritual blessings. And thus the Lord says they are "blessed," that is, fortunate.
When his heart and mind are home only to worldly appetites, then in this tumult man loses his spiritual connection with God, and although he, like the rich young ruler, observes the commandments, he has no joy in his heart. But if our hearts will remember God and desire to think about how best to obtain the Kingdom of Heaven, then all earthly things will fade into the background, and will become that simple means to support a life for the Heavenly Kingdom "in striving away from the worldly – toward the heavenly, away from sin – toward holiness."
That same day, Bishop Nicholas served a panihida for longtime benefactress of the Synodal Cathedral, Princess Elena N. Wolkonsky. A repast in memory of the princess was then offered in the church hall by her relatives, followed by a concert in her honor.