On Saturday the 6th and Sunday the 7th of January, the clergy and faithful of St. Alexander Nevsky Diocesan Cathedral in Howell, NJ celebrated the great feast of the Nativity according to the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ. In preparation for the feast, the cathedral was beautifully decorated with trees, wreathes, garlands, ribbons, bows, and lights.
The divine services began with Nativity Eve – Royal Hours, Small Compline, and Matins – on Friday evening, followed by Divine Liturgy and Vespers on Saturday morning. Services were led by cathedral dean Archpriest Serge Lukianov, co-served by cathedral clergy. Upon completion of the service, bread and wine were blessed to strengthen the faithful, who departed for their homes to make final preparations and prayerfully await the festal Vigil.
On Saturday evening, the All-Night Vigil – Great Compline and Matins – was served in the cathedral. The church was filled with worshippers, many of whom made their confessions in order to commune of Christ’s Holy Mysteries the following morning. At Liturgy, the faithful filled the church once more. The expanded parish choir sang beautifully. During the communion of the clergy, the Nativity Epistle of His Holiness, Patriarch Kyrill, was read aloud in Russian and English. The faithful communed from three chalices, and upon completion of the service, all joined together in singing traditional Christmas carols. They then departed for home to share in the joy of the feast with their families.
On Monday morning, January 8, the feast of the Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos, Divine Liturgy was celebrated once more, followed by a festal luncheon at the home of the cathedral pastor emeritus and dean of New Jersey, Protopresbyter Valery Lukianov.
The week of Christmastide flew by quickly, and – on Saturday the 13th and Sunday the 14th of January – the clergy and faithful soon gathered once more for the feast of the Circumcision of the Lord and St. Basil. Following Divine Liturgy, a luncheon was served in Nevsky’s Café, after parishioners crossed the street to the parish hall, where the St. Alexander Nevsky Russian School put on their annual Nativity Yolka.
This year, the Yolka was presented in five acts, and was dedicated to the Russian fable of the Three Heroes – Ilya Muromets, Alyosha Popovich, and Dobrynya Nikitich, accompanied by the music of Borodin and Gretchaninov, as well as the famous Russian song "Steed" ("Конь") by the band Lyube. Students of the Russian School – aged 4 to 16 – fulfilled all of the roles.
After the presentation, the children were treated to a visit by Ded Moroz ("Grandfather Frost"), who distributed gifts and holiday cheer to all.
The faithful were left with a joyous feeling of festal wonderment, eagerly anticipating the final feast of the season – the Theophany of the Lord.
Howell, NJ: Christmastide & Yolka at the Diocesan Center - 01/07/18