On Monday the 19th and Tuesday the 20th of March, the feast of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, Eastern American Diocesan vicar Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan paid an archpastoral visit to St. Alexander Nevsky Diocesan Cathedral in Howell, NJ, and led the divine services there.
(Note: Although the feast of the Forty Martyrs is usually celebrated on March 9/22, this year, the rubrics call for the feast to be moved two days earlier, so as not to conflict with the Standing of St. Andrew, which is always held on Thursday of the fifth week of Great and Holy Lent.)
His Grace led the Polyeleos on Monday evening, and then celebrated the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts on Tuesday Morning, co-served by Protopresbyter Valery Lukianov (dean of New Jersey and pastor emeritus of the cathedral), Archpriests Serge Lukianov (cathedral dean), Rafael Melendez (cathedral cleric), Petro Kunitsky (cleric of Holy New Martyrs of Russia Church in Brooklyn, NY), and Boris Slootsky (cathedral cleric), Abbot Arseny Manko; cathedral cleric), Archpriests Paul Ivanov (rector of Holy Myrrhbearers Church in Brooklyn) and Zoran Radovic (rector of St. George Serbian Church in Elizabeth, NJ), Priest Serge Ledkovsky (deputy rector of St. Vladimir Memorial Church in Jackson, NJ, and Protodeacons Nicholas Lukianov and Paul Drozdowski (cathedral clerics).
Cathedral clerics Archpriest Seraphim Chemodakov and Protodeacon Leonid Roschko sang in the choir, while Archpriest Leonid Goferman (rector of Holy Virgin Protection Church in New Brunswick, NJ) prayed in church.
Upon completion of Liturgy, Bishop Nicholas addressed the gathered faithful with a sermon, saying, in part:
"I greet you all, brothers and sisters, on this day when we celebrate the memory of the Holy Martyrs of Sebaste… Glorifying them, we note their firm faith and prayer; and the Lord heard them, and gave them eternal blessedness and the Heavenly crown of martyrdom. They lost one soldier, but were immediately joined by another, who shared their firm faith and hope in our Lord and God Jesus Christ. To this day, they are for us a great example of how to love, to pray, and to always hope in God, thanking Him for His mercies toward us."
His Grace likewise spoke about Venerable John Climacus, whose memory had been celebrated the Sunday prior, and about his seminal work, The Ladder. He then warmly congratulated Fr. Valery on his namesday, and thanked the concelebrating clergy, choir members, and all those who came to offer up their prayers in church.
After the service, the traditional lark pastries were handed out to the faithful. A festal luncheon was served in the parish hall, during which those in attendance offered words of congratulation to Fr. Valery on the occasion of his namesday, while he, in turn, imparted some words of wisdom.