On March 22, the feast of the Holy Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, and this year also the 3rd Sunday of Orthodoxy, dedicated to the Veneration of the Cross, Eastern American Diocesan vicar Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan celebrated Divine Liturgy in the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign in New York City. In accordance with the emergency restrictions put in place by the city government in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, Liturgy was celebrated by the clergy without parishioners present. On the evening prior, Bishop Nicholas led All-Night Vigil with the bringing out of the Cross. At both services, His Grace was joined at the service by cathedral dean Archpriest Andrei Sommer and Protodeacon Eugene Kallaur (cleric of St. Seraphim Memorial Church in Sea Cliff, NY).
The Synodal Cathedral organized a live-stream feed of the services online, so that parishioners could watch, pray, and listen to the clergy’s sermons at home.
Upon completion of Liturgy, Bishop Nicholas spoke on the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, who serve as an example of how not to forsake God and the Orthodox Faith, and also noted that March 21 was the cathedral’s lesser patronal feast ‒ the celebration of the wonderworking Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God, which is currently abiding at the Cathedral of the Sign, sanctifying the church and the whole nation.
"Yesterday was the date of repose of Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko); 60 years ago, this exalted hierarch reposed in the Lord," said Bishop Nicholas. "This was a great ascetic and laborer in the Church, who led the publishing house in Pochaev and expanded its work, later transferring it to Ladomirová in Slovakia, and from there to Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville. He was consecrated bishop In 1934 and assigned to that monastery, where his wide-ranging archpastoral work began.
"In America, in very complex circumstances, Archbishop Vitaly brought order back to Church life: he founded the Eastern American Diocese, parishes, and a seminary, which have all made it easier for us today to pray and glorify the Lord, to preserve the Faith and our culture, which we received from the Lord and our forebears.
"Archbishop Vitaly was buried in the Memorial Church on St. Vladimir’s Mount in Jackson, NJ. For us, this is a good lesson in humility and obedience, and example of how to thank the Lord in these days for the mercies that He has given us.
"We might ask ‒ what mercies do we have in these days? Many are falling ill, churches are closing, and it is difficult for us even to come to church to pray. But God’s mercy to us in these days is in the opportunity to analyze our life: did I come to church when it was open? Did I come to church often for feast days and even regular days of the week, to the beautiful evening services? Did I come often to venerate the holy icons and relics, and commemorate our preceptors?
"It is in these very days that we can ask forgiveness of the Lord, ask for healing of all our infirmities and promise Him that later, when all returns to normal, we will come to God’s church and always pray for the living and the departed, especially for our ever-memorable preceptors."
Bishop Nicholas called on the faithful especially in these days to repent, to think about and pray for one another, to help one another, and show one another Christian love.