In accordance with the determinations of local authorities, following quarantine measures associated with the Coronavirus epidemic, parishioner attendance at the divine services in the churches of New York City resumed, with certain health and safety requirements: wearing masks and maintaining social distance. For more than three months, ones important to Orthodox Christians, during which the Orthodox Church observed Great Lent and celebrated the great feasts of Pascha, the Lord’s Ascension, and Holy Pentecost (Trinity Sunday), the clergy continued performing the divine services in the Synodal Cathedral and St. Sergius Chapel, with livestreaming and online submission of commemoration slips and ordering of candles set up. At the request of parishioners, the clergy would bring them the Holy Gifts at home.
On June 28, the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, and the date when the Holy Church commemorates the Holy Hierarch Jonah of Moscow, Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan celebrated Divine Liturgy in the cathedral. Concelebrating with His Grace was cathedral clerics: dean Archpriest Andrei Sommer, Archpriest Edward Chervinsky, Protodeacon Nicolas Mokhoff, and Deacons Nicholas Ilyin (cleric of Holy Dormition Convent "Novo-Diveevo" in Nanuet, NY) and Stefan Stoyanov (cathedral cleric). To the joy of those parishioners in attendance at Liturgy, the divine service was held under the aegis of the wonderworking Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God.
Upon completion of Liturgy, the faithful communed of Christ’s Holy Mysteries. His Grace congratulated all with the feast, thanked parishioners for humbly accepting the prohibition enacted by the authorities on attending church, and thanked God for their return to church life, if with some limitations.
"The Orthodox Christian is a person of faith, who always believes, no matter where he is, no matter what has happened to him; who fulfills his obediences given from above. We thank God for these much-needed life lessons, when we are able to look inside ourselves and feel that living is impossible without a life in the Church. And the Orthodox we able to understand that this year."
Further along in his sermon, Bishop Nicholas said, in part:
"Today we read from the Gospel of Matthew and heard these very important words of the Savior: ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you’. The Lord also teaches us how we ought to pray, and has given us the Lord’s Prayer (‘Our Father”). And finally, He teaches us not to think about what is in the world, but to turn our gaze higher. The Lord Himself was transfigured on Mount Tabor, lifted up on Golgotha, ascended into Heaven. He invites us to where it is higher, to where there are no earthly temptations or troubles."
Hs Grace called on the faithful to seek God’s righteousness, and to live in a way that befits an Orthodox Christian, asking of God aid in the carrying of our cross.
"Christ is our Chief Shepherd, but He also gave us other shepherds: our holy hierarchs and ascetics. Today we glorified Metropolitan Jonah of Moscow, who lived in the 15th century, the author of a special Polyeleos service. He so loved the Lord God, that he sought God’s righteousness throughout his life, and today prayers before the Throne of God and is for us a living example."
Bishop Nicholas also spoke about the New Martyr Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev, whose feast day ‒ the finding of his relics in 1992 in the Kiev Caves Lavra ‒ was celebrated the day prior. He was the first martyr in 1918, "who baptized us by his own blood," and for his life earned comparison to Saint Vladimir, Baptizer of Holy Rus’. One hundred years later, the faithful remember him as a lantern of grace, illuminating the path to God and His righteousness.
Bishop Nicholas reminded the faithful of the feasts days that will be celebrated during the coming week, including the feast day of the Holy Hierarch John of Shanghai & San Francisco, particularly beloved among the Russian Diaspora. On Saturday, July 4, Liturgy on his feast day will be served in St. Sergius Chapel at the Synodal Headquarters.