On December 6, the 26th Sunday after Pentecost, the Orthodox Church celebrated the memory of the Holy Right-Believing Great Prince Alexander Nevsky, in monasticism Alexis. He is known universally as the quintessential warrior saint: it was he who defeated the Swedes on the Izhora (Neva) River, the Teutonic Knights on Lake Peipus, and the Tatar tribute collectors. But the prince was also a saint. And the Church calls him "right-believing" for good reason: his faith and protection of Orthodoxy, in which he saw the principal component of the Russian identity, became the defining aspects of his life. After all, without faith, one cannot bear the heavy cross of service as ruler of the state. This is the key to understanding his spiritual feats.
On Saturday the 5th and Sunday the 6th of December, Eastern American Diocesan vicar Bishop Luke of Syracuse paid an archpastoral visit to St. Alexander Nevsky Diocesan Cathedral in Howell, NJ, in order to celebrate the feast with the clergy and parishioners there. Traveling with His Grace were the seminary choir and seminarians from Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary in Jordanville, NY.
On Saturday evening, the clergy and faithful greeted the Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God, after which Bishop Luke officiated All-Night Vigil in the cathedral, co-served by rector Archpriest Serge Lukianov, Archpriest Leonid Goferman (rector of Holy Virgin Protection Church in New Brunswick, NJ), Priest Anthony Williams and Protodeacons Nicholas Lukianov and Paul Drozdowski (cathedral clerics), and Deacon Michael Pavuk (cleric of St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Mayfield, PA). Holy Trinity Monastery cleric Priest Ephraim Willmarth sang in the choir, led by Deacon Nicholas Kotar.
Concelebrating Divine Liturgy with Bishop Luke on Sunday morning, were Fr. Serge Lukianov, Abbot Eutychius (Dovgan; diocesan cleric), Abbot Arseny (Manko; rector of Sts. Cosmas & Damian Church in Passaic, NJ), and Frs. Anthony Williams, Nicholas Lukianov, Paul Drozdowski, and Michael Pavuk.
With the blessing of Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America & New York, Bishop Luke awarded Fr. Anthony Williams the right to wear the nabedrennik.
The church was filled with worshippers for both services.
Upon completion of Liturgy, Bishop Luke greeted the clergy and parishioners with their patronal feast, and noted the importance of helping one's neighbor, especially during the days of the Nativity Fast. As Christ the Savior said: Inasmuch as you help your neighbor, you have helped Me: "For I was an hungred, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me" (Matthew 25: 35-36).
"But Venerable Symeon the New Theologian interprets these words somewhat differently. He writes that it is our soul that is ‘naked.’ It is imprisoned. And we must take care to develop a salvific care for our souls." Bishop Luke noted that we must stand against everything that distracts us from repentance and salvation, and how important it is to seek out what is positive all around us. As Orthodox Christians, we must be realists and have hope ‒ a gift that must be acquired.
The rector Fr. Serge thanked Bishop Luke for their shared prayer, and Fr. Nicholas Kotar for directing the choir; he thanked the singers for their beautiful hymnody, and presented seminary dean Dr. Nicolas Schidlovsky with a check for $10,000 to benefit the seminary.
The sisterhood organized a luncheon for the clergy and faithful in the parish hall, during which their informal interaction continued. At the luncheon, the seminarians were all presents gifts on behalf of the parish.