From Saturday the 16th through Monday the 18th of July, His Eminence, Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen), paid an archpastoral visit to St. Elizabeth the New-Martyr Church in Columbia, SC, where he officiated the divine services for the feast of the Holy Royal Martyrs and the parish’s patronal feast.
On Saturday evening, parish rector Archpriest Mark Mancuso served the All-Night Vigil, co-served by parish Protodeacon Columba Wilson. Metropolitan Jonah prayed in the altar, coming out for Polyeleos and anointing the faithful.
The following morning, Sunday, July 17, His Eminence was greeted at the entrance to the church by parish brotherhood member Gabriel Somerville. The Metropolitan then celebrated Divine Liturgy, co-served by Frs. Mark and Columba. Upon conclusion of Liturgy, Metropolitan Jonah addressed the gathered faithful with a sermon on the lives and passion-bearing struggles of the Royal Martyrs, saying, in part:
"Commemorating the Royal Martyrs today, it is very important to recognize that what killed them is the same force that is afflicting our society today: the ultimate symptom of that is hatred. Hatred has become such integral part of our society over the past years… There is nothing more antithetical to Christianity than hatred. The Holy Fathers tell us that the presence and the grace of the Holy Spirit cannot dwell in a heart that harbors hatred. And that includes hatred for enemies. St. Silouan the Athonite says that the love of our enemies is the criterion of our Christianity. We are told that the degree to which we love God is the degree to which we love the person whom we hate the most. In other words, how can that love and hate coexist in one heart? They cannot. Our task then is to purge from our minds and from our hearts any hatred.
"The only way to overcome this demonic evil is with love… The Lord tells us to ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you’ (Matthew 5:44). We have in the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas and his family an example of those who did not give themselves over to hatred, no matter what the cost. Because they gave themselves over to the love of God and the love of their enemies, their witness persists even now. That is why they are not merely political casualties, but are glorified by the Church as martyrs and passion-bearers, who accepted their struggle in the name of God, to offer that blessed witness, and to plant those seeds of the Church: the blood of the martyrs."
After the service, a luncheon was served in the parish hall.
That evening, His Eminence officiated All-Night Vigil for the parish’s patronal feast, co-served by Frs. Mark and Columba. In addition to hymns in English and Slavonic, several refrains were sung and read in German, honoring the land of St. Elizabeth’s birth.
The following morning, Monday, July 18, Metropolitan Jonah was greeted at the entrance to the church by parish brotherhood member Lugaidh McLaine, and then celebrated Divine Liturgy. Joining the parish clergy were Archpriest Mark Tyson (cleric of St. Thomas the Apostle Mission in Lewisville, NC) and Priest Steven Webb (rector of St. Nicholas Church in Fletcher, NC). The service was especially joyful; the parish choir sang beautifully under the direction of Reader James Latimer, and Paschal hymns were sung during the communion of the clergy.
As the day prior, His Eminence delivered a sermon on the life of the saint, saying:
"Today we celebrate the Venerable-New Martyr, the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, her cell attendant the Nun Barbara, and those martyred with them. We look at them and we look at the example that they set, both in their lives and in their deaths. Along with her sister, the Empress Alexander, the Grand Duchess Elizabeth was a convert to the Orthodox Faith, joining herself to Christ’s Church in adulthood. St. Elizabeth is a remarkable person; when her husband, the Grand Duke Serge, was assassinated, she left the world for the monastic habit. But rather than retire to a contemplative monastery, she embarked upon the tremendous work of creating a monastic community that was of service to the poor: the Sisters of Sts. Martha & Mary. The sisters would go to the hospitals, to the poor, to the orphanages, to the nursing homes and minister to the people…
"Both martyred sisters lived lives of great Orthodox piety, being sanctified by grace, by the Holy Mysteries, and by their cooperation with God. That sanctification which we receive as Orthodox Christians comes from entering into synergy with God and letting God work through us and being His instruments in this world. God working with us and we working with God, it becomes a single action: our actions become divine and God’s actions become human. This is the essence of deification. In reaching out to the poor and to the oppressed and to those who were in need of help, she manifested the very love and presence of God in the midst of a society that was undergoing unimaginable upheavals. This is the most important thing for us to remember about St. Elizabeth ‒ not just her martyrdom, which was exemplary, in which she manifest a love of Christ to the end ‒ but also the dedication of her life to ministering to others. Let us follow in her example today and fulfill her legacy ‒ caring for others, reaching out to those in need, and manifesting Christ to all."
Fr. Mark thanked His Eminence for his archpastoral visit and their shared prayers. The Polychronion was intoned for the namesday celebrants. Liturgy concluded with the singing of the Cherubic Hymn that St. Elizabeth and those with her sang on the way to their martyrdom, as a spiritual preparation for being united to the eternal Heavenly Liturgy.
After the service, a festal luncheon was again served in the parish hall, where fellowship between the hierarch, clergy, and faithful continued.