On Sunday, January 14, the feast of the Circumcision of the Lord, the parish school of Holy Virgin Protection Church in Nyack, NY held its annual Nativity Yolka.
After the solmen greeting of Metropolitan Nicholas of Eastern America & New York with bread and salt and an opening prayer, parish rector and school director Archpriest Elias Gorsky delivered a welcome address to all, saying, in part: "Our school has as its first purpose to bring up our children in the Orthodox Faith. The first primary purpose of our teachers and of you, the parents, is to bring the children to church. We have the icon of our school: our Lord Jesus Christ blessing the children. This icon is of the passage in the Gospel where our Lord tells the apostles: do not forbid the children to come unto Me."
In his greeting, His Eminence greeted all with the feasts of Christ’s Nativity and the Circumcision of the Lord, and said: "Today we experience very clearly that which is not of the Church. We are not only invited [by the world] to take part in something dark, outside of the Church, unpleasant, and sinful, but we are also invited to become these things ourselves. And this is frightful for us. But we do not fear. We go forward, knowing that God is with us. And today, this feast is not only for the children, but for all of us: we glorify Christ. And our children, heeding our example, receiving this deposit, this good word, will continue it into the future. No matter what may take place around us, in this world ‒ where we encounter sin, war, and wickedness – they will know that they are special, that they are Orthodox, that they are good, that they have love, because they have God, Who is Love."
Virtually all of the school’s students, ages 4-17, took part in the musical play based on A.S. Pushkin’s "Tsar Saltan," under the direction of Irene Serdsev. Children in fairytale costumes enthusiastically performed on stage, sang and danced, and together with the audience feared for the fate of the queen and her child floating in a barrel on the stormy blue sea, admired the dance of the beautiful Swan Princess, were frightened by a black kite flying over the stage, followed the flight of a small and happy bumblebee, rejoiced at the repentance of the wicked sisters and Baba Babarikha and at the happy ending, greeting Prince Guidon and his Swan bride to the peel of bells. At the end of the performance, all of the actors came on stage to thunderous applause, and sang the Christmas carol "Heaven and Earth," later standing for a group photo with Metropolitan Nicholas.
After the play and festal victuals, the children continued their singing in a circle around a massive live Christmas tree, singing carols in anticipation of the arrival of Santa (Grandfather Frost) and Snegurochka, who joyously rode into the parish hall on their painted sleigh with a bag full of presents for all of the children.
Much effort, spirit, and love from the parents, parishioners, and sisterhood went into this holiday for the children and adult teachers of the parish school, and the event was a great success. Children and grownups alike exited the hall onto the frosty street, taking home with them a festive mood and the feeling of the Christmas story.
Background on Nyack’s Russian School: The parish school at Holy Virgin Protection Church in Nyack, NY is the oldest parish school on the East Coast, founded over 70 years ago by Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy, the parish’s longtime rector and author of The Law of God, a textbook renowned not only around America, but now around the world, as well. The parish school’s students use the book to this very day. There are currently 70 students enrolled in the school, ages 4-17, instructed by 24 teachers, seven of whom are graduates of the school from various years. Classes are held on Saturdays from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM. All subjects are taught in Russian: the Law of God, Russian Language, Reading, Russian Literature, Russian History, Singing, and Geography. All of the teachers at the school are volunteers. Every year, in addition to the Nativity Yolka, the parish holds a Children’s Bliny with a costume contest on a given theme, baking of "lark buns" for the feast of the 40 Martyrs, school-wide confession during Great Lent, a poetry contest, concert, and the "Young Talents" exhibition, and a school picnic.