His Grace Bishop Irinej of Eastern America celebrated the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great at the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Eleftherios in Manhattan, on the Second Sunday of Great Lent, March 15, 2020.
Ever since the fire which devastated the St. Sava Cathedral on Pascha, 2016, the Serbian community has been welcomed, as one of their own, and graciously hosted by their Orthodox coreligionists and Greek brethren.
Concelebrating with His Grace, were Presbyter Nicolas Karazian, host pastor, and Protopresbyter Aleksa Micich of St. Sava Cathedral, assisted by the Protodeacon Jovan Anicic, Education Director of the Eastern American Diocese.
Responses at the trilingual Liturgy, chanted in Greek, Serbian and English were rendered by cantors from both the Greek and Serbian Churches.
The Liturgy was extremely solemn and inspiring, given the surrounding circumstances with the Coronavirus. Despite everything, a good number of faithful attended, mostly young parishioners, and the majority partook of the life-giving Mysteries of Christ in Holy Communion.
In his homily, His Grace spoke about the profound meaning of the Sunday dedicated to St. Gregory Palamas, however, in wake of the pandemic.
Bishop Irinej talked about the history of this Sunday, which was originally dedicated to the Transfiguration. He spoke of how the energies and light of Christ from Tabor, as interpreted by St. Gregory, are in our lives, through the synergy of God’s Grace and our human free will, as needed for our salvation.
The Bishop explained how this virus is not a temptation sent by the Lord, rather a test of our spiritual maturity. His message was one which put everything into context, as he noted that this has now truly become our Lenten effort.
Also, as we are all responsible for each other in a community of love, which is the Church, we must pray, he noted, as the friends of the paralytic in today’s Gospel affected his healing by their prayers before Christ.
In like manner, we were all deeply engrossed in prayer, by hearing for the first time the liturgical petitions for our protection from the virus, which our Bishop composed for inclusion in the Litanies.
May our Lord keep us all safe through this Great and Holy Lent, and into the bright light of Pascha.