STEELTON, PA (December 19, 2021) — The St. Nicholas Festal celebration is such an important day each year for our Serbian Orthodox community in Steelton, PA. This year, after a pandemic forced hiatus, His Grace Bishop Irinej of Eastern America once again presided over a beautiful and fulfilling St. Nicholas Day – Nikoljdan celebration. His Grace arrived on Saturday evening for Vespers, beginning the liturgical day with prayer and worship. A parastos was served before Vespers for all of the departed of the St. Nicholas Parish, especially for Stevan and Ana Katic, benefactors of the iconography project. After Vespers, Bishop Irinej joined the parish clergy, Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Ilija Balach, Deacon Bojan Gligorevic, and Presbyter Christopher Rocknage for a light meal and fellowship. As this was the 4th Anniversary of his ordination to the diaconate, Deacon Bojan and his wife Sladjana offered a beautiful dikirion and trikirion set as a thanksgiving gift to the parish.
The morning of St. Nicholas Day began with Matins. During the Matins service, the children’s choir angelically sang “Ton Despotin” by Johann von Gardiner, liturgically welcoming His Grace and asking for his blessings upon the faithful. The Hierarchical Liturgy followed directly afterwards. Bishop Irinej taught the faithful the of the connection between the parable of the rich man who builds up his barns to store the plentiful harvest, and how we are to approach a Christian life through humility—striving to be poor in spirit. His Grace reminded us that if we are controlled by the treasures of this world, we have completely relinquished our freedom. We have truly become “mindless”, as Christ states in the Gospel lection, if we have no discipline. This elucidates the necessity for the tool of “fasting” as abstinence enables the will to direct the passions.
Many of the faithful were brought to tears of joy, as they were able to gather together for this important Slava. This unity was made manifest in the reception of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ; almost the entire assemblage of the Church came to Holy Communion in this gathering of love.
At the end of the Liturgy, His Grace blessed the Slava gifts of Wheat – Koljivo, wine and Festal Bread – Slavski kolach. Bishop Irinej together with the hosts – Kumovi of the Slava, Dr. Bosiljka Yanich and Dr. Linda Wolf, broke the bread, and Mrs. Yovanka Hoover accepted to be the host for the following year, by receiving a quarter of the blessed bread from the hands of this year’s host.
Afterward, the faithful gathered in the Church Hall for a Slava luncheon, celebrating together in an agape meal for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.
We give thanks to God for His Grace Bishop Irinej’s, paternal love given to our humble community. We rejoice in his presence and eagerly await his next visit, when we will welcome him together with the entire Diocesan Assembly this coming March.