The faithful of St. George Serbian Orthodox Church in Midland, PA marked the feast day of their heavenly patron, St. George the Great and Victorious Martyr on May 6th with a special celebration – the opportunity to host His Grace Bishop Irinej, who also marked his family Slava with them. The day began with the Hierarchal Divine Liturgy celebrated by His Grace, concelebrated by host pastor, Protopresbyter Dejan Barac, and Episcopal Deputy, Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Rade Merick, and assisted by Deacon Daniel August, Deacon Mark Matejevich and Reader John Buffalini. The parish's Dr. Laza Kostich Choir sang the responses beautifully, along with the many faithful present, both from the local parish and from some neighboring parishes as well.
In his sermon, Bishop Irinej outlined the life and importance of St. George as an example of faithfulness and courage in the face of persecution, torture, and death. The son of a faithful father who also gave up his life for Christ and a pious mother, George enrolled in the Roman army and was a member of the elite Praetorian Guard. When the Roman Emperor Diocletian undertook a persecution of Christians in the late third century, George was arrested and tried. Refusing to deny Christ and worship the Emperor, George was beheaded after many tortures. Diocletian's wife, the Empress Alexandra, witnessed the trial and execution was so moved by George's faithfulness, courage, and example that she also proclaimed faith in Christ and joined him in a martyr's death. His Grace went on to explain that in many icons of St. George, the dragon he is shown slaying is symbolic of the Roman Empire, while the girl often shown is his companion martyr Empress Alexandra. St. George's body is entombed in a church in Lydda, Israel, where St. George lived, and his tomb is the source of fragrant oil with which pilgrims can be anointed.
During the liturgy special prayers were offered for those innocent victims, many school children, who were killed and wounded in the senseless mass shooting which recently occurred in Belgrade and Mladenovac, Serbia, and for their families. A good number of the faithful received Holy Communion during the liturgy. Near the end of the liturgy, a pomen was held for the Serbian shooting victims, followed by the blessing, and cutting of the Bishop's slavski kolach. At Bishop Irinej's invitation many of the faithful present participated in the turning of the kolach.