[Archived News] Tuesday April 22, 2008

Hosanna in the Highest!
St. Nicholas Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church

Oberlin-Steelton, Pa - We know from Scripture readings that the people of Jerusalem eagerly awaited the arrival of one special person, Jesus Christ, and when He entered the city, He was greeted with much singing, joy, and reverence.  Palms and other branches and even clothes were strewn in His path.  Notably, children were a large part of this excitement as they sang, “Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!”  Indeed, that same spiritual lift is still experienced today in Orthodox Christian churches around the world as they observe Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday.  We are prepared to endure the sorrow of Holy Week because, unlike the people of Christ’s time, we know we will then experience His joyful resurrection.

At St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church in Oberlin-Steelton, there was great anticipation on the eve of Lazarus Saturday as the Great Lent was brought to a formal close.  It is also on this special occasion that our children reach the age when they learn, in more concrete ways, the meaning of repentance and the joyful sorrow of our Lenten journey with Christ to Jerusalem   Under the supportive guidance of their Sunday School teacher, Andrea Gunther, four students had been preparing to receive the Sacrament of Holy Confession for the first time.  The students, Kaitlin Christ, Stefan Gligorevic, Maxim Reznitchenko and Hannah Ruby, now had a final orientation with the Very Reverend Stavrofor Srboljub Jockovich before meeting individually with him to make their first confession.  In many ways, these young stewards of St. Nicholas Church have been getting ready for this weekend since they were toddlers.  Their families and Sunday School teachers, especially pre-school teacher Maria Bower and kindergarten/first grade teacher, Jevgenija Radanovic, supported them as they grew in our faith and expanded their understanding of Christ’s teachings.

Both Stefan and Maxim are altar servers while Kaitlin and Hannah regularly attend Liturgy and participant in Sunday School activities.  Kaitlin’s and Hannah’s great-grandparents – the late Joe and Maria Jajich and the late Marko and Alma Stanovich respectively – and their extended families are long-time members of the St. Nicholas Church while the families of Stefan and Maxim joined us in more recent years.  We are blessed to have all of them in our church community.

The prospects of a special Lazarus Saturday were evident as soon as the sun rose and we experienced the first real promise of Spring’s warm renewal of the earth.  Then, at the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, we celebrated Christ’s bold promise of the heavenly kingdom when He raised his friend, Lazarus, from the tomb.  In place of the Thrice-Holy Hymn, we sang the special baptismal hymn, “As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ!” remembering this Liturgy as one in which Christians historically were baptized.  Along with many of their Sunday School friends, Kaitlin, Stefan, Maxim and Hannah received the sacrament of Holy Communion from Fr. Srboljub.

With Fr. Srboljub and con-celebrant Fr. Dan Ressitar of Christ the Savior Orthodox Church in Harrisburg leading the way, eight altar servers, the Sunday School teachers and students, stewards of the Church and their extended families and friends made the traditional procession around the church.  The excitement was palpable as they sang, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” and rang the bells tied to the pussy willow and palm branches --all emblematic of the crowds that greeted Christ upon His triumphal entry into Jerusalem and of His victory over death.  At the conclusion of the Liturgy, everyone moved to the Church social hall where the Mothers’ Club hosted a fellowship time.

At the Palm Sunday liturgy, the four Sunday School children who had made their first confessions received Holy Communion along with the rest of the St. Nicholas faithful.  In recognition of this important step in the life of an Orthodox Christian, Fr. Srboljub presented Kristin, Stefan, Maxim and Hannah with an icon of Christ, the Good Shepherd on behalf of the St. Nicholas Church Mothers’ Club, our energetic and long-time supporters of the Sunday School.  Following the Palm Sunday liturgy, Fr. Srboljub blessed the branches and they were distributed to the faithful.   

The children, their families and kumovi and all the stewards of St. Nicholas Church now move forward to the inevitable sorrow of Christ’s Passion and the resounding glory of His resurrection.  Through the Great Lent we have grown in His Spirit and by His Grace and are now ready to follow Him to His promised Kingdom.