On a beautiful Sunday morning, September twelfth, in a rural area of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, stands a little grey church nestled between corn stalks. Outside of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Mission, stands about fifty people, waiting for their spiritual Father Bishop to arrive.
The time comes and out from the car stands His Eminence, Metropolitan Antony, the Prime Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and the Ruling Hierarch of the Eastern Eparchy of which Holy Trinity is part. First to greet His Eminence with a beautiful bouquet of flowers was Nadia Baratney. Next Michael Hretchka, Parish Board President and Wolodymyr Stepovij, Parish Board Treasurer offered greetings from the Parish Family with the traditional bread and salt. Finally, Father Stephen greeted His Eminence with the hand cross and Holy Water expressing the joy that the Parish had as their Father Bishop was present in the life of the Parish. His Eminence expressed the joy of being present in the life of his flock, not because it was an anniversary or special occasion, but rather that it gave us the time to be together in prayer.
Arriving with His Eminence were Deacon Myroslav Mykytyuk, who concelebrated the Liturgy and from our St. Sophia Seminary, Subdeacon Pavlo Vystotskyy, Reader Andrew Vatrych and Seminarian Andrii Akulenko. The Divine Liturgy began and the responses were sung by our Parish Choir Members under the leadership of Wolodymyr Stepowij.
Metropolitan Antony preached on the Gospel message. We worry so much about how our 401 retirement funds are doing that we forget that we have brothers and sisters in need. As Orthodox Christians we have an obligation to help those less fortunate than we are. He spoke about the laws of love that Jesus left us: “To love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and all our strength; and to love our neighbor as ourselves.” How often do we even think about God in our daily life when we worry about all the earthly possessions that we own. Do we think about God’s judgment in the end? Loving our neighbor as ourselves does not mean looking in the mirror and seeing what we want to see. It means that as we take care of our own daily needs, so too we must also help those around us who are less fortunate take care of their daily needs.
His Eminence spoke about how we judge people. The simple man or woman on the street who needs our compassion and yes, even our monetary care. How often do we judge them and say that we will not help them because what will they do with our money? That is not loving our neighbor as ourselves. He reminded us that the way we judge others Is the way that God will judge us. We say the Our Father every day (hopefully). Do we understand that every time we say this, the only prayer that Jesus gave us to pray to His Father, that we are asking God to judge us in the same way that we judge others?
Our Metropolitan talked about our daily prayers. The one prayer that has become the spiritual foundation of his spiritual life is the Prayer of St. Ephrem: “O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Your servant. Yes, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art You, unto ages of ages. Amen.” He prays that this prayer may become the anchor and foundation of our daily lives as well.
Following the Divine Liturgy, all of us gathered at Doyle’s Restaurant for a time of breaking our fast and fellowship. We are thankful to His Eminence for being with us and inspiring us both with his presence and especially through his prayers. May God grant him many, happy and blessed years! Eis polla eti despota!