Today’s Divine Liturgy is celebrated today at the grand Patriarchal Cathedral, in which we mark the weekly “Little Pascha of Christ,” as we also mark the important 120th anniversary of the consecration of this church. Its history includes blessed ascetic labors, tearful services by St Tikhon, the great Passion-Bearer and Patriarch of All Russia, who continues to be fervently venerated by all Orthodox Christians in the United States; by St Raphael of Brooklyn, who pastorally laid down his life for the success of the Syrio-Arab mission in North America; by Protopresbyter Alexander Hotovitsky, the great missionary and New Martyr, together with righteous Alexei Tovt, who labored greatly on behalf of bringing Carpathian Russians to Holy Orthodoxy. May their apostolic zeal be a constant example for us as we serve “in a strange land” (Psalms 137:4), to which each of us is called!
The sacred vaulted ceiling of the Patriarchal Cathedral in New York echoed the prayers of these saints, and their construction was made possible also by St John of Kronstadt and the Righteous Emperor Nicholas II, Passion-bearer and Martyr. May the prayers of all of these holy men, bound to this altar table, strengthen us by the Lord in this difficult time, when people are divided by the deep chasm of great enmity and suspicion, yet on the other hand seek reconciliation and spiritual unity amongst themselves. It is especially important now to develop, support and strengthen the friendship of the Orthodox Christian peoples and fraternal unity of their Churches, to serve as an example through our actions to help others find a path to peace and concord. Following the instructions of Apostle Paul “endeavoring to keep the unity of Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), we must prefer Christian love in all our relationships and always seek that which “makes for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (Romans 14:19). For only with love in the Lord can we manifest the commandments of the Gospel in life, and only Christ’s love permits peace and unity among peoples. The Church, in the words of Chrysostom, is a place where divided people unite. May he help us, together with St Nicholas, the heavenly patron of this Patriarchal cathedral, to make our own contribution in the great work of “uniting all,” for which we pray at every divine service, for it is with the blessed action of good works of the people of the Church that divided peoples can find a way to peace, concord and friendship.
Together with fervent prayers for the reestablishment of peace, we also pray for the health of today’s birthday celebrant, His Holiness Patriarch Kyrill, who, 19 years ago as Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, performed the great consecration of this cathedral after its renovation. Prayerfully commemorating him today, we beseech the Lord for His Heavenly aid to the service of His Holiness.
Celebrating Divine Liturgy today with special emotion on this important day, “this day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalms 118:24), for we remember Ukase No. 362 of Patriarch Tikhon, issued on this day 102 years ago which served as the foundation of the Russian Church Abroad, bringing thanks to God for the mercy poured forth upon the Russian diaspora.
I conclude today’s festive divine celebrations with a heart filled with love and gratitude to your new Rector and Chancellor of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA, Archpriest Igor Vyzhanov, the cathedral clergymen, the representatives of other Local Orthodox Churches, the acolytes, choir singers, all those who labor in this cathedral and in the Chancery of the Patriarchal Parishes. Please accept my genuine thanks as the first servant of the Russian Church Abroad, and I ask your holy prayers for our episcopate, clergy and flock, that we patiently bear our cross, that we always love, cherish, preserve and increase that which we hold dear, for the salvation of our souls. Amen.