A delegation from Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary (HTOS) traveled to St Basil’s Orthodox Church (OCA) on February 25 to participate in a Pan-Orthodox Vespers to commemorate the Sunday of Orthodoxy. The delegation was led by Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster, Dean and Professor of Moral Theology.
On behalf of the local Orthodox clergy in the Albany “capital region,” Priest Matthew Markewich, rector of Christ the Savior Orthodox Church (OCA) in Ballston Lake, NY, invited the Seminary choir, under the direction of Deacon Nicholas Kotar, to sing the responses in English. Afterward the Seminarians—4th year students Reader Seth Davidenko, Reader George Luimes and Reader Christian Watts, 2nd year student James Racz, and 1st year students Ivan Gryaznov and Reader Evan Nalitov--with Priest Ephraim Willmarth, Asst. Dean and Director of Admissions, also among them, received accolades from many attendees. Deacon Michael Pavuk, HTOS Director of Development, served as one of two deacons during the Vespers.
Invited to serve with the other priests and to preach after the clergy procession, Fr Alexander began his rousing, prophetic homily by invoking the triumphant entry of a victorious ancient Roman conqueror into the Imperial City, ironically with a slave riding on the same chariot, holding a gold laurel wreath over his head, but also whispering into the victor’s ear, “Remember, thou art but a man.” Orthodox Byzantium celebrated the ultimate triumph of faithful Orthodox Christians over the iconoclastic heretics with a much more modest triumphal procession in AD 843, which Orthodox churches all over the world reenact on the Sunday of Orthodoxy. But “new iconoclasts,” Fr. Alexander suggested, have arisen in North America who wish to destroy Christ the Jew, Christ the man, Christ the Bridegroom, Christ the preborn child, and Christ the Son of God. Fr. Alexander closed by challenging the faithful to witness on behalf of the fullness of divine truth in Holy Orthodoxy through a robust evangelism and a prophetic presence in all components of contemporary American society, including schools and universities, hospitals and medical clinics, the Internet, Hollywood and other venues of popular culture, and the halls of government.
Archpriest Peter Olsen, rector of St. Basil’s, presiding priest and HTOS alumnus (class of 1980), spoke after Fr. Alexander’s homily, reminiscing about his pastoral formation at HTOS, noting the unique spiritual benefits from the Seminary’s close ties with Holy Trinity Monastery, and stressing the importance of supporting the Seminary to continue our mission and to expand our outreach. The local clergy had already decided to contribute the entire free-will offering at the end of the service to the Seminary.
The service included clerics and faithful from ROCOR, the OCA, the Antiochian Archdiocese, and the Greek Archdiocese. Afterward everyone enjoyed a bountiful Lenten meal.