On Wednesday, March 1, Eastern American Diocesan vicar Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan paid an archpastoral visit to the Church of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple in Stratford, CT, and there led the reading of the Great Penitential Canon of St. Andrew of Crete. The service took place under the aegis of the Protectress of the Russian Diaspora – the wonderworking Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God, which traveled with His Grace from New York City.
Greeting those praying in church: Archpriests George Lardas (rector of neighboring St. Nicholas Church), Vladimir Kovalchuk (cleric of the Diocese of Chernovtsy UOC), and Constantine Semyanko (parish rector), and parishioners, Bishop Nicholas said, in part:
"I greet all of you, brothers and sisters, with the beginning of Great Lent. The first week is passing by, and we offer up our prayers as we listen to the words of the Great Penitential Canon. It may seem strange that I am greeting you all with Great Lent. But, as Orthodox Christians, we understand that this is a joyous and salvific time. And I truly greet you with its start. Listening to the Canon, we hear wonderful words addressed to God: ‘Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me.’ During the Matins service, while the Six Psalms are being read, the priest or bishop reads special, secret prayers, of which there are twelve. They contain such wondrous words, addressed to God: ‘Bless our comings and goings, our works and deeds, our words and thoughts.’ We ask that the Lord God bless our entire life. In another prayer, meanwhile, we hear these words: ‘Make the true Sun of Thy righteousness dawn in our hearts, enlighten our mind and guard all our senses.’ Here we ask of God that He enlighten us by His divine light.
"We very often and repeatedly ask for blessings, enlightenment, understanding, but for some reason rarely ask for mercy. And now, in this joyous and salvific time, we must augment our petitions for mercy from the Lord God. The Canon contains direct words, which apply to all of us: ‘Go, run, awaken, flee from sin.’ This is a directive to us in our spiritual life, that we might finally awaken and flee from sin, run to God and ask for mercy. And it is Lent that strengthens us in this holy undertaking."