From Friday the 23rd to Sunday the 25th of March, the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America & New York, performed an archpastoral visit to St. Mary of Egypt Church in Roswell, GA.
On Friday, March 23, His Eminence led the Matins service with the singing of the Akathist to the Most Holy Theotokos, co-served by parish rector Archpriest John Townsend and parish clerics: Hieromonk Alexander (Lisnichuk), Priests Daniel Illiev and Michael Belyakov, Deacon Jude Rountree, and visiting clergy.
On the next day, Saturday, March 24 – the feast of the Laudation of the Most Holy Theotokos, Metropolitan Hilarion was greeted with bread and salt. During the reading of the hours, brothers Isaac and Samuel Atalla and Vladimir Charypov were tonsured readers. Isaac Attala was then ordained a subdeacon and, later during the Divine Liturgy, ordained a deacon.
At the end of the service, Metropolitan Hilarion addressed those gathered with a sermon, in which he discussed the origins of the feast of the Laudation of the Mother of God. "This feast was established in the 9th century for the recurring deliverance of Constantinople and the intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos against the invasion of enemies. Patriarch Sergius bore an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos around the walls of the city and begged the Lord for protection from the Persian and Scythian troops that were besieging Constantinople; and the people sought protection in the temples of God, day and night begging her, as Diligent Intercessor, to save their city.
"The Emperor Constantine the Great, founder of Constantinople, dedicated the city to the Mother of God and venerated the Blessed Virgin as the patroness of his new capital. Her holy icon, painted by the Holy Evangelist Luke, was kept at the church at Blachernæ. On the night when the combined forces of the the Hagarenes and Persians moved on the city by land and sea, a terrible storm suddenly began, which dispersed and sank the ships of the attackers. Then the entire night the grateful people, who stayed at the Church at Blachernæ, shouted a triumphant song to the Protectress of the City: ‘To thee, the Champion Leader, we thy servants dedicate a feast of victory and of thanksgiving, as ones rescued out of sufferings, O Theotokos!’ And from that time, in commemoration of this great miracle, the Orthodox Church established the feast of the Laudation of the Mother of God. Later, akathists were written to saints and to Christ himself. But the beautifully written akathist to the Most Holy Theotokos is to this day the most beloved, which Orthodox people read for protect from enemies visible and invisible. "
That evening, Metropolitan Hilarion prayed in the church during the All-Night Vigil.
The parish of St. Mary of Egypt was established in 1976 in the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Church in America. In 1981, a parcel of land was purchased and very quickly a church was built. In November 1997, the parish came under the omophorion of the Russian Church Abroad, and for seven years, services were held in various buildings until, in 2005, the current building (a former Lutheran church) was purchased. With the combined efforts of the clergy and parishioners, the building was transformed into an Orthodox temple, where services are now conducted by four priests and a deacon. Services are conducted in English, while treby are conducted in both Church Slavonic and English. A priest and deacon, both ordained in the last two years, were parishioners of the church. A Sunday school currently operates at the parish. The community is comprised of Americans, Russians, Georgians, Romanians, Bulgarians, and Greeks.
On Sunday, March 25, the Fifth Sunday of Great Lent, of Venerable Mary of Egypt, the parish’s patronal feast, Metropolitan Hilarion celebrated Divine Liturgy, co-served by parish clergy, Protodeacon Leonid Mickle of St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington, DC, and visiting clergy.
During the reading of the hours, Seraphim Pavone, Theodore Foley, and David Prestridge were ordained readers. David was then ordained a subdeacon and later, during Liturgy, a deacon. After the Great Entrance, Deacon Isaac Atalla was ordained a priest. Fr. Isaac will begin his service at St. Mary of Egypt Church, and later fulfill his service in a new mission of the Holy Icon of the Savior "Not Made by Hands" in Chattanooga, TN. Future parishioners of the mission include Americans, Russians, and émigrés from the Middle East. Fr. Isaac himself was born in Egypt, and has been living in the United States for 32 years, where he and his family have been parishioners of this Orthodox church.
At the conclusion of the Liturgy, parishioners received the Holy Mysteries from three chalices.
Metropolitan Hilarion congratulated the clergy and parishioners on the patronal feast day and talked about the life of the patroness of the parish – Venerable Mary of Egypt – as an image of high and sincere repentance. His Eminence offered words of blessing on the labors of the newly ordained and tonsured priest, deacon, and readers. He expressed his gratitude to the clergy, altar servers, choir, and parishioners for their joint prayers, and wished that they might spend the remaining days of Great Lent and greet the Bright Resurrection of Christ in spiritual joy.
The parish sisterhood invited everyone to a festal lenten meal, during which the clergy and parishioners continued to interact with their First Hierarch and one another.