On Wednesday, November 14, His Eminence Hilarion, Metropolitan of Eastern America & New York, paid an archpastoral visit to Sts. Cosmas & Damian Church in Passaic, NJ, and led the parish’s patronal feast day, as well as the official farewell for its former rector, Priest Dmitri Don.
At Divine Liturgy, the First Hierarch was co-served by Eastern American Diocesan vicar Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan, Archpriests Serge Lukianov (dean of New Jersey) George Zelenin (rector of St. Michael Cathedral in Paterson, NJ), Petro Kunitsky (cleric of Holy New Martyrs of Russia Church in Brooklyn, NY), and Boris Slootsky (cleric of St. Alexander Nevsky Diocesan Cathedral in Howell, NJ), Abbot Arseny (Manko; newly appointed rector), Fr. Dmitri, Priest George Kaplanov and Protodeacons Leonid Roschko and Paul Drozdowski (clerics of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral), and Deacon Pavel Roudenko (cleric of the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign in New York City).
The service proceeded triumphally and prayerfully, and many communed of Christ’s Holy Mysteries.
Upon completion of Liturgy, Metropolitan Hilarion addressed those gathered with a sermon, in which he said, in part:
"Saints Cosmas and Damian are a wonderful example of selfless, self-sacrificing love, and aid for those who suffer. As brothers and doctors raised in the Christian Faith, they gave themselves fully to the sick, and not only with their knowledge of medicine – through faith and God’s grace, they healed the sick free of charge, remembering the words of the Savior: ‘freely ye have received, freely give’ (Matthew 10:8).
"They are an example for us, and we must show compassion to those in need of aid, we must think of those around us, those abiding in misfortune, need, and illness. We must show them Christian aid in accordance with our abilities.
"Your church is a reminder of this Christian virtue – mercy, compassion for others. You, Fr. Dmitri, have prayed here for many years, and as pastor have nourished your parishioners. We thank you and – by your request – excuse you from your position as rector, from your pastoral labors, and bless your transfer to Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY. The newly appointed rector is Abbot Arseny (Manko), to whom we wish God’s aid, pastoral wisdom, and compassionate love to his flock that will attend this church."
Expressing his gratitude, the First Hierarch awarded Fr. Dmitri and Matushka Natalia a diocesan gramota, which reads, in part:
"For all these years, he [Fr. Dmitri] worthily bore the priestly cross, devoutly fulfilling the obediences placed upon him by the Holy Church. Having spiritual gifts and a desire to help people, he won the love and respect of his flock. His spiritual wisdom and sermons contribute to the growth of your parishioners on their path to salvation.
"Despite the fact that, during their years of service in Sts. Cosmas and Damian parish, Fr. Dmitri and Matushka Natalia worked practically free of charge, they completed a great task: a large-scake restoration and beautification of the church and hall. All these years Matushka Natalia led the choir, and the children of the Don family sang and served in the altar. These are the very sacrificial works to which you, Fr. Dmitri and Matushka Natalia, were called by Christ the Savior."
The new rector, Fr. Arseny, on behalf of the parish council in fond remembrance, presented the Don family with icons of the Savior and the Mother of God, saying, "When you raise up your prayers, remember us sinners, and we will be glad to meet you any day and pray together with you."
In turn, Fr. Dmitri said, "Many years ago, by the grace of God and the bishop’s decree, I was appointed to this parish, and the rector of the parish at the time, Archpriest Vladimir Doroshkevich said that ‘we priests run like athletes with a baton. Run, run, and then – either fall down, or else move onward, to the next race.’ And this stick we pass from one person to another, and now he runs and so the church is arranged that a priest must serve to nourish the flock, to restore and maintain the temple. Today His Eminence transfers us to the monastery in Jordanville, NY. The location is very prayerful, and I have always wanted to live and work in a monastery, having always liked monastic prayer. And to all of you, dear hierarchs, fathers, brothers and sisters, I would like to thank you for visiting our church today."
Fr. Dmitri thanked the parishioners for their love, saying, "Wherever we are, our love will be between us, and I will remember you, and ask that you do not forget me in your prayers."
After the Liturgy in the parish hall, the sisterhood offered a bountiful lenten luncheon, during which speeches were delivered, and words of gratitude and goodwill exchanged.
Passaic, NJ: Metropolitan Hilarion leads Patronal Feast of Sts. Cosmas & Damian Church - 11/14/18
Photos: G. Konyev - Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese