On Sunday, December 23, the feast day of the Holy Hierarch Joasaph of Belgorod, Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America & New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, paid an archpastoral visit to Holy Protection Skete in Buena, NJ, where he celebrated Divine Liturgy. Co-serving with His Eminence were: Abbot Vladimir (Zgoba; rector of Our Lady "Unexpected Joy" Church in Staten Island, NY), Abbot Tikhon (Gayfudinov; skete rector), Priest George Kaplanov and Protodeacon Leonid Roschko (clerics of St. Alexander Nevsky Diocesan Cathedral in Howell, NJ), and Deacon Dimitri Krenitsky (cleric of Holy Trinity Church in Vineland, NJ).
Singing at the divine service was St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral’s male choir, under the direction of Alexandra Lukianov.
The faithful came from New Jersey, New York, Delaware, and Pennsylvania to pray at Liturgy. Many confessed that day and communed of Christ’s Holy Mysteries.
Upon completion of the service, Metropolitan Hilarion greeted the abbot of the skete, the clergy, parishioners, choir, and pilgrims, and expressed his joy at their shared prayerful interaction.
"Today we celebrate the memory of the Holy Hierarch Joasaph of Belgorod – a remarkable saint who lived in the 18th century. Born in the Ukraine, he became bishop of the city of Belgorod," said Metropolitan Hilarion. "This was a person who lived a holy life, according to the words of the Savior – ‘a good shepherd, who knoweth his sheep’ – and directed the faithful toward salvation. The holy hierarch’s relics were found to be incorrupt, which bears witness to his holiness, and many miracles have been wrought through prayers to the hierarch before his relics."
His Eminence called on the faithful to pray to this great saint, and to emulate him in their lives.
Telling the story of the skete’s rejuvenation, the Metropolitan reminded those gathered that almost four years ago, Fr. Tikhon was sent to this holy place, which had fallen into desolation; services had not been held here for many years. Seeing that the purpose for which this place was founded was not being fulfilled, Fr. Tikhon received a blessing to convert the former parish into a monastic skete in honor of the Most Holy Theotokos, and the monastic brotherhood was named in honor of a Russian saint – Venerable Barlaam of Khutyn. Since then, Fr. Tikhon has labored much here: the church was restored outside and in, the cemetery was set aright and is being well maintained, the church is filled with prayer, and there are now regular parishioners and laborers.
As a result, Fr. Tikhon was appointed abbot of the skete, and Metropolitan Hilarion presented him with the abbot’s staff, expressing his prayerful hope that the Lord will send those seeking salvation and the monastic life to this place.
Abbot Tikhon thanked His Eminence for his trust, and beseeched his holy prayers:
"First of all, I am needful of your kind words of teaching, instruction, and direction. I thank you with all my heart for finding the opportunity in your busy schedule to come here in our monastery, beloved by many.
"Many First Hierarchs have cared for this place, beginning with Metropolitan Anastassy, with whose blessing this church was founded here, and the area named Novaya [New] Kuban. Later, Metropolitan Philaret consecrated this church; Metropolitan Vitaly would visit here; Metropolitan Laurus served here. And you, Your Eminence, continue their initiative, taking up their labor and granting us your archpastoral blessing, through your care and prayer for us."
Fr. Tikhon greeted the clergy, choir, parishioners, and laborers – all those who have undertaken to restore the skete, and invited all to a luncheon, during which the interaction of the clergy, parishioners, and guests continued.
Buena, NJ: Metropolitan Hilarion celebrates Liturgy in Holy Protection Skete, presents Abbot’s Staff to Rector - 12/30/18
Photos: Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese - P. Lukianov & G. Konyev