On Sunday, December 16, when the Holy Church celebrates the feast day of the Holy Prophet Zephaniah and Venerable Sabbas of Storozhi (Zvenigorod), the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America & New York, celebrated Divine Liturgy in the Synodal Cathedral of the Sign in New York City.
Concelebrating with His Eminence was Eastern American Diocesan vicar Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan, along with cathedral clerics: senior priest Archpreist Andrei Sommer, Archpriest Edward Chervinsky, Protodeacon Nicolas Mokhoff, Deacon Pavel Roudenko, and Protodeacon Serge Arlievsky (cleric of Holy Dormition Convent "Novo-Diveevo" in Nanuet, NY).
Singing at the divine service was the hierarchal choir, under the direction of conductor Peter Fekula.
During the Nativity Fast, the faithful strive to attend church more often. Thus, on this day a multitude of parishioners gathered in the cathedral, many of whom confessed and communed of Christ’s Holy Mysteries.
Upon completion of Liturgy, Bishop Nicholas addressed the faithful with a sermon on the day’s Gospel reading:
"Today we heard from the Gospel according to Luke, where a certain ruler asks Jesus Christ, ‘What shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ We heard this question three weeks ago. Also in the Gospel of Luke a certain lawyer asks Christ, ‘What shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ And there, Christ asks this lawyer, ‘What is written in the Law?’ And the lawyer responds, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.’ And there Christ answered him, that he understood correction, and for him to live thusly. Today we hear again the question: ‘What shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ Here Christ answers directly: ‘Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.’ The inquirer responds, ‘All these do I keep.’ And the Lord says to him, IF you want to be made perfect, sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor… and come, follow Me.’ And the ruler was sorrowful and went away from Christ.
"How terrible this is for us. He understood everything, knew, and wanted to receive more from the Savior. But when he received the divine reply, he departed and did not fulfill it. Why? Because he could not abandon himself, he continued to put himself first. He knew the Scripture, knew the laws, and fulfilled them all, but until the end he could not make peace with the fact that he was a sinner. Likewise all of us sin, and we must acknowledge this. We have inherited Adam’s sin. This does not mean that we are evil or impure. But we must labor in order to restore within ourselves and between ourselves and God this divine union of love. And this man simply left, and it would be terrible if we were to do the same, and depart from the Lord. We know the commandments and the laws, we do not kill anyone or steal, we try to obey and honor our elders, our teachers, and our parents; and as a result we justify ourselves, as it were: I am a good person, and for the most part do not sin. And what do we see? Rather than humility – pride.
"The Apostle Paul himself acknowledges that he is a sinner. He was a terrible persecutor and blasphemer of Christ’s Church in Jerusalem. And then, on the road to Damascus, the Lord God Himself appeared to him: He illumined him and bestowed reason upon him. And he began to confess Christ and preach repentance to all the nations. And we see that, even until the end he was a sinner, but God’s grace enlightens and saves every man. And we must understand: yes, we sin, but we can always turn to God. And God’s grace strengthens, illumines, and renews us in our lives."
Bishop Nicholas called on those gathered, in the remaining days of the fast before Christ’s Nativity, to recognize and understand that Christ came to earth, that Christ is our life and salvation; let us think on whether we observe all of the laws, whether we are next to Christ or whether we depart from Him; whether we make use of everything that God has given us only for ourselves or in order to help those in need to find the path of salvation to Christ.
Metropolitan Hilarion congratulated those gathered with Sunday’s feast of the Resurrection, and specially congratulated the namesday celebrants from the days prior – cathedral senior priest Archpriest Andrei Sommer and all Andrews named for the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called. The interaction of the hierarchs, clergy, and parishioners continued at the Sunday luncheon organized by the cathedral sisterhood.