SHADELAND DIOCESAN DAYS 2007
For the past several years, the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Eastern America has sponsored Diocesan Days at St. Sava Camp at Shadeland, PA. The Diocesan Days program has added programs to enrich the faith of adults and children to the traditional annual diocesan picnic to create a well-rounded weekend of activities which are aimed at deepening our Orthodox Christian faith and also reaffirming our Serbian Orthodox culture and traditions.
Diocesan Days 2007 carried on this tradition August 4-5 with a program entitled “Taste and See,” which centered on Christ’s presence amongst us in the many ways we have of communing with God, particularly in the Holy Eucharist. This theme was an extension of the camp program theme this year. Those who attended were treated to several inspiring and thought-provoking talks and discussions, along with worship and good fellowship. Leading the attendees were two archpastors of Christ’s Church, Their Graces host Bishop Dr. Mitrophan and honored guest Bishop Longin of the New Gracanica Metropolitanate.
The Saturday afternoon program featured a talk for the adults presented by Fr. Calinic Berger, a priest at the Romanian Orthodox parish in Hermitage, PA and a visiting lecturer at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in New York. Fr. Calinic reminded his listeners that the Church is the Body of Christ, constituted by the saving death and resurrection of Christ and revealed and enlivened by the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father. It is this saving action of the Holy Trinity which is made present once again at every Divine Liturgy as we, the people of God, present our sacrifice of ourselves and each other in the bread and wine, and which is then manifested as Christ’s most pure Body and precious Blood. In communing with Christ in the Holy Spirit of these marvelous Gifts, we become once again what we already are: adopted children of the Father, citizens of His heavenly Kingdom.
Fr. Calinic emphasized that preparation is necessary for our participation in the Holy Eucharist, as St. Paul clearly taught. Fasting is important because it is through fasting, through voluntarily renouncing our passionate impulse to voraciously acquire and consume the things of creation, that created things are liberated to point beyond themselves to their Creator, and so become a means of communion with Him. Fasting opens us up to the possibility of discerning Christ Himself in the bread and wine we offer and He sanctifies. Confession and repentance eliminate the roadblocks we set between ourselves and the Kingdom, for our sins are exactly these roadblocks to true participation in Christ’s saving passion and the eternal life of His resurrection. Confession is a self-sacrifice, as we submit ourselves to Christ’s judgment and mercy, and to the whole Church as the Body of Christ and the people of God through the presence of the priest, and so clear the way for true and total communion with our Lord and membership in His Body the Church through the Holy Eucharist. Fr. Calinic also emphasized the importance of reading the word of God as another form of communion with God the Word, and as a necessary preparation for our participation in the Holy Eucharist. Our Holy Tradition also gives us a rule of prayer as another form of communion with God, and of preparation for the Eucharist. His talk opened his listeners to a deeper and better understanding of the great depths of the mystery and gift of the Holy Eucharist, and of the many levels of our participation in this awesome mystery.
While Fr. Calinic spoke in the main camp building, Fr. Milovan Katanic was speaking to the campers in the main tent set up for the Diocesan Days events. Fr. Milovan, parish priest of St. George Church in Hermitage, PA and co-editor of the Path of Orthodoxy, spoke on the topic of Christian themes found in Children’s literature. He focused his attention on the popular children’s story The Chronicles of Narnia, pointing out the Christian message found throughout these books by C.S. Lewis. It wasn’t, for instance, Lewis’s intention to create a fantasy world named Narnia as much as he wanted to create the Christ-like image of Aslan that the characters in the Chronicles love so much that they are heartbroken when they are told they can never return. But the children are given hope when the character Aslan tells them that he exists in their world too, but there he is known by another name and he tells them to seek him out in their world. Fr. Milovan took this Christian message found in this story and compared it to the popular trilogy His Dark Materials, the first part of which, The Golden Compass, will be in movie theaters this December. It’s in these books that author and one of England’s most outspoken atheists Philip Pullman creates a Narnia-type world in which the chief force of evil is something called the church and the characters are ultimately told that the church can not be trusted neither in the parallel universe nor in our world either. In fact, one of the characters even describes Christianity as a “very powerful and convincing mistake.”
The day concluded with vespers followed by confession for those who desired to avail themselves of this blessing, and dinner and fellowship. A special treat at dinner was the presentation by the campers of a large birthday cake, birthday banner, and a large card signed by all the campers to His Grace Bishop Mitrophan. The campers and all present sang His Grace “Many Years,” and His Grace thanked everyone very warmly for remembering him. He used the occasion for a brief talk about the life of St. Mary Magdalene, whose feastday it was.
Sunday, the second day of the Diocese Days weekend, began with the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy in the Monastery Church with both Bishop Longin and Bishop Mitrophan officiating, assisted by some 25 priests and three deacons. Responses were beautifully sung by the St. Sava Campers led by Camp Director Fr. Zivojin Jakovljevic of Cleveland. The large church was filled with campers, parents and the many people who traveled from all over the diocese to be present. In this way the whole diocese, clergy and people, were gathered around their bishop as a living icon of God’s Church.
The homily was given by Fr. Aleksa Micic of St. Luke’s Church Washington, DC, who continued with the weekend’s theme of the Eucharist. He reminded those present that theology, the knowledge of God, is possible because God reveals Himself to us. This self-revelation of God is many-faceted, and includes seeing the glory and goodness of God reflected in nature and creation, in noble works of art, music and poetry, in other people, in the Church and its services, and in many other ways. Of all these revelations of God, the most complete, perfect and pure is our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word and Wisdom of God Who becomes one of His creatures and lives among us, teaches us, heals us, gives us the words of life, and then gives Himself to us and for us through His voluntary Passion and Resurrection. His self-revelation continues to us as we experience Him mysteriously and sacramentally in so many ways: through reading His word in scripture, in partaking of the good things of this world with thanksgiving to God, and of course in all the Holy Mysteries of the Church culminating in our ultimate thanksgiving, the Holy Eucharist, where we become partakers of the Christ and His grace, of the Divine Nature itself. Fr. Aleksa reminded those present that this is exactly the goal and purpose of our lives, to accept and be transformed by this union with our Creator into a new creation, into icons of His goodness.
His Grace Bishop Dr. Mitrophan warmly welcomed His Grace Bishop Longin and all those who joined in the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, and expressed his joy at this manifestation of fellowship and unity in Christ.
The diocesan picnic followed the Liturgy, as all joined in enjoying each other’s company. The diocesan bookstore was busy as people browsed the many Orthodox offerings in both English and Serbian languages. Wonderful Serbian foods were offered in the kitchen by the Diocesan Circles of Serbian Sisters, who also had staffed the kitchen with great success throughout the camp season. Serbian music and dancing went on throughout the afternoon.
The highlight of the afternoon was the performance of the St. Sava Shadeland campers who were finishing the camp season with the specialized Tambura and Folklore week. The campers put on another fantastic show Serbian music, song and dance under the direction of Nikola Jovic, both in ensemble and by age groups. Particularly emotional was the performance by the camp seniors, who were giving their last concert as Shadeland campers. Program MC was Dan Vucelich.
His Grace Bishop Dr. Mitrophan again welcomed everyone to the camp and expressed his joy at the people present and at the hard work of the campers. He sincerely thanked the camp director Fr. Zivojin Jakovljevic, camp secretary Vesna Meinert, the Diocesan Kolo Sisters and their president Millie Radovick, the camp counselors, staff and clergy, and the Diocese’s Shadeland Committee for their hard work making the Shadeland Camp season and the Diocesan Days possible. His Grace Bishop Longin thanked Bishop Mitrophan for his invitation to once again be present at the Diocesan Days events. Bishop Longin stressed the importance of unity and oneness in Christ and His Church for the Serbian people and for all people everywhere, and the value of such events as Diocesan Days for fostering this unity.
At the conclusion of the program, the counselors and campers gave special recognition to Vesna Prodanovich Meinert, who is retiring as camp secretary after many years of faithful and devoted service. Vesna is also longtime technical editor of the Path of Orthodoxy. Bishop Mitrophan gave a special gift to each of the campers to conclude the program. Music and fellowship continued well into the evening.
Diocesan Days in the Eastern Diocese has become an important tradition combining spiritual and social interaction for a well-rounded manifestation of the Church as the Life in Christ. It has shown its value, and His Grace Bishop Mitrophan and the Diocese are committed to making it even better and richer in the future.
V. Rev. Stavrophor Rade Merick
Source: The Path of Orthodoxy