News and Events - September 2015

NEWS AND EVENTS - Saturday, September 5, 2015

Canonization of St. Sebastian of San Francisco and Jackson

The beautiful and spacious St. Steven's Cathedral in Alhambra was too small to receive all the faithful who came from many directions to witness the canonization of St. Sebastian of San Francisco and Jackson on Saturday, September 5, 2015.

The parking lot was nearly full before Matins even began. Visiting clergy from the pan Orthodox community could not contain themselves in expressing their great joy at being given the opportunity to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Diocesan clergy as well as visiting clergy from the Diocese of Eastern America, New Gracanica and Midwestern America, as well as Canada, not to mention the many clergy from the Pan-Orthodox community of greater Los Angeles formed a long line, escorting His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej and all the hierarchs into the overfilled church with many faithful standing at the front steps, as well beside the church where seating and television screens were prepared for the faithful to be able to watch the liturgy from outside the church.

In addition to the Serbian Patriarch, the participating hiearchs were: His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America, His Eminence Archbishop Alejo Mexico City and all Mexico, His Grace Bishop Benjamin of San Francisco and the West, His Grace Bishop John of Naro-Fominsk, vicar of the Moscow Diocese,  His Grace Bishop Sava of the Georgian Patriarchate in the US, His Grace Bishop Daniil of the Bulgarian Diocese, His Grace Bishop Longin of New Gracanica and Midwestern America, His Grace Bishop Mitrophan of Eastern America, His Grace Bishop Justin of Zicha, His Grace Bishop Grigorije of Hercegovina and host hierarch His Grace Bishop Maxim of Western America.

Holy Hierarchical Liturgy

Upon the entrance of His Holiness into the church, Bishop Maxim and Justin carried the icon of St. Sebastian of San Francisco and Jackson out of the altar and presented it before His Holiness and the hierarchs. Bishop Longin read the official proclamation issued by the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church on May 26, 2015.

It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us (Acts 15:28) that at the priestly Assembly of Hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church, to the glory of God, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, who is glorious in His Saints, and for the spiritual good and overall progress of our local Church and the entire One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, to add to the Synaxis of Saints Venerable Archimandrite Sebastian, who had glorified God with his life and works and whom the Lord has already glorified through precious signs and reverence of all people.

Proclaiming him a holy, Christ-bearing God-pleaser of the Orthodox Church, we pray to the Lord that his witness of the Only Lover of man, and his living examples of faith and love be an invitation to us all that we follow and glorify him in Christ's Church in the divine services and through hymns of praise. This glorification bestows upon God's Church a great spiritual joy and thanksgiving to the Living Lord.
Through the prayers of our Venerable Father Sebastian, O Most Holy Trinity, our God, have mercy upon us and save us.

To the Only All-Wise God the Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, glory and majesty, power and dominion, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Given at the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade
May, 29/16, 2015 – AS No. 110/recording 261

Of the Holy Assembly of Bishops
Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and Serbian Patriarch IRINEJ
Members of the Holy Assembly of Bishops

Following the reading of the proclamation, the Tropar to St. Sebastian was sung festively by the Prizren seminarians. The singing of Kto Bog veli followed during which time the patriarch and concelebrating hierarchs venerated the icon of St. Sebastian.

Archbishop Demetrios offered a homily after the gospel reading, quoting the gospel words read, "Learn from Me for I am humble and meek". St. Sebastian, His Eminence noted, was both humble and meek, but also very dynamic and gifted and hard working missionary. He possessed, in the words of the archbishop, three characteristics, apostolic in nature, making him holy. First, he was fully dedicated to God. Secondly, he had a passion for spreading the gospel which he did, not only among his beloved Serbian people, but all people of good will eager to hear God's Word. Finally, St. Sebastian had love for the people entrusted to his care and with tears he cared for their salvation.

A great many faithful approached the Holy Chalice so that in addition to His Holiness who was communing the faithful, clergy were spread throughout the church, and even outdoors communing the faithful.

Beside the Prizren seminarians singing antiphonally, with them was the choir comprised of singers from throughout the diocese, which together with the hierarchs and many clergy and deacons made the morning liturgical celebration all the more glorious.  In his homily at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, His Holiness spoke of the miraculous life of the newly glorified St. Sebastian, how he studied theology abroad to only return to his San Francisco where he was eager to share his knowledge of the Christian faith with his Serbian people. Upon his ordination he traveled. He traveled wherever and whenever he heard of a Serbian community living somewhere - wherever it was, he went.  He went to visit them to meet them, establish church communities and parishes and build churches. He walked in the footsteps of St. Sava, the patriarch stated.

In his gratitude to His Holiness, His Grace Bishop Maxim presented an icon of the newly glorified Saints at the end of liturgy to the Serbian Patriarch.

Symposium and fellowship

A symposium after lunch, emceed by Fr. Josiah Trenham followed. Speaking during the symposium were a number of the visiting hierarchs including Bishop Maxim, who was called upon to speak more on the process of becoming a saint. Since the icon which was revealed in church was done by the hand of Fr. Stamatis Skliris, Fr. Stamatis was called upon to speak about icons. In his beautiful talk he noted how art attempts to take something and make it immortal but in the end it remains mortal. The art of iconography is the only art which succeeds in doing that. When I painted St. Sebastian, Fr. Stamatis stated, I did not paint the historic one, but the one we will greet in God's eternal kingdom.

In addition to speakers, Fr. Josiah also read letters sent to the diocese on the occasion of the canonization, including greetings from His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon, first hierarch of the Orthodox Church in America.

After a two-hour break, during which time fellowship was enjoyed, the clergy and faithful met once more in church for Vespers. At the conclusion of the service Bishop Longin wished His Holiness a most happy name's day,  as the following day is St. Irineus of Lyon.

Evening program

After dinner the host priest, Fr. Nikola Ceko, invited everyone to the main hall for the evening's program which included folklore performances from the St. Steven's folklore group, as well as the Avala group from the San Marcos parish. The singing group Breze from St. Sava in Phoenix also performed. The annual Oratorical Festival took place with two participants this year: Kaija Germain from the St. George Church in San Diego and Lazar Katanic from St. Petka Church in San Marcos. Kaija took first place in this year's oratorical festival. In addition to the monetary prizes bestowed upon the winners of $500 and $300 respectively, Protopresbyter Bratso Krsic made an announcement that His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios added another $500 to the second place winner and $1,000 to the first place winner. 

Fr. Nikola announced once again that the third day of the Diocesan Day weekend would begin at 9AM with Matins. While many of the hierarchs retired to their hotels to get some rest after a long and eventful day and in preparation for Sunday's events, many of the faithful people remained in the church hall for enjoy dancing and fellowship. Thus concluded the second day of this year's Diocesan Day celebration.

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