NEWS AND EVENTS - Thursday, December 7, 2017
ST. SEBASTIAN DAY 2017 FESTIVITIES, JACKSON, CALIFORNIA
The feast day of Saint Sebastian of Jackson and San Francisco, an Equal-to-the-Apostles Enlightener of America, was triumphantly celebrated in the Saint Sava Church in Jackson, California, on the 30th/17th of November, 2017.
The first US-born Orthodox Christian monk and priest, together with the Serbian miners who had come from Herzegovina and the Bay of Kotor, founded this small but beautiful church in the peaceful capital of the Amador county in 1894, as the first Orthodox Christian church built by the Serbian immigrants on this continent.
The celebration started with Vespers on the eve of the feast. His Grace Bishop Maxim of Western America came to Jackson from his episcopal see in Los Angeles in the early afternoon and antiphonally chanted with protopresbyter Predrag Bojović from Los Angeles, while the parish choir sang the responses. Prota Stevan Tumbas and Deacon Dragan served. At the blessing of five loaves, presided by Vladika Maxim, they were joined by Archimandrite Damascene, Abbot of Saint Herman of Alaska Monastery, who came with monks Sebastian and Andrew from his brotherhood, and Prota Vasilije Cvijanović from the Holy Trinity Church in Moraga, California. The unpretentious but irresistible beauty of the Jackson’s sanctuary was created not by an abundance of sources but by the sacrificial love of the immigrant miners. Together with the ancient beauty of the Orthodox Christian worship and the grace-filled presence of the holy relics of Jackson’s patron, venerated long after the end of the service, it left an equally profound mark in the souls of pilgrims from afar and the local faithful. Hence many of them commented at the dinner that it was one of the most beautiful services they had ever experienced and that at some moments they felt were in an Athonite monastery or in one of the renowned medieval Nemanjić monasteries, like Dečani or Studenica. After the dinner, prepared with love by the parish KSS, a few church songs were sung by the youth and musicians of the parish and then everybody enjoyed an exhibition of art works (photos, paintings, quilts, etc.) made by the artists of the parish and some of them inspired by their beloved church. Actually, not only Serbs and not only Orthodox Christians of Jackson say that, when they drive back to their home city, once they see this white beauty with the cross on the top, their hearts start dancing with joy and excitement and whispering: „We are at home“. Attheconclusionoftheevening, HisGraceBishopMaximwishedeveryoneablessedfeastday andsaidafewwords on significance, presence and role of Saint Sebastian in our lives.Finally, heblessedeverybodyandthencontinuedhisapostolicjourneytoouranothergreatandholyshrine, thefirstSerbianOrthodoxmonastery of Saint Sava in Libertyville, Illinois, for the annual meetings of the Episcopal Council and Central Church Council of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America.
On Thursday, the Lord granted us another lovely autumn day. Per Bishop Maxim’s blessing, Abbot Damascene of Platina Monastery, who wrote the first account of the life of Saint Sebastian, served the Matins, while Prota Djurica Gordić of San Francisco and Prota Predrag Bojović of Los Angeles chanted from two cantor stands, and then he presided the Divine Liturgy, served by nine priests and two deacons. Protodeacon Triva Pavlov was prayerfully present. He was one of the initiators of the transfer of relics of Archimandrite Sebastian from Žiča to Jackson. Among the presbyters, Prota Stephen Tumbas, a former parish priest at Saint Sava’s, served, as well as Prota Dane Popović of the Holy Assumption Church in Sacramento, Prota Vasilije Cvijanović of the Holy Trinity Church in Moraga (near San Francisco) and Prota Djurica Gordić of the Saint John the Baptist Cathedral in San Francisco, who was blessed to participate in uncovering of the holy relics of Saint Sebastian in Žiča Monastery ten years ago. Prota Predrag was there, as well as Monk Ignatius from the Venerable Silouan the Athonite Monastery (ROCOR) in Sonora, California. It was a joy also to have two priests from Sacramento: Andrew Jacobs of the Elevation of the Holy Cross Church (OCA) and Paul Volmensky of the Holy Ascension Church (ROCOR), who came together with twenty five of his parishioners. The church was packed with even more people than the previous evening, mostly thanks to many pilgrims, who came to Jackson from all over California. So many participants at the Divine Liturgy and so many communicants this church has only for the greatest feast days. Taking into consideration the high employment rate and that it was a business day (several people took a day off from their jobs), it was a true little miracle of God and Saint Sebastian and the proof than nothing like holiness gathers and unites people.
After the Prayer before Ambo, Prota Dane and Prota Predrag blessed and cut two Slava breads in honor of Saint Sebastian: one as the church founder and the other as the patron saint of Rice family. The local deputy sheriff with his whole family was baptized and christmated (he was given name Miloš by his godfather Lazar) earlier this year by the holy relics of Saint Sebastian and therefore he decided to start celebrating his feast day as his Family Slava. As far as we know, this is the first family that celebrates Saint Sebastian of Jackson and San Francisco as their family’s patron saint.
The gathering continued in the church hall, where the Kolo sisters and Rice family prepared and served a delicious lenten meal. Peace and joy in the Holy Spirit were in the hearts of all, as well as gratitude to God for granting us such a saint and gratitude to the saint for all his sacrifices endured for us and our salvation and for all his gifts to us, including this unforgettable, wondrous day, which reminded us of the Day that is coming, and now is, and has no end. The meal was concluded with prayer and presentation of gifts to everybody. Special gifts were presented to Protopresbyter-stavrophor Stephen Tumbas and Protodeacon Triva Pavlov for their special merits in maintaining and developing the church in Jackson in last years and decades.
Before their return to Los Angeles, per Bishop Maxim’s blessing, a large group of pilgrims from the Saint Sava Church in San Gabriel, led by their priest, Prota Predrag Bojović, received with tears in their eyes a particle of the holy relics of Saint Sebastian. The relics were placed into a beautiful, hand-made wooden reliquary and so Saint Sebastian went back to the first Serbian Orthodox community in Los Angeles, which he founded in 1911 and served it as its first priest.
As Abbot Damascene wrote about the whole event: „A glorious celebration of the feast at St Sava's in Jackson… The whole day passed with joy, made full by the grace of God, Who is wondrous in His Saints… Thanks be to God that we have a new local saint, a new place of pilgrimage, and a new annual feast-day tradition, where the faithful are given yet another opportunity to connect with a Heaven.”
Finally, on Sunday, December 3 / November 20, the parish in Jackson celebrated its traditional, annual Founders’ Day. On Saturday, a memorial service was done for the founders as well as all the subsequent generations that invested themselves into this church. The Divine Liturgy and Eucharistic gathering around the holy chalice proved that the commemoration of the Founders’ Day is not merely a remembrance of the past, but also a look at the future – that it is not a mere history lesson, but also an uninterrupted fellowship with our fathers and predecessors in the mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ, in which we are continually gathered and united and by which we live. It started with baptism and chrismation of two little Russian girls and was crowned with holy communion. It certainly made glad both Saint Sebastian and Russian bishop Nikolai (Ziorov), who consecrated the church around this day 123 years ago, as well as all the members of this historic community, for so are the past and the future of the parish gathered together in Him who is the Beginning and the End. At the liturgy after liturgy, in the church hall that has a big flag with the emblem of King Nikola I Petrović of Montenegro on one of its walls, the special bakalar meal (codfish) was served, prepared according to an old recipe of Milosović family from the Bay of Kotor.
This was a very blessed week in Jackson, glory to God. He is wonderful in His saints, He who has revealed himself to us and who visits us, He who reminds us through His saints of our true identity and calling, of our true dignity and beauty, wherever and whenever we may live. O Holy Father Sebastian, pray to God for us!
Source: Western American Diocese