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His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH Presides over the Sunday of Orthodoxy Service at St. Nicholas Cathedral - 03/12/2006

Los Angeles, California

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It was a “triumph” for the mother cathedral of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West. The first Sunday of Great Lent marks the Triumph of Orthodoxy, the restoration of the holy icons to the Orthodox Church. St. Nicholas Cathedral hosted Lenten Vespers for the celebration, and, fittingly, welcomed the beautiful new Chapel of the Cloud of Witnesses, complete with 31 icons, handwritten by the famous Lebanese iconographer Nicolas Majdalani of the Church of Antioch.

His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH, dedicated the chapel located just to the south of the narthex. The chapel’s name came directly from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews (12:1). After Sayidna blessed all the icons with holy water, the clergy and faithful listened to each of the apolytikia and kontakia for each holy person depicted in the icons. Bishop JOSEPH said that he was spiritually touched and internally uplifted during the dedication. He reminded the clergy and faithful gathered that “the icons of the holy men and women reestablish and recover souls that are weighed down by affliction and anguish.”

The room was transformed from a simple entryway into a glorious house of prayer. The 31 icons of our Savior, Jesus Christ, His Holy Mother Mary, male and female saints, and the archangels are surrounded by a brilliant gold background. One may easily be carried into the clouds where these witnesses dwell when coming for prayer and intercession. The chapel even has a touch screen where visitors can listen to the lives of these saints. The entire presentation, complete with pictures of the chapel and each saint, can be accessed at the Cathedral’s website.

Immediately following the dedication, Sayidna processed into the Cathedral to preside over Lenten Vespers. Gathered with him were more than two dozen clergy and nearly 300 faithful from the different Orthodox Christian jurisdictions in the southland. A beautiful choir of more than 50 people filled the Cathedral with beautiful music that carried everyone present up to the “cloud of witnesses.”

Of course, the “Triumph” was most plainly seen in the Procession of Icons around the interior of the Cathedral. The priests, deacons and subdeacons carried icons in celebration of their significance in the Holy Church. The procession stopped in each of the four corners as the choir sang the Apolytikion of the Holy Icons.

In his homily, Sayidna JOSEPH posed the question: “What cloud do we dwell on?” In the spirit of the new Cloud of Witnesess Chapel, His Grace addressed the challenge “to lay aside all errant things, that is, slumber, indifference, and all vainglory; and look to Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.” He also reminded the inter-Orthodox clergy and faithful that “authentic diversity in the Orthodox Church should not be suppressed or restrained, or considered dysfunctional, but rather be used as an enriching tool to our authentic unity which is expressed in the lives of the saints.”

By Subdeacon Peter Samore

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