His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH and His Grace, Bishop BENJAMIN Concelebrate the Patronal Feast of St. Nicholas Cathedral - 12/02/2007
Los Angeles, California
The ordination of Deacon George Ajalat to the Holy Priesthood.
Excitement, joy and celebration are just some of the words to explain the atmosphere at the mother cathedral of the diocese for the annual “St. Nicholas Day” festivities. The 2007 renewal of this long-standing tradition on December 1-2 proved to be one of the greatest ever. In addition to His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH concelebrating the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy with His Grace, Bishop BENJAMIN from the Orthodox Church in America’s Diocese of the West, St. Nicholas Cathedral in Los Angeles celebrated the priestly ordination of one of its most beloved sons and fathers, the new Reverend Father Dr. George Ajalat.
The festivities revolved around the holy services, starting with Great Vespers with the Litia and Artoklasia on Saturday night. Bishop JOSEPH presided over a service with hymns to the Resurrection and St. Nicholas sung in English, Arabic and Spanish, indicative of the languages most used at the cathedral. Our Hispanic Mission brings many people from our surrounding community into the Holy Orthodox Christian Faith, and the first man to extend his hand to welcome them is their spiritual father, Fr. George. He began this outreach 15 years ago with the “Kids Club”, in order to provide anyone with food and clothing around the holiday season. The Hispanic Mission later began early Sunday services (either Typika or Divine Liturgy) before Orthros.
Sunday morning, the cathedral clergy, subdeacons and altar boys received Sayidna JOSEPH and Vladyka BENJAMIN at the entrance just before Orthros. They presided over Orthros and concelebrated the Liturgy, a sign of Orthodox Christian love and unity. As Fr. George would point out in his afternoon address, Bishop BENJAMIN’s presence added extra joy to the feast day, as the entire cathedral recognized the importance of having hierarchs serve and minister together.
Vladyka delighted the delegation by delivering a homily on prayer. He focused on the Gospel passage of the day (Luke 18:35-43), where the Blind Man loudly begged Jesus Christ to give him eyesight, which He did. “Miracles are God’s free gift to us,” Bishop BENJAMIN said. “They are not earned or controlled or made by us, but they come from God’s bountiful love for us.” He then discussed the words “Lord, have mercy.” “This is the prayer of the Blind Man, and our Savior heard it. It is the prayer that does not ask, but it petitions God to come to us in His own accordance. God seeks to work with us, not instead of us—He cannot be manipulated. He will not do the work for us, but He will always work with us and help us.”
The moment the entire parish had been waiting for came after the Great Entrance—the ordination of Deacon George Ajalat to the Holy Priesthood. Archdeacon George Shishim, Deacon Paul Olson and Subdeacon George Milan (Fr. George’s father in-law) presented Fr. George to Bishop JOSEPH at the Royal Doors. The sponsors, Very Rev. Fr. Great Economos Michel Najim (Cathedral Dean) and Rev. Fr. Christopher Salamy (Pastor of St. George Church, Phoenix, Arizona and Fr. George’s nephew) took Fr. George around the Holy Altar three times while Fr. Christopher and Very Rev. Fr. John Reimann (Cathedral Assistant Pastor) sang “Ye Holy Martyrs”, “Glory to Thee, O Christ Our God” and “O Isaiah, Dance Thy Joy”, thus signifying Fr. George’s “marriage” and commitment to that Holy Altar and to the people he will serve as a priest. Immediately after his ordination at the hands of both bishops, Fr. George rose and was vested as a priest to the cries of the faithful shouting out “Axios!”, “Mustahek!” and “Es Digno!”: the Greek, Arabic, and Spanish words for “He is Worthy!” Later, after participating in the consecration of the Holy Gifts, he gave Communion for the first time as a priest: first to his wife, Khouriyee Janine; his daughter, Nicole; his sons, David and Mark, who held the chin cloth at the chalice for their father; and the entire Ajalat and Milan families.
The St. Nicholas Day festivities continued with the sumptuous lenten feast next door in the cathedral hall. Dr. Albert Malouf and his entire team did not disappoint, serving 450 meals in a hall filled to the brim with parishioners giving a loving tribute to our patron saint and to Fr. George. The parish showered him with gifts ranging from three extra sets of vestments, a Communion kit (for communing the sick or housebound), and a hand-embroidered epigonation (the vestment piece that allows the priest to hear confession).
The cathedral once again displayed its musical talents. Maestro Norman Mamey hosted a recital featuring Therese Tintocalis singing “Irish Carol”; Carol Choucair Ouejian chanting the Megalynarion of Christmas in Tone One; and Joy Mamey, the youngest of Norman’s daughters, singing “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.” Norman closed the program with a tribute to Fr. John Reimann. The people gave Fr. John a standing ovation to thank him for his 11 years of devoted service to the Cathedral, and to show him that he will be truly missed as he takes on a new endeavor as the new pastor of St. Anthony the Great Church in San Diego. Therese sang Fr. John’s favorite Christmas carol, “The Wexford Carol”, popularized by legendary actress Julie Andrews.
Bishop JOSEPH addressed the congregation about the priesthood, namely about the “lamb” that Fr. George held in his hands right after it was consecrated into the Body of Christ before Holy Communion. “I gave Fr. George this lamb, because God will hold him accountable for it—and for his entire ministry—at the Second Coming of our Lord,” Sayidna said. “I might be his boss, but God is our judge.” Sayidna also talked about Fr. George on a personal level. “I ordained this man in my mind years ago,” he said. “I saw in him a good priest. I want everyone to keep the joy of this day—no sadness, emotions or fears. This way, we can love one another and trust in the Holy Spirit.”
Then, it was Fr. George’s turn to speak. “I have no fear of being a priest,” he said. “How can you be afraid, when you know you are loved? This love is raining down from Heaven, and in the Divine Liturgy, we touched Heaven. Real love can only come through sacrifice, and when it is directed at others—it is an action, not an emotion. I have been blessed with a great training from my parents who brought me to church and with gifts in my wife, Janine, and my three children. When I am at St. Nicholas, I am at home and at peace.” Fr. George gave the same remarks in Spanish for his members of the Hispanic Mission.
We all pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to guide Fr. George Ajalat to lead a blameless life for a blameless priesthood, living the words of the Apolytikion of our Patron Saint Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, the Wonder-worker:
“The verity of your actions revealed you to your flock a rule of faith, an icon of mildness, and teacher of abstinence, O father Bishop Nicholas. Wherefore, by humility you have achieved exaltation, and by poverty richness. Intercede with Christ our God to save our souls.”
By Subdeacon Peter Samore