His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH Celebrates the Patronal Feast of St. Nicholas Cathedral - 12/07/08
Los Angeles, California
The ordination of Deacon Paul Olson to the Holy Priesthood.
The ordination of Subdeacon Maxime Najim to the Holy Diaconate.
“It was long, but it was glorious.” His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH put it best during his address at the annual St. Nicholas Day Banquet. The festivities for the Diocesan Cathedral started just after 9 a.m. with Orthros, and continued until 1 p.m. with a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy that consisted of two ordinations, two churchings of babies, an uncrowning ceremony, a memorial Trisagion for a beloved Patriarch and veterans from the Cathedral who died defending America, a plaque dedication for those veterans, and, of course, a procession for the cathedral’s patron saint. Sunday, December 7, 2008 will be a date which will live in exaltation.
The worship started the night before with Great Vespers and the Litia/Artoklasia for our patron saint, Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia. Hymns to this legendary man were sung in English, Arabic and Spanish, marking the three languages predominantly used at the Cathedral. Sayidna presided, and members of the Cathedral’s Hispanic Mission came and watched their new priest, Rev. Fr. Paul Olson, serve his last Great Vespers as a deacon. Fr. Paul and his wife, Kh. Laurie, came to St. Nicholas several years ago specifically to serve the Hispanic Mission.
The Cathedral began its divine services early on Sunday morning to allow enough time for the massive, historic day ahead of it. We welcomed the sisters from St. Barbara Monastery in Santa Paula, California and dozens of other guests who came to fill out a congregation of hundreds. As Sayidna most appropriately stated, the ordinations were not just tremendous blessings for the two ordinands, but for everyone.
The first ordination came for Fr. Paul in the customary time for new priests, immediately following the Great Entrance. The Cathedral Dean, V. Rev. Fr. Michel Najim, and the Hispanic Mission Pastor, Rev. Fr. George Ajalat, sponsored and led Fr. Paul through the Royal Doors and around the altar table three times, while those in the altar sang “Ye Holy Martyrs”, “Glory to Thee, O Christ our God” and “O Isaiah, Dance Thy Joy.” We hear these same hymns at all weddings, but at ordinations, they acknowledge the “marriages” of the clergy to the Church and the altar. Shortly after his ordination, Fr. Paul held the body of Christ in his hands at the back of the altar table, steadily focusing on what he has to sanctify and protect as a priest.
The Cathedral’s newest and youngest cleric, Dn. Maxime, was ordained at the proper time for new deacons—just before the Lord’s Prayer. Dn. Maxime was presented by his brother subdeacons, and sponsored by his father, Fr. Michel, and his “altar father”, Archdeacon George Shishim. This time, the three hymns were sung in Arabic. Dn. Maxime then offered his first ektenia as a deacon in his role of constantly petitioning the Lord for peace for the world, forgiveness of sins, the descent of the Holy Spirit, and for the Holy Gifts that have been offered and sanctified into the Eucharist.
Though this day was a great day for the present and future, the Cathedral memorialized His Holiness, Patriarch ALEXY II of Moscow and All Russia, who died of heart failure just days before. Sayidna JOSEPH and his delegation had the privilege of meeting His Holiness in June during an historic pilgrimage to Russia. The Cathedral made sure to remember those parishioners who gave their lives in service for our country, fittingly on the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks on Sunday, December 7, 1941. John Michel Gantus and Mitchell Haddad both valiantly served in the armed forces in World War II, but painfully, they would not return to their church or to their families. Neither would Elias George Elias, who died in Iraq in 2006. These members are sorely missed by all who knew them, and Sayidna led a Trisagion for all four of them. Shortly thereafter, Sayidna, the clergy and the veterans’ descendents dedicated a plaque for the Cathedral’s war dead outside on the patio, which will forever testify to their sacrifices.
St. Nicholas had much to celebrate already, but it was not finished yet. It churched, or entered, two babies who received Sayidna’s blessing, and uncrowned the newly-wedded Norman Mamey and his wife, M.J. A native son, Norman once again hosted the St. Nicholas Day Banquet, where he announced the return of the famed “Christmas Spectacular” that made its debut in the Cathedral hall in 1986. The Hierarchical Divine Liturgy concluded with a St. Nicholas Day procession with clergy, subdeacons, altar servers, and everyone named in honor of St. Nicholas. They carried in procession an icon of St. Nicholas that is more than 200 years old, which Fr. Paul and Dn. Maxime held as the faithful came to congratulate them afterward.
The celebration moved next door for the annual St. Nicholas Day Banquet, which in and of itself is a fantastic event. The chairman, Jim Samore, along with chef Dr. Al Malouf and Norman Mamey put on the affair with just six weeks planning. After reading the lives of the Cathedral’s veterans, we honored our newest clergy by learning more about their lives and showering them with gifts. After a recital of Christmas carols by Jessica Mamey—with dad Norman at the piano—St. Nicholas made one last “surprise” recognition of Jessica’s godfather, Rev. Fr. George Taweel. He has given a lifetime of service to the Orthodox Church and witness of it in Hollywood as a producer, director and writer, where it can be tough to find God. Fr. George was ordained at the Parish Life Conference in July.
The three honorees expressed gratitude to Sayidna JOSEPH, Fr. Michel, their brother clergy and the congregation for their support, nurturing, prayers and love. They acknowledged how they manifest the spiritual growth the Cathedral has seen in recent years, and look forward to more years of devoted service in the Church. We, too, look forward to every first Sunday in December, when we gather to celebrate St. Nicholas and St. Nicholas Day.
By Subdeacon Peter Samore