Sunday of the Holy Ancestors
Ocevi Dan- Очеви Дан
St. Nicholas Bulletin - January 3, 2021
Christ is in our midst! Христос Међу Нама! Cristo esta entra nosotros!
A Savior for Scandalous Sinners
like you and me...
by Fr. Philip LeMasters
Whether we like it or not, we all inherit a lot from our parents and pass a lot along to our children. It may not be a lot of money, but from genetics to personalities to a thousand other details about what seems normal and natural, we all play our role in shaping humanity from generation to generation. We do that for good and bad, as a quick look at ourselves and our families reveals.  Those who went before us were not perfect and neither will those who follow us be without flaw. Nonetheless, God works through imperfect people to accomplish His purposes. That was certainly the case for the family tree of Jesus Christ.  

      St. Matthew begins his gospel with the family tree of the Lord, with His genealogy. He does so in order to show that the Savior had the right heritage to be the Messiah, the anointed One in Whom all God’s promises to Abraham would be fulfilled. So he traces the Lord’s ancestry back to Abraham; through David, the great king who was viewed as a model for the Messiah; and through all the generations up to St. Joseph, to whom the Virgin Mary was betrothed when she became the Theotokos, the one who bore the eternal Son of God in her womb. 

      Well, our eyes probably glaze over whenever we read a genealogy in the Bible. It can sound like an endless, unimportant list of who begat whom. But we must not pass over Matthew’s account of Jesus Christ’s family tree so quickly, for there are many surprises in it. And in those surprises we see that the Lord is a Messiah quite different from the one most of the first-century Jews expected. For they typically wanted a military ruler like King David, who would defeat the Romans, and set Israel free from her enemies. In the eyes of the Pharisees, the Messiah was to be a strict interpreter of the Old Testament law through whom God would bless the righteous and bring judgment upon the sinner.  It was commonly assumed that the Messiah’s coming would be a blessing for law-abiding Jews, but a curse for the Gentiles and the sinners of Israel.

      So how odd that St. Matthew includes in the genealogy the names of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and the wife of Uriah, Bathsheba. They are, first of all, women. Genealogies were usually names of fathers and sons; the women weren’t worth mentioning in that time and place. They were also Gentiles and sinners, foreigners who were involved in one way or another in something scandalous. For example, Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute in order to conceive children by the father of her late husband. Rahab is known as “Rahab the Harlot.” King David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then murdered her husband.  Ruth was King David’s great-grandmother and a Moabite woman. The Old Testament is full of warnings to Jewish men against marrying Gentile women like Ruth. So these are embarrassing figures to include in the family line of the Messiah, who was supposed to be a model of the Jewish faith.
  
      This unlikely cast of characters in our Savior’s family tree is a sign that God’s promises are not only for righteous Jewish men, but for everyone with faith, including Gentiles, repentant sinners, and those of shockingly low standing in society. Matthew prepares us in his genealogy for the unique kind of Messiah we encounter in Jesus Christ: not one who rewards the proud, powerful, and respectable, but one who blesses the humble, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and those with purity of heart who will see God.
  
      Immediately following the genealogy, Matthew tells us of the Lord’s birth under circumstances even more shocking than those we have described so far. Mary, a virgin girl, becomes pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her guardian and protector, was horrified by what he assumed was her immoral behavior, and was prepared to end their betrothal. But an angel told him of the miracle, he believed, and became the adopted father of the Lord.

      We have heard the story so many times that we may have forgotten how shocking, how embarrassing, how unconventional the circumstances of Christ’s conception were. Surely, many people judged Mary and Joseph and never believed in the miracle of the virgin birth. Surely, it was difficult for Mary and Joseph to change the course of their lives, and to risk their reputations and physical safety, in order to play their unique roles in the unfolding of our salvation.
 
      And when we remember that this is the story of the union in Jesus Christ of God and humanity, of the fulfillment of all God’s promises beyond even the greatest expectations of the Old Testament prophets, of the Incarnation of the Son of God for our salvation, it becomes even more shocking. For don’t we usually expect that God’s ways are like our ways, that His kingdom is like the kingdoms of earth, that He must love the respectable, wealthy, and successful more than He does the scandalous, the poor, and the downtrodden? Don’t we usually think that holiness isn’t embarrassing or unconventional or at least uncomfortable? And who doesn’t want a faith that leads to success in the world?

      In these last days before Christmas, we should make a concerted effort to accept that the Mystery of our salvation in Jesus Christ is not an extension of our personal accomplishments, good characteristics, or abilities. It is not a reward for good behavior, which is good news because we have all fallen short of holiness in one way or another.  It is not about politics or cultural supremacy, which is also good news because we have all become too comfortable with violence, anger, selfishness, and putting our own pleasure and convenience before God and neighbor.  Instead, the good news of this season lies in the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham, now extended to all who have faith in the true Messiah, the One who is anointed to bring light and life to the world, to be the second Adam in Whom our fallen, corrupt humanity is healed and brought into the very life of the Holy Trinity.
 
      Though not many people apparently noticed it at the time, God’s promises in the Old Testament extended to all who believed, including Gentiles, sinners, and women.  The promise was not fulfilled in their lifetimes, however, “God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” So, you see, we are part of the family tree also. The line that began with Abraham and is fulfilled in Christ includes us. He is the vine and we are the branches.
 
      Yes, I know that we are unworthy and unlikely members of such a family. Like those who prepared for the coming of Christ and those who have served Him since, we are also sinners whose lives are in many ways scandalous. Perhaps that’s why the Son of God chose a human heritage full of imperfect people who often fell short; perhaps that’s why He was born in circumstances that at least outwardly commanded the respect of no one; perhaps that is why the Old and New Testaments are so honest about the sins of both the Jews and the early Christians.

      When we look at the Lord’s genealogy, we see people a lot like us. For His people are not self-righteous snobs who never did anything wrong. They are not those who have no problems, struggles, and pains. They are not those who think that everything boils down to money, power, reputation, and getting their own way. They are not those who believe that salvation comes through armies, nations, and political leaders. Instead, they are those who fall before Christ with faith, humility, and repentance, and who know that the only hope for blessing, peace, and fulfillment in their lives is in His mercy. In the coming days, let us prepare to celebrate the fulfillment of the Promise made to Abraham in our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ. For He comes to make us members of His family, to share His eternal life with us; and He will, if only we will believe, repent, and seek first His Kingdom.
~Hymnography of the Day~
RESURRECTION TROPARION—TONE 5
Let us, the faithful, praise and worship the Word, co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit, born for our salvation from the Virgin; for He willed to be lifted up on the Cross in the flesh, to endure death, and to raise the dead by His glorious Resurrection.

FOREFEAST TROPARION—TONE 4
Prepare, O Bethlehem, for Eden has been opened to all! Adorn yourself, O Ephratha, for the Tree of Life blossoms forth from the Virgin in the cave! Her womb is a spiritual paradise planted with the Divine Fruit; if we eat of it, we shall live forever and not die like Adam. Christ comes to restore the image which He made in the beginning.

HOLY FATHERS TROPARION—TONE 2
Great are the accomplishments of faith, for the three Holy Youths rejoice in the fountain of flames as though in the waters of rest; and the Prophet Daniel appeared a shepherd to the lions as though they were sheep. So by their prayers, O Christ God, save our souls!

HOLY FATHERS KONTAKION - TONE 1
Rejoice, O Bethlehem! Prepare yourself, O Ephratha! The Lamb is on her way to give birth to the Chief Shepherd she carries in her womb. The God-bearing forefathers will rejoice, beholding Him, and with the shepherds, they will glorify the Virgin nursing Him.

FOREFEAST KONTAKION - TONE 2
In Bethlehem, seeing wrapped in swaddling bands, Him who holds the whole earth in his hand, let us bring prefestal hymns beforehand to her who gave birth to him, for mystically she rejoices, carrying in her bosom the Son of God.

~Scripture Readings of the Day~
READERS:
Matins: Milan Radanovic Epistle: Nicholas Govelovich
Matins Christmas: Milan Radanovic Epistle Christmas: Natalija Gligorevic, Dasha Gencturk
Matins Next Week: Nicholas Ressetar Epistle Next Week: Lincoln Govelovich

EPISTLE: Hebrews 11:9-10, 17-23, 32-40
 
DEACON:      Let us pay attention. 
PRIEST:        Peace be unto all!
READER:      And with your spirit!
DEACON:      Wisdom.
READER:      The Prokeimenon in the Forth Tone: Blessed are You, O Lord God of our fathers, and praised and glorified is Your name forever!
CHOIR: Blessed are You, O Lord God of our fathers, and praised and glorified is Your name forever!
READER: v: For You are just in all that You have done for us!
CHOIR: Blessed are You, O Lord God of our fathers, and praised and glorified is Your name forever!
READER: Blessed are You, O Lord God of our fathers...
CHOIR: ...and praised and glorified is Your name forever!
DEACON: Wisdom!
READER: The Reading is from the Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to Hebrews.
DEACON: Let us attend!

READER: By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. But You are the same, and Your years will not fail.” By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones. By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command. And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

PRIEST:        Peace be unto you, reader!
READER:      And with your spirit! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
CHOIR:          Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
READER:      We have heard with our ears, O God, for our fathers have told us.
CHOIR: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
READER: For You have saved us from them than oppose us, and have put to shame them that hate us.
CHOIR: Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!
 
АПОСТОЛ: Јеврејима 11:9-10, 17-23, 32-40

Ђакон:          Пазимо
Свештеник: Мир свима!
Читач:           I Духу Твоме!
Ђакон:           Премудрост
Читач : ПРОКИМЕН- глас 4 Благословен си, Господе Боже отаца наших, и хвално и прослављено је име Твоје у све вјекове.
Хор: Благословен си, Господе Боже отаца наших, и хвално и прослављено је име Твоје у све вјекове.
Читач: Јер си праведан у свему што си учинио за нас.
Хор: Благословен си, Господе Боже отаца наших, и хвално и прослављено је име Твоје у све вјекове.
Читач: Благословен си, Господе Боже отаца наших,
Хор: и хвално и прослављено је име Твоје у све вјекове.
Ђакон: Премудрост
Читач: Читање из посланице Св. Апостола Павла Јеврејима
Ђакон: Пазимо

Читач: Браћо, Вјером се насели он у земљи обећаној као у туђој, и у шаторима становаше са Исаком и Јаковом, сунасљедницима истога обећања. Јер очекиваше Град који има темеље, којему је неимар и творац Бог. Вјером принесе Авраам Исака када је кушан, и јединца приношаше онај који је примио обећања, коме бјеше казано: У Исаку ће ти се назвати сјеме, Јер је разумио да је Бог кадар и из мртвих васкрсавати; зато га и доби као праслику. Вјером у оно што ће доћи благослови Исак Јакова и Исава. Вјером Јаков умирући благослови свакога сина Јосифова, и поклони се преко врха палице своје. Вјером Јосиф на самрти напомињаше о изласку синова Израиљевих, и заповједи за кости своје. Вјером су Мојсеја, пошто се роди, крили три мјесеца родитељи његови, јер видјеше да је дијете красно, и не побојаше се заповијести цареве. И шта још да кажем? Јер ми не би достало времена кад бих стао казивати о Гедеону, Вараку, Самсону, Јефтају, Давиду, Самуилу и о другим пророцима, који вјером побиједише царства, чинише правду, добише обећања, затворише уста лавовима, угасише силу огњену, утекоше од оштрица мача, од немоћних постадоше јаки, бијаху силни у рату, поразише војске туђинске; Неке жене примише своје мртве васкрсењем; други пак бијаху мукама уморени не приставши на избављење, да би добили боље васкрсење; А други искусише поруге и шибања, па још окове и тамнице; Камењем побијени, престругани, измучени, од мача помријеше; потуцаше се у кожусима и козјим кожама у оскудици, у невољама, у патњама; Они којих свијет не бијаше достојан, потуцаху се по пустињама и горама и по пештерама и по јамама земаљским. И сви ови, освједочени у вјери, не добише обећање; Зато што је Бог нешто боље предвидјео за нас, да не би они без нас достигли савршенство.

Свештеник: Мир ти читачу!
Читач:           I Духом Твоме! Алилуиа, Алилуиа, Алилуиа
Хор:                Алилуиа, Алилуиа, Алилуиа
Читач:           Боже, својим ушима слушасмо, оци наши проповједаше дјела која си учинио у њихово вријеме, у старо вријеме.
Хор: Алилуиа, Алилуиа, Алилуиа
Читач: Избавио си нас од непријатеља наших и ненавиднике наше посрамио
Хор: Алилуиа, Алилуиа, Алилуиа

LITURGY GOSPEL:  
Matthew 1: 1-25

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah. Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa. Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah. Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon, and Amon begot Josiah. Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon. And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ. So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations. Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.




ЈЕВАНЂЕЉЕ:   
Матеј 1: 1-25

Родослов Исуса Христа, сина Давидова, Авраамова сина. Авраам роди Исака. А Исак роди Јакова. А Јаков роди Јуду и браћу његову. А Јуда роди Фареса и Зару с Тамаром. А Фарес роди Есрома. А Есром роди Арама. А Арам роди Аминадава. А Аминадав роди Наасона. А Наасон роди Салмона. А Салмон роди Вооза с Рахавом. А Вооз роди Овида с Рутом. А Овид роди Јесеја. А Јесеј роди Давида цара. А Давид цар роди Соломона са Уријиницом. А Соломон роди Ровоама. А Ровоам роди Авију. А Авија роди Асу. А Аса роди Јосафата. А Јосафат роди Јорама. А Јорам роди Озију. А Озија роди Јоатама. А Јоатам роди Ахаза. А Ахаз роди Језекију. А Језекија роди Манасију. А Манасија роди Амона. А Амон роди Јосију. А Јосија роди Јехонију и браћу његову, у сеоби вавилонској. А по сеоби вавилонској, Јехонија роди Салатила. А Салатил роди Зоровавеља. А Зоровавељ роди Авиуда. А Авиуд роди Елиакима. А Елиаким роди Азора. А Азор роди Садока. А Садок роди Ахима. А Ахим роди Елиуда. А Елиуд роди Елеазара. А Елеазар роди Матана. А Матан роди Јакова. А Јаков роди Јосифа, мужа Марије, од које се роди Исус звани Христос. Свега, дакле, кољена од Авраама до Давида, кољена четрнаест, а од Давида до сеобе вавилонске кољена четрнаест, и од сеобе вавилонске до Христа, кољена четрнаест. А рођење Исуса Христа овако би: Кад је мати његова Марија била обручена Јосифу, а прије него што се бјеху састали, нађе се да је затруднила од Духа Светога. А Јосиф муж њезин, будући праведан и не хотећи је јавно изобличити, намисли је тајно отпустити. Но кад он тако помисли, гле, јави му се у сну анђео Господњи говорећи: Јосифе, сине Давидов, не бој се узети Марију жену своју; јер оно што се у њој зачело од Духа јe Светога. Па ће родити сина, и надјени му име Исус: јер ће он спасти народ свој од гријеха њихових. А све се ово догодило да се испуни што је Господ казао преко пророка који говори: Ето, дјевојка ће зачети, и родиће сина, и надјенуће му име Емануил, што ће рећи: С нама Бог. Уставши Јосиф од сна, учини како му заповједи анђео Господњи и узе жену своју. И не знадијаше за њу док не роди сина својега првенца, и надјену му име Исус.


~ The Week Ahead: Scriptures and Services ~
January Birthdays
Kristina Carricato (Jan 3), Brad Livingston (Jan 4), Betty Matovich (Jan 5), Christine Krnjaic (Jan 5), Voni Brown (Jan 6), Jody Atty (Jan 7), Fred Book (Jan 7), Ellen Long (Jan 8), Lauren Spangler (Jan 9), Jason Milletics (Jan 11), Peggy Radanovic (Jan 13), JoAnn Filepas (Jan 13), Tracy Petrovich (Jan 13), Bill Wenner (Jan 15), Stacey Stanovich (Jan 15), Nicole Stefan Imschweiler (Jan 15), Christina Radanovic (Jan 15), Tatyana Reznitchenko (Jan 16), Sylvia Stefan (Jan 18), Nina Radanovic (Jan 19), Makrina Rocknage (Jan 19), Kristina Vukalo (Jan 20), Rita Vorkapich (Jan 22), Popadija Andreja (Jan 24), Kobe Petrovich (Jan 24), Sophia Mummert (Jan 28), Jane Svitchan (Jan 29), Maxim Reznitchenko (Jan 29), Ashtyn Isadora Cruz (Jan 30)



~Bulletin Board~
COVID-19
Protocol & Updates
 
Governor Wolf announced new restrictions for gatherings in Pennsylvania. One of those alluded to having no gatherings of more than 10 people. However, essential businesses may operate at 50% capacity. The Church is the most essential organization. Thus, we will continue to serve Christ in all that we do. Those who are comfortable coming to worship will be welcomed. Physical distancing efforts and masks are mandatory protocol for attendance in Church. This means that currently, we can have about 50 people in Church (including clergy and choir) and roughly 70 people in the hall. Those in the hall will be able to see the service, and receive Holy Communion as well.
Slava celebrations will be performed in the Church only. Please bring your kolach and koljevo to the Church to be blessed.
Due to the increase in cases in our local area, we remind everyone that if you are at high risk, you should remain at home if possible. 
Fr. Christopher is available to bring the Holy Mysteries of Repentance and Communion to those unable to come to Church.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the underlying medical conditions which increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19 are:
  • People 65 years and older
  • People living in a nursing home or long-term care
  • People of ALL ages with chronic medical conditions, particularly if poorly controlled:
  • Chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
  • Serious heart conditions
  • Immunocompromised, especially cancer treatment, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune-deficiencies, HIV/AIDS, prolonged use of corticosteroids or other immune weakening medications
  • Severe obesity (BMI of 40 or higher)
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic Kidney Disease undergoing dialysis
  • Liver Disease

PARISH ANNUAL ASSEMBLY
At the direction of His Grace, Bishop IRINEJ and the Diocesan Council, we will not be having an in person Annual Assembly this year. Parish Council Officers will remain the same as in 2020. We will have a virtual meeting which will present informational reports only, on Sunday, February 7, at 1pm. This will enable our continued transparency, while maintaining a safe environment for all parishioners.

HOUSE BLESSING
The season for house blessings will soon be upon us. We will not be scheduling house blessings as normal this year. Father Christopher will be able to visit those who request a blessing during the weeks following Holy Theophany. Appointments can be made with Daria Milletics by calling into the Church Office. Later in the year, a time for normally scheduled blessings will occur once restrictions have been eased.

SERBIAN/AMERICAN CLUB 2021 DUES
Peggy Radanovic is collecting club dues once again. Please mail your dues to her at her new address (203 Community Circle, Palmyra 17078) or here at church. You may call her with questions at 717-641-4249.

STEWARDSHIP CARD
The end of the year is fast approaching. Many of you have already completed your Stewardship commitments for this year, and are offering beyond your original commitment. For this we are truly grateful! Those who have not submitted a Stewardship card for 2020, we encourage you to join our faithful cheerful givers! It’s never too late in the eyes of the Lord! 2021 cards have NOT been mailed out yet.

SOTAYA CEVAPI SALE
SOTAYA is once again selling frozen Cevapi, in packages of 32 for $12. They can be bought on Sunday’s or during the week while the office is open (9am-noon). Forms are on the Tutors stand and can be given to Dn. Bojan, Sladjana or Daria.
 



January Charity
The International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC)


IOCC is a humanitarian aid agency of Orthodox Christians. Established in 1992 by the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), it works in cooperation with the Orthodox Church and on behalf of Orthodox Christians. In carrying out its mission, offering emergency relief and development programs to those in need worldwide, without discrimination, and strengthening the capacity of the Orthodox Church to so respond, IOCC applies the highest profession standards and renders itself fully accountable to the public and its donors. Since its inception, IOCC has administered more than $580 million in humanitarian relief, sustainable development and self-help programs worldwide.
 Approximately 92% of all money donated directly helps those facing dire situations and every dollar given helps secure $7 in support from various sources. All assistance is provided solely on the basis of need and benefits orphans, refugees and displaced persons, the elderly, school children, families and people with disabilities. Over the course of their history, IOCC has been able to assist people in 50 countries with priority currently in the Balkans (Bosnia, Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro), Cameroon, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Haiti, Iraq, Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Romania, Syria, Uganda, and the United States. Since the need for help is great, IOCC continually works to expand its programs to other areas. Visit www.iocc.org for additional information.
 

Setting the Record Straight:

Statement from the Diocesan Council
We, the members of the Diocesan Council of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Eastern America, composed of lay and clergy members, appointed and confirmed at the annual Diocesan Assembly by the elected and ordained representatives of all the Church-School Congregations of the Diocese, have been dismayed and are appalled by the continuing social media attacks on our Diocesan Bishop, His Grace Bishop Irinej, and other members of Church School Congregations and governing bodies of our Church. The outright lies and sly innuendos of these social media sites, which exist for the purpose of causing distrust and stirring up opposition and even hatred to the person of His Grace and to normal Church order, have continued to cause confusion and lead to unseemly public demonstrations, which bring embarrassment to the Church and scandalize the faithful, even giving ammunition to those outside the Church who habitually disparage and mock Christianity and religion in general.

These acts of dishonesty, division, dissension and satanic hatred go against the very tenants of our Orthodox Christian Faith. In Christ there is no room for division or hatred. Our faith and Christ's Church have survived for over 2000 years, under God and by His grace, in unity against every imaginable onslaught throughout history. We are not individual parishes and peoples onto ourselves. We are one hierarchical whole in Christ’s service. According to St. Ignatius of Antioch, whose life spanned the latter years of the first century and the early years of the second: “Where the Bishop is, there is the Church.” And if we attempt to do anything apart from our Bishop, we separate ourselves from the unity of the Church in Christ Jesus.

We had hoped that our statement last year explaining the truth about ownership and administration of Diocesan properties would have satisfied those with questions and would have silenced those who willfully spread outright falsehoods, based not on facts but on personal animosity towards His Grace, and all our Bishops in the United States in general. Instead, these attacks have continued unabated, making false accusations and mischaracterizing every action by our Bishops and the legitimately elected bodies which assist them in the administration of their Dioceses. For this reason, we again place the FACTS before the people of the Diocese and the wider public with the hope that the truth will overcome falsehood. These are the facts:

Ownership of Church Properties

It is endlessly repeated on these sites that the legal corporations formed to own and administer Diocesan properties have made these the personal property of Bishop Irinej and have “stolen them from the people.” This is totally and completely false. The corporations were not formed secretly or for some nefarious purpose, but simply to allow Diocesan properties to be legally owned and administered by the Church for the benefit and welfare of the faithful of the Diocese. The head of each of these legal corporations, formed in the respective state where the property is located, is not the person of Bishop Irinej, but is whoever is duly appointed by the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church and serving as Bishop of the Diocese. The head of the corporation is not the personal owner of the property. Properties are owned by the corporation as a legal entity of the Diocese, not by any single person. The corporations are governed by the Bishop together with the Diocesan Council approved by the Diocesan Assembly representing all the clergy and congregations of the Diocese, and in accordance with the Constitution and governing statutes of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America. These corporations were set up with the full knowledge and authorization of the Diocesan Council, which represents the interests of the congregations and the people of the Diocese and to assist the Diocesan Bishop in the administration of the Diocese, in accordance with the best legal advice available.

The Central Church Council and Episcopal Council, composed of all the Diocesan Bishops in North and South America, approved the concept of forming Diocesan corporations in 2015, prior to the arrival of Bishop Irinej. The Eastern American Diocesan Council, under the presidency of Bishop Mitrofan in June 2016, rendered a decision to initiate the formation of a New Jersey Not-for-Profit entity.

The establishment of these corporations has secured the properties involved for the use and welfare of the people of the Diocese and has cleared up much confusion over ownership of individual parcels. It has resulted in securing the benefits of non-profit corporation status for these Diocesan properties, including the saving of very substantial sums of money on property taxes. It has made dealing with the civil authorities much easier. And it has NOT misappropriated these properties for the individual and personal ownership of the Bishop or any other person or persons.

The Diocesan Residence

A common theme in the attacks made upon Bishop Irinej is that he “bought a mansion for himself.” This, again, is simply not true. The relocation of the Diocesan Center was mandated by a decision of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church before Bishop Irinej became our diocesan Hierarch. Upon experience, the previous home in New Jersey was deemed to be too far from New York City and inadequate for the needs of the Diocese. The current Center in New Rochelle was purchased with the advice and consent of the Holy Assembly of Bishops and the Diocesan Council after careful deliberation. It has easy access to Manhattan and St. Sava Cathedral. It includes not only apartments for the Diocesan Bishop, but also meeting and reception facilities, room for the Diocesan offices, a future chapel, guest facilities, and room for the Diocesan library and bookstore, as well as accommodations for the bishop's staff. It is a completely facilitated Diocesan Center, not simply a residence. It was purchased for less than the going rate for such buildings in the area, and the previous owners gifted the Diocese with a number of beautiful and costly furnishings which add immeasurably to the beauty and functionality of the building, thanks in no small measure to Bishop Irinej himself. It is comparable to the purchase of the old Diocesan Center in Edgeworth, PA under Bishop Sava of blessed memory in the 1970's. Contrary to false reports circulated by the Bishop's critics, the New Rochelle property was purchased with Diocesan funds, including proceeds from the sale of the New Jersey center. No money was misappropriated from the rebuilding funds of St. Sava Cathedral in New York City.

St. Sava Cathedral, New York City

The Pending Board-Elect
The disastrous fire which struck our St. Sava Cathedral in the heart of New York City was a huge blow not only to the local parish, but to our entire Diocese and our entire Serbian Orthodox Church. Under our Constitution, the design and construction of every church is subject to the oversight and approval of the Diocesan Bishop and his statutory advisory bodies, the Diocesan Council and the Diocesan Administrative Board. Bishop Irinej has taken his responsibility as Diocesan Bishop seriously and has taken an active and leading role in aiding, encouraging and expediting the rebuilding efforts. For several years the Cathedral has been governed by a diocesan-appointed trusteeship and construction has been overseen by a joint diocesan-congregational building committee.

St. Sava Church-School Congregation had a Temporary Trusteeship for a number of years, appointed by Bishop Sava in November 1973, then again from 1993 to 1999, as appointed by His Grace Bishop Mitrofan. The first elections thereafter were held during the pastorate of the Very Rev. Djokan Majstorovic in 1999 to 2016. Beginning in 2017, it was at the specific request of the Very Rev. Zivojin Jakovljevic, then Cathedral Dean, that the three ensuing Temporary Trusteeships were appointed, with actual candidates recommended by Fr. Jakovljevic to Bishop Irinej. 

A trusteeship for St. Sava was not unusual in the best of times, much less after the tragic fire ravaged. the Cathedral. However, recently, at the request of the congregation, the Diocese gave approval for the election, at a Special Assembly, of a regular congregation executive board. Despite numerous complaints about the manner in which the election took place, the Bishop, with the advice of the Diocesan Administrative Board, agreed to ratify the election with certain conditions, including that the board members take and sign the standard oath of office which includes respect for and obedience to the Diocesan authorities. When invited to meet with the Bishop in preparation for taking office, the newly-elected board members refused to meet unless the Bishop rescinded his decision to move their parish priest, clearly demonstrating their unwillingness to accept Diocesan authority. Upon finally meeting with the Bishop they agreed to review the conditions set by the Diocesan Administrative Board, which were intended to heal the election rift, to ensure a smooth working relationship between the incoming congregational executive board and Diocese, and to ensure that the rebuilding project goes forward in a professional and expeditious manner. Upon review, they responded rejecting the conditions in a lengthy legalistic letter, whose arguments are inconsistent not only with a correct understanding of our Church Constitution, Uniform Rules and St. Sava Cathedral Bylaws, but also with the central tenets of the Orthodox Church, and the customs and practices of this Diocese, and the St. Sava Church-School Congregation in particular, not to mention U.S. secular law. Some in the congregation have resorted to using Serbian public media to present a one-sided and inaccurate interpretation of events. This situation is currently still without resolution and poses a serious obstacle to the rebuilding project and the good estate of the Cathedral congregation. The inappropriate use of public demonstrations with cars honking their horns at the Diocesan Center by persons who, for the most part, do not represent the faithful of the St. Sava parish, are aimed to escalate the situation and hold up the Church as a whole to public ridicule.

The Sale of St. Sava Air Rights
Misinformation also has been endlessly repeated both on social media and in the Serbian press about $88 million which St. Sava is to receive imminently from sale of “air rights” to a developer who wants to build a “hotel” next to the church. Unwarranted fears have abounded that such sum will be misappropriated by the current Board of Trustees, future boards, the Holy Synod in Belgrade, and even His Grace himself.

Yes, negotiations are nearing completion spearheaded by the President of the Board of Trustees with legal oversight and our Bishop, to sell air rights for a future office building on the adjacent parking lot, not a hotel over the Cathedral! There is no signed contract of sale yet, nor will there be one, until both the Diocesan Council, which under our Constitutionmust approve all sales and encumbrances of congregation property, and the Church-School Congregation members have reviewed such contract and approved the transaction.

The payment, however, is not a lump sum. That is not how such contracts are structured in the U.S. The Board of Trustees is negotiating for the best fraction of the total amount to be paid up front and further payments to be made over time as the purchaser-developer reaches milestones in the approval process. The developer faces significant risks in building the office building due to the approvals needed from the Landmarks Commission, Attorney General of the State of New York, Zoning Commission, Community Boards, and Building Department for permits. No developer would give a lump sum payment for air rights and face the risk of losing the entire amount should he be derailed in any step of the approval process. Our team, however, has sought to minimize our risk: with each milestone that the developer reaches, St. Sava is to be paid a specified percentage of the total sale price and if the project is abandoned for any reason or derailed in the approval process St. Sava is to keep the air rights and the money paid up to that date. But to reiterate, a final agreement has not been reached and can only be finalized with the approval of the Church School Congregation and our Diocese.

The Board of Trustees has received independent appraisals that we are getting the best total price possible. Most importantly, we have been assured that our team will seek to protect the proceeds from any potential future misuse.  

The Board of Trustees of St. Sava has been negotiating diligently with the developer and is represented by one of the best large law firms in New York City in these negotiations, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver and Jacobson, to protect St. Sava’s interests and obtain the best deal possible. The Firm represents, and must act in the best interests of, the St. Sava Church School Congregation, and not in the interest of any individual or individuals, including the Board of Trustees, any Executive Board if appointed, the Bishop, or anyone else. Alarm bells should stop ringing. Misinformation should stop flying.

The $8 million Spent to date on Rebuilding St. Sava
Much has been written and said also about the $8 million spent to date by the current Trustees to resurrect St. Sava from its ashes. A group at the Special Assembly election even handed out flyers calling for “an investigation” of this expenditure to defeat the current Trustees who were running for re-election. The expenditures were made to prevent further delay of construction when time was of the essence. If further deterioration had not been prevented its walls would have had to be rebuilt as well, at enormous additional expense, and may well have cost us the Cathedral and its property. 

As required by St. Sava Bylaws, all expenses were approved by the Diocesan Bishop, were paid in accordance with the negotiated legal contract, and were reviewed by an audit of the expenditures. We note that His Grace Bishop Mitrofan was the sole approver of all expenditures submitted for close to $5 million spent for the previous restoration of the Cathedral roof and other repairs made before the fire. The Pending Board (if they accept and are approved) will have the authority to hire an auditor to conduct a separate “forensic” audit of the matter, if they so choose. Neither the Diocesan Administrative Board, His Grace, the then parish priest, Fr Zivojin Jakovljevic, nor the current Board of Trustees felt that the expense of a forensic audit would be justified or in the parish’s best interests, especially when the previous roof overlay replacement, Rose Window and some other repairs had cost close to $5 million years ago. By comparison, the $8 million spent to raise the Cathedral from its ashes including clearing debris, a new floor, strengthening the walls, a new permanent roof structure, temporary windows and doors, and much more was deemed reasonable.

Clergy Transfers

Recent clergy transfers have been used by some of these social media sites to attack the motives and person of Bishop Irinej. It should be remembered that every parish priest is assigned by his bishop to a parish to be his personal representative in that parish and to do everything with the blessing and approval of his bishop. It is the absolute sole prerogative of the bishop to assign or move priests at his discretion to meet the needs of the Church as a whole. Every parish is important, because every parish is doing the work of preaching the gospel, serving the services, caring for the people, and manifesting the Kingdom of God on earth. The greatest honor and most sobering responsibility for any priest is to have a parish entrusted to his care by his bishop, no matter its size or location, because it is the Church, the Body of Christ, in its fullness in that place. It is natural and good that a priest and his people become attached to one another over time, and the moving of a priest can be an emotional and difficult experience. This is true no less for the Bishop than for the priest or people. But sometimes it may be necessary for the good of all. We recall that His Grace Bishop Mitrofan, shortly before moving to the Canadian Diocese, made a large number of clergy reassignments without the kind of attacks upon his motives and character that have been made against Bishop Irinej. We understand that such moves can be difficult for priest and people, but it is important that they be accepted in humility and obedience for the overall order, welfare and peace of the Church.

Separating from the Serbian Orthodox Church

Among the most ridiculous claims aimed at Bishop Irinej on the internet is that he is plotting to remove the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America from the Serbian Orthodox Church and Patriarchate and attach it to some other local Orthodox body, or even to the Roman Catholic Church. Bishop Irinej is a bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church, consecrated in the Serbian Orthodox Church, obedient and answerable to the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church. He has served the Serbian Orthodox Church faithfully for many years in many capacities. We can say with full confidence that he has no intention of attempting to do anything of the sort and would never do so. We can also assure our faithful that our Church constitution binds us firmly as an integral part of the Serbian Orthodox Church and no bishop or group of people has the power to change that, legally or morally. This is simply another baseless charge springing from the imagination of people motivated not by any regard for truth, but simply by a blind and unreasoning hatred.

*  *  *

We hope that in reiterating these FACTS we have been able to counter the mischaracterizations and outright untruths being spread about by certain unscrupulous individuals. Recently, one of these social media sites claimed that Bishop Irinej had gone to Belgrade for the funeral of Patriarch Irinej of blessed memory in order to campaign to be his replacement. “Hard to believe, but true!” the site blared. It certainly was difficult to believe for the many people observing the church Slava of St Archangel Michael Church in Akron, Ohio that very same day, led by none other than their Bishop Irinej himself. That incident most perfectly exposes the character and disregard for truth of those who lead their vendetta against our Bishop.

Far from being an autocrat, we have found His Grace to be approachable and easy to work with as Diocesan Council members. He shares his thoughts with us, and we share ours in return, and we find that we are able to reach a common consensus on the proper course of action in nearly every case. He does not expect us to merely rubber-stamp whatever he suggests, and we do not do so. We give him the respect and attention he is due as an Orthodox bishop and our spiritual father, and he in turn gives us respect and listens to our thoughts as duly elected representatives of the people and congregations of the Diocese. He does the same in his interactions with congregation executive boards and individuals who approach him, even if he does not always agree with them. We ask and expect no more and no less. We urge the people of our God-protected Diocese to do the same as faithful children of the Serbian Orthodox Church, walking in the Truth Who is Christ our Lord, and rejecting all falsehood and hatred which seeks to tear down and destroy.

The Diocesan Council of the Eastern American Diocese
of the Serbian Orthodox Church