On Saturday, November 20, nearly fifty altar servers, clergy, and faithful joined His Eminence, Archbishop Michael, for the 2021 Diocesan Altar Servers' Retreat, held at Holy Resurrection Church, in Wayne, NJ. This was a particularly joyous occasion, as it marked the return of the Annual Diocesan Altar Servers’ Retreat after the pandemic had caused its cancellation in 2020. The camaraderie among the re-united servers from numerous diocesan parishes was inspiring!
The day began with the greeting and vesting of the Archbishop and the celebration of the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy. In his homily at Liturgy, His Eminence spoke about how important it is that we have servers assisting the bishop and priests. The Apostles themselves established the Diaconate for this very purpose. The Archbishop thanked the altar servers for their commitment to Christ and the Church.
Vladyka Michael also asked them to prayerfully consider even greater service – yes, becoming a reader and subdeacon – but perhaps even a deacon or priest. He told them how much the Church has always needed priests and deacons, but especially now – with so much mission work to do in America, and with so many priests who are elderly, some of whom are ill ... and could retire. The Lord Himself said, "The harvest is great, but the laborers are few." All of us need to pray for vocations; and some of you need to think about fulfilling your vocation.
Brunch was generously hosted by the parish, and then Archbishop Michael, Deacon Stephan Karlgut, and Sub-deacons Mark Federoff and Matthew Ortiz led a class on the various liturgical actions of the Hierarchical Liturgy and their spiritual symbolism.
The servers enjoyed games and fellowship on the parish’s spacious grounds, then returned for a second class on “The Services of Ordination” – learning about the liturgical rites for the Tonsuring of a Reader, the Ordinations of a Sub-deacon, Deacon, and Priest; and the Consecration of a Bishop.
Concluding the day was the celebration of Great Vespers with Litya, for the Feast of the Entry of the Theotokos Into the Temple. In his homily at the close of the service, Archbishop Michael urged the servers, the clergy, and the parents and parishioners gathered to deepen their commitment to becoming temples of the Holy Spirit, just as the Virgin Mary became the temple of the Incarnate Son of God. His Eminence thanked the faithful of Holy Resurrection Church, especially the kitchen volunteers for preparing meals and snacks, as well as the choir, led by Michael Geeza, for singing beautifully at both of the day’s services.
Vladyka rejoiced that so many servers, clergy, and faithful had gathered in person for this event, marking its significance in the bringing back of Communion and community to our Diocesan family. After a final supper, the servers returned to their homes, anticipating the continuing celebration of the Feast and renewed by this day of prayer, learning, and fellowship.
Glory to God for all things!