Bishop Nicholas Visits St. George in Allentown, PA
Submitted by By Fr. Joseph Landino
The Blessed Nativity of our Lord reminds us that God's only Son came to earth in a humble white cloth through the young maiden who said "Yes!" and followed the will of her Creator. We at St. George Antiochian Church, Allentown, PA on this blessed Nativity of 2013 were so grateful and humbled to have shared in this Feast by hosting our humble and beloved Sayidna Nicholas Ozone.
His Grace Nicholas arrived on Saturday, December 21 in the late afternoon and greeted the Sunday School children and their teachers for their Nativity Party. There were approximately 150 people in attendance. We also had another special visitor, St. Nicholas of Myra, who brought the children gifts and encouraged them all to remember the saints. Afterwards, we celebrated Great Vespers and then joined the Very Rev. Father Anthony and Kh. Minerva Sabbagh and family to their home for a delicious meal and conversation.
The following day was Sunday where we celebrated Matins and Divine Liturgy with His Grace. It was a truly inspiring and prayerful service because along with Fr. Anthony, we had Dn. Luke Toumi and Dn. Giusepppe Landino. Also, guest chanters Rassem El Massih, Shamaseh Razan Toumi and Amjad Khalil added to our already talented group of Marwan Sabbagh, Hwaida Mousa, and others. Immediately after the Liturgy we enjoyed our Sunday School children perform their Nativity play called "Star of Wonder" directed by Mary and Gabriella Landino. The bright songs of the children filled our hearts with much joy!
Later that evening we went back to the church for a Lenten dinner with all the organizations present. The dinner was expertly prepared by the lovely Bakhos family who recently arrived from Syria. Not only has our parish and our Syrian community in Allentown welcomed and assisted many new refugee families from Syria, but also have donated over $80,000 to our Patriarchate Syrian Relief Fund to be utilized in Wadi-Al-Nasara. It was sent through our Archdiocese for those in need in our homeland. His Eminence Metropolitan Philip personally added $30,000.00 from him above and over what we have given to the Patriarchate Syrian Relief Fund.
His Grace addressed the faithful by discussing how we may live the spirit of Christmas in our daily lives and informed the parishioners of the actions the Archdiocese has taken to help stop the war in Syria. He mentioned that financial aid has been collected by all our parishes and has been sent to our Patriarchate through the Archdiocese, and answered many questions regarding the situation in our beloved Syria.
Our youths were again the center of Sayidna's attention on Monday. Bishop Nicholas, as he always does, held a retreat for our Teen SOYO called "Living an Orthodox Christian Life in a Secular World." Presented to approximately fifty teens, it included a two-hour power point presentation dominated by role plays and discussions. There was a very positive response to the seminar. The teens also enjoyed their Christmas party the same evening
Tuesday was the Eve of the Nativity, the parish faithful gathered together at the church and were extremely blessed to be joined by the nuns of St. Thekla's Monastery, York, PA. Mother Justina and Sister Katerina were a joy to worship with. Sister Katerina assisted in beautifully chanting the Liturgy which joined the earthly to the heavenly. All in all, we had a lovely time celebrating the Nativity of our Lord and God Jesus Christ as one loving family at St. George Allentown, PA.
As our parish continues to benefit from our Bishop Nicholas' many blessings we are eagerly looking forward to Saturday January 11, 2014 when our own, Bishop Nicholas, will join us again with his eminence Archbishop Joseph Zihlawee of Los-Angeles California, at a fund raising banquet for the Syrian Orphans. The next day will be of equal grace and beauty while our very own Dn. Giuseppe Landino will be ordained by both bishops to the rank of the Holy Priesthood. St. George of Allentown is very grateful to God to have such holy, hardworking and caring hierarchs and we continue to pray that God sends faithful servants to His Holy Church.