On Tuesday, September 5th, clergy and faithful from throughout the Cleveland and Pittsburgh Deaneries of the Eastern-American Diocese gathered around His Grace Bishop Irinej at New Marcha Monastery in joyful celebration of their Hierarch’s Names Day. Services began with fourteen clergy greeting His Grace outside of the small monastery church of St. Archangel Gabriel. The clergy entered in solemn procession as faithful sang gloriously in the nave. Blue vestments were worn by all concelebrating clergy in honor and celebration of the Apodosis of the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos.
During the Little Entrance, an additional and joyous moment was inserted into the Liturgy as His Grace elevated two of his diocesan clergy, Fr. Bosko Stojanovic, parish priest of Holy Trinity in Youngstown, and Fr. Aleksa Pavichevich, parish priest of St. George in North Canton, to the distinction of “Protonamesnik”. As he presented the two faithful servants to the congregation, His Grace offered his gratitude at the hard work and dedication of Fr. Aleksa not only in the life of his parish, but also in maintaining and improving the diocesan website. As he brought Fr. Bosko forward, His Grace not only thanked Fr. Bosko for piloting him from Ohio to North Carolina, but he also shared the challenging early days of Fr. Bosko’s ministry servicing the spiritual needs of the Serbian Diaspora in South America.
As the faithful proclaimed “Axios!”, it was particularly joyful for Fr. Bosko and Fr. Aleksa as parishioners from their first parish of St. George in Lorain, Ohio were present to join in the celebration and offer their prayers and thanksgiving.
As the Liturgy continued, His Grace Bishop Irinej offered the faithful spiritual food that dove deep into the history and theology of the Orthodox faith. His Grace spoke on the life and works of St. Irenaeus, noting not only his most famous work Adversus Haereses (or Against Heresies), but the importance of his holy relics as a site of pilgrimage in the city of Lyon in southern France.
His Grace Bishop Irinej then expounded upon the importance of the day, making a profound connection between the Apodosis of the Feast of the Dormition and the celebration of St. Irenaeus of Lyon. His Grace shared that rather than honoring St. Irenaeus on the date of his martyrdom, June 28/July 11, the church chose to move his feast to the Apodosis of the Feast to make an important theological point: to reaffirm the true and right theology professed by St. Irenaeus, whose writings were incorrectly used by the Roman Catholic Church to help affirm and defend the false teaching of the “Immaculate Conception”.
At the end of the service, His Grace Bishop Irinej celebrated not only his Names Day, but also noted that according to an old Orthodox tradition, the Names Day of the Bishop is traditionally the Diocesan Slava. With great joy and revelry, everyone gathered around the Cleveland Dean, Fr. Dragan Goronjic, who cut the Slavski Kolac for His Grace’s celebration. A significant moment of unity permeated the monastery as the faithful gathered around the Slavski Kolac, some turning the exquisitely adorned bread, and others reaching out to put their hand on the shoulder of the person in front of them, creating an unbroken chain of Orthodox Christians throughout the entirety of the church.
Immediately following the service, a celebratory meal was offered to all those in attendance. The food was provided by many Circles of Serbian Sisters from throughout the Cleveland Deanery as an expression of love to their hierarch, and as extension of their hospitality to all diocesan guests.
Near the conclusion of the meal, His Grace Bishop Irinej utilized both Russian and English as he offered his sincere gratitude to Fr. Ilia Marzev and Fr. Peter Selenoi, both of St. Sergius Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Parma. They offered a great gift of their time to His Grace Bishop Irinej, not only serving at Divine Liturgy but staying to break bread at the festal meal as well. His Grace also expressed his heartfelt love and gratitude to Petar and Paunka Gmitric, who prepared the beautiful slavski kolac and koljivo. Petar, a faithful supporter of New Marcha Monastery, was present for the festivities as the feast of St. Irenaeus also happens to be his birthday.
The day concluded with one final expression of gratitude from His Grace Bishop Irinej to all the clergy and faithful that travelled to join him on this festal occasion, as well as those who labored to prepare for the event. He was moved at such an outpouring of love that made his first Names Day as the hierarch of Eastern America an extraordinary celebration.