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Lenten Vespers Series begins with Orthodoxy Sunday

Faithful of metropolitan Detroit gather each year on the first Sunday of Great Lent in celebration of the “Triumph of Orthodoxy,” commemorating the defeat of the iconoclasts and the Restoration of Icons in 843 A.D.  While we in Detroit gather annually for decades on each Sunday evening in Lent for Inter-Orthodox Vespers, the first in this series always holds special significance.

Clergy and laity from several parishes around the city were hosted at St. Lazarus Serbian Cathedral, known to the Serbs as “Ravanica,” on the city’s east side.  Responses were led by more than 30 voices of the renowned Orthodox Choir of Detroit under the direction of (Matushka) Victoria Kopistiansky.  The Right Reverend Fr. Roman Star, president of the St. John Chrysostom Clergy Brotherhood, served as first priest, and the Very Reverend Fr. George Shalhoub, pastor of the Antiochian Basilica of St. Mary in Livonia and noted professor and speaker, offered an inspiring homily.

The highlight of the evening’s Vespers was the procession of icons.  The choir joyfully sang the tropar of the feast, “We venerate Your Most Pure Image, O Good One…” as clergy slowly made their way around the four walls of the church’s interior, carrying icons with the ‘holy images’ of the saints and feasts depicted upon them.  At each wall of the church, petitions were offered – in Greek, Slavonic/Serbian, Arabic, and Romanian – and after the clergy reassembled across the solea (in front of the Altar), everyone recited the “Synodicon”, a statement which reaffirms the place of the Orthodox Christian Faith and the veneration of our Holy Icons.  Then, the Great Prokeimenon, “Who is so great a god as Our God, You are the God Who does wonders” resounded through the beautiful church as the clergy returned to the Altar for the conclusion of Vespers.

At the end of the service, at the invitation of the COCC Choir committee, the parish choir “Ravanica,” graciously accepted to sing a few hymns as people venerated the cross. In a gesture of fraternal appreciation, the visiting choir sang “God grant you many years” to their hosts, who, in turn responded with “Mnogaja ljeta.”  This was a truly moving moment, which was followed by many of the singers greeting one another and expressing interest in singing together more often.  It is the sincere wish of the COCC that such efforts to be more welcoming and cooperative with our parishes will result in growth for the choir, council and future endeavors.

A lovely reception with refreshments was offered in the parish hall afterward.  Guests received new informational card/bookmark that promotes the work of the COCC, and 2014 president Richard Shebib gave remarks and implored those present to become more involved in the good works of the COCC, and therefore the greater Orthodox community.

The Council of Orthodox Christian Churches (COCC) is grateful to the Very Reverend Stavrofor Zivan Urosev, Cathedral Dean, with the St. Lazarus community for their hospitality, and to all the clergy and faithful who took part.  We sincerely hope that even more will make it part of their extra Lenten effort to participate in this long-standing series on each Sunday of the coming weeks.

John E Lazar (COCC Immediate Past President / Choir Liaison)

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