The Chicago winter of 2019-2020 threatened us with an early snow just to let us enjoy many sunny and summery warm days later on. At least until the Feast of Theophany.
On the Eve of Theophany (18 January, 2020), the snow and ice fell and the temperature dropped to negative 15 with wind chills. It didn’t stop the faithful of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish family to come for a triple celebration of this weekend: Feast of Theophany, 60th birthday of parish Choir director of many years Subdeacon George Cepynsky and baptism of his first grandson Leonard Cepynsky.
His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, president of the Consistory and Archbishop of the Wester Eparchy of the UOC of USA along with a parish pastor- Fr. Vasyl Sendeha led the faithful in the Divine Liturgy.
As a very cold, wintery Sunday morning let a few rays of sun through the thick blanket of fluffy clouds, the faithful and guests of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish family were filling the temple.
The temple with the sea of lit candles, burgundy-red poinsettias and sparkling lights of Christmas decorations was warmly welcoming everyone. The crowd grew larger and larger to the point of standing room only.
His Eminence under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit captured the attention of everyone present during the Liturgy. Even the youngest ones in attendance quieted down and listened to their spiritual father preach. Starting his sermon from something so material and earthly as wrinkled down $20 bill to something so spiritual and important as worthiness of each and everyone’s life and soul. His zealous words of encouragement sparked many fires in the hearts of his audience. His Eminence Daniel is truly gifted. Gifted with the grace of God and influenced by the Holy Spirit!
As the time came for the kiss of peace during Liturgy, His Eminence Daniel reminded everyone present of the meaning of kiss and embrace as well as importance of it during Liturgy. Eager children beautifully sung the prayer of “Our Father” in Ukrainian language as well as sung along with the church choir in English language. We could hear some great talents at work there. It’s our hope and joy to see them in the adult choir someday.
The two lines for Holy Eucharist seemed unending, as faithful following the children approached to receive “the Holy of Holies” and to be united in Christ and through Christ with God and one another.
The Divine Liturgy was followed by the Great Blessing of the Waters on the Feast of Theophany. The prayers were read, the Old Testament readings were chanted. The dipping of triple candles, exclamations for the dissent of the Holy Spirt upon the waters by His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, the gazing of kids in ought brought so much spiritual joy and uplifting. You could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.
As water was blessed, Archbishop Daniel made sure that each and everyone in attendance was truly blessed with the newly sanctified water. You could tell that this is His favorite time of the year as many people were drenched with Holy Water.
The celebration of the special Sunday continued with honoring of Subdeacon George Cepynsky on his 60th birthday with birthday greetings and special medal of St. Petro Mohyla of the Council of Bishops of the UOC of the USA. This unique medal is presented in the Life of UOC of USA to the individuals for their work within the church. Subdeacon George has been directing choir and putting together huge amount of music for church services at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish faithfully close to 20 years.
The parish community and the family and guests of Cepynsky family were united in prayer as a little baby Leonard was baptized and enlisted into the body of the church as a warrior of Christ equipped with the virtues and protected by the Grace of the Holy Spirit.
Festive environment moved from the Church temple into the Hall, where parishioners with guests enjoyed a Nativity play performed by the Children of Jr. UOL chapter at the parish.
Everyone in attendance caroled along with children filled with joy of the Nativity season. Special thanks to Vitalii Kylyk and Pani-matka Olenka Sendeha for organizing the Nativity play.
The celebration continued with delicious banquet offered in honor of Subdeacon George’s Birthday and Baptism of Leonard. People enjoyed the fellowship, and no one seems to rush home as the short wintry Sunday was coming to an end. Truthfully a great day celebrated at Sts. Peter and Paul in Palos Park, IL.
By Fr. Vasyl Sendeha
Photos by Subdeacon Yaroslav Bilohan and Donna Nevels