On Saturday, March 22, the feast of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, one of two vigil-ranked feasts during Great Lent, was celebrated at St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Howell, NJ. Clergy from the New Jersey deanery gathered to mark the namesday of their dean and cathedral rector Protopresbyter Valery Lukianov, the Eastern American Diocese’s senior-most cleric.
Father Valery celebrated the Divine Liturgy, co-served by diocesan secretary Archpriest Serge Lukianov, Archpriest Boris Slootsky (cleric of neighboring St. George’s Church in Howell), Priest Leonid Goferman (rector of Holy Virgin Protection Church in New Brunswick, NJ), parish cleric Priest Seraphim Chemodakov, Priest Serge Ledkovsky (deputy rector of St. Vladimir Memorial Church in Jackson, NJ), parish Protodeacon Nicholas Lukianov, and Protodeacon Leonid Roschko and Deacon Michael Wengrin (clerics of St. George’s Church).
Upon completion of the Liturgy, a moleben was served to the Holy Martyrs of Sebaste and, in accordance with Russian tradition, the blessing of the "larks" was then performed. These are pastries baked with lenten dough in the shape of birds. According folk tradition, this day marks the start of spring; birds migrate from the south, bringing with them warm weather.
Fr. Valery delivered a sermon on the sufferings of the Forty Martyrs, noting that their martyrdom is significant in that they were the last victims of the pagan persecutions before the final victory of the Holy Emperor Constantine and the triumph of Christianity over the Roman Empire.
The protodeacon intoned the Polychronion for all those celebrating their namesday. On behalf of the Hierarchs, clergy, and faithful of the Eastern American Diocese, Fr. Serge Lukianov congratulated Fr. Valery on the occasion of his namesday; Fr. Seraphim Chemodakov greeted the rector on behalf of the cathedral clergy and parishioners. In turn, Fr. Valery thanked his fellow clergy for their prayerful participation in the divine service, after which a luncheon prepared by the parish sisterhood was held in the parish hall.
Howell, NJ: Feast of Forty Martyrs of Sebaste in St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral - 03/22/14