17 February 2013 • Three Hierarchs Chapel • Virginia Nieuwsma
In the first Divine Liturgy celebrated at St. Vladimir's Seminary by a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), His Grace The Right Rev. Peter , bishop of Cleveland for the Diocese of Chicago and Mid–America, presided over Sunday's service at Three Hierarchs Chapel. The Very Rev. Dr. Martin Swanson, dean of the Orthodox Pastoral School  and rector of St. Basil the Great Orthodox Church in St. Louis Missouri, accompanied His Grace. The choir interspersed Slavonic responses with hymns in English, in a liturgical celebration which Seminary Dean The Very Rev. Dr. John Behr noted "would not have been possible just five years ago" prior to the restoration of the canonical link between ROCOR and the Russian Orthodox Church on May 17, 2007.
"It has brought back many memories from forty years ago when I used to visit the Seminary as a young man," His Grace remarked following the Liturgy. "A lot has changed since then! Yet still, the beautiful singing and the holy prayers continue." Added Fr. John Behr in his greeting, "Bishop Peter has been a friend of St. Vladimir's for many decades and it's been wonderful to host him throughout this weekend."
Bishop Peter's visit coincided with the Sunday of Zacchaeus, a liturgical signal to Orthodox Christians everywhere that the Lenten season has drawn near. In his homily, Fr. John noted the blessings received by the faithful in the winter's liturgical cycle. "We've been given so much over the past weeks and months," he emphasized. "So what should our response be? We too must enter into the desert, eagerly seeking the Lord like Zacchaeus with expectation and intense desire.
"It's all too easy for our own sense of well–being to get in the way; we spend most of our lives in delusion, and we need to learn that we are needy and small," Fr. John continued. "Our repentance needs to manifest itself not primarily with how we feel but how we act, through our fasting, prayer and charity. Fortunately, the Lord has already run this race and has already overcome the enemy."
In addition to Dean Swanson, Hierodeacon Seraphim (Nikoloski), a student from Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary in Jordanville, NY, also joined His Grace for the historic liturgy. Dean Behr and other Three Hierarchs Chapel clergy served alongside the distinguished guests: The Very Rev. Dr. Alexander Rentel, The Rev. Dr. David Mezynski, The Rev. Pdn. Joseph Matusiak, The Rev. Dn. Gregory Hatrak, and The Rev. Dn. Evan Freeman.