Sunday, March 14, 2011 • Off-Campus Event • By Deborah (Malacky) Belonick
The seminary community turned out in force for the 41st Annual Pan-Orthodox Vespers, sponsored by the Westchester Orthodox Clergy Fellowship and hosted by the Virgin Mary Antiochian Church in Yonkers. The service drew Orthodox Christians countywide to mark what is typically known in the Church's calendar as the "Sunday of Orthodoxy" or the "Triumph of Orthodoxy," a feast that memorializes the final defeat of iconoclasm and the restoration of icons in the Church, which occurred on the first Sunday of Great Lent in AD 843.
The seminary Men's Choir sang portions of the service, under the direction of Hierodeacon Philip Majkrzak. Seminary clergy Fr. Alexander Rentel, assistant professor of Canon Law, and Fr. Steven Belonick, chaplain, along with seminarians Frs. Photius Avant, Jason Blais, Lucas Rice, and Michael Sakran, concelebrated the service with priests and deacons from four other area Orthodox churches. Fr. Paul Nadim Tarazi, Adjunct Professor of Old Testament at St. Vladimir's, delivered the homily. Several seminarians, some with family members, also attended.
Triumph over sin, rather than triumphalism, marked the spirit of service. Reminding the congregation that the commemoration was "not a time to boast or to pontificate," but rather a time "to adhere to the faith of Scriptures," Fr. Paul in his homily especially focused on the duty of Christians to give alms and to extend mercy to the needy. "This is an opportune time," he said, "to imitate the Father of mercy, and to perform acts of mercy, first to the household of faith, and then to all."
After the service, Fr. Dimitri Darwich, rector of the parish, and his parishioners, extended a warm Middle Eastern welcome to visitors, by inviting them to a reception in the church hall. View a gallery of photos  of the evening, by Deborah Belonick.