Seminarian Reflection: Celebrating Services in Byzantine Style

24 April 2013 • On–Campus • By first–year Seminarian Rami Dahdal

Antiochian students join Bp. Nicholas, Fr. John and Fr. Chad after liturgyAntiochian students join Bp. Nicholas, Fr. John and Fr. Chad after liturgyThe Great Fast can be challenging to students undergoing theological studies. Our physical and spiritual struggles intensify. In her great wisdom, the Church helps us valiantly fight the good fight — "to accomplish the course of the fast" — by offering us the "heavenly bread and cup of life" during certain days of the Great Fast, so that we may ward off sin and "attain unto and adore Thy holy resurrection." One must learn to balance chapel life, family obligations, community service, papers, readings, choir practice and personal time. In the midst of all the hustle and Antiochian students chant during Presanctified LiturgyAntiochian students chant during Presanctified Liturgybustle of seminary life, the Byzantine Choir of St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary (SVOTS) chanted the Presanctified Liturgy at St. Vladimir's Three Hierarchs Chapel, with His Grace Bishop Nicholas of Brooklyn in attendance. 

SVOTS Chancellor/CEO The Very Rev. Dr. Chad Hatfield, along with the newly–ordained Antiochian seminarian Dn. Scott Miller, celebrated the service, which employed the Byzantine style of chant and the rubrics of the Antiochian tradition.  Much preparation went into the Liturgy. Second–year seminarian Ian Abodeely directed the choir and spent a good portion of his day preparing the music and various readings. In the afternoon the Antiochian seminarians met to practice the various hymns used during the service; third–year seminarian Richard Ajalat noted that "it's so nice when we get to hear and sing our familiar Antiochian music."  Ajalat and his brother seminarians gathered around His Grace and students visit during Presanctified potluckHis Grace and students visit during Presanctified potluckAbodeely, accompanied by St. Vladimir's lecturer in Liturgical Music Hierodeacon Herman on piano, as they practiced the liturgical pieces prior to the Liturgy.

The Antiochian Archdiocese and St. Vladimir's have enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship for six decades, beginning with the enrollment of three Syrian Orthodox students in 1951. Since then numerous Antiochian clergy, academics, and laity have been a part of St. Vladimir's history: faculty and staff, authors, board members, and choirs.

Today this relationship has continued under the direction of Bishop Nicholas, who is the liaison between the Archdiocese and the Seminary. Father Chad noted, "I have personally been very pleased with the working relationship that SVOTS has formed with Bishop Nicholas, and to see his relationship with the Antiochian seminarians here on campus. We have a historic and strong connection with the Antiochian Archdiocese which is continuing under His Grace's oversight."