800th anniversary of Serbian Church autocephaly celebrated at New Gracanica Monastery
The entire Serbian Orthodox Church is celebrating the 800th anniversary of its autocephaly this year, which it received under St. Sava, the first archbishop of the Serbian Church, from Patriarch Manuel I of Constantinople.
The 22nd Quinquennial Church Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Dioceses in the United States was held over the weekend at the New Gracanica Protection of the Mother of God Monastery in Third Lake, Illinois and was dedicated to this great anniversary.
The “Endowed by God, Treasured by the People” Assembly officially opened with the Rite of the Invocation of the Holy Spirit celebrated by His Grace Bishop Longin of New Gracanica-Midwestern America, with His Grace Bishop Maxim of Western America and His Grace Bishop Irinej of Eastern America present, reports the press service of the Serbian Orthodox Dioceses in the United States of America.
Welcoming all the hierarchs, clergy, monastics, and delegates of the Church, Bp. Longin commented that “These occasions are a time for us to rejoice in fellowship but also a time for reflection. We are called to examine ourselves, asking if we are living our faith in the same way as the holy Nemanjic Family and all of our holy Serbian ancestors did throughout the centuries.”
Vespers was served following the Assembly’s first session, with Archbishop Demetrios, the recently retired head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, and Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, the keynote speaker for the sessions, joining the Serbian hierarchs. Met. Kallistos gave his first address following the Saturday evening meal, and a youth conference was held that evening as well, with Emmy Award-winning actor Jonathan Jackson speaking on “Orthodoxy is Real Life.” A new film on the life of St. Mardarije of Libertyville was also shown.
The second day of the Assembly opened with a Divine Liturgy in honor of Sts. Cosmas and Damian and St. Mardarije and in prayerful commemoration of the 800th anniversary of the autocephaly of the Serbian Church, celebrated by the Serbian hierarchs in America and His Eminence Archbishop Peter of Chicago and Mid-America of ROCOR. A slava to St. Mardarije was then served in front of the St. Sava Monastery Church. Met. Kallistos delivered a homily where he spoke of the importance of Holy Communion and of the inspiration he took from the life of St. Mardarije.
A program of Serbian folk and spiritual songs in honor of the great anniversary was then opened by Bp. Longin, who reflected upon the unity that was achieved between factions of the Serbian Church in America 27 years ago. During the program, Jonathan Jackson performed an original song dedicated to Kosovo and the suffering Serbian Orthodox people.
Met. Kallistos later offered an evening lecture at Holy Resurrection Cathedral in Chicago, entitled, “The Inner Meaning of the Divine Liturgy.”
The third day of the Assembly opened with a Divine Liturgy celebrated by Bp. Irinej, who was also celebrating the 13th anniversary of his consecration to the episcopate. The majority of the day was then spent hearing reports on and discussing Church business.
Fr. Metodije, the abbot of Hilandar Monastery on Mt. Athos, was introduced to the Assembly in the afternoon and spoke about the youth camps put on by the monastery throughout Serbia. He noted his pleasure at seeing a youth conference being held at the same time as the Assembly.
The fourth and final day of the Assembly again began with the celebration of Matins and the Divine Liturgy, followed by a discussion of the Serbian Church’s governing documents. Following the election of the members of the Central Church Council, Memory Eternal was sung for all the hierarchs, clergy, and faithful who had reposed since the last Assembly in 2014, and Many Years for all the present clergy and lay leaders of the Serbian Church.
The Assembly ended with a group photograph and lunch.
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