On Sunday, February 5, 2023 His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Porfirije served the Divine Liturgy at the St. Sava Cathedral in Manhattan, New York, which concluded the US visit of the first hierarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
This was the first Liturgy in seven years served in this church, which was badly damaged in a fire on Pascha 2016. Concelebratin with His Holiness were His Grace Bishop Mitrophan of Canada, Archimandrite Nikifor (Milovic), Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Velibor Dzomic and Protopresbyter-Stavrophor Zivojin Jakovljevic, Protonamesnik Milan Dragovic and Protodeacon Dragan Radic.
Adding to the beauty and magnificence of the Liturgy were the prayerful voices of the choir members, led by choir director Milos Raickovic and Reader Vasilije Dragovic, who read the morning's Epistle reading, as well as other readers, Veljko Dobrilovic, Mihailo Vlajkovic and Justin Dragovic.
Addressing the faithful and the board members of the St. Sava church-school congregation in New York, Patriarch Porfirije said:
- In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit! Brothers and sisters, we're a bit cold in church today, so we won't keep you much longer. We hope that these few words I wish to share with you will not keep you longer in the cold, because we believe that, regardless of the fact that it is cold outside, that the temperature is low - we are still warmed by God's grace and illuminated by the Holy Spirit. We believe that inside we are warmed by the warmth of God and that therefore - regardless of the external environment in which we find ourselves - we are immeasurably blessed and therefore very, very joyful.
I am all the more joyful to be here with you today, in New York, and that we were able to celebrate the first Liturgy after the unfortunate fire that happened in this church. The church is still under renovation. It will take a long time to rebuild and return it to the state in which it was. We are, however, indebted to the New York City security officials who have given us permission to serve today, and not only today but also in the coming weeks in February when we will be renewing that permit. It is important that, while the restoration is going on, while the church is being rebuilt, that we, first of all, build that spiritual temple, that we build it with prayer, that we pray to God to give us strength and to find the opportunities to really restore what is external as well.
More important than anything else is that we renew ourselves from within. The conditions are not comfortable, but we know that regardless of the external conditions - and maybe just when they are not comfortable and favorable - if we make an effort and podvig, our spiritual feat, then the Lord will recognize us much more as his disciples, as his children, and give us the momentum and strength to do the impossible. Of course, for all that we need to have - and we do, thank God - faith, faith in Christ, the awareness that everything depends on Him and that ultimately everything happens according to His plan, according to God's human-loving plan. And the fact that we gather today in the middle of winter here, in a cold New York church, is an expression of His love and His providence.
Our Orthodox faith leads us in our personal lives through various Scyllas and Charybdis, through various trials, but he never leaves us without grace, without the gifts of God. Our Orthodox faith is what makes us who we are. It is the faith of Saint Sava. All our Orthodox Serbs throughout the centuries guarded everything that was theirs. But foremost and above all, they kept their Orthodox faith. May the Lord grant that through the prayers of our Holy Father Sava and all the saints from among our people and all the saints of the Orthodox Church, we too go on the path of the Gospel, on the path of love.