Philadelphia-Regional Oriental Orthodox Concelebrated Liturgy
Medford, NJ – Seven regional Oriental Orthodox Churches participated in the first ever, regional Concelebrated Liturgy on April 6. Hosted by St. Anthony Coptic Orthodox Church in Medford, NJ, nearly 200 parishioners of Oriental Orthodox churches attended the event. With over 27 deacons and 10 clergy hailing from 7 area churches, the occasion was quite a success. “It was an eye opening experience,” said Vaché Soghomonian, parishioner of St. Sahag & St. Mesrob Armenian Church who attended the liturgy.
Participating churches included: St. Anthony Coptic Orthodox Church, Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church, St. Sahag & St. Mesrob Armenian Apostolic Church, St. Gregory’s Armenian Apostolic Church, Debre Ganet Kidus Gabriel Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, St. Peters Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, and St. George Coptic Orthodox Church.
Fr. John Bishara, priest of St. Anthony Coptic Orthodox Church, said “As I saw my fellow priests from our sister churches entering the sanctuary the quote that came to my mind was from the Gospel of St. Matthew 17:4 when St. Peter, beholding the Transfiguration of Our Lord said, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here’. This was a wonderful display of our unity and fellowship in the Body of Christ and I am looking forward to many more such events in the future.”
Following the Liturgy, a Lenten lunch (the Coptic church has not yet celebrated Easter) was served accompanied with a keynote speech by Very Reverend Father Melake Ganet Tesfa Eyesus of Debre Ganet Kidus Gabriel Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. In his speech, “Oriental Orthodox Cooperation in Evangelism,” he blessed the audience with a beautiful sermon and lively Q&A. Fr. Tesfa also spoke powerfully and at length on the great necessity of our obedience to our hierarchs and lawful synods.
The contribution of the fathers from Debre Ganet Kidus Gabriel was a particular blessing to us, especially given their traveling such a great distance (more than 2 hours from North Jersey) to pray with us.
“To me, the concelebrated liturgy is not only the ultimate expression of our unity, but an icon of Heaven on Earth,” said Nicholas Siniari, committee member and deacon from St. Anthony Church. “As I stood with the other deacons this morning, watching our fathers the priests raising incense to our Lord and offering the sacrifice upon the altar of God, I saw before me an earthly preview of the celestial paradise, and a quote from the book of Revelation filled my mind:”
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and tribes, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God who sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.(Revelation 7:9-10)
The event was spearheaded by a small group of faithful of the Coptic, Armenian and Malankara Syriac chur
ches. “Today’s event is one of the first regional concelebrated liturgies performed under the official hand of SCOOCH,” said Nadia Silk, event committee member. “We pray that this become an annual tradition in our area and that Oriental Orthodox Churches in other regions are blessed with the opportunity to concelebrate together.”
Special thank you to Mr. Kamil Ghaly and Mr. Ashraf Habashi (a professional photographer and videographer respectively) who graciously donated their time and services gratis.