By David Bjorkgren, Editor
Special to the Hellenic News
Parishioners from St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Hamilton, New Jersey had a rare and beautiful opportunity Oct. 14 and 15 to experience the Consecration of their church.
His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey presided over the ceremony.
“Metropolitan Evangelos has been a great social leader in the Metropolis of New Jersey and today’s celebration represents one of many, many successes of progress and growth in this beautiful Metropolis,” said St. George pastor, Father Jimmy Pavlow.
The Consecration would not have taken place without his Eminence’s personal support, love and guidance, to the point he even moved furniture around to make this event happen, Father Pavlow said in remarks during a gala celebration dinner Oct. 15 for parishioners and guests at the Merion in Cinnaminson, New Jersey.
His Eminence prepared a list of 48 needed items, from a Tabernacle to Ecclesiastical Altar Rugs. The items were all donated by parishioners.
The service of Consecration centers on the Holy Altar Table because the Holy Altar is the center of life for the Orthodox Christian, his union with Christ or the “Life of Christ,” according to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America website. The Consecration Service is the Baptism and Chrismation of the Church and changes an ordinary building into a House of God.
Articles on the Altar Table are removed, and the Altar left uncovered. The bishop places the relics of the three saints on a Paten (Diskarion). It remains on the Altar table overnight, illuminated by a Vigil Light.
The Consecration of the Church begins on the Eve of the celebration with a short Prayer Service honoring the memory of Martyrs. The Vespers follows.
A Sunday morning Orthros service opens with Matins (Morning Prayer), the reading of six Psalms, ending with the Great Doxology. The Priest celebrates part of the Proskomidi Service, preparing the gifts which will be used during the Divine Liturgy.
The Bishop enters, dons his vestments and begins the Consecration Service.
Symbolic actions include three processions around the church building, the placing of and sealing of Holy Relics in the Altar Table, the Washing and Anointing of the Altar Table, the Placing of the New Altar Coverings and other Holy Articles on the Holy Table and the Lighting of the Vigil Light.
At the conclusion, the first Divine Liturgy in the newly consecrated church takes place, according to the Archdiocese.
The Consecration is different than a blessing for the building, explained St. George’s website.
“In order for the Consecration to take place, the church has to be prepared and that involves adorning the church and preparing it, much the same way that we prepare a child for his/her baptism with the finest of everything,” it stated.
In his remarks, Father Pavlow expressed his gratitude to everyone that made the event possible.
“I want to offer gratitude this evening, first and foremost, to God, from whom all blessings flow. We as people of God, Christians, know to whom we worship, know how we worship and know where we worship, which is the church.”
He thanked Dr. Spiro Spireas and his wife, Dr. Emily Spireas, who co-chaired the Consecration event.
People say ‘if I win the lottery,’ ‘if I am successful, I will donate to the church,” Father Pavlow said. “For Dr. Spireas, it’s not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s a fact and it’s not the lottery he won, it’s his knowledge, his education and utilizing his successful business sense, an entrepreneur and being truly thankful to God by being a true philanthropist to the church,” he said.
Equally devoted to the cause was Emily Spireas, who worked with him and with the bishop on every aspect of the event.
Father Pavlow also thanked Parish Council President Thanasis Ginis for his hard work and expressed gratitude to the clergy that came before him as well as those who participated in the ceremony. Equal praise went to the church staff and to his family, adding that “we are all family here at St. George.”
He also credited the elders of the church who guided St. George parish through its 90-year history.
“When we understand all that they offer, it leads us to the present, this beautiful day,” he said.
He described the beautiful events of the weekend, the Vespers, the procession, the placement of the relics in the Holy Altar, the sanctifying cleansing of the Altar, the anointing of the icons and the liturgy. “It moved me deep within my heart,” he said. “We are still basking in the glow of this day, which leads us to the future.”
We should not be discouraged by today’s current events, he said, but instead cling to the analogy of the church fathers, who compare the church to Noah’s Ark. “Like that of Noah’s Ark, we as a family pride ourselves on protecting the church for all the peoples of the world so as we enjoy this beautiful evening together let us realize the process of Consecration that was making our house of worship into truly a church,” he said.
“We have this church in which to worship and adore God as we welcome this Consecration for future generations and I am deeply humbled to have been a part of it,” he said.
Co-Chair of the event, Dr. Emily Spireas shared with the Hellenic News of America that it was a wonderful experience preparing for the consecration. “I consider our community as one big family and as one big family we all worked together to make sure we had a successful event. His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos was instrumental in this occurring with all his love and support. I would like to thank all the committee members and organizations who worked tirelessly contributing all their time and efforts. It was an unforgettable event and experience,” said Dr. Emily Spireas.