Bishop Daniel’s Archpastoral visit to St. Mary Church in Jones, Oklahoma, caused a spiritual awakening among the parishioners. The members and guests were anxiously waiting to see their Hierarch and Spiritual Father. The rector of St. Mary’s Church, Archimandrite Raphael, and the parishioners had carefully prepared everything for the Bishop’s visitation. Finally, the long -waiting day arrived as His Grace bishop Daniel, together with subdeacon Vasyl Pasakas and seminarian Vasyl Dovhan, entered the temple and prayed. Vladika gave a blessing to Father Raphael to begin Great Vespers. The Vespers began as a cloud of incense arouse together with the words of prayer “Lord I cry out to You, hear me ,hear me O Lord.” Peace and Prayer filled the church and souls of those who were praying. The beams of the waning sun illumined the interior of the church at the exact time when the faithful were singing “O gladsome light of the Holy Glory of the Immortal Father.” At that moment, as the light of the sun illumined the church, it seemed as if the Divine light gently illuminated and healed the bodies and souls of those who were present. Bishop Daniel, in the altar, was praying a deeply spiritual prayer as he lifted up his prayers to Almighty God for his spiritual children. Unfortunately Vespers ended all too soon. Afterwards His Grace gave a short talk and blessed those who had participated in the service.
Sunday was a wonderful morning as the sun brightly enlightened everything around St. Mary’s Church and its rays reflected on the morning dew and on the church’s new dome. Birds which were hiding in the trees and bushes around the church started their morning prayers. Peace, Prayer and Silence reigned around the church of St. Mary. At that exact moment His Grace Bishop Daniel arrived at the church and was escorted by two seminarians: subdeacon Vasyl Pasakas and seminarian Vasyl Dovhan. His Grace vested in the parish hall, and when everything was prepared for the Divine Liturgy Fr. Raphael sent the altar boys with candles, Cross and fans to escort Vladiku to the church. At the entrance to the church Fr. Archimandrite and the president of St. Mary’s, Oklahoma City Police Lieutenant Greg Johnston, met His Grace, greeted him in the name of the parish, and asked Him to pray for the church and parishioners. Then Bishop Daniel started the Divine Liturgy. Spiritual inspiration filled the souls of those people who were present. The First, Second and Third Antiphons were lovingly sung by the St Mary’s choir. At the moment that the choir sang “Is-pola eti despota,” His Grace blessed the faithful with the “Dikir and Trikir.” After the reading from the Holy Gospel, His Grace offered a very inspiring sermon.
As The Divine Liturgy was approaching Holy approximately half of the faithful received the Eucharist. At the and of the Liturgy His Grace greeted Fr. Raphael upon the occasion of his Birthday and gave him the wooden cross which priests wear during Great Lent. The choir sang the traditional “Many years…” for Father Raphael and for Bishop Daniel and afterwards His Grace was invited to the parish hall for a luncheon which had been lovingly prepared by the Sisterhood. There he had an opportunity personally meet with each parishioner. Before His Grace departed Oklahoma, he had the opportunity to hear a piano recital in his honor by the children of Mamuka and Irma Gomarteli at their Norman residence. He was especially delighted by the performances of the Gomarteli children, Luca, Gina and Sandro. As the evening came to a close, Mamuka and Irma serenaded Bishop Daniel with a moving Georgian duet. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.
Seminarian Ivan Kostyshyn