Yale Class Day 2018 sent to Alumni Mag

May 28, 2018

Letters Editor
Yale Alumni Magazine
P.O. Box 1905
New Haven, CT 06509-1905

Dear Sir,

I have to ask myself what Yale was thinking when they invited Sec. Hillary Clinton to speak at this year’s class day. While it may have appeared to some at Yale that inviting a past Yale grad and past Presidential candidate was only natural, it only accentuates the degree to which Yale may be out of touch with the rest of the nation.

Since losing the election Sec. Clinton has been on a long and tiresome self-pity tour blaming everyone but herself for her historic loss to President Donald Trump. Her shady involvements with Russian nuclear companies, acceptance of what appears to be pay for play donations to her and her husband’s Clinton Foundation, the corrupt fixing of the 2016 Democratic Primary over Bernie Sanders, the negligent loss and destruction of Federal emails on a troubling private server, the inexcusable neglect of our Embassy in Benghazi, Libya leading to the death of four American patriots and the procurement of a false dossier designed to eliminate our current President is only a short list of her disgraceful actions. It seems every day more and more dirt is exposed from the sacrosanct halls of American politics and government exposing a level of political corruption few could imagine.

This is the kind of person Yale wants to inspire its graduates? This is the type of behavior that they wish to emulate? It is disgusting. With such former graduates like Nathan Hale, William Howard Taft, Cole Porter, Meryl Streep, William F. Buckley and others, it does no one justice to showcase a person that very well be sitting in a federal prison soon. More so, with Sec. Clinton’s inability to accept responsibility for her 2016 showing, it was not surprising her focus was not on the graduates, but herself and her loss. Putting her onstage yet again only served to further enable her. It is time to get over it.

I understand Yale leans to the left politically, but such a predisposed position is not always good. When will Yale admit it needs to accept other different and challenging voices to its historical campus, voices that speak to integrity and character not wholesale personal and political corruption. Are they that difficult to find? I don’t think they are and hope that Yale is big enough to do so.

Sincerely,

Serge Mihaly
TD, Class of ‘82
Woodbury, CT 06798
sgmihalyjr@att.net

Those Simple Pleasures – saved by Don Sitar 1977

12.23.1977

Those Simple Pleasures

The Golden Eagle

By Serge Mihaly

One of man’s greatest and most popular forms of communication is the written word. Thousands of hours have been spent by writers. Poets, journalists and even annoyed citizens to express views and opinions. We can attribute this right of expression to the sacrifices of our founding fathers.

These men who coddled America in their arms while it still was a child gave it the guidance and love that has brought this country to where it is today. We have come from the point of being an unknown, unwanted and undeveloped land to a well-respected, cherished and at times overdeveloped nation: a nation which has bred the shadows and substances of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. These few names must represent the untold, partially forgotten thousands of individuals who have made this country, this resting place of huddled masses, a land totally unlike any other in the world.

Among the many blessings we have been given is the too-often-taken-for-granted-blessing of Mother Nature; yet how many of us step out from behind our plastic desks and take the chance of wandering alone in the forest with only a compass and nature’s smiling face. Very few, if any.

We seem to be almost imprisoned in society ad its rapidly progressing ways. The reason why we find breaking this habit so hard is because we have fallen into a lifestyle of convenience and satisfaction. We no longer feed the old mare that draws our carriage, and we no longer grab our rifle and go out to hunt for our supper.

Hunting, camping and fishing have been practiced and accepted for thousands of years. Nature is something which can be enjoyed by everyone including through the annual harvest of deer to a gentle walk aside a lake and restless flocks of Canadian geese.

With Connecticut’s Housatonic State Forest, as in any state or national forest, there are provisions for skimobiles, campers, hunters, fisherman, hikers and even bird watchers. On December 17, the hillsides and valleys of the Housatonic State Forest were alive with the crunching of deer hooves breaking frozen snow, unseen birds cackling high in the branches of swaying trees, and lonesome racoons pawing a cold, clear spring looking for acorns, crayfish and frogs.

Every year prospective hunters fill out applications to hunt in selected areas of the state. By State law no hunter can hunt two consecutive years, therefore allowing for a rotation of hunters. The applications are randomly selected and only a privileged few are sent their licenses in the mail. The hunting season in Connecticut varies, depending upon the instrument used. A hunter is Connecticut may use a bow and an arrow, shotgun or a muzzle-loading firearm. Nowhere in Connecticut are rifles allowed in the seasonal hunting of deer. Although some residents voice occasional grumblings of dissatisfaction, overall Connecticut’s hunting system seems to be working well for the Nutmeg state and her hunters. Of course, no hunter likes the privilege of hunting in his own State taken from him in any way, shape or form; but to equally distribute the annual harvest of deer and secure the population at a reasonable level, no true sportsman or hunter will object.

As written in an editorial in Field & Stream, the vast majority of hunters are respectable and responsible men and women. But it seems only the lawbreaking few who shoot up ‘no trespassing’ signs and abuse hunting and conservation laws are presented as the American Hunter. The true American Outdoorsman is not a slob. He respects Mother Nature and her ways, and in this relationship, she also respects him. If they do not hold these viewpoints, man would have perished long ago.

At times Mother Nature is a cold, cruel vigilante, and at other times she is the warm, secure and protecting mother her name silently implies. Although rarely are the Timberwolves’ vicious dismemberment of an aging bull moose portrayed and publicized, this incident does occur as does the quiet birth of baby rabbits in a hare’s den.

Hunting, camping, fishing, snowmobiling, hiking and bird watching are just some of the many way we can enjoy Mother Nature. What we must remember, however, is that in whatever way we enjoy Mother Nature, we are not only responsible to ourselves and Nature but also to each other. No one man or woman owns the pine woods of Maine, the Great Lakes of Michigan or the sweeping and swaying wheat fields of Kansas.

These beautiful gifts from God are for all mankind to enjoy and conserve for future and present generations. If we are to reach these goals, then we must begin first as individuals, then as concerned groups. We must be people that work, but most importantly, people that care.

 

 

 

Letter to the Editor Yale Alumni Magazine – Pending Publication

May 28, 2018

Letters Editor

Yale Alumni Magazine

P.O. Box 1905

New Haven, CT 06509-1905

Dear Sir,

I have to ask myself what Yale was thinking when they invited Sec. Hillary Clinton to speak at this year’s class day. While it may have appeared to some at Yale that inviting a past Yale grad and past Presidential candidate was only natural, it only accentuates the degree to which Yale may be out of touch with the rest of the nation.

Since losing the election Sec. Clinton has been on a long and tiresome self-pity tour blaming everyone but herself for her historic loss to President Donald Trump. Her shady involvements with Russian nuclear companies, acceptance of what appears to be pay for play donations to her and her husband’s Clinton Foundation, the corrupt fixing of the 2016 Democratic Primary over Bernie Sanders, the negligent loss and destruction of Federal emails on a troubling private server, the inexcusable neglect of our Embassy in Benghazi, Libya leading to the death of four American patriots and the procurement of a false dossier designed to eliminate our current President is only a short list of her disgraceful actions. It seems every day more and more dirt is exposed from the sacrosanct halls of American politics and government exposing a level of political corruption few could imagine.

This is the kind of person Yale wants to inspire its graduates? This is the type of behavior that they wish to emulate? It is disgusting. With such former graduates like Nathan Hale, William Howard Taft, Cole Porter, Meryl Streep, William F. Buckley and others, it does no one justice to showcase a person that very well be sitting in a federal prison soon. More so, with Sec. Clinton’s inability to accept responsibility for her 2016 showing, it was not surprising her focus was not on the graduates, but herself and her loss. Putting her onstage yet again only served to further enable her. It is time to get over it.

I understand Yale leans to the left politically, but such a predisposed position is not always good. When will Yale admit it needs to accept other different and challenging voices to its historical campus, voices that speak to integrity and character not wholesale personal and political corruption. Are they that difficult to find? I don’t think they are and hope that Yale is big enough to do so.

Sincerely,

Serge Mihaly

TD, Class of ‘82

13 Railtree Hill Road

Woodbury, CT 06798

sgmihalyjr@att.net

 

 

Hartford Courant 6/18/2018

Hartford Courant 6/1/2018

Dear Sir,

While Connecticut Republicans stand a chance of winning seats this November, exactly what the party will fight for is a mystery.

With the economy in a mess due to some of the highest taxes in the nation and a budget process held hostage by last-minute leadership proposals, the party must do two things.

First, it must institute a minimum four-week review period for budgets so the public and legislature can read, discuss and pass them. Currently, bills are presented with minutes to go with no oversight except for a few lucky and too-powerful officials. This is dishonest.

Second, Republicans must have a long-term plan to reduce taxes. Both issues are crucial to the future of our state. Currently, party leadership seems to enjoy shortchanging programs and funding. No wonder this state is in a mess.

It is not enough to just vote in Republicans this year. We must vote in a party that has an idea of what to do to make our state great again. They must fix the big things and be accountable. It’s up to Senate Republican President Len Fasano and House Republican Leader Themis Klarides.

Serge G. Mihaly Jr., Woodbury

Coming Soon!

Coming Soon! Red and Blue ‘LOCK HER UP’ and Blue ‘My President and Proud of it!’ includes picture of Pres. Trump. Bumper stickers. 3″ x 10 “, $5 per. See me at sgmihalyjr@att.net.

The Awakener

The Awakener

4.10.2018

 

There is much to be proud of in our parish. Our God, each other, the deep history of our faith, the traditions, our parents, ancestors and youth. One aspect of Orthodoxy that a friend of mine recently said is that is quite remarkable how our faith has remained unchanged over the centuries. We not only have a history that is consistent in is beliefs, it’s true to Christ, hence the term ‘Orthodox.’ Filled with tradition and religious significance in each and every aspect of our faith, it has been the only real anchor in the Christian world despite numerous distractions and changes by denominations.

Our parish, St. John the Baptist, now filled with many nationalities, was founded by a group of immigrants from the Carpathian Mountains of Eastern Europe. Referred to as Carpatho-Russia, Carpatho-Ukraine or Carpatho-Ruthenia, this area has been conquered and ruled by many nations including Hungary, Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, the Ukraine and Poland. Because of the constant tumult, life for a Rusyn was not easy. Keeping our language, cultural traditions, religious practices such as a Slavic liturgy and married clergy was a struggle depending on who and what was the latest opposing power trying to coerce the population into national subservience. It took a great struggle by strong personalities to resist and pave a way forward for our ancestors. One of these personalities was a Greek Catholic priest by the name of Aleksander Dukhnovich.

Aleksander Vasilyevich Dukhnovich was a priest, poet, writer, pedagogue, and social activist. Born on April 24, 1803 Dukhnovich and who passed away on March 30, 1865, Dukhnovich would become known as the ‘Awakener of the Rusyn people.’ As much as William Shakespeare is identified as English, Ralph Waldo Emerson as American and Homer as Greek, Dukhnovich is Rusyn. Shakespeare gave us his sonnets, Romeo and Juliet, King Kear and other writings all of which are regularly studied by students, Dukhnovich writings were not meant for entertainment nor have they been shared in most if any schools except maybe in Slovakia or other areas close to the Carpathians. Dukhnovich’s poems were inspirational and spoke of the strength of his Rusyn nationality identity, culture, homeland, people, family and faith. His was a voice of rebellion and pride, a rebirth of an ancient Slavic people who’d been repressed by surrounding cultures.

Over the years Rusyn culture has been buried beneath Ukrainian, Polish and Hungarian influences which almost ended the Rusyn language and traditions. Dukhnovich would have none of this and while fighting for a separate Rusyn identity he was imprisoned under the Hungarian government. It was here, while in prison, Dukhnovich would write his most famous poem, one my father would often recite to his sons with his own brand of Rusyn passion – ‘Ja Rusyn Byl, jesm y budu’ or ‘I was, am and will remain a Rusyn.’ It is this stubborn determination and national pride that burned in Dukhnovich’s soul and much the same passion my grandfather Rev. Joseph Mihaly had for his heritage as he fought for our church and its people in the 1930’s and beyond. ‘Ja Rusyn Byl’ would become the Rusyn national anthem. With writers, priests and other leaders adding to the cause, an independent Rusyn culture endured and was finally recognized.

It is from this history that our church was culturally born, that and the strength of our Orthodox Christian faith of which our people, the founders of this church, fought to establish here starting in Bridgeport and then moving to other towns. For us it was on Broadbridge Avenue in Stratford. In the early days of our parish, nationalities could be generally translated into different Christian denominations – The Irish to Protestantism or Catholicism, English – Episcopalian, Germans – Lutheran, Spanish and French – Catholic, etc. Today, our faith is much more faith centered in the sense that Orthodoxy is cross cultural with the focus not so much on one culture, but on one’s Orthodox faith. You don’t have to be Rusyn to go to an Orthodox church that has roots in Carpatho-Russia or any other nation like Greece, Albania or Romania among others. Such a development has actually opened the doors wider to God making us all true brothers and sisters in Christ. What bonded and guided nations and villages of homogenous peoples, now bonds us as individuals and a Christian family no matter our cultural or historical differences so long as we abide by the shared Creed of Orthodox Christianity.

And yes, I am a Rusyn, an American and an Orthodox Christian and I’m proud of them all.

The Story

The Story

6.6.2018

 

When I was in 9th grade I remember taking a 3×5 piece of brass plate and cutting it into the shape of an Orthodox cross compete with the short cross bar above the main beam and a slanted bar underneath. At the top, I drilled a small enough hole to fit a chain through and placed it around my neck. It was a combination of middle school shop class and pride in my Orthodox faith taught me by my family that helped me create this one of a kind religious emblem. Not many kids had crosses that I remember back then, at least not triple bar crosses hung around their neck. About 2 ½ inches long and 1 ½ inches wide it was difficult to miss as it hung from my teenage neck and was often the topic of discussion in school as fellow students would ask me what the bars meant. I took careful attention to tell ‘the story.’

Most people who asked were very curious as to what those other bars were that made this cross so different that most others they’d seen before. For a moment my friends were focused on something other than rock music, sports or the latest gossip. It was a moment in time that seemed to stop as all eyes and ears were held still, waiting with baited attention to explain these curiosities.

There was the regular cross, I’d start, with the cross beam and long bar we all know. Above the main beam, though, was a shorter bar upon which was written in, I believe Judaic, ‘King of the Jews’ or ‘INRI’, a phrase written to mock Jesus as he lay bloodily nailed through his arms and feet high atop Mount Golgotha or ‘the Place of the Skull.’ For me the term ‘INRI’ is blazoned in my mind as it is inscribed on the large wooden cross behind the altar in our church on Broadbridge Avenue. As a child, I believe it was my grandfather who taught me the meaning and the rest of the story. ‘Pa Pa’, as I called him, Father Joseph to everyone else, had a way of gently explaining things which I would remember for the rest of my life.

That was just the first part though. The other bar, I continued had two meanings. One, I said, was that there were two thieves on either side of Christ. One on the left and one on the right. The one on the right ridiculed Christ saying, according to Luke 23:39;

“If you are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him saying “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive due reward of our deeds, but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

It was here I’d emphasize the message that if you believe in Christ you will go to heaven and if you don’t, you’ll go to hell. A simple message.

The other meaning of the slanted bar came last, a testament to the unwavering faith of a believer who himself faced the barbarity of Rome’s soldiers. St. Andrew, the patron saint of the Slav’s, was captured and sentenced to death by crucifixion. When faced with being crucified on a cross like Christ, he said he wasn’t worthy and asked to have the bar slanted.

I don’t think many expected the explanation to be in such detail, but it was and regularly left the questioner speechless. I don’t think many people really know the story, at least, this one and the meaning of the triple bars that decorate and celebrate so much of the Orthodox Church and her faith. Triple bar crosses are seen in many places especially in church and many of our homes, but also on television especially when the news shows us pictures of Moscow’s St. Basil’ cathedral, but how many really know the significance of the triple bar crosses that augment the onion domes of that magnificent church or other churches for that matter? For most, they are busy symbols without specific meaning or mention. I hope the story has in some way has changed that.

For me, I prefer a simple silver cross 2 inches by 1 ½ that hangs from my neck. Nothing fancy, just a quiet testament to the love and faith Christ had and has for all of us. Others like gold crosses, larger, smaller and there are many different styles to choose from, but whenever I tell the story I am transported back to my childhood as I stood and watched my grandfather serve during lent. It was usually a Friday, the end of the week where as one of the altar boys I’d hand him a container of incense and with a silver spoon he’d drop a few crystalline grains on a slowly burning piece of charcoal as he sang our heartfelt Slavic melodies and prayed so sincerely, while glancing up at the icons of saints and God above. As he got older, I could see increasing exhaustion in my grandfather’s face, but I could also see his undying faith. This was especially true on Good Friday as he read from the gospel describing Christ’s march up Mount Golgotha to His crucifixion, death and, soon to be, resurrection.

A I listened to my grandfather I could see Christ’s blood drip down from His sweat laden forehead as He struggled with the weight of the large wooden cross pressing heavily on his whipped and bleeding back. No story, no reading was more dramatic than that my grandfather made that night for it was a part of the very core of our Christian belief; The struggle, the fight, the superhuman, but very human drive to complete His father’s task. What a price to pay, what a burden to bear, what a sacrifice to make so we could enter His Kingdom.

I believe that the story of the meaning of the Orthodox cross tells us much more. It describes in detail what Christ suffered for us. It is an amazing story and one that purposely doesn’t fit into today’s secular world where everything we want is convenient and painless and at our fingertips. Most importantly, it puts into perspective so much we need to know.

 

A Christian’s View of Hunting

A Christian’s View of Hunting
by Serge Mihaly
3/15/2018

It was during one of Father Peter’s house blessing visits that we started to talk sharing the usual catching up of a parishioner with this family priest. We spoke a bit a lot of things, but one seemed to catch his ear and he asked me to write about it. So, I am.

I love nature, the woods, the smell of falls fallen and moistened leaves, the colors of different trees, a wild rippling brook and the many creatures that live in it. I am always mesmerized by the delicate little birds that flutter and land on the many twigs and branches above the ground. Cardinals, Juncos, Starlings, Robins, Red-Bellied and Downy woodpeckers, brown headed cowbirds and an occasional Grackle or two. The thought of how delicate each creature was, how they survived, despite temperatures well below zero has always intrigued me. Chickadees are 1/10 the size of my fist yet they jump here and there swinging their heads in little darting motions looking for any semblance of danger or food. I can barely stay outside a minute in the winter and these little birds stay out all day and night. Amazing. I marvel at how God protects them and has provided the necessary ingredients for survival and procreation. It reminds me of the Bible passage Matthew 6:26 that says ‘Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?’ The passage makes me realize that in the seemingly complicated world of nature, God’s hand is always there guiding and providing what is needed despite our fears and insecurities.

My love of nature is more than just an ephemeral one though. I love the ruggedness of it, the independence it demands and the freedom it offers. I also love the peace found there, a silent and soothing rhapsody of warmth and continuity, something rarely found in modern society. It is this same peace I find when I hunt. I’ve have taken white-tail deer, black bear, a caribous, rabbits and pheasants. I’ve hunted in Alaska, Canada, Connecticut, Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania finding peace and relaxation in all. Bishop Orestes Chornock introduced my father to hunting and hence, my father to me and my brothers. With it came a deep and abiding love of nature, of man’s evolving place within the natural world and the realization that we have a natural responsibility to care for it. One might argue, how could you kill something you love? This is a good question, and one I have wrestled with many times.

If anything, I believe an ethical hunter, especially a Christian, appreciates life as much if not more than the average non-hunter. While most people eat meat, fish or poultry, most Americans only see the end product of their food. They do not slaughter the animal and prepare it for market. The hunter knows the entire process and participates in it. He or she knows the cost of that hamburger, in this case a venison burger or steak – an animals life. We study game every time we enter the woods fascinated by the habits and ways of nature’s wild creatures. In Genesis, after God made man it says ‘He blessed them; and God said to them, ”Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth an subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of heaven, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” As gifts from God we have a responsibility to handle them with care which draws right into my thinking on hunting.

Taking a life is a very serious and solemn act, something that hits at the very heart of a Christian. Life is precious, all life. It is because of this that as a hunter, Christians know the practical aspects of taking game, that herds too large damage other species by over browsing and eliminating certain plants that another creature would normally eat stressing the entire ecosystem. In times of overpopulation with fewer available food sources, animals become weak, open to disease and in many cases causes death by starvation or predation. Die offs can be dramatic sometimes even threatening entire herds and, in rare cases, species. Ethical science directed Hunting serves to reduce the size of various animal populations keeping them in line with the available browse. But, how does all this apply to a Christian?

If we understand that the creatures we harvest are gifts from God, which they are, then we must value them. Beyond this, too, we understand that it is our duty to dispatch them with the greatest of speed and least amount of pain. This is why we sight in our rifles and bows. To not do so is lazy and unethical and can cause unnecessary pain and suffering. There is no joy in the act of killing, maybe satisfaction in a good, fair hunt and accurate shot, but no joy. I’ve taken deer and know firsthand that the creature I brought home was created by God, that it served its purpose in life and I was blesses enough to enjoy its unique existence. Each creature has a role to play. While some are destined to live, feed and breed others are destined to be food for another creature like a coyote, wolf, bear or, yes, man.

If we can consider the animals of the woods with such care and concern, how much more ought we apply to our fellow Christians and strangers we meet? We can go through life respecting each other acting like Christ would want us to or not. The choice is up to us.

The Best of Both Worlds

December 26, 2017

The Best of Both Worlds
By Serge Mihaly

Every year when December 25 rolls around, the country is enthralled in one of the most joyous holidays of the year. Christmas brings visions of ‘sugar plums’, Santa and last minute shopping sprees. To a large part of the Christian world it is a time to celebrate the coming of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Midnight masses are attended and songs are sung in honor and love to welcome the newborn baby. This is not exclusive to Western Christendom as many Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate at the same time bringing together the two Churches. While there are many Eastern Orthodox Churches that celebrate Christmas on December 25th, our church goes by what is called the Julian calendar or old calendar. With it our Christmas arrives later, January 7th.

Simultaneously, ‘American Christmas’, as my family refers to December 25th, sees countless stores suddenly become crowded, eye catching holiday ads, television shows of Santa and his elves, Frosty the Snowman and Charlie Brown. We become obsessed with buying toys, cars, sparkling engagement rings, new computers and more. Many will take a trip to New York City to brave the crowds and see the Rockefeller center Christmas tree or the Christmas show at Radio City Music hall. The season is warm and busy, filled with good memories and holiday fun. All of this combines to create a wholesome sense of love and cheer. It is indeed a special time of the year.

I have to admit it, I love Christmas and have many beautiful memories of family and fun. It is a fundamental part of my life, a time that has warmly marked my life. Yet, through all the joy, laughter and fun there is something missing. For me, the real reason for Christmas, Christ’s birth, is often, too often crowded out by gift giving, ‘Santa Claus and a non-stop shopping frenzy.

As Orthodox Christians on Broadbridge Avenue we also experience American Christmas, too. Santa visits our children and we become infused with the holiday spirit. We too enjoy snowy nights before warm fires, hanging decorations on our Christmas trees, family get-togethers, Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ or Frank Capra’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, eggnog and mistletoe. December 25th is a beautiful time of the year for us too, but, for me, it has always been the first of a beautiful ‘one-two punch’ of the holiday, a precursor to a much more significant day yet to come.

Our Christmas, ‘Russian Christmas’, as my family calls it, comes several weeks later. It is on this day, January 7, where we joyfully celebrate and ‘magnify’ the birth of our Lord and King, Jesus Christ. We are not sidetracked with rushed shopping sprees or Christmas Eves devoted to wrapping presents or a visit by a gift-laden chubby elf and his 8 tiny reindeer. No, we gather together in Church separate from the secular aspects of the season to sing and worship the ‘reason for the season’, the birth of Jesus Christ.

On ‘Russian Christmas’ we are singularly devoted to God, to the birth of Jesus, to the love of Mary and Joseph, to our traditions born through the sacrifices of our forefathers and mothers and their struggles to bring their Orthodox faith to America to grow and prosper. We sing beautiful liturgical songs with passion and love signaling the triumph of Christ’s coming and all it foreshadows. We go to confession and communion, we hear the voices of our beautiful choir, the smell of incense as it rises high in the church, see a passionate Saint named Nicholas on the iconostas who as an early Bishop in our Church defended Christ’s humanity and deism, and of course, greet each other with ‘Christos Radietza’ answering with the refrain ‘Slavi Teyeho.’

Our Christmas, held according to the Julian or Old calendar, is very beautiful to me, much more beautiful than ‘American Christmas’ because there is no confusion, no competing idea. Our Christmas is special because without dilution or distraction it is devoted to the birth of Christ. And while other churches celebrate it just as piously on December 25th, for me it’s not the same. January 7th is solely focused on God’s gift, His infant son and thus His promise of our salvation if we choose to follow Him. This gift cannot be found in any television ad nor is it located in a shopping mall or under a Christmas tree. This gift is from God’s all loving and generous heart.

I have always considered myself both blessed and lucky to be an Orthodox Christian. The people, the priests, the rich heritage and traditions and the beautiful familial love we share are all unique and so valuable. I have been blessed to celebrate both Christmases, one on December 25th and then on January 7th where we specifically celebrate God’s great love for us in the birth of the baby Jesus. Both provide warm and beautiful feelings in me, different, but beautiful just the same.

Christos Radietza!

In Their Footsteps

April 12, 2014

In Their Footsteps
Serge G. Mihaly, Jr
Wallingford, CT

This year Friday night Lenten services brought back a number of memories to me for as a child and teenager my mother and father took great care to bring me to church. It was difficult not to attend church for on those quiet nights my grandfather needed an altar boy to serve. It was usually Billy and Sergie Bilcheck who would join my brothers and I as we dressed in our white altar boy cassocks and waited for the service to begin.

As we stood like soldiers at attention under the watchful eyes of Helen Rowland, a very unselfish and holy woman who supervised us behind the altar, we could see everyone who entered the church as they walked to the tetra pod, bless themselves, kiss the glass covered icon and find a seat in one the pews. As the church began to fill other parishioners sat quietly and still others placed wrinkled dollar bills in wrought iron candle stands on top of which flickered their newly lit candle.

Soon one of us would help my grandfather prepare the cadillo as we held it just high enough so he could place a spoonful of incense on a burning charcoal lit but a few seconds before. My Grandfather would then take the cadillo and walk through the church praying and incensing the icons and everyone. With each swing of his arms you could hear the gentle rattle of the cadillo chains as the pungent incense wrapped itself around and above our heads in a cloud of sweet mist. With each swing of the cadillo the people would bow their heads and bless themselves.

Looking back now, I was mesmerized by the older men and women of the church, those who attended these Friday services with their short cut hair and colorful babushkas. Few knew English and those that did, practiced it with a strong Slavic accent. Many of the men worked in local factories somehow related to the General Electric plant in town. Many shaped cold rolled steel with lathes and milling machines. There was quiet strength to these people, strength I have always admired. It was this strength, too, that brought them to our church tonight and to hundred’s of Orthodox Greek Catholic churches around the nation on this quiet Friday night. But why were we here? Why did we attend?

My parents brought me up to be proud of our heritage, both ethnically and spiritually. I have learned that there is a real and profound passion to being a Christian, a passion that goes beyond anything I have ever experienced at this or any other time of the year. Lent is the most moving and beautiful times of the year as I struggle to come to grips with my sinfulness and how far I have fallen short in this world. In the midst of my sinfulness just the thought of a good, just, loving and all-powerful God overwhelms me. How One so innocent and loving and perfect could have been betrayed and then crucified for our, my sins always moves me to tears and enough so that I cannot sing. There is no more poignant time of he year for me than when on each of these nights we turn out the lights and sing. As a child I attended many such services week after week, enough to have my grandfather’s voice beautifully echo within as he sang the Preterpe’ This is a good time of the year, too, as beautiful and cherished memories of deceased relatives and friends fill me with laughter and joy. How blessed I have been to have known them all.

Our faith is more than prayers and holidays. It is more than just sermons. It is a faith of all the senses as Father Peter and other priests have said many times. It is much like what we are called to give to the Good Lord, our total and undivided love. It is on these Friday nights that I have realized more than ever the nature of our faith. It is humble, quiet and irrepressibly strong, a strength that can never be denied or defeated. I find it hard to express the feeling I have when I think of our ultimate relationship to God, His gentle and loving nature, His all-powerful essence. For me to sit and think of my relationship to Him as a mortal and imperfect creature I am overcome with emotion. I, like many, have seen the miracles of the tearing icon and have my own personal experiences from which to draw my belief from. For me He is very real and will always be.

The trains still rush past our church on those Friday nights, as do the same cars using Broadbridge Avenue as a short cut to some unknown destination. I am older now, much older and church and family and God mean much more to me. I do not know if those older members of our church with their short cut hair or babushkas felt or thought the same way as I did or do now. What I do know is it is their unconquerable faith and strength that has guided me as an Orthodox Christian moving me to preserve our Orthodox Christian faith. It is in their footsteps of those that came before that I try to follow, footsteps of those who joyously and steadfastly sacrificed so much that we too might know the Lord Jesus Christ.

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