In today's "Journal News," a Gannett publication serving Westchester and region, Gary Stern turns his gaze to Metropolitan Michael, hierarch of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in North America, South America and parts of western Europe. The article, Ukrainian Orthodox leader, based in Buchanan, tries to revive church in America, describes Metropolitan Michael's efforts to gain adherents to his church in a secular society among 3 rival orthodox churches that mirror the political upheaval of the Ukraine.
What does this have to do with Our Lady of Vilnius?
The Archdiocese of New York cited poor attendance as one of the reasons for closing our church. This article describes a liturgy held in a small chapel at Graymoor: "This past January, he began leading weekly services at a small Graymoor chapel dominated by icons and candles. On one recent Sunday, two other priests, two deacons, seven adults and five children took part. Streaks of sunlight cut through thick clouds of incense." A liturgy attended by 17 people.
Smallness is often a characteristic of beginnings, the beginnings of great and wondrous things. The archdiocese of New York decided to view Our Lady of Vilnius through a different lens and cite our size in making a case that our parish is not necessary.
Maybe the intimacy of the space and the lack of grandeur of these liturgies is can help forge a an immediate and visceral connection between today's congregants and Christ and his apostles. Maybe this physical closeness to the Mystery and each other that a small space enforces is the stuff of which vocations are made. Maybe the archdiocese should examine the counterintuitive and provide settings like this that encourage passionate devotion to God and community.
A final quote from Metropolitan Michael:
"We face a hard journey," he said. "But we proceed. It's what matters in the eyes of God."