AXIOS! WORTHY! ДОСТОЙНИЙ! Fr. John Cummings - new PRIEST of the UOC of the USA
AXIOS! WORTHY! ДОСТОЙНИЙ! Fr. John Cummings - new PRIEST of the UOC of the USA

In the Orthodox Church the priest serves as a shepherd to his parishioners, guiding them along the path of salvation through preaching, teaching, and offering pastoral counseling. He is entrusted with the spiritual well-being of his flock, providing support and guidance in times of joy, sorrow, and spiritual struggle. Through prayer, guidance, and the administration of the Sacraments, the priest helps to nurture the faith of the community and strengthen their connection to God.

In addition to his spiritual duties, the Orthodox priest often plays a vital role in the life of the community, offering support to individuals and families in times of need, participating in charitable work, and fostering a sense of unity and fellowship among his parishioners. He is often called upon to officiate at weddings, baptisms, and funerals, marking significant moments in the lives of his congregants with prayer and sacramental grace.

In order to prepare for such a grave responsibility, the candidate for the priesthood undergoes years of study, practice and preparation.  Graduating from the Saint Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary, Deacon John Cummings who has been serving faithfully for many years at the Holy Resurrection Orthodox Mission in Waynesville, NC, answered the call by the Lord to join the ranks of the Holy Priesthood on April 20, 2024 through the laying on of hands by His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, Ruling Hierarch of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Diaspora.

As the faithful gathered and filled the small church to witness the ordination and pray for the new priest, His Eminence arrived and was greeted by Very Rev. Anthony Perkins, pastor of the parish, and St. Sophia Seminary instructor as well as by Very Rev. Robert Holet, and Rev. Father James Cairns. 

Inside the church one immediately was transformed from the worldly to the heavenly.  The faithful filled the nave standing arm in arm beneath the countless icons which adorned the walls.  The service flowed on angels’ wings as His Eminence served and the choir sang melodiously carrying everyone on a wave of prayers and emotions.

After the Gospel Reading, Fr. Anthony Perkins delivered a moving sermon as the faithful listened intently.   He preached on the intellectual ability of individuals to accept Christ.  Everyone in their own way follows their own journey towards recognition, acceptance, and devotion to the Savior.  Fr. Anthony gave two stark examples of two completely differing journeys.  One was of the Mother of God, who without reluctance, fear, or doubt, disregarding any personal hardships, or potential difficulties, did not hesitate to accept the Lord’s invitation to be the vessel of the Incarnation of Christ.  The Virgin Mary was pure of spirit and body, and humbly accepted the mission that God had proposed to her.

Contrary to the Mother of God’s pure and innocent life, Fr. Anthony referred to St. Mary of Egypt, who had lived a shameful and impure life.  When she was barred entry to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, it was the Mother of God who took pity on her confusion and distress as she wept with repentance on the porch of the church and instructed her to travel across the Jordan River to find salvation.  In the desert, fighting against temptations and struggling against passions, slowly the harlot gained control of herself and began to live a pure and ascetic life.  After struggling 47 years in the Judean Desert, she encountered Fr. Zosima who promised to bring her Holy Communion in a year’s time.  On Holy Thursday a year later, she appeared at the edge of the river, walked across the water to the priest to receive Communion.  Before departing she asked the priest to come a year later once again to the spot where they first met, and when he did Fr. Zosima found her body with a note asking that he bury her.  With the assistance of lion, the priest buried her body and returned to his monastery where he implemented the changes St. Mary of Egypt had instructed him to improve the life of the monastics.  Two Mary’s.  Two completely different paths.  Yet, both came to Christ via their personal journeys.

As everyone contemplated the two different lives of two holy women, they each became introspective and reflected on their own journeys which had and continue to lead them to Christ.  Individuals from various backgrounds, ethnicities, races, educations all gathered together under the roof of the church in search of the same thing – salvation through Christ.

At the conclusion of the Great Entrance, Deacon John with his head covered with the Aer stood at the back of Nave before being called forward.  Thrice he bowed before God before entering through the Royal Gates where he was blessed by Archbishop Daniel who was seated before the Altar table.  Deacon John was led thrice around the Altar Table, being led in turn by each priest.

With three rotations completed, the deacon kneeled at the Southwest corner of the Altar table leaning his head upon his hands which rested on the table itself. Vladyka Daniel covered the deacon’s head with his Epitrachelion and his right hand, as he read the Prayers of Chirotonia over him, while the clergy, the choir, those present at the Liturgy, all prayed and sang “Lord, have mercy!”

As prayers were raised heavenward, His Eminence prayed,

The divine grace, which always heals that which is infirm and completes that which is lacking, ordains the most devout Deacon Andrii to the office of Priest.  Let us, therefore, pray for him, that the grace of the All-Holy Spirit may come upon him.

O God, great in might and inscrutable in wisdom, marvelous in counsel above the sons of men: You the same Lord, fill with the gift of Your Holy Spirit this man whom it has pleased You to advance to the degree of Priest; that he may become worthy to stand in innocence before Your altar, to proclaim the Gospel of Your kingdom, to minister the word of Your truth, to offer to You spiritual gifts and sacrifices; to renew Your people through the font of regeneration, that when he shall go to meet You, at the second coming of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, Your only-begotten Son, he may receive the reward of good stewardship in the order given to him, through the plenitude of Your goodness.

For blessed and glorified is Your all-holy and majestic name, of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now, and ever and to the ages of ages.

Archbishop Daniel then raised newly ordained Priest John to his feet, removed the deacon’s stole and presenting each item of the priestly vestments to the faithful proclaimed “Axios” and vested the new priest, each time proclaiming “Axios!”.  First came the epitrachelion, which translates to “what is worn around the neck.”  The epitrachelion represents the priesthood.  St. Patriarch Germanos of Constantinople (+733), related it to the Passion of Christ, “The epitrachelion is the cloth that was put on Christ at the hands of the High Priest,“ writes Germanos, “and that was on His neck as He was bound and dragged to His passion.“ This passion-symbolism of the epitrachelion is reflects the Grace of Priesthood, along with the “yoke” it entails.  As the faithful proclaimed “Axios! Axios! Axios!” Archbishop Daniel placed the stole over the new priest’s head, and then presented the belt/zone before tying it around the priest’s waist.  The zone denotes the priest’s readiness to serve the Lord and is also a sign that he is bound to Christ.  “Blessed is God, Who girded me with power, and hath made my path blameless…” (Ps. 47:32-33).

In putting on the epimanika or cuffs, first on the right hand and then on the left, he prays: “Thy right hand, O Lord, is glorified in strength; Thy right hand, O Lord, hath vanquished the enemy, and in the multitude of Thy glory hast Thou crushed the adversaries (Ex. 15:6). “Thy hands have made me and fashioned me…” (Ps. 118:73). The cuffs are symbolic of the bonds of Christ and serve as a re minder that a minister of the Church must rely not on his own strength, but on the help of God.

Next came the phelonion, the outer garment, which is symbolic of the robe placed upon Christ during His Passion, the scarlet robe which clothed the Savior as the soldiers ridiculed Him, for  crimson cloaks were considered imperial garments.  This garment reminds the priest of his royal dignity and is an illustration of divine light, righteousness, and joy.  And finally the Archbishop hung a gold cross around the young priest’s neck.

Finally the hierarch presented the new priest to the congregation, leading him out the Royal Gates before the faithful, exclaiming “Axios”, which means “worthy”, as the people replied back “Axios!”. 

Stepping down to exchange a quick hug with his wife, Dobrodijka Tabitha, Fr. John immediately returned the Altar and the Divine Liturgy continued as he took up a corner of the Aer, along with the other three priests, and waved it over the Chalice as Archbishop Daniel prayed the Creed expressing all the tenants that the Orthodox faithful believe.

After the consecration of the Holy Gifts, Father John came and stood before the Altar as Archbishop Daniel handed him the consecrated Lamb saying:  “Receive this Divine Trust, and preserve it whole and unharmed until your last breath, because you will be held to an accounting therefore in the Second and Awesome Coming of our Great Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ, at which time He will demand It from you.”

After reciting the Lord’s Prayer, the clergy partook of the Holy Gifts, this being the first time that Father John communed as a priest.  As the Royal Gates reopened, His Eminence entrusted the Chalice to Father John who proceeded to offer Communion to the faithful with trembling hands, starting with his wife.  Archbishop Daniel stood closely behind, supporting the new priest in the process, as one can only imagine the emotions going through Fr. John’s  head as he held the very Body and Blood of Christ, and communed the faithful.

At the conclusion of the Liturgy, as the choir sang, Father John came out to recite the prayer behind the ambo, as Archbishop Daniel gave the final blessing and dismissal, before reading aloud the proclamation and declaration of Fr. John’s priesthood.  Giving a warm hug to the new priest, His Eminence spoke on the topic of the importance of Apostolic succession. 

Apostolic Succession holds profound significance within the Orthodox Church, serving as a cornerstone of its ecclesiology and theological identity. Rooted in the belief that the authority and grace bestowed upon the Apostles by Christ were passed down through the laying on of hands in an unbroken chain, apostolic succession ensures the continuity and authenticity of the Church's teaching, sacramental life, and spiritual authority.

For Orthodox Christians, the succession of bishops from the time of the Apostles represents a direct link to Christ Himself, ensuring the Church's adherence to the teachings and traditions handed down from generation to generation. This unbroken lineage of bishops, who are consecrated through the laying on of hands in the apostolic tradition, is seen as a tangible expression of the Church's unity, universality, and fidelity to the Gospel message.

His Eminence explained that the hierarchs, and thereby the clergy, of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA have received the Grace of the Lord through the laying on of hands leading back to St. Andrew the First-called Apostle.  The Grace that was granted to St. Andrew, he passed down to the bishops by laying his hands upon them, and throughout history that same Grace has been passed down from bishop to bishop to bishop right to the laying on of hands by bishops upon Archbishop Daniel during his own consecration.  Now that same Grace has been passed down to the newly ordained Fr. John through the laying of hands of His Eminence.  Everyone was moved, especially the newly ordained priest, at the reminder of how deep and beautiful the Orthodox Church is, united through generations with Christ Himself.

Finding his voice after such moving words, Fr. John turned to the congregation and thanked everyone who attended the service and ordination, and asked for their continued prayers as he continues his own journey towards Christ.  Fr. John thanked his wife, Tabitha, for all her support and encouragement.  He then turned and greeted Subdeacon Gregory on his 15th anniversary of ordination to subdeacon by Metropolitan Nicholas (Carpatho-Russian Archdiocese) of blessed memory.  Once again, the unity of the Church revealed itself as Archbishop Daniel smiled and informed those gathered that there is yet another coincidence, as Metropolitan Nicholas was one of the bishops who laid hands upon him during his episcopal consecration.  To complete the connection, His Eminence greeted Fr. Photios Parks of the local Carpatho-Russian Orthodox parish who was in attendance.

At the conclusion of the service, all the faithful and clergy made their way to the adjoining parish hall where they enjoyed a relaxing Lenten meal together.  Laughter emanated through the hall as people congratulated the new priest, expressed their well wishes and shared stories with him and each other.

May the faithful of the Holy Resurrection Orthodox Mission always know laughter and unity and may the newly ordained Priest John help others along their journeys towards Christ.God grant newly ordained Fr. John many years of good health, happiness and wisdom as he serves the Lord and the faithful of the Church.

Axios!  Worthy!  Гідний!

Fr. John Cummings - new PRIEST of the UOC of the USA

Photos by Subdeacon Maksym Zhuravchyk

(75 images)

Share This:

< PreviousNext >
You might also like:

Strategic Plan

Prayer Books
Prayer Books
Calendar 2024
Calendar 2024
Prayer Book
Prayer Book


Recent Galleries

Mailing Address
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
P.O. Box 495
South Bound Brook, NJ 08880

Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
Metropolia Center
135 Davidson Avenue
Somerset, NJ 08873