On Friday the 4th and Saturday the 5th of September, 2015, His Eminence KYRILL Archbishop of San Francisco and Western America participated in the canonization of a newly glorified Saint of North America, Saint Sebastian of San Francisco and Jackson.
His Holiness Patriarch Irenei of Serbia visited the United States to participate in the canonization and presided over the ceremonies which took place at Saint Stephan’s Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Alhambra, CA.
The spacious cathedral could not contain all of the Orthodox Christians who arrived on Saturday September 5th to participate in this historical event in the life of the Church in North America. Concelebrating with His Holiness were 12 bishops, more than 60 priests and deacons, and 300 to 400 faithful.
For the first time, during matins that morning, the “Magnification” to Saint Sebastian was chanted before his honorable relics by a special guest from Kosovo, Hieromonk Ilarion (Lupulovic) with the assistance of a choir from Prezren Theological Seminary. Shortly thereafter, a procession took place in which Patriarch Irenei and fellow bishops, escorted by the clergy, solemnly entered the cathedral where they were met by His Grace Bishop Maxim of Western America and His Grace Bishop Justin of Zicha bearing an icon of Saint Sebastian from the altar. From the ambo, the official proclamation of the Act of Canonization was recited by His Grace Bishop Longin of New Gracanica and Midwestern America:
It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us (Acts 15:28) that at the priestly Assembly of Hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church, to the glory of God, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, who is glorious in His Saints, and for the spiritual good and overall progress of our local Church and the entire One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, to add to the Synaxis of Saints Venerable Archimandrite Sebastian, who had glorified God with his life and works and whom the Lord has already glorified through precious signs and reverence of all people.
Proclaiming him a holy, Christ-bearing God-pleaser of the Orthodox Church, we pray to the Lord that his witness of the Only Lover of man, and his living examples of faith and love be an invitation to us all that we follow and glorify him in Christ's Church in the divine services and through hymns of praise. This glorification bestows upon God's Church a great spiritual joy and thanksgiving to the Living Lord.
Through the prayers of our Venerable Father Sebastian, O Most Holy Trinity, our God, have mercy upon us and save us.
To the Only All-Wise God the Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, glory and majesty, power and dominion, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Given at the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade
May, 29/16, 2015 – AS No. 110/recording 261
President Of the Holy Assembly of Bishops
Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and Serbian Patriarch IRINEJ
Members of the Holy Assembly of Bishops
During the Divine Liturgy His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Archdiocese and President of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North America gave the homily after the Gospel lesson in which he underlined three characteristics of Holy Father Sebastian’s sainthood. Firstly, God was the priority in his life. St. Sebastian had utterly given himself over to our Lord Jesus Christ during his earthly life, leaving little room in his heart for other interests. Secondly, he tirelessly labored in spreading the Truth found in the teaching of the Gospel, not only to Serbian Orthodox, but to all who were open to his message. And finally, Saint Sebastian was known for his ministry to the people. For example, he did not promote a fancy theology in order to gather a following, but was directly interested in the people and labored for the salvation of their souls. With Apostolic zeal, as a true shepherd, he laid down his life for the flock of Christ. His Eminence concluded that the life of Saint Sebastian of San Francisco and Jackson and his power of intercession before the Throne of God have much to offer today’s confused and unhappy world.
His Holiness Patriarch Irenei himself communed many of the multitudes who approached several chalices so as to receive Holy Communion.
At the end of the Divine Liturgy His Holiness offered words touching on the missionary ardor of Saint Sebastian; on his theological education which he received in Russia; on how at his return to San Francisco (his city of birth), he labored tirelessly, traveling to any location where Serbian Orthodox Christians were gathered no matter how great or small their number; how after his repose his neglected grave had all but been forgotten due to the German invasion of WWII and then the communist reign in Yugoslavia. Glory to God his honorable relics were revealed in 2010 and rest in Saint Sava’s Church in Jackson, CA. His holy memory is to be celebrated annually on November 17/30.
After the Divine Liturgy a festal meal offered warm fellowship at which time a symposium was organized. Guest clergy addressed topics related to the Canonization: 1) the place of Orthodox Christianity today and its challenges, 2) a look at Saint Sebastian’s earthly struggles and sorrows for our own edification, 3) the process of the canonization of a Saint, 4) the icon of a Saint, 5) Orthodox unity in North America, and other themes.
Many thanks to the Western American Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church and to Saint Stephan’s Cathedral whose faithful opened their spacious, pristine complex and generous hearts to make the Canonization of Saint Sebastian of San Francisco and Jackson a successful Pan-Orthodox event.