In today’s culturally diverse world, students are often curious about other religions and religious rites. The desire to learn about these subjects, however, is frequently ignored. Students seek information, but are hesitant to reach out for fear of being rejected or turned away. With this concept in mind, I reached out to the Rev. Daniel Vaskalis.
Taking on the role as the reverend of St. Nicholas’ only four months ago, Vaskalis described the Orthodox Church with strong conviction.
“St. Nicholas’ (Carpatho-Russian) Orthodox Church is a beautiful house of God where people gather to experience the faith. They do so through smell by the incense, through sight by the icons and vestments, through taste by the Holy Eucharist, through hearing by the beautiful chanting and by touch, as St. Paul says in, ‘Greeting one another with a holy kiss.’ Here, people draw close to God, as He draws close to them,” said Vaskalis.
“The church stands as a pillar of stability in society, fostering love and service to God and His people,” said Vaskalis
Obviously passionate about his church and its members, Vaskalis wanted to spread the word of welcome to all, noting the readily available ways students and others can access information about the Orthodox rite.
“There is a plethora of information available concerning the Orthodox Church and its ways of worship. These range from books to internet sites and library articles to videos and podcasts,” he said. “One could visit our diocesan website, www.acrod.org, or the Greek Archdiocesan website, www.goarch.org, to begin to learn more about the faith. Ancient Faith Radio offers daily chanting and radio podcasts concerning various topics of the faith (including the Liturgy). Finally, an excellent book to begin with would be ‘The Orthodox Church’ by Timothy Ware (now Metropolitan Kallistos Ware).”
For readers who might not know much about the Orthodox rite, Vasklis was instantly happy to explain his community’s beliefs in great detail.
“Orthodox worship traces its roots all the way back to early Christianity. It came into its modern form roughly around the eighth century. The central and most important aspect of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy is the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist, where the communicant partakes of the very body and blood of Christ. The Liturgy is divided into two main parts – the Liturgy of the Word (the Synaxis) and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.”
Most surprising in my conversation with Vaskalis was his explanation of the church’s history. “The history of this church owes its humble beginnings to immigrants from Eastern Slovakia and Western Ukraine who made sure to keep the faith in their new homeland, St. Nicholas’ Orthodox Church has continued to grow throughout the years,” he explained. “The parishioners of St. Nicholas have worked diligently in support and growth of their church, while at the same time welcoming newcomers and especially helping those around them in the Scranton community.”
Religion is the knowledge of life for many. If this is the case, no one should be afraid to reach out to religious leaders or attend a Mass of different culture. There is wisdom to gain in expanding the horizon of the mind.