Delaware County Pa.’s newest church was consecrated, today, April 18. Holy Myrrh-Bearers Eastern Catholic Church, 900 Fairview Road, Ridley, albeit with a Swarthmore address, is the combination of the congregations of Saints Peter and Paul Church in Clifton Heights and Holy Ghost Church in Chester, both of which held their final masses last weekend, and Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Philadelphia which closed in 2004.
The inside is a thing of beauty with red and sand-colored walls graced with large bright icons. The iconostasis — a wall of icons and religious paintings that separates the nave from the sanctuary — comes from Holy Ghost.
The alter was custom made and hand-carved by Igor Deervyanyy of Artsacrum, Louisville, Ky. It is a work of art. It was donated in memory of the Dearden, Urbach and Chambers family by Francis R. Dearden.
The ceremony was led by Archbishop Stefan Soroka, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Philadelphia for Ukranians. Co-celebrants were Bishop John Bura, who is the archdiocese auxiliary bishiop; Bishop emeritus Basil H. Losten, John N. Ciurpita, the church pastor; and Joseph Szupa, chancellor.
Master of ceremonies were Very Rev. Edward Higgins and Rev. Walter Pasciznky.
Sanctifying the altar started with washing it with water. It was then scrubbed with soap — Ivory, in this case, due to its lack of additives. Wine was then poured upon it in in the shape of a cross. A pouring of rose-water, also in the shape of a cross, followed this. The rose-water was mixed spikenard, the perfume that was used to anoint the feet of Jesus.
Relics relating to Saint Stephen, the First Martyr, Saint Dorothea of Caesarea and Saint Josaphat Kuntsevych of Polotsk were placed in a cavity in the center and sealed with wax. Icons representing each of the four Evangelists were placed in spots prepared at the altar’s corners and also sealed with wax.
The altar was then vested with the vesting cloths sprinkled with holy water. The antimension, holy Gospel Book, and hand cross then placed with each getting a sprinkling of holy water. After this the table of oblation– where the bread and wine are prepared for the Eucharist — was placed.
The church was then incensed and sprinkled with holy water in a procession of clergy. The western door and the southern and northern windows were then anointed with oil.
And so the church was sanctified.
The Holy Myrrh-Bearers for whom the church is named were the women who went to anoint the body of Jesus after his crucifixion and found the tomb empty, along with Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who prepared the Lord’s body for burial. The women who found the empty tomb are Mary the Mother of God, Mary Magdalene and Martha, who were the sisters of Lazarus; Mary, the mother of James and Joses; Mary, the wife of Cleopas; Joanna, the wife of Chuza; Salome, the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee; and Susanna.
The first Mass is 11 a.m., tomorrow, April 19.
Eastern Catholics are self-governing churches in full communion with the Pope. Roman Catholics can fully participate in Eastern Catholic services just as Eastern Catholics often attend Roman Catholic services. This of course means the mutual reception of the Holy Eucharist.
Holy Myrrh-Bearers is the site of the former Leiper Presbyterian Church which was founded in 1819 and closed in 2012. Presidents Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison and James Buchanan worshiped at Leiper Presbyterian at the invitation of Leiper family members.
Kudos to Bill Rhoads of Rhoads Plumbing and Heating of Springfield for directing things, and kudos to all the other contractors for the great job they did.