By MICHAEL ALEXANDER, Photographer | Published January 19, 2012
Bishop Nicholas Samra, the new Eparchial Bishop of the Greek Melkite Church in the United States, paid his first visit Jan. 6-9 to St. John Chrysostom Melkite Church, one of two Melkite parishes in Georgia and one of 43 in the country.
The installation of Bishop Samra, 67, a native of Patterson, N.J., took place Aug. 23, 2011, making him the first American-born eparchial bishop in the United States for the Greek Melkite Catholic Church.
On Jan. 8 Bishop Samra presided over the Divine Liturgy, which also included an outdoor opening procession to the church, the Great Blessing of Water for the community’s celebration of the Theophany, and the blessing of a reader and subdeacon.
The Theophany is celebrated on the same Sunday as the Epiphany in the Roman Catholic Church. The common theme is the revelation of the Son of God as a human being who inhabited the earth in the Person of Jesus Christ. While the Epiphany celebrates the physical revelation of the infant Jesus to the Gentiles in the visit of the Three Kings, the Theophany celebrates the mystical revelation of the Trinity to humankind, in the baptism of Christ in the River Jordan, one of the most important feasts on the Orthodox calendar. In his homily, Bishop Samra said the Theophany should be a day to recall that Christians are reborn in Christ. During the liturgy the blessing of reader and subdeacon was conferred upon parishioner Sami Butrus Jajeh, a husband and father of two children. Before the final blessing, the bishop anointed the church’s newest icons with the same holy oil that is used for baptisms. At the conclusion of the liturgy the congregation joined Bishop Samra and St. John Chrysostom pastor Father John Azar for a luncheon in the parish cultural center.