A rite of sacred ‘cheirotonia’

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Epiphany of Our Lord Byzantine Church in Annandale welcomed Bishop Kurt R. Burnette from the Eparchy (Diocese) of Passaic, N.J., Jan. 30 as he ordained a local man to the priesthood.

Deacon Lewis Michael Rabayda was born in Summit Hill, Pa., in 1983. After graduating from the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, he came to Fairfax for a job and began attending Epiphany of Our Lord Church.

While working in Fairfax, he was accepted as a seminarian for the Eparchy (Diocese) of Passaic, N.J., and enrolled in Sts. Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Catholic Seminary in Pittsburgh, where he graduated in 2014 with a master's in divinity.

He chose to come back to Epiphany for his ordination.

At 10 a.m., the bells of the church rang, and Bishop Burnette with Father John Basarab, pastor, processed to the altar with deacons and servers, where he sat on an ornate chair and vested for the Divine Liturgy (Mass).

Unlike the Latin rite, the celebrant faces the east with his back to the congregation. Most of the Divine Liturgy and the ordination take place behind the Holy Doors of the sanctuary, just prior to the anaphora, or consecration.

Bishop Burnette was seated on a chair behind the Holy Doors. Deacon Rabayda processed from the back of the church to the altar and prostrated three times before reaching the bishop.

The deacon knelt at the right corner of the altar and placed his forehead in the crossed palms of his hands positioned on the altar. Bishop Burnette put the end of his stole on the head of Deacon Rabayda and blessed him three times.

"Divine grace, which always heals what is infirm and supplies what is lacking, ordains the pious Deacon Lewis Michael to be a presbyter," said the bishop. "Therefore, let us pray for him that the grace of the all-Holy Spirit may come upon him, and let us all say, Lord have mercy."

The priests and people responded three times to the bishop, saying, "Lord have mercy."

After being ordained, Father Rabayda was vested and participated in the consecration and the distribution of holy Communion.

After the Divine Liturgy, Father Rabayda stayed at the altar to bless his parents, Daniel and Patricia, and to speak to, and bless individually, members of the congregation.

Father Rabayda said that finally being ordained after years of discernment is "surreal."

"It's a great blessing from God," he said.

Family members from Pennsylvania traveled to Annandale for the ceremony. Ginny Powell, a cousin of Father Rabayda, said that while the ceremony is different from that of the Roman rite it is beautiful.

Another cousin, Patricia Cox, also a Roman Catholic, said the ceremony was "ornate and different."

Bishop Burnette said that his eparchy has more than 85 parishes that stretch from Florida to Massachusetts. Because his eparchy has a small Catholic population - about 18,000 - he said a priestly ordination is a blessing.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016