St. Irene Chrysovalantou Procession Graces Streets of Astoria

NEW YORK – The rain stayed away completely and the sun occasionally broke through on Sunday afternoon, July 27 to crown the last day of the annual festival of the Sacred Stavropegial and Patriarchal Orthodox Monastery of St. Irene, which culminated in a procession through the streets of Astoria.
The colorful cavalcade included clergy, adult Evzones and children in traditional Greek costumes. A car equipped with loudspeakers filled the Ditmars Boulevard district with the hymn of St. Irene.
The procession that followed the Divine Liturgy – Bishop Philotheos of Meloa presided – was led by the Abbot, V. Rev. Archimandrite Ierotheos Zacharis.
Young boys and girls bore lanterns while adults carried the icon of the beloved St. Irene who lived in the 9th century and is associated with many miracles. Evzones held the silver cask that contains the hand of the saint.
The monastery is under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and is one of the major Greek institutions in Astoria.
People were moved to tears when both the icon and the relics of St. Irene are passed over the hundreds who lined up in front of the Church in the hope of receiving blessings and healing.
Clergy and laity then re-entered the Church for the conclusion of the service.
Father Ierotheos greeted them with love and joy, saying that the day reminded him of the great pilgrimages of Greece. He praised the members of the community for lifting high the banner of Orthodoxy and Hellenism in America, and after praying for the blessings of peace and health for everyone, urged them to “Keep faith alive.”
In a touching moment, he said he feels the presence of St. Irene every day and assured the congregation that while “human beings can disappoint us, God and the saints and Saint Irene will not disappoint us.”
Apropos of Astoria, one of the most multi-cultural spots in New York, Ajit Dhamoon, born in Africa with Indian roots, cleared the way for the holy procession by directing traffic. He married a Greek woman – his baptismal name is Athanasios – and is proud to serve on the church council.
Gus Prentzas, who recently opened the new Fresk’o frozen yogurt parlor on 30th avenue, told TNH the procession is important for the community but added that the procession attracts people from far away because St. Irene has touched many lives throughout the world. “People come to honor and thank her,” for her miracles he said.
Markos Kaminis has also been coming for many years to pay tribute to “one of New York’s most treasured saints. This event is now very unique in America and it’s a spectacle worth seeing for all Orthodox Christians,” he said.
It was the first time for Lou Chugranes, who said it felt like being in Greece. “It is very special and the service was very moving.”

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