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St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church of McKeesport and Duquesne----> Click here
by Milana K. Bizic
It was a most holy and blessed day from the beginning. Prayers were said by faithful parishioners, friends, relatives and Kumovi of the St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church in McKeesport, PA long before they had reached the church. They were praying for the young American Serb, Chris Rocknage and his beloved "Djakonica" Andreja, as Chris would be ordained into the Holy Diaconate by the Grace of God, through the Laying-on-of Hands, by his Grace, Rt. Rev. Dr. Bishop Mitrophan.
There was no "grousing" when visitors found the parking lot full, or no parking along snow-covered hills around and behind the church. No, only the joy of a joyous occasion awaiting inside the sanctuary filled the hearts of those who trekked in the snow to find the inner peace, wonder and majesty, the mystery and empowerment that awaited within.
"AXIOS!"! (WORTHY!) "AXIOS!", "AXIOS!"
Fr. Deacon Christopher Rocknage was born in Steubenville, Ohio on April 26th, 1980; as a young boy of 5, he moved with his parents and sister Mileva to St. Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary in the Fall of 1985 so his Dad could enroll in Seminary.
Three years later, he was able to serve at his Dad's Ordination to the Holy Priesthood in Steubenville, Ohio on April 17th, 1988.
Fr. Stevo Rocknage recalls that from his earliest experiences, son Christopher loved to serve and sing in the Holy Altar with him, whether it was Vespers, or Matins, or special services, one would always find Christopher serving as his Dad's 'right hand'!
After completing high school (where he graduated third in his class), Christopher attended Duquesne University, where he was a member of the renowned Tamburitzans. (Kudos also, to younger brother Dushan Rocknage, for being part of this elite group currently!) Christopher graduated with a BS in Psychology.
After working several years for the Marriott Hotel in Pittsburgh, Christopher received a blessing from our Bishop MITROPHAN to attend St. Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary, where he graduated in 2007 with a Masters of Divinity.
By God's Grace, he moved to California, fell in love with the beautiful Andreja Balach, daughter of the Very Rev. Ilija and Carol Balach, and happily was married on June 13th, 2009 in the beautiful St. Stephen's Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Alhambra, California. Since that time, Chris has served St. Stephen's as the Church Secretary and Choir Director.
With his entrance into the ranks of the Clergy, Fr. Deacon Christopher awaits his 'call' to take on the mantle of 'priest' in our Holy Orthodox Faith, hoping to return to the Eastern Diocese by early summer." "AXIOS!" "WORTHY" Fr. Deacon Christopher Rocknage "Ziveli, i na Mnogaja Ljeta!"
KEEPING IT IN THE WHOLE HOLY Family!
Deacon Christopher's father-in-law is another well-known priest, Prota Ilija Balach, currently serving at the St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Church in Issaquah, Washington where he has been since 2002. He also serves as Dean of the Butte Deanery of the Western Diocese of our Church.
An architect by trade, Proto Ilija and his dear wife, Protonica Carol, have two children, Andreja and Ilija Jr.. (And there's no denying those two siblings are related! It's amazing how those genes show up!) Protonica Carol works at the University of Washington, and son Ilija is at the Boeing Corporation. Great academic genes all around! And so willing to obey the Will of the Lord!
The people in attendance felt the warmth and love generated on this very special occasion throughout the service. One can only imagine the fire then felt by the two father-priests witnessing this great day!
TO ALL in the Rocknage and Balach families!
Thank you to dear V.Rev. Fr. Stevo Rocknage for preparing a small pamphlet explaining the whole ordination to us. Several times during the service, Fr. Rocknage was overcome with tears in his eyes for witnessing the joy of this wonderful day! It was an emotional day for all of us!
HOPE. That's what Fr. Serge Veselinovich called it from Galveston, Texas. "It's the greatest gift you could have given me today, learning of this ordination. It's HOPE for our Future, the future of the Serbian Orthodox Church!"
From the origin of the Church, at the Feast of the Pentecost in 33 AD, when the Hoy Apostles of our Lord received the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in the form of tongues of fire, the Mystery of Hold Orders has continued through the practice of the laying-on of hands of the Diocesan Bishop (also a Disciple of Christ) to our present day, upon those candidates found worthy to answer the call of the Lord.
St. Sava's Serbian Orthodox Church of McKeesport and Duquesne was deeply humbled and moved with profound joy to experience this continued perpetuation of our Faith with the celebration of the Ordination of one of their own 'sons', CHRISTOPHER STEPHEN ROCKNAGE, to the rank of Deacon.
II. Ordination to the Rank of Sub-Deacon nothing ordinary!
After the Bishop had been fully vested, Christopher was brought to him; and after making three prostration in front of the Bishop, Chris bowed his head as the Bishop said prayers over him. Then the Bishop washed his hands, and the new Sub-Deacon gave him the water and the towel. Christopher then went to stand in front of the icon of Jesus Christ.
III. Ordination to the Rank of Deacon
After the Consecration of the Holy Gifts, and just before the Lord's Prayer, Christopher was brought by the attendants to the middle of the CHurch, where he made three prostrations facing the Holy Altar, the last one in front of the Royal Doors, facing the Bishop.
Christopher was then led around the Holy Altar 3x with the Clergy and the Choir alternately singing, "O Holy Martyrs...."; "Glory to Thee O Chirst God", the second time, and "Rejoice, O Isaiah..." the third time.
When completed, Christopher knelt in front of the Holy Altar, with the Bishop standing over him and the Bishop Mitrophan said: "The Grace Divine, which always heals that which is infirm, and completes that which is found lacking, elevates, through the laying-on of hands, Christopher, the most devout sub-Deacon, to be a Deacon; wherefore, Let us pray for him, that the grace of the all-holy Spirit may come upon him."
The Clergy, along with the Choir chanted, "Lord have mercy (3x) very softly and slowly, as the Bishop continued to pray over the candidate.
When the prayers were finished, the Bishop stood Christopher up, and taking the Orarion, placed it on his left shoulder and then said in a loud voice, "AXIOS"!' (Worthy!) The Clergy said and chanted, "AXIOS!" Then all the people and the choir said and chanted, "AXIOS!"
Then the Bishop gave the new Deacon his cuffs, saying "AXIOS!" The Clergy said and chanted "AXIOS!"; and all the people and choir said and chanted, "AXIOS!"
Finally, the Sacramental Fan (Shield) was given to the new Deacon by Bishop Mitrophan, saying "AXIOS", with the CLergy, Choir and the people responded as before with "AXIOS!"
Newly ordained Deacon Christopher was then led to the Holy Altar where he stood fanning the Holy Gifts, in preparation of receiving the Holy Eucharist.
And it was at this point, where visible tears of joy as both a parent and parish priest overwhelmed Proto Stevan Rocknage, who reached for a box of Kleenex several times before kissing his son, and welcoming him into the ranks of Servers of Christ.
All of us felt so lucky to have witnessed this event!
The Family Celebration just begins!
St. Sava's Serbian Orthodox Church of McKeesport and Duquesne (the oldest Serbian Orthodox Church in Eastern America) was the scene of one of the most ancient of rites as Bishop Mitrofan invoked the Power of the Holy Spirit upon Christopher Rocknage during the Holy Divine Liturgy on February 14, 2010.
His Grace Dr. Bishop Mitrophan gave a sermon about Christopher's choice to become a deacon in this world full of evil distractions, and the pride his parents and parish must feel because of Chris' willingness to make many sacrifices that he will certainly be called to do while serving God. Being a "PK," Chris and his beautiful architect Djakonica Andreja (also a PK-Priest's kid), have some idea.
Fr. Deacon Christopher prostrates himself before the icon of the Mother of God.
His Grace Bishop Mitrophan is invoking the Holy Spirit to send down his blessings on Deacon Christopher.
Fr. Rocknage receives Holy Communion from Bishop Mitrophan, followed by his son, Deacon Christopher.
Click all of the above and below images on the lower right-hand corner to enlarge photos.
Very attentive altar boys helped serve their church on a very important occasion!
Young boy lights a candle in St. Sava's McKeesport/Duq. Church. Note large painting on far right hand side of St. Sava with his Serbian children.
Read more about the famous St. Sava icons by Aleksander Dzigurski here:
Fr. Stevo Rocknage greets long-time friend and Deacon Christopher's Kum, Dr. Rick Zivic from Cleveland.
Protonica Joanne Rocknage with dear, long-time friend of the family, the retired priest, V. Rev Joseph Servo of Canton, Ohio, who grew up in the St. Nicholas Church of Monroeville, PA.
The Medich family was happy to be there! Jonathan, Nick, Dr. Dave, Victoria & Annie. Mom Dr. Gretchen was sorry she missed it, but she was attending a medical Conference in California and was in a plane coming home when this photo was taken.
Serving this Holy Day in the Altar of St. Sava McKeesport were:
His Grace, Dr. Bishop Mitrophan;
V. Rev. Fr. Stevo Rocknage, Chris's father
V. Rev. Ilija Balach, Chris' father-in-law
V. Rev. Joseph Servo, long-time family friend
Deacon Dragoslav Kosic, Deacon to the Bishop
Deacon Nathan Preston, friend of Chris' from St. Vladimir's
Deacon Christopher Rocknage
Subdeacon Michael Galloway, cousin to Deacon Chris
Reader Joe Lia, faithful friend
St. Sava Altar Boys
Click bottom right hand corner to enlarge all photos. An historic Day!
In Service to Christ and the Orthodox Faith from a very Young Age.