BY SHERI TRUSTY
For 125 years, Holy Assumption Orthodox Church in Marblehead has held ties to the village’s Carpatho-Russian immigrants, to the religious and political history of Russia, and to the hearts of generations of worshipers who have entered its doors to find God.
On Saturday, Sept. 23, Holy Assumption will celebrate the 125th anniversary of the church’s congregation, which was formed in 1898 by faithful immigrants with the help of Russia’s last tzar.
The anniversary celebration will be hosted by Holy Assumption’s new priest, Rev. Fr. Peter Tomas. Archbishop Daniel of the Diocese of Chicago and the Midwest. Orthodox Church in America, will preside over the service, which will include a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at Holy Assumption at 110 E. Main St. in Marblehead at 10 a.m. A banquet at St. Mary Byzantine Catholic Church at 506 E. Main St. will follow at 1 p.m.
“It is very, very special that the archbishop is coming from Chicago,” said Peter’s wife, Michelle Tomas. “It is his first visit to Marblehead. It will be a beautiful event.”
The day before, on Friday, Sept. 22, Vespers will be held at 6 p.m. at Holy Assumption, followed by a social time and refreshments in the church hall.
The history of Holy Assumption is uniquely significant to the area because of its ties to Tsar Nicholas II and Archbishop Tikhon of the Russian Orthodox Church in America. Both have been glorified as saints in the Orthodox Church.
The congregation began when local resident John Onyock wrote Nicholas, requesting assistance in starting a church. To the congregation’s shock, Nicholas personally responded to the letter and sent Tikhon to Marblehead with gifts and financial aid.
The current Holy Assumption church building is the third building that housed the original congregation. It was constructed by the immigrants, many of whom were quarry workers, using local stone.
“They were hardworking people who had their hearts set on starting a church,” Michelle said.
Tikhon visited Marblehead to consecrate the church in 1906. He presented the church with an icon from his personal collection and gifts from Nicholas that included four large icons, a liturgical set and a chalice that is still used today by Peter, who was overwhelmed by the privilege of first holding the sacred chalice in his hands.
The icons still grace the sanctuary walls inside the church and are a significant element of worship. Peter said the icons represent Christ’s invitation to come to God.
“The icons are like windows to Heaven. You can see Christ,” Michelle said. “The sanctuary is like the Holy of Holies, and when the doors are open, it is like Heaven is open to us.”