(Photo: Screengrab/The Buffalo News/Derek Gee)
The Rev. Rastko Trbuhovich, the parish priest at St. Stephen Serbian Orthodox Church in Lackawanna, N.Y., said he's proud to welcome the visitors who are flocking to his church to view the completed work of Father Theodore Jurewicz, an American painter and iconographer who last month completed a six-year project of painting sacred Christian images inside the church.
Located just south of the city of Buffalo, the Serbian Orthodox church is smaller than the city's renowned Lady of Victory Basilica, but it displays a sacred tradition of iconography, which reveals major events in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
Trbuhovich, who has been the parish priest at St. Stephen's for 28 years, told The Christian Post on Thursday that members of the Lackawanna congregation, who paid $160,000 for the project, are "delighted," and "very, very happy," to see the completed images, and in time for their May 5 Easter celebration. In his words, the iconography is "spectacularly beautiful."
"We're happy lots of visitors are coming in," he said. "We're opening the church and are welcoming our neighbors and people from the area who want to drop in and see the iconography."
Trbuhovich was also proud to note that the church's iconography was featured on the front page of The Buffalo News newspaper, and joked that it must have been a slow news day in the city.
Jurewicz, a 63-year-old Serbian Orthodox priest who hails from Erie, Pa., has been painting iconography for almost 40 years, and worked on the iconography at St. Stephen's for two to three weeks at a time, four times a year, over a period of six years, to complete the project while he also worked on Christian iconography inside other churches in the U.S.
Although there are slight variations among the styles of iconographic art among the Serbian, Russian, Greek and Coptic churches, Trbuhovich emphasized that iconographic traditions among the institutions is the same.
"There's a set pattern that's used in the Orthodox church that goes back to the end of the first millennium," Trbuhovich said, as he described the liturgical themes of Heaven and Christian narratives in iconography. "We have to set a pattern that's followed everywhere. All of the feasts and the events in the life of Jesus Christ are painted on the ceiling, and saints fit along the walls."
According to Trbuhovich, the significance of the icons is to show that worship is not exclusive.
"The church is built for liturgy. Having icons around us on the walls is a reminder that we are not separate, as Paul said, we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. … Iconography is a statement of our faith."