Fire at Holy Cross Skete, West Virginia

In the early morning hours of 9 November, the hostel at Holy Cross Skete was damaged by fire. Besides pilgrims' rooms, there were four monastics cells in the building, a kitchen for prosphoras and the monastery library.

At 4 am, one of the building's residents, a monk, awoke from a strange dream. A person with a look of dissatisfaction was looking at him and shouting: "Get up, get up, you must get up and help Ignatius!" Ignatius was a guest who also lived in the hostel building. The monk arose, went to the library, saw Ignatius sleeping on the couch there, and returned to his cell. As soon as the monk lay down, he heard a loud crack from the fire. He then saw smoke coming from a crack in the wall and rushed to waken the monks and visitors--six people in all.

The fire, apparently, began in the fireplace. In all likelihood, a spark flew out and fell into a crack between the floorboards. The fire spread quickly, with a great deal of smoke, and the brethren could save neither the books nor the icons in the building. They tried to douse the flames at the entrance with water. Soon, the head of the skete, Hieromonk Seraphim, arrived at the scene. He had with him the icon of the Mother of God, one much revered by the brethren, and circled the burning building with the icon, sprinkling the house with holy water. Everyone sang the troparions to the Cross, the Mother of God and Great Martyr Panteleimon. After the building was circled, the flames noticeably subsided. Thereupon, Fr. Seraphim served a moleben [service of supplication] and the fire subsided even more, allowing some monks to enter the house with fire extinguishers and buckets of water. Everyone was stunned that the fire ended so quickly.

The brethren, thanking God, returned home. At the usual time, at 8 am, divine liturgy and a moleben to the Mother of God was served. After breakfast, Fr. Seraphim suggested that the brethren receive this suffering as a call by Christ the Savior and His Mother to spiritual vigilance. There are human reasons why the fire began, but only one reason why the Lord allowed the fire to occur: for our sins, and to remind us monastics of why we came to the monastery. The Lord wakens us from slumber, calls us to repentance. He also shows us how quickly He, by the prayers of His Mother and His saints, comes to our aid.

Lord, glory to Thee!

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