at the Hermitage of the Holy Cross
Each year since
1999, pilgrims have come to the Hermitage of the Holy Cross on the
weekend immediately following the feast of the Exaltation of the
Holy Cross. This year was no exception, as over one-hundred pious
Orthodox Christians journeyed to Wayne, West Virginia to join in
prayer with the monks of the Hermitage. The Brotherhood was blessed
to have His Grace Bishop Gabriel of Manhattan as their guest of
services began on Saturday afternoon with a moleben to St. Panteleimon,
the heavenly patron of the Brotherhood. Pilgrims submitted lists
of the names of their ailing loved ones to be commemorated at the
moleben, which was sung in the open air in the courtyard of the
Monastery’s outdoor chapel. Fr. Onouphry Keith of St. Nicholas ROC
in Ashville, NC, served the moleben together with Hieromonk Alexander
and Hierodeacon Andrew of the Hermitage of the Holy Cross.
After the moleben,
a meal was served for the pilgrims. Then, following a short break,
the Saturday night vigil, served by His Grace Bishop Gabriel, began
in the Monastery’s outdoor chapel. There were a few moments of rain
during the Vigil, but a large tent kept the worshipers, candles,
and holy icons dry. By the end of vigil, the weather had cleared
up. Vladyka Gabriel, the monks, and the pilgrims solemnly venerated
the Precious Cross in the cool night air.
The next morning,
all assembled for the hierarchal divine liturgy. This was the first
time that a bishop had served divine liturgy at Holy Cross Monastery
since the Brotherhood’s move to West Virginia in 2000. The occasion
could not have been more beautiful. The previous evening’s rain
had completely disappeared, and all proceeded smoothly and gracefully.
Six priests and three deacons concelebrated with Bishop Gabriel.
Students of Holy Trinity Seminary served as subdeacons and altar
servers. Hegumen George of Holy Trinity Monastery (the Brotherhood’s
spiritual father) served as first priest.
hierarchal liturgy proceed so beautifully, one could not help but
marvel at how the Orthodox Faith in all its beauty has truly, in
our days, been spread to the furthest corners of the earth. Who
could have thought that the same God-inspired service of prayer
that was offered in Byzantium and Holy Russia would have found its
way into this remote hollow in the West Virginia hills? Who would
have thought that, in such a place, an Orthodox monastery would
be established, or that right-believing pilgrims would come to such
a place to pray?
After the service,
the worshipers drove to a nearby state park for a banquet prepared
by the family of Hieromonk Seraphim, the Brotherhood’s superior.
After the meal, Vladyka Gabriel spoke of the important role that
monasteries play in the life of the Church. He recalled how in Old
Russia, the pious faithful visited monasteries in order to rest,
pray, and be spiritually revived before returning to their struggles
in the world. Vladyka invited the pilgrims to continue this tradition
by visiting the Hermitage of the Holy Cross, where American converts
to Holy Orthodoxy can hear the divine services offered in their
own native tongue. He asked that those present tell their friends
and loved ones about the monastery so that they too might visit
and pray. Lastly, he spoke of the need for the laity to support
the Hermitage financially, as also by encouragement and prayers.