Retreat and Conference of the Eastern Part
of the Canadian Diocese Held in Montreal
For the second year in a row, the Great Lenten Pastoral Retreat
and Conference of the Eastern part of the Canadian Diocese was held
at its cathedral city of Montreal. The Parish of the Cathedral of
St Nicholas is renowned throughout Canada for its Russian open-heartedness
and hospitality. Despite the great difficulties endured by the parish
recently in connection with the continuing reconstruction of their
cathedral after the fire of 1998, a great deal of effort is always
employed in ensuring that these fraternal meetings are held in an
atmosphere of love and joy for all involved.
The Pastoral Retreat was coincided with a conference, a session
of the Diocesan Council and of the Brotherhood of St Job of Pochaev.
For this reason, not only parish rectors and clergymen of Eastern
Canada gathered in St Nicholas Cathedral on the morning of March
24, 2005, but also members of the Diocesan Council and of the Brotherhood
of St Job of Pochaev.
After a moleben performed before an icon of St Nicholas, the Pastoral
Retreat opened with a greeting by His Grace Bishop Gabriel of Manhattan,
Administrator of the Eastern Canadian Diocese. Vladyka Gabriel relayed
to those present the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus,
First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
This year, His Eminence could not attend the Retreat in Canada,
which he had very much hoped to do, because his schedule was especially
full this year; also, His Eminence had recently visited Montreal
on the feast day of St Nicholas last December, when His Eminence
participated in the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Cathedral.
In his address, His Grace Bishop Gabriel noted that it is specifically
the acts of making confession and partaking of the Eucharist, and
the unified performance of Great Lenten services that represent
the most important aspect of such meetings. "Returning to our
parishes, we must again and again remind our flock that the days
of Great Lent are given to us as a time of special vigilance over
our spiritual lives, a time of cleansing, of repentant prayer, drawing
us closer to understanding the will of God." If we remember
that the days of strict lent of the Holy Forty Days and Passion
Week (excluding Sundays and holidays, when lent is partially abated),
form virtually one tenth of the year, one can say that Great Lent
is a spiritual tithe that we pay to our Lord God, a notion we even
find in the Old Testament.
The parish rectors, clergymen, and members of the Diocesan Council
participated in an open discussion of the general improvement in
church and parish life in the Eastern part of the Diocese, which
followed a period of troubles. Vladyka Gabriel, who had arrived
from Ottawa late the night before, told those present of the recent
events in Protection Memorial Church in that city in connection
with the five-year legal battle.
After lunch, a meeting of the Diocesan Council was held, attended
by all. Following this was a meeting of the Board of Directors and
members of the Brotherhood of St Job of Pochaev. Board Member and
Treasurer of the Brotherhood Priest Michael Metni reported on the
continuing efforts of a group of individuals known as the "church
in exile" and the "church of St Seraphim of Sarov"
to seize the Brotherhood's property, illicitly claiming themselves
to be the "real directors of the Brotherhood." The Diocesan
Administration and Brotherhood must constantly counteract these
But, as was already stated, the situation in the Eastern Canadian
Diocese, and first and foremost in Montreal, where the division
of 2001 was most acutely felt, had changed completely. Prayer and
brotherly love reign in the Cathedral of St Nicholas, where the
number of parishioners is growing from service to service. The main
task of the parishioners is to quickly complete the reconstruction
in the lower portion of the church building, which houses the parish
hall, school and kitchen.
The Great Lenten matins began at 5:30 pm and ended after 9 o'clock.
A combined men's choir sang under the direction of Reader George
A. Skok from Toronto. A particular characteristic of this service,
which is in itself especially inspirational and filled with humble
and pacifying sorrow, was that fact that acting as readers and chanters
were the priests attending the Retreat. All the worshipers, including
the writer, witnessed what wonderful and prayerful readers the Rector
of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Toronto, Protopriest Vladimir Malchenko
and the native of St Petersburg, Priest Vyacheslav Davydenko of
St Xenia Church in Kanata, who read the Six Psalms, are. In the
words of Leo Tolstoy, they performed their kliros duties with that
typical Russian spiritual humility and meekness which subliminally
affects the Russian Orthodox heart.
The Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts began at 8:30 am on Friday,
March 25. His Grace Bishop Gabriel led the service along with the
clergymen of the Eastern Canadian Diocese and Deacon Vasily Milonov
and Deacon Alexander Morin.
At the end of service, at 1 pm, all were invited for a trapeza prepared
by the tireless Sisterhood of St Nicholas Cathedral. This particular
Sisterhood is renowned for its chefs, but this time they even outdid
themselves: veritable masterpieces of Orthodox Lenten cooking were
offered at this Retreat. As was to be expected, this brought everyone
particular joy, and the Sisters were doubly thanked. During the
repast and before his departure, Vladyka Gabriel and the participants
of the Retreat had a long conversation, at which His Grace answered
questions on daily pastoral work.
A participant of the Retreat