Life at St John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington

September proved an extremely busy, religious event-filled time for our community.

On September 10, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, consecrated our new cemetery chapel, dedicated to the Montreal Iveron Icon of the Mother of God. Adding to the joy of that occasion was the fact that the First Hierarch brought with him the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God, the Indicator of the Path [Hodigitria] for the Russian Diaspora.

That same evening, Vladyka Metropolitan was principal celebrant at the all-night vigil for our Parish feast. Concelebrating were His Grace Bishop Gabriel and clergy both from the nation’s capital and from other cities. At Divine Liturgy on the day of the Parish feast, Vladyka Metropolitan ordained our faithful and dedicated parishioner Subdeacon John Johnson to the deaconate. On the same day, one of the priests who had come for the celebration gave our parish a relic of Holy Righteous St. Alexis (Mechev) of Moscow.

One week after our Parish celebration, the Myrrh-streaming Icon of Holy Righteous St. Anna, mother of the Most-holy Theotokos, came to us from Philadelphia. Hundreds of people raised up fervent prayers before this Holy Icon, recently revealed in the Church Abroad. The Miraculous Icon arrived in the capital of the United States of America literally hours before Hurricane Rita struck the coast of America’s southern states. Accordingly, the assembled faithful offered special petitions that the Lord might spare the residents of that region. After a moleben and akathist to the Righteous SS Joachim and Anna, served in Church Slavonic and English, the many faithful venerated the Holy Icon and were anointed with its Holy Myrrh. Each person received a piece of cotton steeped in the holy liquid, and a paper reproduction of the Icon of St. Anna. Afterwards, as people were sharing light refreshments in the Parish Hall, Abbot Athanasy, curator of the Icon, gave a talk about the appearance of the Icon; he described a number of miracles related to the Holy Icon, and answered a multitude of questions posed to him.

Another spiritual joy awaited us on the next day. Schema-Abbot Ilie, a resident of the Optina Hermitage, who is widely known throughout Russia, paid us a visit. Before coming to Washington, Fr Ilie had spent some time at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, where he had become acquainted with the holy things found in our diaspora’s lavra, and where he had the opportunity to have an extended meeting with Vladyka Metropolitan Laurus. Learning that batiushka was planning to come to Washington, Russian Orthodox people flocked from everywhere to our church; they yearned to hear his words of instruction, and to touch a living part of Holy Russia.

In welcoming Fr Ilie, Fr Victor noted that today, in connection with the developing dialog between the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate, one sometimes hears many convoluted protestations with respect to questions of the canonical, political, historical, and administrative character of the talks’ process. Unfortunately, we rarely consider the purely spiritual consequences of the hoped-for unity. Fr Victor stated that Fr Ilie’s visit to the capital of the United States of America gives us the opportunity to reflect upon the religious/prayer life of the Russian Church, and upon those concrete spiritual fruits we “in the diaspora” may become worthy to receive as the result of a God-pleasing liturgical union.

On September 24, Fr Ilie was in our church throughout the entire all-night vigil; he gave spiritual instruction, blessings and comfort to those who came to him. The same scene was repeated the next day. Fr Ilie personally handed out to each of our parishioners a little icon from Optina. In the Parish Hall, filled to overflowing, Fr Ilie gave a talk after the lunch following the Divine Liturgy. He answered a multitude of questions about religious life in contemporary Russia. Protodeacon Leonid provided simultaneous interpretation into English. Following the elder’s talk, his cell-attendant Hierodeacon Raphael brought tears to the eyes of the faithful with his singing of verses he had composed.

Thus, with Schema-Abbot Ilie’s visit, a memorable September 2005 came to a close. On October 1, a two-week parish pilgrimage begins to holy places in Moscow and its environs, and to Kaluga, including Optina. Quite possibly, our 30 pilgrims, together with Fr Victor, our rector, will once again encounter Fr Ilie, a new friend of our parish.

Glory to God for all things!