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
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
Glory to God for all things!