WASHINGTON, DC: December 20, 2008
Holy Days In the US Capital
December began on a sad note at St John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington, DC. On the night of December 4-5, 2008, news came from Moscow that His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II reposed in the Lord. Earlier this year, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus departed to the other world. These leaders of the two branches of the Russian Orthodox Church, who had expended such great efforts towards reconciliation of the sundered parts of our much-suffering Church, have now both left this world.
The first pannikhida here for the late Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church was held on the evening of December 5, drawing worshipers from various ecclesiastical jurisdictions, along with representatives of the Russian Embassy, headed by Ambassador Sergei Ivanovich Kisliak and his wife, Natalia Mikhailovna. The service, as well as an interview with Protopriest Victor Potapov, Rector of St John the Baptist Cathedral, were widely disseminated in the Russian media. Additional pannikhidas were served in the next few days in memory of His Holiness, and a documentary titled “I Saw No Other Path” was shown to the parishioners, which presented a more complete portrait of the late Patriarch and his labors.
Eternal memory to him!
On December 11, the Protectress of the Russian diaspora, the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God, arrived in Washington. This was the first visit to the area by the holy, miracle-working icon. Over the course of eight days, the people of God were able to pray before this great image, which was taken throughout the Washington and Baltimore area, visiting the sick and bringing joy and consolation to the suffering.
On December 14, after two Divine Liturgies in a cathedral filled beyond capacity, the new First Hierarch of the Orthodox Church in America, His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah, expressed the wish to venerate the Kursk Icon. At 4 pm, the Icon was brought to the OCA's St Nicholas Cathedral. Metropolitan Jonah, in minor vestments and accompanied by his clergymen, greeted the Icon at the car and led a Icon in a procession of the cross into the church, where he performed a moleben to the Mother of God.
In a heartfelt sermon, Metropolitan Jonah reminded the worshipers that the Kursk Icon healed a great holy man of the 19th century, St Seraphim of Sarov, and in the 20th century, "a great saint of the century, St John of Shanghai," reposed in its presence. His Beatitude characterized as providential that his visit to the US capital coincided with the visit of the Kursk-Root Icon. "I first saw the Kursk Icon several years ago, when it was brought to our monastic skete in California, where I was a young novice. Our chapel was in a small room of a residential building. When the icon was brought in, literally everything in the room was transformed by the presence of the Queen of Heaven. For the first time, I sensed a certain spiritual phenomenon and felt my unworthiness in the presence of this great holy icon. I understood that the Mother of God is not only a theological concept, but a spiritual reality. Every icon is a window into the Kingdom of Heavan, but only a few of them are given the grace of spiritual presence. May the Lord grant all of you to experience this presence."
Metropolitan Jonah became a bishop in November of this year. Before his consecration, he served as abbot of a small monastic community in California dedicated to St John of Shanghai and San Francisco. Addressing Fr Victor, who brought the Kursk Icon, His Beatitude said "Soon the day will come with the Orthodox Church in America will commemorate and venerate St John in the same way that the Russian Church Abroad does."
On December 18, Ambassador Kisliak and his wife visited St John's Cathedral, where a short moleben was performed before the Icon.
The Miracle-working Icon returned to New York on December 19, from where it will be taken to Montreal for the St Herman's Youth Conference.
Glory to God for all things!