Thursday, November 18, 2010

3 days. 2 seminarians. 100 books. Gallons of honey.

I went on a book-selling junket last weekend to Mayfield, Pennsylvania. My senior colleague in the bookstore chose me to help him load the van and convince the residents of Northeastern Pennsylvania to unload their wallets. So, we drove three scenic hours south to Mayfield, where St. John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral was having their annual Christmas Bazaar.

The cathedral is one of the oldest Orthodox parishes in the United States, formed in 1878 by Carpatho-Rusyn immigrants. At first an Eastern Rite Catholic parish, the hostility of local Roman Catholics led to the church's acceptance into the Russian Orthodox Church in 1903. St. John's parishioners helped establish St. Tikhon's Monastery. Since the two monks that founded our monastery were from St. Tikhon's, one could say that St. John's is like Jordanville's spiritual grandfather!

After arriving at the church, we hauled in our goods (mainly books and honey) into the parish hall. Our booth was located right next to a kielbossa [sic] maker's. “Iskushenie [temptation],” I kept saying, as it was a Friday night. The sausage-maker was apparently an old friend of Metropolitan Herman of the OCA, and his business card bore the epithet “The Picasso of Kielbossa.” After the bazaar closed down, we were welcomed by the local parish priest and his son in the parish house, where we feasted on leftovers from that night's dinner and settled down for some R&R.

The next day moved on steadily. I got to sing that evening for Great Vespers in the church. The interior of the parish is quite striking, and reminiscent of 19th century Russian Church interiors. The high ceiling provides perfect acoustics for the choir, which sing very beautifully. After Vespers, I returned to our booth, which my colleague was manning for the both of us. Before we closed shop, we had several interesting theological conversations with a Maronite Catholic concerning the Immaculate Conception and a Pentecostal bathroom remodeling salesman. Apparently, Pentecostal services need to have three, not two or four (five is right out), messages in “tongues”, with interpreters. Glossolalic discussions finished, we returned to the house to rest. Or at least one of us did; my sensitivity to sounds caused me to stay up to early morning, to no little consternation.

On Sunday, we both went to Matins in the morning (what a concept!) and then Divine Liturgy, and sang both services. Although it was a short business day, the presence of parishioners and a sudden attack of gregariousness on our part led to decent sales. As we finally packed up, we were gifted with many, many, boxes of food from the kindly church ladies, who even gave us green beans because we were growing boys. Thus we left with the fleshpots of Mayfield.

Many thanks to all the wonderful people in Mayfield, especially Fr. John Sorochka and his family!

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