Last weekend, a miraculous icon of the Mother of God visited our monastery. This icon, which came from such an unlikely place as Hawaii, began streaming myrrh three years ago. With an ecclesiastical blessing, the icon has been traveling, with its guardian, Reader Nectarios Yangson, to many parishes in North America.
The timing was quite auspicious: yesterday was the feast of St. Luke the Evangelist, as well as the namesday of our abbot, Archimandrite Luke. Also, it was the anniversary of the death of Jose Muñoz-Cortes, who was the guardian of the Montreal Icon of the Mother of God. This icon, of which the Hawaiian icon is a copy, also streamed myrrh and visited parishes. Thus, the stage was set for a very busy and intense weekend.
The weekend began with a panikhida (memorial service) for Br. Jose, served by Metropolitan Hilarion, our church's chief prelate. A whole busload of pilgrims from Washington DC surrounded the grave, and sang the refrains in the panikhida: Grant rest, O Lord, to the soul of Thy servant who has fallen asleep! Many of these pilgrims venerate Br. Jose as a martyr, on account of his violent murder in Athens.
Several hours later, the icon came to the church for the Vigil. It was met outside by the priests and acolytes, and was escorted inside to the singing of hymns. A moleben was sung, and then Vigil started. I was in the kliros* with the rest of the choir, so my view of the congregation behind me was obscured. However, I could see that the church was quite packed.
Since both the Icon and our First Hierarch were present for this Vigil, it was destined to be a very long and elaborate service. Fr. Roman, our choirmaster, chose the most beautiful pieces befitting the Mother of God, including a Bogoroditse Dyevo (O Mother of God and Virgin…) arranged by Archimandrite Matfei, and a Great Doxology harmonized from the znamenny chant by Chesnokov. The beauty of the service kept us energized until the end of the Vigil, around 11 pm.
The next day, I was assigned to help prepare food in the kitchen. Since there were about 200 people to be served, it was a very physically demanding task. I worked from about 6:30am to nearly 3pm, with some pausing for breakfast and lunch. Among the things I did were: setting tables, cutting fish, and washing extremely large pots and pans. The sinks that we use for washing big pots got clogged-up at one point, and attempts to unplug one sink would just push the excess water into the other. So, with the help of my friend and co-worker, we used two plungers for both sinks, unplugging the drains. I looked outside. It was snowing!
Lunch was successfully served on time. Afterwards, Fr. Luke had a short reception in his office for his namesday; the Icon was also brought there. Because of the long day, I had to take some rest, but I got up in time to go to the upper cemetery for another service in front of the icon.
The next day, the icon was present for liturgy, but then it had to go to Utica for their parish feast. I said goodbye to Reader Nectarios, who had given me some icons for distribution.
This weekend was very long and tiring, but ultimately very grace-filled. The Hawaiian myrrhstreaming icon was a very important factor in my conversion to Orthodoxy, and I am very happy to see it again. Please remember in your prayers our little parish in Honolulu, and especially Reader Nectarios.
*A partitioned section outside the sanctuary where the choir sings.