Thursday, October 20, 2011

Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night Vigil!

October has been quite a busy month for me. It seems that almost every weekend there’s been something going on. That plus studies plus work (plus, let’s admit it, sheer laziness) equals not much time to write posts. This business unfortunately creates a backlog of potential posts, making it difficult to choose one. If I followed chronological convention I would simply begin with writing about the big fat Russian Orthodox convert wedding I went to in the beginning of the month. But since thankfully I can write about whatever I want, let’s start with something more recent: our trip to Synod and back.


The view from the roof.

Synod, or rather the Synodal Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign, is the literal HQ of the Russian Church Abroad. A very pious and equally rich Russian bought a Park Avenue mansion for the ROCOR Synod of Bishops. Its main hall and dining room were transformed into a cathedral nave and a chapel respectively.

Four of us seminarians were invited as guest participants at a youth symposium conducted by the Synodal Youth Department. Fr. Cyprian, the Dean of Students (and my Greek teacher), was slated to talk to the youth on missionary work. When we arrived at Synod, we were ushered to our quarters, which turned out to be the conference room. Four cots were laid out for us:


Despite the Spartan appearance, the beds were comfy, and a nice lady with a love for Apple products fed us very well.

The next day, we got up early to help Fr. Cyprian serve liturgy in the lower chapel. It also happened to be his namesday (Hieromartyr Cyprian). I struggled through the liturgy with my co-sufferers and at the very end mangled the polychronia, promoting Vladyka Ieronim to the metropolitanate.


Moleben before the relics of St. Innocent of Moscow, enlightener of Alaska.

The symposium itself was great and I liked Fr. Cyprian’s talk. I liked just as well the chance to meet new people and eat barbecued meat, not necessarily in that order. We also discussed future activities for the Synodal Youth Department, including pilgrimages to various places such as Jordanville. I bit my tongue; I didn’t want to appear too self-interested.

The services were interesting. Vigil at Synod was short and sweet. After a long day of conferencing, I welcomed the respite. However, Synod is perhaps one of the few places where the liturgies are longer than the vigils, because nearly every Sunday liturgy is hierarchical. On Sunday morning, I stood in awe seeing an army of altar servers come out with Bishop Jerome. The Sunday choir was also pretty impressive and sang lots of difficult pieces.

After liturgy and lunch, we bid farewell to our hosts, and left laden with leftover chicken and other food for the road. But instead of a straight shot to Jordanville, we went to Holy Protection Convent in Pennsylvania. Holy Protection (Agia Skepi) is a beautiful Greek Orthodox convent founded by Elder Ephraim. The nuns unsurprisingly knew Fr. Cyprian well. We took a detour to the convent in order to stock up on supplies for the Autumn Pastoral Conference. The abbess, Gerondissa Olympiada, came out to greet us in the bookstore. We received her blessing and she gave us some refreshments. While ministering to us, the phone rang. She ran to answer it.

“That’s a Greek abbess,” Papa-Kyprianos proudly said.

We had called ahead to order spanakopita, baklava, and other dishes. The nuns brought out box after box of food for us to stuff in the back of the van:


Supplies!

They also packed for us, without our knowledge, some cheese-filled pita for us to have on the road. This time I actually had the presence of mind to take a picture of my food before completely devouring it:


We got to attend Vigil and Compline (with the Akathist to the Mother of God) at the convent. The soft sound of Byzantine hymns chanted by the nuns served as a nice close for the day.

Our last stop was at St. Nektarios Monastery in Roscoe, New York. There, a visiting priest had a large relic of the True Cross, which we venerated and were blessed with.

It was quite an amazing weekend. I’m very thankful to the kind people at Synod, Holy Protection, and St. Nektarios for welcoming us as pilgrims. I hope to visit again soon!

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