DIOCESE OF EASTERN AMERICA AND NEW YORK: March 13, 2009
Metropolitan Hilarion Visits a Greek Convent
On March 11, 2009, the Wednesday of the second week of Great Lent, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion and the Miracle-working Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God visited the Greek Convent of the Greek Archdiocese in a small country village bearing the lyrical name of While Haven, PA. The monastery is situated on 740 acres on a mountainside along Route 80.
The icon’s arrival was greeted by Priest Mark, the convent’s nuns and pilgrims. A procession of the cross under the peal of bells and the singing of Greek prayers brought the icon from the monastery gates to the church, where it was placed on an analogion in the middle of the nave, after which Pre-Sanctified Liturgy commenced. The service was delayed to begin at 3:00 pm to coincide with the arrival of the icon, and to accommodate those who wished to attend; indeed, the church was filled with worshipers. It is noteworthy that no one had announced that the icon would come, and yet no fewer than 93 persons communed of the Holy Gifts, including 15 of the nuns, and some 200 persons venerated the icon at the end of Liturgy. Such a large number of faithful coming to church on a weekday in America shows how important the Hodigitria [Protectress] of the Russian Diaspora is, not only for Russians themselves but for all Orthodox Christians.
After Liturgy, the sisters offered lunch to His Eminence and the other clergymen in attendance. Afterwards, Vladyka Hilarion was given a tour of the convent grounds, the house chapel dedicated to St Nektarios of Pentapolis, the book store, icon-painting studio, candle-making facility, large bakery and garden, where the nuns planted some 400 fruit trees on a cliff side.
Fr Mark, who is of Irish descent, showed Vladyka the convent and offered his opinion that the Irish actually remain Orthodox in their souls to this day, and that if a few clergymen were to be ordained for Ireland, they would be able to return a great number of people to the Orthodox Church. Fr Mark had come to this conclusion after a recent trip to Ireland, where he was received warmly and with great understanding, and many expressed their regret that they had not preserved their Orthodox faith to this day.
Meanwhile, the nuns were singing the canon to the Kursk-Root Icon. After the moleben, His Eminence and Fr Mark took the icon to visit a private Orthodox Christian elementary school, located five miles away at the location of the old monastery. Metropolitan Hilarion told the students about the icon’s history, and answered questions during the reception that followed.
After that, His Eminence took the icon to the homes of some parishioners, then departed for New York. The following day, His Grace Bishop Peter of Cleveland, Administrator of the Diocese of Chicago and Mid-America, who had come to New York, took the Kursk-Root Icon to visit the members of his flock.