Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Walking the 108th annual St. Tikhon's Pilgrimage

My family drove in to participate in this pilgrimage. When photos are made available I'll post a few up. My mind knows the almost 12 mile walk is over, but my legs do not yet believe it's ok to relax and quit aching.

The following day the Memorial Day events took place at St. Tikhon's and the monastery grounds were packed with people. Numerous services were offered throughout the day in different locations. In the height of the humidity and heat and in full sun fully vested bishops and clergy led healing services, akathists, molebens, and liturgies. They did so without complaint and in the company of faithful as far as the eye could see.

Looking forward to next year.

(ROCOR-Mayfield) - Full report chronicling the May 27th “Walking in Our Forefathers’ Footsteps” pilgrimage walk from St. John’s in Mayfield to St. Tikhon’s Monastery

With the Blessing of His Eminence, Hilarion Metropolitan of New York and Eastern America, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) and His Grace, George, Bishop of Mayfield, His Beatitude, Jonah, Archbishop of Washington, Metropolitan of All America and Canada, of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) celebrated Hierarchal Divine Liturgy on Sunday, May 27th, 2012 in Saint John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral, Mayfield, PA.

This was the first time since 1982 that a Hierarch of the Orthodox Church in America has served in the Cathedral in Mayfield. In the early 1980′s the OCA decided to switch to the new style calendar, at the objection of many parishes. St. John’s in Mayfield held steadfast in the traditions of their forefathers, rejecting the calendar change nearly unanimously. It was then that a few dissenting parishoners, backed by the OCA Bishop at the time took St. John’s to court, in order to seize church property and assets. As a result of this, St. John’s, after an overwhelming majority vote, left the OCA, and joined the Eastern American Diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. This was a difficult time for Father John, his family, and the Cathedral, but they endured patiently and the parish thrived.

May 17th, 2012 marked the five year Anniversary of the Reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia. Prior to the Reunification, ROCOR and the OCA were not in canonical communion. Since then, relations between the ROCOR and OCA have been normalized. Some four years ago, with the help of the now dean of St. Tikhon’s Seminary, Fr. Alexander Atty, Father John, the parishioners of St. John’s, and St. Tikhon’s Monastery and OCA bishops began on the road to forgiveness and healing. On May 27, 2012, Metropolitan Jonah, primate of the OCA arrived at St. John’s in the spirit of humility and reconciliation, even though he himself was not involved in any of the actions some 30 years ago. Asking forgiveness from the parishioners for the unfortunate and hurtful actions of previous OCA Bishops, Metropolitan Jonah remarked, “Truly today, an historical day, in which I come to you in the spirit of love, the spirit of forgiveness, the spirit of reconciliation. I know and understand, I fully acknowledge, and weep for the great pain that was caused by the decisions made by my predecessors, and ask for forgiveness.”

Metropolitan Jonah and his healing, God-inspired words were welcomed by the faithful of St. John’s, ending with a touching speech from Mitred Archpriest John D. Sorochka, who has been the priest of St. John’s for over 40 years.

This Hierarchal Divine Liturgy on May 27th coincided with St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Monastery’s 108th annual Memorial Day Weekend Pilgrimage, and kicked off the Procession “Walking in our Forefathers’ Footsteps”. Following Divine Liturgy, Father John and the St. John’s Parishioners hosted a luncheon. During the luncheon, the Myrrh Streaming Iveron Icon of the Mother of God arrived, and a moleban for safe travel was sung.

Over 40 faithful and clergy, consisting of St. John’s parishoners, St. Tikhon’s seminarians and their families, and pilgrims attending the services at St. Tikhon’s Monastery, participated in the over 11 mile procession. The procession began at 2pm on Hill Street in Mayfield with the faithful singing the troparion of the Cross “O Lord Save Thy People”, with Protodeacon Joseph Matusiak carrying the processional cross from St. John’s. Various walkers took turns carrying the cross. The walk continued through the Carbondale and over Salem Mountain, finally arriving at the monastery some 4 hours after the walk began. A caravan of cars equipped with water accompanied the walkers on their journey, giving a ride to some who needed a break. The walk took place in over 80 degree weather in the middle of the afternoon. Most of the walkers made it the entire 11 mile+ walk, with some walking a majority of the walk, and others walking portions of the walk. Children as young as 4 years old participated as well as some walkers 55 and older. All participants walked the final 1.5 miles to the monastery.

As the walkers ascended Salem mountain, the walk became grueling to some, but most of the walkers attempted at least part of the mountain. As the walkers went down the mountain approaching South Canaan, residents at the rural farms and houses enjoying their Memorial Day weekend stopped and watched the walkers, and a man even came out of his home, asked the Cross Bearer to stop, and venerated Christ’s feet, kissing the cross, thanking the walkers as they went onward to the monastery.

As the group approached the final road leading to the Monastery, the bells could be heard up to 1/2 mile away. The weary walkers were strengthened by the sounds of the bells and once again sang “O Lord, Save Thy People”, with even more conviction than when they started. At the archway to the Monastery entrance were His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah, Primate of the OCA, along with his Eminence Archbishop Tikhon, bishop of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, as well as the abbot of the monastery, and other monks and clergy. Each were holding relics of the Saints, especially those of St. Tikhon of Moscow who walked on the same grounds the pilgrims were on. Also present was the miracle working, Myrrh-streaming icon of St. Anna and the Theotokos. The walkers were able to venerate all the icons and relics with great joy, with some shedding tears, thanking God for being able to complete the walk and to make it to the holy Monastery.

A special surprise awaited the walkers and drivers as the abbot of the monastery invited all to the dining hall for a meal prepared for them. We at St. John’s would like to thank the Metropolitan, Archbishop Tikhon, and St. Tikhons for their hospitality and for helping to organize the walk. Metropolitan Jonah’s kind words and wonderful homily at the earlier Divine Liturgy will help strengthen the bond between St. Tikhon’s and St. John’s. The entire day was an edifying and unforgettable experience for all involved. Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory be Forever!

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