Update: Due to server issues, Metropolitan John asked us to let our readers know those interested in helping with icons, et cetera, may email him directly at the email address listed at the end of the article.
A first photo has been released for the public of the final stage of construction of the Cathedral Church at the Abbey of the Holy Name, the first Orthodox Cathedral in America constructed entirely according to Western Orthodox norms used until the Great Schism in the 11th century.
Construction of the Church according to the ancient Western style, which began in 1987, is finally expected to be completed by as early as August or September.
The photo, authorized to be released to the Orthodox public by Metropolitan John of New York, shows the interior of the nave of the main Church building, before a rood-screen (“rood” being an old English word for “cross”) and rood-loft, a loft behind the screen which allows the reader of the Gospel to ascend to the foot of the cross and read to the people.
The rood-screen, while bearing a resemblance to an iconostas and practically serving a similar purpose, in fact contains two sections behind it– the first is the choir area, preceding the altar proper, only to be entered by celebrants.
The Abbey Church– before construction resumed– utilized what would become the choir section as the main part of the Church for visitors, a comparatively tiny area to the newly constructed area, which, while exteriorly visible as a good sized Church, was interiorly unusable. While construction moved at a steady pace from 1987 until the mid-90’s, financial hardship as well as the deaths of monastics working on the construction slowed the completion of the structure to a halt.
In 2009, work began to remove materials which had accumulated over the years in the hope of completing the work of building the Catholicon. Thanks to the hard work of Fr Dcn John Nelson, Fr Dcn Vincent Durstewitz, NFTU’s own Hieromonk Enoch resident at the Abbey, Fr. Elias Yelovich and the clergy and people of the Entrance Mission in Maryland, Stavrophor-monk Symeon and countless others, construction of the Cathedral Church began again in earnest in 2011. From late 2011 to 2012, the speed of construction picked up as insulation and electrical work were done. The rood screen and rood-loft went up last year.
Since then, the Metropolitan has been tight-lipped about the schedule of completion of the main Church– until today. “You don’t want to jump the gun on announcing something without crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s,” I was told in 2011. “It’s ok to be hopeful, but you don’t announce something until it’s ready to be announced.”
It was therefore a surprise to receive an email today with the photograph, as well as a request to update the public on the near-completion of the Church. The reason? Metropolitan John explained by phone that as they neared completion of the Church, he hoped NFTU could extend a request on his behalf to the Orthodox public for donations of icons to be placed upon the rood-screen, the donors to be remembered in prayer. (The small icons that currently adorn the temporary Church will be moved to adorn the walls of the new Church until a planned future remodeling where icons will eventually be painted on the walls.)
While the Church awaits final completion, a lot has been going on behind the scenes to ensure a successful opening of the new Catholicon, and to complete a long-unfinished chapter of the Archdiocese of New York and New Jersey’s history, in preparation of the next.
An announcement for the date of the official opening of the Cathedral will appear on NFTU, as well as local and other press releases. Some time after the opening will be a formal consecration of the Church, either late in the year or during next year’s Synod meeting, God willing. Readers interested in making a donation of an icon may contact the Abbey at 973-838-8795 or may email him directly.