Hat tip: F.A. (hotca.org – More pictures available from clicking the title link)
Χριστός Ανέστη! Christ is Risen!
When Abbess Efrosyne of Novi Stjenik Monastery first asked me to convey to Metropolitan Pavlos her desire to visit us here in the United States, she stated two goals: First of all, to form spiritual friendships with Genuine Orthodox Christians in North America, and second, to raise funds towards a much-needed expansion of their monastery building. Glory be to God, both of these goals were attained beyond our expectations.
The first parish of our Metropolis which Mother Efrosyne visited was St. John the Forerunner in Chicago, where she attended Divine Services on the weekend of the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent (1/14 March) and gave a talk on the history and current monastic life of Novi Stjenik to the parishioners after the Divine Liturgy on that Sunday. Gerondissa was very edified by the prayerful, orderly, and beautifully chanted services which characterize the liturgical life at St. John the Forerunner, and enjoyed profitable spiritual conversation with Fr. Christos Pittos and his parishioners.
On 2/15 March, while en route to visiting our communities in the Detroit area, Gerondissa gave a talk on Orthodox monastic life to a student gathering at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan,. We pray that her words planted a seed in the hearts of these young people, most of whom are idealistic and fervent young Catholics and Protestants, and that some day they will come to Holy Orthodoxy, and perhaps even to monasticism!
The weekend of the Fifth Sunday of Lent (8/21 March) was spent at our two parishes in the Detroit area, St. Spyridon and St. Nectarios. Gerondissa attended the Service of the Akathist Hymn at St. Nectarios on Friday night and the Sunday Divine Liturgy at St. Spyridon, where she and the monastic novice who accompanied her gave a talk and photographic presentation on the monastery. Hieromonk Longinos of St. Nectarios, along with the parishioners at both churches, showed great hospitality and generosity, contributing to the monastery’s needs far beyond what might be expected at a time that Michigan’s economy is suffering so greatly. Even prior to the visit, St. Spyridon’s had already made a significant contribution of another kind to the monastery, since the monastic novice we have mentioned comes from our parish!
On Sunday and Monday of the last week of Great Lent, Gerondissa visited two valiant communities of right-confessing Russian Orthodox Christians, a mission in Cleveland led by Fr. Deacon Sergius Boulter (under Bishop Vladimir of the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile) and St. Elizabeth the Grand Duchess Church in Rochester New York, pastored by Fr. Dimitry Wieber, under the omophorion of Bishop Stephan of the Russian True Orthodox Church. Conversations with the clergy and faithful in both communities was edifying and spiritually refreshing, and both communities, though small and struggling, contributed lovingly to the monastery’s needs.
On Tuesday 10/23 March, a parishioner of St. Elizabeth’s, Dr. Timothy Clader, enabled Mother Efrosyne to fulfill a long-held spiritual desire, when he kindly drove her to the Monastery of the Holy Trinity in Jordanville New York, in order to venerate the relics of the New Hiero-Confessor Metropolitan Philaret, which repose there. Gerondissa was met at Jordanville by Hieromonk Maximus of Holy Ascension Monastery, who performed a Service of Supplication (Paraclesis) to St. Philaret and distributed oil blessed over the relics to those present.
On Wednesday 11/24 March, Gerondissa was able to enjoy a day of “retreat” at our Holy Ascension Monastery in Woodstock, NY, partaking of Divine Services and spiritual conversation with fellow monastics and with Fr. John Somers, who had made a four hour drive from his home in Palmer, Massachusetts, where he is in charge of the mission parish of St. John Maximovitch.
On the following day, Gerondissa traveled to St. Maximos Church in Owego, NY, under the spiritual leadership of Fr. Thomas Marretta, where she was hosted by the family of Dr. Lazarus Gehring. There she was able to share in the spiritual joy of two adult baptisms, go hiking in the surrounding countryside, and participate in the Divine Services of Lazarus Saturday and Vespers for Palm Sunday. As usual, her talk on the witness and life at Novi Stjenik was received with edifying love and a generous response by the local community of True Orthodox Christians.
On the eve of Palm Sunday, Abbess Efrosyne reached the final destination of her spiritual pilgrimage to America, our communities of Genuine Orthodox Christians in the New York City area. Throughout her stay in New York, which lasted until the Feast of the Annunciation, her hosts were Gerondissa Synkletiki and the Sisterhood of St. Synkletiki, who demonstrated warm sisterly love in Christ and great resourcefulness and organization in arranging Mother Efrosyne’s visits to our two parishes there, whose members showed great spiritual enthusiasm over Gerondissa’s visit and enormous generosity in helping the monastery achieve its material goals.
On Palm Sunday, Fr. Kleanthis Korkotas, Fr. Nicholas Serigos, and the parishioners of St. Isidoros of Chios Church on Long Island welcomed Mother Efrosyne for Divine Services, trapeza, and a lively presentation and discussion about Novi Stjenik. Beginning Palm Sunday evening, Mother Efrosyne attended the Divine Services of Great and Holy Week at our Cathedral of St. Markella in Astoria, where she had the blessing of spiritual conversation with Metropolitan Pavlos, as well as with Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Attica, who was visiting in order to assist our metropolitan with the rigorous demands of Holy Week.
On Wednesday night of Holy Week, to an overflowing congregation gathered for the solemn service of Holy Unction, Mother Efrosyne gave a stirring talk on the confession of Faith of the True Orthodox of our times, and the part that Novi Stjenik has played and continues to play in this struggle, while exhorting our faithful here in America not to waver, but to confess Orthodoxy clearly and bravely to the end.
The crown of Gerondissa’s pilgrimage consisted in the beautiful and compunctionate services of the remainder of Great and Holy Week, and the joyful celebration of the Feast of Feasts—Christ’s Resurrection—celebrated with characteristically great love and enthusiasm at St. Markella’s.
Renewal Tuesday was marked by a return visit to Holy Ascension Monastery, where our Metropolitan Geronda Pavlos and many clergy and faithful gather every year on this day.
After Divine Services at the Cathedral on the Feast of the Annunciation – Wednesday, 25 March/7 April – Fr. Sergei Klestov and his matushka drove Mother Efrosyne to Trenton, New Jersey, in order to meet Bishop Stephan of the Russian True Orthodox Church. Meeting with Vladkia Stefan was one of Gerondissa’s specific requests when we were planning her itinerary, because Novi Stjenik and all of our brethren in Serbia – as well as our Metropolis of America! – are hoping and praying ardently for the success of our efforts at full ecclesiastical union with the Russian True Orthodox Church.
After receiving Geronda Pavlos’s blessing, and after a tearful farewell to Gerondissa Synkletiki and her sisterhood, Mother Efrosyne and her sister departed New York City and returned safely to Serbia on Thursday, 26 March/8 April.
In retrospect, we can say that this pilgrimage was a time of spiritual refreshment for many people throughout our metropolis, who benefited from meeting monastics who have recently endured persecution for confessing the Faith and are waging a serious ascetical struggle under difficult circumstances. Mother Efrosyne, in return—and, by extension, her sisterhood and all of our struggling brethren in Serbia as well—have made many new spiritual friends within the Genuine Orthodox Church, and they no longer feel as isolated as they had until this point. They have also achieved, by a miracle of God’s grace and the generous love of our American metropolis, the material goal of being able to begin their building project, and, moreover, to purchase a tractor to assist in their agricultural labors.
On behalf of Mother Efrosyne and her sisters, I wish to offer thanks very deeply and very humbly to Metropolitan Pavlos, Metropolitan Chrysostomos, our dedicated clergy, Gerondissa Synkletiki and her sisterhood, and all of the hospitable, zealous, and generous laity who responded with such great love. A particular word of thanks is due to Fr. Theodore Giannakopoulos, our diocesan treasurer, who made the organization of the fund-raising effort go smoothly and easily.
Our only regret is that Mother Efrosyne was not able to visit all of our parishes. God willing, next time—and we hope there will be a “next time”!—she will have the pleasure also of visiting Holy Unmercenaries in Chicago, our parishes in Florida, Oklahoma, and Quebec, and our newly developing, far-flung “mission diaspora”—Massachusetts in the Northeast, as well as Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia in the South. May God grant!
In the name of our True Orthodox brethren in Serbia, I joyfully greet all of you with the luminous
Christ is Risen!
Priest Steven Allen
St. Spyridon Church
St. Clair Shores, Michigan