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March 18, 2010
Washington, DC: In Service to God and Man: Early March 2010 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

01.jpg (37284 bytes)On Wednesday, March 3, clergy of our cathedral returned home after spending three remarkable days in Mayfield, PA at ROCOR's Eastern American Diocesan Lenten Retreat and Pastoral Conference. Presiding at the conference was His Eminence, the Very Most Reverend Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of ROCOR, with the active participation of his vicars, the Most Reverend Bishops George of Mayfield and Jerome of Manhattan. We clergy of the Washington Cathedral came away with the warmest of memories of the hospitality shown by Mayfield's cathedral parish of St. John the Baptist and by its rector, Mitred Archpriest John Sorochka, who took great care to see that conference was on the highest possible spiritual level. Special thanks are due the tireless Archpriest Serge Lukianov, Secretary of the Eastern American Diocese, who very carefully and attentively did all of the preparatory organizational work. In all of this work, Fr. Serge had the assistance of the diocesan administration staff: Priest Jonah Campbell (treasurer) and Readers Peter Lukianov and Gregory Levitsky, who every day posted news and photographs of the conference to the diocesan website. As never before, the subjects of discussions during the Lenten Retreat were exclusively of a pastoral/spiritual nature. It is to be hoped that church political/jurisdictional questions and arguments have receded into the past...

Archpriest Artemy Vladimirov, rector of the Church of All Saints in Krasnoe Selo, Moscow, gave two talks on pastoral care. All of the participants – even those who did not speak Russian - paid close attention to the presentations. Without question, this was made possible by the efforts of Protodeacon Leonid Mickle, who accurately translated not just the gifted orator's words, but also his tone and even his subtle humor.

04.jpg (53315 bytes)On the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the repose of Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko), Deacon Andrei Psarev, an instructor at Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY, acquainted the participants of the Pastoral Conference with Archbishop Vitaly's life. Fr. Andrei's talk afforded the pastors of our Diocese an opportunity to appreciate the important role prestigious hierarchs such as the ever-memorable Vladyka Vitaly played in the history of the Russian Church and the Diaspora in the 20th Century. Click here to read Fr. Andrei’s presentation.

One could not remain indifferent to the presentation given by Priest Gregoire Legoute, a clergyman of the ROCOR mission in Haiti. Fr. Gregoire described in some detail the tragic situation in his homeland, already the poorest nation in the Caribbean Basin and in the entire Western Hemisphere, devastated by the earthquake. For almost 20 years, the Orthodox Mission has been carrying on its work under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, with 3,000 faithful gathering together in prayer at seven parishes throughout the country. The Mission operates several schools, including one of Haiti's few educational institutions for mentally retarded and handicapped children.

The Mission is directed by two truly remarkable spiritual strugglers: Priests Jean Chenier-Dumais and Gregoire Legoute, through whose tireless efforts the number of parishioners is steadily growing. Despite their geographic isolation and despite pressure brought to bear on them by the former Mission administrator to follow him into schism after the reunification of the Russian Church, Fr. Jean, Fr. Gregoire, and the bulk of their flock remained under the ROCOR omophorion, and commemorate His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill, in the course of divine services.

One particular item in the Lenten Retreat schedule was unforgettable: the first pilgrimage made by clergy of ROCOR (101 clergymen) to St. Tikhon's Monastery in South Canaan, PA. Abbot Sergius, the newly-appointed abbot of the Monastery, and the brethren gave us a warm welcome. In the course of fellowship, the need to strengthen and increase the extent of prayerful/spiritual cooperation among the Orthodox of the United States of America was repeatedly emphasized.

02.jpg (45071 bytes)We left Pennsylvania and returned to Washington on the evening of March 3. We were accompanied by Archpriest Artemy Vladimirov, Hieromonk Alexander (Frizzell) of Holy Cross Monastery in West Virginia, Priest Gregoire Legoute, and his Matushka Rose. The next day, we acquainted our dear guests with the sights of America's capital, first and foremost the Orthodox churches of Washington. That evening, in the parish hall of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Fr. Artemy gave a remarkable talk about the importance of the Orthodox parish in the life of the Church. Our parishioners listened with rapt attention. Although the talk lasted for over 2½ hours, our parishioners were in no hurry to leave, and continued to talk with Fr. Artemy and other clergy until quite late.

On March 5, the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts was celebrated by cathedral rector Archpriest Victor Potapov, along with Archpriest Artemy Vladimirov, Archpriest Oleg Oreshkin, Priest Gregoire Legoute, Hieromonk Alexander (Frizzell), and Protodeacon Leonid Mickle. After the Liturgy, Fr. Artemy gave a homily on the prayer "Let my prayer be set forth," from the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts. On the evening of March 5, Priest Gregoire and Matushka Rose Legoute spoke at the Greek Cathedral of St. Sophia. Addressing an audience of 200, they spoke of the difficulties in which their community finds itself. Matushka Rose's description of how traumatized Haiti's children were by the earthquake was especially powerful: now they are afraid of entering any house, and are startled by any noise. Parishioners of the Greek Cathedral donated $2,200 to the Orthodox Mission in Haiti.

On the Sunday of the Holy Cross, Fr. Gregoire concelebrated with the clergy of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. On March 7, batiushka served at the early English-language Divine Liturgy, and at the meal afterwards presented a talk to our English-language parishioners. With the help of a translator, Fr. Gregoire gave an excellent homily at both the early and late Liturgies. (At each Liturgy, a host of faithful were communed, from three Chalices.) An excerpt from Fr. Gregoire's homily:

03.jpg (52829 bytes)"...The Cross is a great gift from God, a very precious gift, which bears witness to God's boundless love... There is no proof of personal salvation for every Christian more profound than the fact that God offered Himself for each of us. The Cross is the most powerful weapon against the devil; whosoever has the Cross, the Cross living in his heart, need fear nothing... Following after Christ, we move toward Passion Week, toward Pascha, carrying the Cross of our Lord. Here is the essence of Great Lent: 'Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.' (Mark 8:34). Do we realize what we are doing when we bow down before and kiss the Cross? Does our internal state correspond with our external behavior?"

Fr. Gregoire's words made an enormous impression upon his audience, for they were spoken by someone who by God's will was carrying, and will continue to carry, his Cross, not in theory but in actual fact, the extremely heavy Cross of spiritual and physical trials in Haiti.

On March 7, in collections taken up at the two Liturgies, our parish donated $13,000 to the Haiti Mission. In 2010, our parish has donated $31,000 to the Mission in Haiti.

The same evening, His Eminence, the Very Most Reverend Metropolitan Hilarion, came to Washington in order to have additional talks with Fr. Gregoire and his Matushka, and to obtain additional information about the life of the ever-memorable murdered Joseph Muñoz-Cortes, for 15 years the faithful curator of the Montreal Myrrh-Streaming Iveron Icon of the Mother of God; temporarily, many of brother Joseph's personal effects are kept at our home.

On Monday, Priest Gregoire, Matushka Rose, Archpriest Victor Potapov (in his capacity as Executive Director of the ROCOR Fund for Assistance), his assistant Elena Plavcic, and Priest Matthew Williams, assistant to the Administrator of the Ecclesiastical Mission in Haiti, attended a meeting in Baltimore at the headquarters of the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). The ROCOR Fund for Assistance, in cooperation with the IOCC, extends daily humanitarian aid to the Ecclesiastical Mission in Haiti. According to Fr. Gregoire, first and foremost among the needs of the Mission is a church and parish hall. Both charitable institutions promised to help Fr. Gregoire in all ways possible in the work of restoring church life in Haiti.

On the evening of March 8, His Eminence headed the service of Holy Unction for the entire parish. Concelebrating were Archpriest Victor Potapov, Archpriest Oleg Oreshkin, Archpriest George Johnson, Priest Gregoire Legoute, Priest John Johnson, and Priest Alexander Resnikoff, with the assistance of Protodeacons Leonid Mickle and John Cavin and Deacon Damian Dantinne. As this number included seven clergy of priestly rank, the number required for the Mystery of Holy Unction, Priest Matthew Williams stood in prayer in the church, and received Holy Unction along with the faithful. By the way, Fr. Matthew was the first ROCOR clergyman to visit Haiti after the earthquake of January 12; he provided daily news about the extent of the damage and about our Mission's needs. The Very Most Reverend Metropolitan Hilarion appointed Fr. Matthew Assistant to Mission Administrator Archpriest Daniel MacKenzie, rector of St. Vladimir's Church in Miami, FL. Before the Mystery of Holy Unction, a general Confession was read. The church was filled to capacity. The service began at 7:00 PM, and the last participant in the Mystery was anointed at 10:30 PM.

On Wednesday, March 10, Fr. Gregoire and Matushka Rose Legoute left Washington. Our parish presented them with gifts, including two chalices, one diskos, one blessing cross, hand-painted icons, two sets of priest's vestments, and a number of other service items. Among the gifts were a number of holy relics, including a relic of the Life-Giving Cross of our Lord, relics of the patron saints of batiushka and his matushka, relics of St. Moses the Ethiopian, Blessed St. Augustine, and the Holy Apostle St. Paul (patrons of three of their parish communities), as well as relics of the Great Martyrs St. George, St Theodore Tyro, and St. Theodore Stratilates. Overall, Father Gregoire and his matushka took with them to Haiti five large suitcases filled with liturgical and other items and, of course, the love and friendship of hundreds of Orthodox people in Washington…

Such were the early days of March 2010 for our parish.

Glory to God for all things!

Archpriest Victor Potapov
March 12, 2010