April 26, 2016
Nyack, NY: Students from Holy Virgin Protection Church’s Russian School perform Pilgrimage to Holy Trinity Monastery

On Saturday the 9th and Sunday the 10th of April, the fourth Sunday of Great Lent, the students, teachers, and parents of the parish school of Holy Virgin Protection Church in Nyack, NY performed a pilgrimage trip to Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY.

Forty-eight pilgrims (more than half of whom were children aged 2-17), led by the parish school’s director of studies, Protodeacon Serge Arlievsky, left Nyack after a half-day at school on Saturday, April 9, and arrived in Jordanville at 4:00 PM. The monastery greeted the guests with the resplendent glean of its golden domes, the smiles of the monks who greeted them, and the twinkling of the lampadas in the silence of the incense-scented church. At 4:00 PM, prayers for those preparing for Communion were read in the church.

Background: Holy Trinity Stavropegial Monastery was founded in 1930 by Archimandrite Panteleimon (Nihznik). A new era in the life of the monastery began in 1948, when monks from the monastery of Ven. Job of Pochaev, under the leadership of Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko), arrived in Jordanville. The main church was consecrated in honor of the Holy Trinity; the lower church, in honor of Ven. Job; the cemetery church, in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos; and the chapel at the lake, in honor of the Holy New Martyrs & Confessors of Russia and Ven, John of Ryla. Organized at the monastery were the Print Shop of St. Job of Pochaev, an icon studio, Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary, a library, a Russian cemetery, and an historical museum. The monastery’s main holy icon is a revered copy of the Pochaev Icon of the Mother of God. The journal "Orthodox Russia" resumed publication. Buried in the monastic cemetery are Metropolitans Anastassy, Philaret, and Laurus, Archbishops Tikhon (Troitsky), Apollinary (Koshevoy), Averky (Taushev), and Anthony (Medvedev), Valaam Abbot Philemon (Nikitin), iconographer Archimandrite Cyprian (Pyzhov), and the martyred guardian of the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God, Brother Jose (Muñoz-Cortes). The monastery’s current abbot is Archimandrite Luke (Murianka).

The monastic brethren, seminarians, and pilgrims gathered at 6:00 PM for dinner in the monastery’s three refectories: male (monastic), female, and mixed (for families). According to monastic tradition, after joining together in prayer, everyone ate silently, listening to the assigned seminarian read from the Lives of the Saints. Bean soup, rice with vegetables and pumpkin sauce, fresh salad, and fresh-baked monastery bread with honey and tea were particularly delicious. During dinner, a group of pilgrims from St. George’s Church in Cincinnati, OH (led by their rector, Priest Daniel Marshall) arrived and was greeted joyfully.

The All-Night Vigil began at 7:00 PM. The monastery’s male choir sang prayerfully and triumphally. Virtually all of the pilgrims went to confession. Exiting the church after 10:00 PM, it was impossible not to admire with the night sky, speckled with shimmering stars!

A majority of the guests were comfortably housed at the monastery guesthouse, only a ten-minute walk from the holy habitation. A cold wind blew outside, biting with frost, but inside the rooms, it was warm and comfortable. Each room is adorned with its own icon corner.

Background on Nyack’s Russian School: The parish school at Holy Virgin Protection Church in Nyack, NY is the oldest parish school on the East Coast, founded 60 years ago by Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy, the parish’s longtime rector and author of The Law of God, a textbook renowned not only around America, but now in Russia, as well. The parish school’s students use the book to this very day. There are currently over 100 students enrolled in the school, ages 4-17. Classes are held on Saturdays from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM. All subjects are taught in Russian: the Law of God, Russian Language, Reading, Russian Literature, Russian History, Singing, and Geography. This year, 27 teachers teach at the school, all volunteers. Every year, the parish holds a Nativity Yolka and a musical play in which every student – large and small – can take part, Children’s Bliny with a costume contest on a given theme, baking of "larks" pastries for the feast of the 40 Martyrs, school-wide confession during Great Lent, a poetry contest, concert, and the "Young Talents" exhibition, and a school picnic.

On Sunday, April 10, Liturgy began at 9:00 AM with the triumphal greeting of Bishop Jerome. Almost all of the pilgrims received Holy Communion. In his sermon, His Grace spoke about the inviolability of God’s promise that the "gates of hell shall not prevail" against Christ’s Church, and he underscored the need to hold fast to the Orthodox Church. Bishop Jerome spoke about the shared linguistic roots of the words "love" and "believe," expanding on their common meaning within the context of man’s beginning to believe and trust in God and, through this, coming to love God and entrust his life to Him.

After the kissing of the cross, the pilgrims stood outside of the church and shared their impressions on the triumph and beauty of the Liturgy and the special prayerful mood of the service. A spring wind carried the majestic peal of the bells far and wide across the neighboring fields.

Praying before their meal, they all sat next to one another at the long tables of the refectories. A delicious luncheon was served, comprised of lentil soup, mashed potatoes with vegetable soup and sauerkraut, monastery bread and cookies with tea and coffee. After luncheon and a group photo on the steps of the church, the pilgrims from Nyack’s Russian School were taken to see the museum, seminary, and main church with monastic cemetery.

The museum exhibit, entitled "The Russian Word & Image: Four Centuries of Books & Art," contains several marvelous pieces, among which are ancient Russian handwritten and printed books, the oldest of which is 450 years old; stunningly beautiful icons, crosses, a richly adorned shroud, and a panagia; a ceremonial priest’s epitrachelion ("stole") with an opulent double-headed eagle design from the 1896 coronation of the last Russian tsar, Emperor Nicholas II; a copy of the coronation luncheon menu from 1896, drawn by the renowned Russian artist V. Vasnetsov; historic photographs, awards, and personal items belonging to participants of the White Movement. All were deeply touched by the exhibit’s personal items from the Royal Family, including a white embroidered shirt belonging to one of the grand duchesses, and an earring belonging to the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, found by the investigator Sokolov in an abandoned mine shaft on the outskirts of Yekaterinburg.

With great interest and piety, the pilgrims heard about the founding of the monastery, admired the frescoed walls of the church, venerated the icons and relics in the main and lower churches, and visited the monastic cemetery and the crypts behind the altar. An older youth group was shown the seminary building. The guests spent the remainder of their time in the bookstore, buying icons, books in Russian and English, incense, candles, and crosses.

The gentle sunlight, the scents of the forest in springtime and reawakening nature, the joyful chirping of the birds, the beauty of the monastery, and the spiritual joy of the two days spent here had a calming effect on the people, and the pilgrims delayed their inevitable return from this remarkable place to life in the world. May the Lord bless Holy Trinity Monastery and its brethren!

A Pilgrim

Photos: Маtushka Elizaveta Temidis