March 30, 2016
Howell, NJ: Second Day of Lenten Retreat for Diocesan Clergy Concludes

On Tuesday, March 29, the Lenten Retreat for clergy and matushkas of the Eastern American Diocese continued at the Diocesan Center. The myrrh-streaming Icon of the Mother of God "Softener of Evil Hearts" arrived at St. Alexander Nevsky Diocesan Cathedral; the presence of the wonderworking image during the lenten retreat has become a tradition and a great comfort for all those who gather at the diocesan conference.

A Moleben before the Beginning of Any Good Work was served before the icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. Greeting those gathered, Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America & New York – who is leading the retreat – said, in part: "The Lord is merciful unto us, and we thank Him for the opportunity to gather together there. We, pastors, must nourish our flock and our spiritual children and must therefore ourselves abide in a lofty spiritual state. At our annual lenten retreats, we have an opportunity to confess our sins and to receive edification and spiritual fortification for the labors that lie before us."

His Eminence thanked the clergy, church laborers, and matushkas who, in the difficult circumstances of the hostile modern world, labor sincerely for the good of the Holy Church and the Orthodox Christian living in America. The Metropolitan wished them all a pious life, health, and spiritual and physical strength in serving the Holy Church.

Diocesan secretary Archpriest Serge Lukianov responded to the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad and the Diocese’s ruling bishop; Fr. Serge expressed the shared joy at Metropolitan Hilarion’s recent return from the Diocese of Australia & New Zealand, where His Eminence, also as ruling bishop, had spent almost three months on an archpastoral visit. "We marvel at how much love the Lord gives us; we perceive this love, and this love has gathered us together today."

Fr. Serge congratulated Metropolitan Hilarion on the recent 40th anniversary of his ordination as a clergyman, and on behalf of the Diocese presented him with an embroidered blue (Theotokion) cover for the hierarchal service book.

Metropolitan Hilarion offered his sincere thanks for the gift, after which all those gathered venerated the "Softener of Evil Hearts" Icon. Metropolitan Hilarion then blessed everyone with holy water, while Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan anointed them all with myrrh from the Icon.

Conference participants then proceeded to Nevsky’s Café for a light lenten breakfast.

In the church hall, Fr. Serge presented the lenten retreat’s main speaker – Archimandrite Irenei (Steenberg). Fr. Irenei is the founder of Sts. Cyril & Athanasius of Alexandria Institute for Orthodox Studies in San Francisco, currently home to 40 students and researchers. He is dean of monastic life for the Western American Diocese, and since 2015 has been abbot of the Monastery of St. Silouan the Athonite near Sonora, CA. With the blessing of His Eminence Kyrill, Archbishop of San Francisco & Western America, Fr. Irenei traveled to the Eastern American Diocese specifically for the retreat.

Fr. Irenei offered retreat participants a lecture, entitled, "Hope beyond Despair, Zeal beyond Apathy: The Mission of the Church in Today’s Society." The lecture was greeted with sincere interest on the part of the clergy, and discussion followed, both during the presentation and later, outside of the hall.

A luncheon was then served for the participants of the pastoral retreat by the cathedral sisterhood and volunteers.

After lunch, the clergy and matushkas discussed various problems encountered in parish life, and also posed questions to the hierarchs and Fr. Irenei regarding the upcoming Pan-Orthodox Council, which will take place this June. Fr. Irenei, along with Archbishop Mark of Berlin, Germany & Great Britain, has been working on behalf of the Russian Church Abroad in preparing for the Council.

That evening, the Akathist to the Most Holy Theotokos was read before her icon "Softener of Evil Hearts," followed by the reading of the Prayer Rule for Holy Communion. Upon completion of a lenten dinner, the clergy once more gathered in the cathedral, where Matins was served. Everyone was able to confess their sins, in order to commune the following day at the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.

Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese