October 17, 2016
Mahopac, NY: Nativity of the Theotokos Celebrations held at New Kursk Root Hermitage

It was a cool morning on Sunday, September 25, as clergy and worshippers began to arrive at the New Kursk Root Hermitage from New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey: on this day, the parish of the Nativity of the Mother of God in Mahopac, NY traditionally holy celebrations in honor of its patronal feast, which took place on September 8/21.

The festal peal of bells greeted His Grace, Bishop Jerome, who lives and labors at the New Kursk Root Hermitage. He was accompanied by Readers Vasily Shevelchinsky and John Temidis. Longtime parishioners and parish treasurer Vyacheslav Maltsev greeted His Grace with bread and salt. At Liturgy, Bishop Jerome was concelebrated by Archpriest Nikolai Zhuravsky (cleric of the Georgian Orthodox Church and rector of the Georgian parish recently established at the Hermitage), Archpriest Ilya Gorsky (rector of Holy Virgin Protection Church in Nyack, NY), Archpriest Alexander Donchenko (rector of St. Nicholas Church in Poughkeepsie, NY), Abbot Cornelius (Apukhtin) and Priest George Temidis (parish clerics), Protodeacon Dimitri Temidis (cleric of Holy Protection Church in Nyack) and parish Deacon Alexey Pnev.

The parish of St. Nicholas Church in Poughkeepsie came to Mahopac, in order to celebrate the feast together. The two parishes have established a tradition of visiting for each other’s patronal feasts.

The Liturgy was held in the parish church. The choir sang prayerfully under the direction of longtime conductor Reader Maxim Needlman. During the Cherubic Hymn, some of the worshippers began to sing with the choir. The entire church sang the Creed triumphally, and "A Mercy of Peace" was touchingly sung by both choir and worshippers together. Among the large number of communicants were many children. Owing to the large number of people present, the faithful were communed from two chalices.

His Grace addressed the worshippers with two sermons: in Russian, on the words of the Epistle reading, "Now He which establisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;" and in English, on the words of the Gospel for the Sunday before the Exaltation of the Cross: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

A procession was held around the entire church. A congratulatory note bearing well-wishing from Metropolitan Hilarion was read aloud, which said, in part: "I rejoice alongside you in remembering the great miracle of the uncovering of the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God in 1295, on the very day of this Theotokion feast. The original Kursk Icon of the Most Holy Virgin has been with us in the Diaspora since 1920, and from the beginning of the 1950s, upon the Icon’s arrival from Europe, our New Kursk Root Hermitage was founded as her first home in America. During these festal days, just as in the Synodal Cathedral, so also at the Hermitage, is the Mother of God, our Protectress and Guide, especially glorified for her intercession for us. Several days ago, the Kursk Root Icon departed for its annual visitation to its homeland of Kursk, but its wonderworking copy remains at the New Kursk Root Hermitage, serving as a joy and comfort to all of the faithful."

After the Polychronion was intoned, over 200 people venerated the cross.

A home-style luncheon, prepared through the efforts of the sisterhood, parishioners, and guests, was a great success. People sat and interacted in the parish hall, as well as outside in the fresh air at well set tables. A panihida was served at the parish cemetery. Some of the pilgrims ventured out to the pondside Chapel of the Icon of the Mother of God "of the Passion," consecrated in 1964, which was newly restored after having been damaged by a falling tree.

The church also held a booksale for old books in Russian and English, all of the proceeds from which went to benefit the parish.

The celebrations at the New Kursk Root Hermitage were full of joy, and those in attendance felt themselves at home.

Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese