August 23, 2010
"Contact with the Russian monastic tradition is undoubtedly helpful
in our country for all those thirsting for a health spiritual life."
An Interview with Archpriest
Monday, August 9, the feast
day of the holy great martyr and healer Panteleimon, diocesan
media office correspondent Reader Peter Lukianov procured an interview
Cross Monastery with Archpriest Victor Potapov, dean of the South
and rector of St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington, DC, on Fr.
Victor’s impressions on his first visit to the monastery. The
interview is available to our readers below, along with pictures of
everyday life in the monastery.
- Father Victor, what are your
thoughts as you return home from your first pilgrimage to Holy Cross
Monastery? What are your impressions of this monastery?
was our first visit to the monastery, and Matushka and I are returning
from it with a feeling of deep spiritual joy. Over the three days
spent here, we were able to participate in the rich liturgical life of
the monastery brotherhood, festally glorifying the Lord at the divine
services of the "Little Pascha" on Sunday, and on the day of
the holy God-pleaser, the great martyr and healer Panteleimon, which
is marked here as the second patronal feast day. The monks sing
beautifully. The order of divine services is very strictly kept here
in the monastery, but, supported by God’s grace, we did not feel any
only thing for which I am sorry as I depart from Holy Cross Monastery
is that it is such a great distance from Washington (almost eight
hours by car), and for that reason, unfortunately, we will not be able
to come here often.
made a great impression on me was the openness and affability of the
monastics, and the ease with which one could speak with them. The
brethren did everything possible to make our stay at the monastery
comfortable. This attitude, by the way, was shown not only to me, but
to every pilgrim without exception. Sincere and warm hospitality is a
wonderful quality of the monks here, and I very much hope that they
preserve it. This is a necessity when dealing with laymen who come to
the monastery thirsting for spiritual comforting.
was pleasant to observe the remarkable cleanliness here, despite the
fact that the monks basically live in the woods. The monastery roads
are not paved, but the church, the buildings, and the workshops are
all kept in ideal order. Everything feels as if each monk cares for
the monastery property as though it were his own domain.
monk and novice is assigned a specific and important obedience, on the
completion of which rests the well-being of the others. Inasmuch as I
can tell, the brethren fulfill their obediences with the utmost
scrupulousness and, most importantly, in prayer. How else could one
explain the exemplary order that is kept here?
there are a multitude of obediences. The monastery operates an apiary,
a small candle factory, a hennery, a farm with several cows and goats,
and a large garden. The largest undertaking is the manufacture of a
wide variety of incense, for which there is demand not only in
America, but in Europe and even in Russia. There is a growing
production at the monastery of sweet-smelling soaps, both liquid and
solid. The incense and soap can be ordered on the monastery’s
website. It is by these means (that is, thanks to the sale of incense
and soap) that the monastery survives.
- This year Holy Cross Monastery
celebrated its ten-year anniversary in West Virginia – in the
Eastern American Diocese. Over these ten years, the Hermitage of the
Holy Cross became a flourishing monastery and one of the principal
spiritual centers of our diocese. In 2009, the official residence of
Bishop George of Mayfield was constructed at the monastery and His
Grace was elected abbot of the monastery. How would you evaluate the
role of the Hierarch in the life of this monastery and in the general
church life of the Deanery of the South?
consider Bishop George’s residence within the walls of the monastery
to be extremely important for the development of the spiritual life of
Holy Cross Monastery. First of all, wherever there is a bishop, there
is the fullness of God’s grace. Vladyka has a great deal of
experience of life in Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, which our
Blessed Metropolitan Anastassy called the "Diasporan Lavra."
His Grace took experience from this oldest monastery of the Russian
Diaspora, which preserved the heritage of the Pochaev Lavra, Valaam,
and other spiritual centers of Russia, and can pass along this spirit
to the monks here.
George was born in the U.S. and converted to Holy Orthodoxy at a
mature age, as did almost all of the brethren of Holy Cross Monastery.
Neither His Grace nor the brethren need to overcome any cultural or
ethnic barriers to have true spiritual communication between them.
They all have similar spiritual biographies. This also applies in
equal measure to the other parishes and missions of the Deanery of the
South. Many communities in our region are comprised of people who
converted to Orthodoxy at a mature age, and as a result Bishop George
is especially close to them, someone to whom they can turn for advice
and resolution of vexing issues of church life.
lived at Vladyka’s house for the three days of our stay. I am
grateful to His Grace, Bishop George, for the hospitality he showed us
in his cozy home and am glad that we had an opportunity to speak
closely with him and get to know one another better.
- How do you envision the future
of this monastery?
am, of course, not a clairvoyant, and cannot predict the future of the
monastery, but I believe that if the monks will support a healthy
spirit of true monastic life, about which I spoke earlier, the
monastery will be fated to grow, flourish, and become an important
spiritual center not only for our Eastern American Diocese, but for
the whole Orthodox Church in the United States. On St. Panteleimon’s
Day, priests came to the monastery from other jurisdictions and
readily shared with me the impressions made on them and their
parishioners by the monastery. Contact
with the Russian monastic tradition is undoubtedly helpful in our
country for all those thirsting for a health spiritual life.
- Why did you decide to do a
presentation namely about Brother Joseph?
and foremost, because the monks of Holy Cross Monastery asked me to
themselves. The monks of Holy Cross Monastery feel a spiritual kinship
with Brother Joseph, as they also zealously adopted Orthodoxy. We and
Matushka immediately and readily answered their invitation to visit,
and we would never refuse to tell of the life and labors of the chosen
of the Mother of God to any who wishes to know more about him.
parish in Washington has acquired some prominence as a result of its
special reverence of Brother Joseph. We gather all that we can, every
grain of the life of the faithful custodian of the Montreal
Myrrh-Streaming Iveron Icon of the Mother of God. Our cathedral has an
exact copy, placed in an icon-case from Brother Joseph’s apartment,
and given to us by the Icon’s House in Montreal after his tragic
death in 1997. The icon being kept in our cathedral was written by the
Athonite Archimandrite Chrysostom, the iconographer who wrote Brother
Joseph’s myrrh-streaming icon. Matushka and I were well-acquainted
with Brother Joseph, and many of the holy relics he owned, as well as
his personal affects, are being temporarily kept in our home. We
brought a portion of these holy relics to the monastery, so that the
brethren might venerate them. For three hours, Matushka and I did our
presentation and answered many questions in a hall filled to capacity,
and we were overjoyed to see everyone’s sincere interest.
also brought with us to the monastery cotton with myrrh from the
"Hawaiian" myrrh-streaming Icon of the Mother of God, which
was brought to our parish by Nectarios Yangston, the custodian of this
new holy image. The Hawaiian Icon is a copy of the Montreal Iveron
myrrh-streaming icon, which in the fall of 2007 (in the year of the
unification of the Russian Orthodox Church!) began to gratuitously
stream myrrh. Nectarios is sure that the new myrrh-streaming Iveron
Icon is mysteriously tied to Brother Joseph and his labors in serving
the Mother of God, and was given by God in order that the faithful
would not forget about that miracle in Montreal in 1982 and its main
participant – Brother Joseph.
Office of the Eastern American Diocese