On Wednesday, October 14, the feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos ‒ one of the most beloved feasts among the Russian people ‒ Eastern American Diocesan vicar Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan ‒ paid an archpastoral visit to Holy Protection Skete in Buena, NJ, where he celebrated Divine Liturgy for the monastery’s patronal feast day. Accompanying His Grace for veneration by the faithful was the Protectress of the Russian Diaspora ‒ the wonderworking Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God ‒ which graced the service with its presence.
Skete rector Abbot Tikhon (Gayfudinov) greeted Bishop Nicholas. His Grace proceeded to the church, where he was concelebrated at Liturgy by Abbot Arseny (Manko; rector of Sts. Cosmas & Damian Church in Passaic, NJ), Fr. Tikhon, Priest Gregory Winsky (cleric of Holy Trinity Church in Baltimore, MD), and Priest Anatoly Revitskyy and Deacon Dimitri Krenitsky (skete clerics).
Faithful from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania came to pray at Liturgy, most of whom confessed their sins and communed of Christ’s Holy Mysteries.
Upon completion of the service, the clergy and faithful took the wonderworking icon, other icons, and banners, and went in procession to the large votive cross erected in the skete cemetery.
On behalf of the First Hierarch, Bishop Nicholas greeted those gathered with the feast, spoke about the history of the holiday, and said, in part:
"Today is a special holiday. How can we not praise the Mother of God? In our Diocese alone there are five churches dedicated to this feast day, as well as the diocesan cathedral in Chicago. There is a Church of the Protection in Los Angeles, and other churches are dedicated to the Mother of God across America, Europe, and of course Russia.
"And how joyous it is for us to pray here! Today is a workday, but we have laid aside earthly cares in order to come and celebrated this feast and thank the Mother of God for giving birth to our Savior Jesus Christ.
"Perhaps we are unworthy to see the footsteps of the Mother of God with our own eyes, but I firmly believe that she is herewith us. And another marvelous wonder is that the great and holy Kursk Root Icon is with us today, so we have a dual feast. Let us open our hearts and remember that the Mother of God entered into this church and not only prays with us, but for us, as well. And how important this is ‒ for us to pray for one another! The Mother of God gives us an example of this prayer and prays for the whole human race. We work to save our own soul, but we cannot forget about our neighbor. Let us thank the Mother of God for these days, let us come to church and pray, including for our neighbors. And I am sure that each one of us will receive a reply from the Mother of God, and what we need for our salvation."
The abbot of the skete thanked His Grace for his archpastoral visit, shared prayers, and the opportunity to pray under the aegis of the wonderworking icon. He also thanked the clergy who came to the skete to pray and to share in the joy of the feast, and the parishioners and visiting worshippers who labored in adorning the church and preparing the festal luncheon.
"We cannot even understand, comprehend the grace we partook of today. What a great sacred icon is with us! We can venerate it without waiting in a long line, such as we see during our pilgrimage trips to Russia; we can calmly pray and know that the Mother of God hears all of our prayers and petitions."
Fr. Tikhon thanked Bishop Nicholas for taking part in the preservation of the skete church, and recalled the great efforts required not to lose the church building, so that all can now come here and pray.
A festal luncheon was organized in the skete refectory, during which brotherly interaction between the clergy and faithful continued. Guests were then able to enjoy the fabulous weather of this "Indian summer" and observe how the skete has been further restored since last year’s patronal feast.