From September 9th through the 11th, St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington, DC hosted celebrations in honor of the patronal feast of the American capital’s ROCOR parish.
74 years ago, on the feast of the Beheading of the Honorable Head of the Holy Prophet and Forerunner John, the Holy Hierarch John of Shanghai celebrated the first Divine Liturgy in the church community he had founded, and blessed this day to be honored as the patronal feast of the new capital community.
In the following decades, the parish grew and developed thanks to the prayer of the Holy Hierarch John.
In the beginning of the 1950s, the first rector appointed by the ROCOR Synod arrived from Greece – Archimandrite Nicholas (Pekatoros). In Greece, after having moved from the USSR, Fr. Nicholas had served in the former embassy church of Imperial Russia in the center of Athens.
The first divine services were held in private homes, and then in Holy Resurrection Chapel in the grandiose National Cathedral (the Episcopalian Cathedral Church of Saint Peter & Saint Paul). In 1958, the community obtained a property in a nice neighborhood in the capital. Thanks to the labors of community members, a building plan was designed featuring a two-story church. The lower floor was successfully built, but there were insufficient funds to continue construction. It was decided to make the space a temporary worship space and continue to gather the necessary funds to complete construction of the new church.
In the beginning of the 1970s, it was decided to abandon the two-story project altogether, and task Archpriest Dimitri Alexandrow (later the Old Believer Bishop Daniel of Erie; +2010) with creating a new architectural project. Soon, Bishop Daniel presented his new project: a one-story church in the Moscow-Yaroslavl’ style of the 17th century.
In 1977, a young priest, Fr. Victor Potapov, moved to Washington, and soon after, construction of the new church began, using the lower floor of the original church as a foundation for the new structure. Once construction of the new church was completed, the parish set about installing the four-tier iconostasis and frescoes. Taking part in the internal adornment of the church are the now-reposed Bishop Daniel, Archpriest Theodore Koufos (+2021), and Moscow iconographers Victor Kazanin and Alexander Sokolov.
The result was a very elegant church, which now serves as a calling card of ROCOR in the American capital, while membership in the parish has doubled.
But to return to our own days…
On Saturday, September 9, the Hawaiian Icon arrived five minutes before the start of the resurrectional All-Night Vigil. She was greeted by Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen), who had come to officiate the feast, and cathedral clergy.
The church was filled to capacity with worshippers. Many guests from neighboring parishes were in attendance, as well, who wished to venerate the great holy icon and receive at least a drop of myrrh. The two cathedral choirs sang remarkably.
A single, bilingual Liturgy was appointed for the following day, Sunday, September 10 (usually two Liturgies are celebrated in the cathedral on Sundays), so that the entire community could pray together. Many communed of Christ’s Holy Mysteries. Prior to the procession, Metropolitan Jonah delivered a beautiful sermon dedicated to the commandment of love.
After the lengthy service, worshippers were able to rest at a festal luncheon organized by the Holy Protection Sisterhood.
That evening, the festal Vigil was served, at which the Hawaiian Icon was once more present. A large crowd was in attendance.
On Monday, September 11, the very day of the feast of the Beheading of John the Forerunner, in light of its being a weekday, Liturgy was served early. A large number of people gathered once again, hoping to commune and venerate the wonderworking image.
In his sermon at Liturgy, parish rector Archpriest Victor Potapov reminded the faithful of the tragic character of the feast of the Beheading of St. John, as well as the events that the U.S. endured in 2001 – the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, in which thousands of our fellow citizens were killed.
After Liturgy and breakfast, the guardian of the Hawaiian Icon, Priest Nectarios Yangson, departed with the icon for Howell, NJ, for the patronal feast of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. From there, the wonderworking icon will visit Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, where the celebrations of the 75th anniversary of Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary will be held.
Glory to God for all things!