On Saturday the 10th and Sunday the 11th of September, the clergy and parishioners of St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington, DC celebrated their 73rd patronal feast day. In 1949, on the feast of the Beheading of St. John the Forerunner, the Holy Hierarch John of Shanghai & San Francisco celebrated the first Divine Liturgy in the newly created parish community. The saint was then spending several months in the American capital, successfully petitioning the government on behalf of his émigré flock, which had fled from communist China.
On Saturday evening, to the triumphal peal of bells, His Grace Nicholas, Bishop of Manhattan, and the myrrh-streaming Hawaiian-Iveron Icon of the Mother of God were greeted by a multitude of worshippers. Cathedral rector Archpriest Victor Potapov received the wonderworking icon from its guardian, Deacon Nectarios Yangson, and proceeded into the church, where with it he blessed all four corners of the temple space.
Vigil began, served by Archpriest John Johnson (rector of St. Thecla Church in Kensington, MD). Since the was to be in Washington for only two days, it was not possible to take it to all of the ROCOR parishes in the greater capital region. Fr. John cancelled Vigil in his church, and with a group of his parishioners joined the faithful of the cathedral to pray before the wonderworking image. Throughout the entire service, the cathedral priests heard the confessions of the many worshippers who wished on the following day to commune of Christ’s Holy Mysteries.
Two choirs ‒ Slavonic and English ‒ sang inspiringly. Bishop Nicholas led the litia, co-served by Archpriests Victor Potapov and John Johnson, Priests Alexander Resnikoff and Damian Dantinee, Protodeacons Blagoje Siljegovic and Patrick Mitchell (cathedral clerics), and Deacon Peter Gardner (cleric of St. Thecla Church). Litia was served outside, with stops at all four sides of the church.
Bishop Nicholas came out to lead the Polyeleos, joined by the above-mentioned clergy. His Grace anointed the faithful with myrrh from the Hawaiian Icon all the way through the Great Doxology. After the service, some of the clergy gathered at Fr. Victor’s home for dinner and interaction with the hierarch.
The following morning, Bishop Nicholas was greeted at the main entrance to the church with bread and salt by cathedral warden Maxim Agapov. In his brief greeting, the warden wished His Grace good health and asked him to pray for the strengthening of parish life in the American capital. Taking part in the greeting of the bishop and the Liturgy that followed were rector Archpriest Victor Potapov, Priests Alexander Resnikoff and Damian Dantinne, Protodeacons Blagoje Siljegovic and Patrick Mitchell, and Deacon Gregory Trubetskoy.
At the reading of the Hours, Bishop Nicholas tonsured cathedral parishioner Maxim Kramer a reader.
A multitude of worshippers communed. At the end of Liturgy, a thanksgiving moleben was served. A procession had been planned, but owing to a light rain, the moleben was served in its stead.
Bishop Nicholas dedicated his sermon to the Gospel passage read at Liturgy: the Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers, and the labors of St. John the Baptist. His Grace’s sermon (in Russian) can be heard here.
After Bishop Nicholas’ didactic word, "Memory Eternal" was intoned for all of the reposed founders, benefactors, and parishioners of St. John the Baptist Cathedral, followed by the Polychronion for the Holy Council of Bishops of the Russian Church Abroad, the clergy and parishioners of the cathedral.
A benedictory gramota from the Eastern American Diocese was awarded to the Head Sister of Holy Protection Sisterhood, Marina I. Zacharin, who has headed the sisterhood since 2015. Marina is remarkably hardworking and cares not only for the affairs of the sisterhood, but also raises funds for benevolent causes, tends to the parish garden, and takes part in the work of the SGPA scout organization.
After greetings were exchanged, worshippers approached the cross. Each was anointed with holy myrrh and received a small copy of the Hawaiian Icon in memory of her visitation, as well as a small piece of cotton filled with grace-filled myrrh.
After a long, triumphal, festal Sunday service, worshippers were able to rest and gather their strength at a luncheon organized by Holy Protection Sisterhood.
Some of the faithful preferred to remain in church, where they read akathists before the wonderworking Hawaiian Icon.
At around 2 o’clock, the wonderworking icon departed for Howell, NJ, for the patronal feast of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. The icon’s guardian, Fr. Nectarios, promised to return again to Washington to take part in the annual pilgrimage to Holy Trinity Monastery and the grave of the martyred chosen one of the Mother of God, José Muñoz Cortés, the guardian of the myrrh-streaming Montreal Iveron Icon who was murdered in 1997.
Beginning the 74th year of the life of St. John the Baptist Cathedral, we offer gratitude to the Lord for His compassion, and hope that He will help our archpastors at their forthcoming Council of Bishops to elect a worthy successor to the ever-memorable Metropolitan Hilarion.