Both before and during the Sunday of St. John Climacus, parish life at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington, DC was filled with many spiritually informative and enriching events.
On Friday, March 24, the cathedral was visited by the director of the Girls’ School in Bethany, Nun Martha (Wall). That evening, upon completion of the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, Sister Martha spoke to parishioners about the current situation in the Holy Land, about the daily life of the girls’ teachers at the Bethany School, and the joys and trials facing the School’s administration and instructors.
Parishioners listened attentively to Sister Martha’s stories, and many made generous donations to the School. That evening alone, three thousand dollars was collected, as well as an additional five thousand dollars in donations collected earlier. Sister Martha also addressed parishioners after Liturgy on Sunday.
On Saturday, March 25, Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan, vicar of the Eastern American Diocese, visited the cathedral and, on the eve of the fourth Sunday of Great Lent – the Sunday of Venerable John Climacus – served the All-Night Vigil. His Grace was co-served by Priest Damian Dantinne, while the rest of the cathedral priests heard the confessions of those preparing to receive Christ’s Holy Mysteries the following day.
On Sunday, March 26, Bishop Nicholas celebrated Divine Liturgy in two languages, co-served by cathedral rector Archpriest Victor Potapov and cathedral clergy: Priest Alexander Resnikoff, Fr. Damian, Priest John Johnson; Archpriest Patrick Viscuso (Greek Archdiocese), and cathedral clerics Protodeacons Leonid Mickle and Patrick Mitchell and Deacon Gregory Trubetskoy, as well as Protodeacon Dimitry Temidis (cleric of Holy Virgin Protection Church in Nyack, NY).
The cathedral’s two choirs sang the divine service, and the cathedral was filled to capacity with worshippers. Upon completion of the Liturgy, nearly 300 people communed from five chalices.
Greeting the clergy and faithful with the 4th Sunday of Great Lent and congratulating communicants on receiving Christ’s Holy Mysteries, Bishop Nicholas said, in part:
"For us it a great honor to be visited today by the Icon of the Mother of God ‘Softener of Evil Hearts.’ Next year will mark 20 years since the moment the icon began to stream myrrh, and for almost ten years now, the holy image has visited the Eastern American Diocese during Great Lent. We are thankful to the Lord God and the Mother of God for the mercies shown to us.
"In these days, we are traversing the arena of Great Lent. We are all fasting to the best of our ability, and ask much of God. And this is good, for even priests pray at Matins, that the Lord might blessed our whole life, ‘all of our comings and goings.’ And entering into Great Lent, we also read the special prayer of Venerable Ephraim the Syrian, asking to be given ‘a spirit chastity and humble-mindedness.’
"But before we can pass the threshold into the Fast, we must think what we wish to accomplish during this period, and what we wish to understand. In the Gospel of Mark, which we heard today, the reading speaks about a father who came to God, his son ailing from childhood. The Apostles could not heal him, and he approaches the Lord God, Who tells him, that ‘all things are possible to him that believes.’ The father replies, ‘I do believe, O Lord; help my unbelief.’ All of us are also sick: some spiritually, some physically. And we often ask the Lord for help, but we do not ask Him for humility, or that strengthen our faith. Let us begin these final days of Great Lend with humility, asking God to heal our unbelief. And let us always remember that it is one thing just to say, ‘I believe,’ and another thing entirely to demonstrate it through your life."
His Grace reminded those present that the Most Holy Theotokos showed us an example of humility, while Venerable John Climacus left us his marvelous book, The Ladder, as an example of spiritual ascent and perfection, and he called on the faithful to call upon the Lord and His Mother in humility, asking them to strengthen our faith and our righteous life.
On the evening of March 26, Bishop Nicholas led the Sacrament of Holy Unction in St. John the Baptist Cathedral, co-served by five priests. Nearly 400 people took part in the Sacrament. Bishop Nicholas underscored the holiness of the moment, and called on the faithful to strive for sobriety, concentration, and humility. The service lasted until 10 o’clock in the evening.