This year, on the feast of the Beheading of the Holy Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptizer of the Lord John, the parish of St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington, DC celebrated the 68th anniversary of its founding. It was on this day, September 11, 1949, that the Holy Hierarch John of Shanghai, visiting the American capital in order to convince the American government to help his flock on the Philippine island of Tubabao, gathered a group of faithful children of the Church Abroad and in a private home celebrated the first Divine Liturgy in the new church community he had established. It was St. John himself who named the parish in honor of the Prophet he revered and loved. After the founding of the new church community, parishioners would gather on Sundays and feast days for divine services in various locations. In 1958, a piece of land inside the District was obtained on the intersection of 17th and Shepherd Streets NW, and by their own efforts, parishioners built a small church and parish hall. In 1977, reconstruction began that would last several years, and result in the church receiving its current majestic form – a cathedral in the 16th-century Moscow-Yaroslavl’ style.
This year, the parish was visited on Saturday the 9th and Sunday the 10th of September – the weekend before feast – by the ruling bishop of the Diocese of Eastern America & New York, His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, who led the popular celebrations in honor of the parish’s patronal feast day.
Metropolitan Hilarion was joined in his visit to Washington by the great and holy "Hawaiian" myrrh-streaming Iveron Icon of the Mother of God, revered across the Orthodox world, which by God’s mercy appeared exactly ten years ago, in 2007, the year of the restoration of canonical communion between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.
The feast was somewhat begloomed by the illness of the parish rector, Archpriest Victor Potapov, who had been taken to the hospital with sharp chest pains. As a result, Fr. Victor would not be present for the parish celebrations. He is currently undergoing various tests and has returned to his duties as rector.
On Saturday, September 8, His Eminence led the All-Night Vigil, co-served by parish clergy and Priest Vladimir Kaydanov (rector of St. Nicholas Church in Palm Coast, FL), who had come up from Florida on account of Hurricane Irma. Singing at Vigil were two large, accomplished choirs – the Slavonic, under the direction of Paula Genis; and the English, under the direction of Reader Konstantine Ogora. For parishioners, the beautiful singing of the two choirs is a regular feature, but visitors from out of town noted the dynamicity with which the two sang the hymns and the easy with which they switched between Church Slavonic and English. Throughout the Vigil, parish priests heard confessions from all those who desired to be cleansed of their sins.
At the festal Liturgy on Sunday morning, a multitude of the faithful communed from four chalices.
His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, dedicated his sermon to the Heavenly patron of the church: the Holy Prophet & Forerunner John.
After the dismissal, the traditional moleben was served to St. John the Baptist, followed by a procession.
As always on these feasts, the parish sisterhood organized a bountiful luncheon for all of the participants. After lunch, Metropolitan Hilarion thanked all of the organizers of the feast for their hospitality and wished the absent and ailing father-rector a most speedy recovery.
On the evening of September 10, the eve of the feast of the Beheading of St. John the Forerunner, in the All-Night Vigil was served in the presence of the wonderworking Hawaiian Icon of the Mother of God, while on Monday, September 11, the very day of the patronal feast, early Liturgy was celebrated. Praying and communing of Christ’s Holy Mysteries at Liturgy was a group of priests from the Georgian Orthodox Church paying an official visit to the U.S.
Having celebrated their patronal feast day, parishioners will now begin with renewed strength to prepare for their annual two-day bazaar, which this year will take place on September 30 and October 1 and has become very popular in the Washington area. They will further prepare for the annual pilgrimage to Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville to the grave of Brother Jose Muñoz-Cortes, custodian of the myrrh-streaming Montreal-Iveron Icon of the Mother of God, who was killed in 1997. This year, the 19th annual pilgrimage will be held on October 28-29, and will be led by His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion. Also anticipated at Holy Trinity Monastery will be the Hawaiian-Iveron myrrh-streaming icon of the Mother of God.
Glory to our God!
Translated by the Eastern American Diocesan Media Office