The parishioners of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist had been eagerly preparing for the visit of the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God for quite some time before its arrival. In anticipation of its visit, the church had been tidied up, and the analogia and iconostasis decorated with flowers. To ensure that as many of the faithful as possible could have the opportunity to pray before the 13th century holy Icon, news of its coming had already been disseminated to all of the Orthodox communities of the Greater Washington area.
His Grace, Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan, guardian of the wonderworking Icon, arrived late in the evening on Wednesday, November 25, after the All-Night Vigil for the eve of the feast of St. John Chrysostom, which this year coincided with Thanksgiving Day. With the blessing of His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, Thanksgiving Day and the following three days became a time when the Kursk Root Icon would visit Washington annually.
At 8:30 AM the next day, November 26, there was a festive greeting, first of the Kursk Root Icon, and then of His Eminence, Metropolitan Jonah, formerly Primate of the Orthodox Church in America (now a retired hierarch in ROCOR). The Divine Liturgy was served by Metropolitan Jonah and Bishop Nicholas, co-served by six priests and three deacons. After the reading of the Gospel, Metropolitan Jonah delivered an English-language homily on taking St. John Chrysostom as our example in rendering thanks unto God. A video recording of that homily is available here.
Upon conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, Bishop Nicholas devoted his Russian-language homily to the same subject.
After the divine services, the faithful gathered together in the parish hall for a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal.
On Friday, November 27, the Kursk Icon visited sick and elderly parishioners unable to come to church to pray before the holy Icon. The Icon visited a total of nine people, living in Washington, Maryland, and Virginia. Its visit to Stephan Petrovitch Soudakoff, confined to his sick bed, was especially memorable. This ailing person reverently kissed the wonderworking Icon, and for the second time in five days, received Christ’s Holy Mysteries. Several hours later, he gave up his soul to God (Stephan Petrovitch’s funeral was served on December 1). Thus did the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God escort him on his final journey to her Divine Son!
That same evening, Bishop Nichola took the Kursk Icon to the parish of the Holy Apostles in Beltsville, MD, and served a moleben and akathist to the Most Holy Theotokos.
The next morning, cathedral rector Archpriest Victor Potapov took the wonderworking Icon to Potomac, a suburb of Washington, where the Romanian Church of Holy Apostle St. Andrew the First-Called is to be erected. The idea to build a church on that site came from the remarkable pastor and priest-confessor Archpriest Georgi Calciu, who during the 1980s suffered at the hands of the Communist atheist regime in Romania.
The Icon was greeted by the congregation’s Rector, Priest Cosmin Antonescu. In a specially-erected large tent, a Romanian-language akathist to the Most Holy Theotokos was served. It was followed by the Mystery of Holy Unction, in which over 200 parishioners took part. At the conclusion of the services, Fr. Victor spoke in English about the history of the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God, and about some of the many miracles it had wrought. The faithful were profoundly affected by this narrative, and expressed the hope that through the intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos, their goal of being able to pursue their prayer life in their own new church would be realized in the foreseeable future.
After saying goodbye to the Orthodox Romanians, Fr. Victor went to visit the home of the servant of God David, who had wanted to offer prayers of thanksgiving before the Icon. The Kursk Root Icon had visited him last year, when he was grievously ill with cancer, and was about to undergo complex and difficult medical procedures. It was a joy to see the householder in perfect health, standing at the door and greeting the Icon.
At 5:00 PM on Saturday, November 28, a festal All-Night Vigil was served in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, by His Grace, Bishop Nicholas, assisted by seven priests and three deacons. Singing at Vigil were two choirs, singing in Slavonic and in English. Metropolitan Jonah prayed in the altar and helped the priests with hearing confessions. As always, many people wanting to commune of Christ’s Holy Mysteries the next morning came to Confession. At the Polyeleos, magnifications were sung to the Kursk Icon of the Mother of God and to the Holy Apostle & Evangelist Matthew, whose memory was celebrated on Sunday, November 29.
On Sunday, November 29, the Kursk Icon was brought to the cathedral one hour before the greeting of Bishop Nicholas. At precisely 9:30 AM, to festive pealing of bells, His Grace came to the church. Dimitry Mikhailovitch Saretzky, for many years the cathedral warden,greeted the Hierarch with the traditional bread and salt, and with a welcoming speech in which, on behalf of the clergy and parishioners, he thanked His Grace for maintaining the tradition of annually visiting our parish with the Kursk Icon.
At the Divine Liturgy, all of the cathedral clergy, as well as Hieromonk Savvatey (Ageyev), a guest from Reading, PA, served. During the reading of the hours, Reader Andrey Skurikhin was made a subdeacon. After the reading of the Gospel, Fr. Savvatey gave a homily in Russian, in which he spoke of the Nativity Fast and preparation for the approaching Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. His homily here (homily begins at the 1:36:05 mark).
At Liturgy, a multitude of the faithful received Holy Communion, offered from four chalices. At the conclusion of the divine services, Bishop Nicholas preached in English to the congregation. He spoke about the Holy Apostle & Evangelist Matthew, and about the history of the Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God.
Following the Liturgy, a moleben was chanted before the wonderworking Icon. Afterwards, an abundant luncheon was provided by the cathedral’s Holy Protection Sisterhood. That same day, the Icon visited another several seriously ill parishioners.
Monday, December 1, arrived, and it was time to say goodbye to the Kursk Icon for another year. Bishop Nicholas agreed to stop along the way in Baltimore to visit a nine-year-old blind girl named Nadia Chernoknizhnaya, who is suffering from brain cancer.
Thus ended the second annual Thanksgiving weekend visit by the Protectress of the Russian Diaspora to the U.S. capital. We believe that this joyous and grace-filled tradition will continue throughout the coming years.