On Tuesday, March 13, the Lenten Retreat for clergy of the Eastern American Diocese continued at the Diocesan Center at St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Howell, NJ. After a light breakfast, Retreat participants – including clergy from the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA and some minor order clergy and matushkas – gathered in the cathedral to greet the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America & New York, and the myrrh-streaming Icon "Softener of Evil Hearts." The presence of the latter at lenten retreats has become a tradition and a great comfort for all those who gather for brotherly interaction and prayerful repentance.
A Moleben before the Beginning of Any Good Work was served before the Life-Giving Cross of the Lord and the myrrh-streaming icon. Joining His Eminence were Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan (vicar of the Eastern American Diocese) and Bishop Nikolai (Soraich; retired, Western American Diocese).
Welcoming those gathered, Metropolitan Hilarion said, in part:
"I warmly welcome you all to our annual Lenten Retreat. What a joy it is when brethren come together in love, piety, and Christian fellowship! You have all come from your parishes and monasteries, and I want to thank you for your labors, and for the effort you have put forward to be here during these days of Holy Lent. I wish you all, dear brothers and sisters, that this Retreat will inform, assist, and spiritually you, and that you will be purified by partaking in the Holy Sacraments of Confession and Communion, which we will all receive here."
His Eminence personally greeted and thanked Bishop Nicholas for his diligence as the diocesan vicar; Bishop Nikolai and Archpriest Gregory Joyce (secretary of the Mid-American Diocese) for traveling to the diocesan retreat to deliver their lectures; and Protopresbyter Valery Lukianov, the senior-most priest in the Russian Church Abroad, who came to share his wisdom and experience at the Retreat.
Conference participants then proceeded to Nevsky’s Café for their first lecture, by Bishop Nikolai, entitled, "Called to Serve in the 21st Century Americas: In the Footsteps of Sts. Cyril & Methodius." After a question and answer session with Bishop Nikolai, Fr. Valery Lukianov offered touching words to his brother priests on the beauty and calming grace of the divine services.
After a luncheon, served for the participants of the Pastoral Retreat by the cathedral sisterhood and volunteers, Fr. Gregory Joyce delivered a talk entitled, Weekday Divine Services of Great Lent: The Theology in Action of the Great Fast." A lengthy and energetic discussion followed, touching issues of liturgics (of the Presanctified Liturgy in particular), as well as when and how it is appropriate to abbreviate the divine services.
That evening, the Akathist to the Most Holy Theotokos was read before the myrrh-streaming icon, followed by the reading of the Prayer Rule for Holy Communion. After a lenten dinner, the clergy once more gathered in the cathedral, where Matins was served. Everyone was able to confess their sins, in order to commune the following day at the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts.