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"Precious in the Sight of the Lord is the Death of His Saints:" Pilgrimage to Brother Jose Muñoz-Cortes’ Grave at Holy Trinity Monastery

In 2019, the children of the Church mark the 37th anniversary of the appearance of the myrrh-streaming Montreal-Iveron Icon of the Mother of God (November 24, 1982), the 22nd anniversary of the martyric death of its guardian, Brother Jose Muñoz-Cortes (October 31, 1997), and the 12th anniversary of the appearance of the myrrh-streaming Hawaiian-Iveron Icon of the Mother of God (October 6, 2007).

Preparations for the Washington Cathedral of St. John the Baptist’s 21st annual pilgrimage to Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY began long before that event. Registration opened after the parish’s patronal feast of the Beheading of St. John the Forerunner & Baptist of the Lord, and in a matter of days, all of the seats on the tour bus had been reserved. In preparation for the two-day visit to the "Diasporan Lavra," provisions had to be purchased and food prepared for the many pilgrims and for the monastic brotherhood. From the very first of the pilgrimages, this had been the parish’s practice, so as not to excessively distract the monks from their vocation of prayer; it was a practice requested by the ever-memorable abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery and First Hierarch of ROCOR, Metropolitan Laurus (Skurla; +2008).

One week before the Washington pilgrimage, on October 27/28, Archpriest Serge Lukianov brought a group of parishioners from the Diocesan Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevsky in Howell, NJ to the "Diasporan Lavra" to honor the memory of Jose Muñoz-Cortes.

On Friday, October 25, the eve of the pilgrimage to Holy Trinity Monastery, Deacon Nectarios Yangson arrived from Honolulu, HI, accompanying the myrrh-streaming Hawaiian Iveron Icon of the Mother of God. The church was filled to capacity for a moleben and akathist to the Most Holy Theotokos. After the service, pilgrims queued up to have their confessions heard by cathedral clergy, while others remained in the church for a long while, taking in the miracle of the streaming myrrh and offering up individual prayers before the wonderworking image.

At 5:30 AM the next day, Saturday, October 26, about 60 people gathered near the church. An enormous store of provisions and the pilgrims’ personal effects were loaded into the bus, all were seated, and the bus soon set off. Following the bus was a church van and several private cars filled with pilgrims.

Deacon Nectarios, guardian of the Hawaiian Icon, was among the passengers on the bus, and allowed each pilgrim the grace-filled opportunity to holy the wonderworking icon for 10-15 minutes. He also spoke to everyone about some of his more memorable travels with the holy image. All of this brought great joy to the participants of the pilgrimage. The long, seven-hour drive flew by, as if in a single moment…

At 3:00 PM, the pilgrims arrived at the monastery cemetery for the first panihida for Brother Jose, martyred in 1997, the faithful guardian of the myrrh-streaming Montreal-Iveron Icon of the Mother of God. The weather was uncharacteristically warm for that time of year. An analogion was placed next to Brother Jose’s grave in anticipation of the arrival of the Hawaiian Icon. Fr. Victor led the requiem service, co-served by Archpriest Dimitri Jakimowicz (rector of Nicholas Church in Stratford, CT), Priest Stephen Kaznica (rector of Sts. Peter & Paul Cathedral in Passaic, NJ), and Fr. Alexander from Troitsk in the Orenburg Oblast. The faithful in attendance chanted the service. Commemorated at the panihida were not only Brother Jose, but also Schema-Abbot Clement, who in 1982 had presented him with the Icon, which shortly thereafter began to stream myrrh, and Archbishop Leonty (Filippovich; +1971) of Chile, who had brought Jose into the Orthodox Faith.

The Hawaiian Icon was brought quickly and placed on the prepared analogion.

Awaiting the pilgrims’ arrival was the First Hierarch of ROCOR, Metropolitan Hilarion, who had remained at the monastery after the Eastern American Diocesan Pastoral Conference (October 21-23) in order to specially commemorate the anniversary of Brother Jose’s murder. Unfortunately, the Metropolitan fell unexpectedly ill with a virus, and he could not come out for the service, nor even attend the monastery’s Saturday night Vigil.

"Blessed is our God" was proclaimed, and the panihida began in the presence of the great and sacred Hawaiian Icon.

Almost immediately after the panihida began, worshippers noticed the spread of a dark stain across the white analogion cover, under the left side of the Hawaiian Icon. During the panihida, Fr. Victor approached the analogion and ran three fingers of his right hand across it, and they were covered with an abundance of holy myrrh! Everyone was gripped with pious awe. Upon completion of the panihida, the icon was lifted up above the analogion, the entire front of which was covered in holy myrrh, such that the wooden frame could be seen through the white vestment. The myrrh streamed out of the icon’s casing! Deacon Nectarios later informed us that something similar happens only on Pascha and once, when the icon was placed on the relics of Venerable Herman of Alaska on Spruce Island. In his sermon after the panihida, Fr. Victor underscored that the abundant streaming of myrrh clearly demonstrates that the Mother of God is glad to be near the burial place of her chosen one, Brother Jose.

After the panihida, during the singing and reading of the Akathist to the Montreal Icon at Brother Jose’s graveside, all those present were anointed with holy myrrh from the Hawaiian-Iveron Icon, and all who desired received a small bottle with oil from the lamp on Brother Joseph’s grave, soil from his gravesite, a small photograph of the chosen one of the Mother of God, and a booklet with a canon and akathist to the Montreal Icon. The pilgrims likewise all partook of kutia blessed on his grave.

After the evening meal, the pilgrims assembled at the monastery’s Holy Trinity Cathedral for the greeting of the wonderworking Hawaiian Icon and the festal three-hour monastic Vigil. Throughout the service, in the lower Church of Venerable Job of Pochaev, Fr. Victor and Archpriest David Pratt, newly assigned to the Washington cathedral, heard the confessions of pilgrims who wished to receive Holy Communion the following morning.

On Sunday, October 27, His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, celebrated Divine Liturgy, having recovered somewhat from his viral illness. Concelebrating were a multitude of priests and deacons. Worshippers were profoundly impressed by the harmonious and tender chanting of the seminary choir, directed by Deacon Nicholas Kotar, a great connoisseur of liturgical chant. After the dismissal, Fr. Victor delivered remarks in two languages and thanked Metropolitan Hilarion on behalf of the pilgrims for leading the pilgrimage, and thanked Bishop Luke and the monastery brethren for their hospitality.

After the meal, the pilgrims divided up into smaller groups in to tour the monastery and visit the museum to view the remarkable new exhibition.

At 3:00 PM, the pilgrims once again gathered at Brother Jose’s grave for a farewell panihida. As always, the neatly cleaned gravesite was covered by a multitude of candles placed there by the faithful. (Fr. Stephen Kaznica, who remained overnight at the monastery and visited Br. Jose’s grave late that night, attested that many candles continued to burn all the way to the ground.)

Fr. Victor served the panihida, assisted by Fr. Stephen Kaznica and Hieromonk Felipe (Balingit) from the Philippines. After the service for the departed, Fr. Victor delivered a sermon dedicated to Br. Jose.

Fr. Victor thanked those present for their devotion and support for veneration of Brother Jose, and for remembering his remarkable and unique service to the Church of Christ. He also noted that the miraculous sign of the myrrh-streaming Hawaiian Icon is a direct continuation of the miracle of the Montreal-Iveron Icon, and that we "must not become accustomed to" this new miracle.

After the panihida, everyone visited the Women’s Skete of the Holy New-Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth.

 Spiritually enriched by their stay at Holy Trinity Monastery and by warm fraternal fellowship, the pilgrims did not even notice how quickly the seven-hour journey home flew by.

May God grant that ever more people, and at all times, visit and support Holy Trinity Monastery and the place where the Chosen One of the Mother of God is laid to rest, and may the Lord grant the coming of the blessed day when Brother Jose is glorified and joined to the rank of saints, the final Orthodox martyr of the 20th century.

Archpriest Victor Potapov

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"Precious in the Sight of the Lord is the Death of His Saints:" Pilgrimage to Brother Jose Muñoz-Cortes’ Grave at Holy Trinity Monastery - 10/30/19

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