The end of March and beginning of April were a spiritually rich period in the parish life of St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington, DC: many Lenten divine services were held, cathedral clergy took part in the Lenten Clergy Retreat at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, Metropolitan Jonah (Paffhausen) officiated the services on the Sunday of the Cross, and on Friday, April 1, the first Holy Unction service of the year was held. That same evening, His Grace Nicholas, Bishop of Manhattan, arrived to officiate the divine services of the fourth week of Great Lent in the cathedral.
On Saturday, April 2, the bilingual All-Night Vigil was served as usual. During Vigil, many parishioners confessed their sins, preparing themselves for Holy Communion and the second Unction service. Bishop Nicholas led the Polyeleos, co-served by cathedral clergy.
On Sunday, April 3, at 10 o’clock, after the early English Liturgy, the Bishop Nicholas was greeted with bread and salt by cathedral warden Maxim Agapov.
His Grace dedicated his sermon to the memory of Venerable John Climacus, who was being celebrated tht day. In it, he spoke about St. John’s renowned book The Ladder, and recommended that worshippers acquaint themselves with this remarkable composition and with other spiritual literature that will help the reader to understand how to gear oneself toward sincere repentance.
After Bishop Nicholas’ sermon, a short moleben was served before the relics of the venerable saints of the Kiev Caves Lavra for the restoration of peace in Ukraine. Several weeks ago, parish rector Archpriest Victor Potapov saw to placing a reliquary with the relics of the saintly monastics of Kiev in the center of the church, and to pray before them after every Liturgy for the suffering Ukrainian people. The relics will remain in this new location until peace returns to Ukraine.
The relics of the 81 saints of the Kiev Caves were presented to the parish personally by the ever-memorable Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Vladimir (Sabodan; +2014). The relics were providentially presented on July 23, 2009 – the feast day of Venerable Anthony, founder of the Kiev Caves Lavra.
After the service, the cathedral’s Holy Protection Sisterhood offered a lenten luncheon, during which the people of God took advantage of the opportunity to rest and to interact with one another. But they were not able to rest for long, as the second parish Unction service was appointed for 6:30 PM that Sunday evening.
Around 200 people attended the Unction service – the same number as had some to the first rite on Friday, April 1. The Sacrament of Holy Unction was officiated by Bishop Nicholas, co-served by cathedral clergy. Also taking part in the service were Archpriest Nectarios Trevino (rector of Holy Innocents & St. Nina Church in Bristow, VA), Priest Sergei Kosov (rector of St. Joseph of Optina Church in Virginia Beach, VA), and retired Greek cleric Protopresbyter George Alexson. Fr. Victor fell ill and was not able to participate.
As Bishop Nicholas had a work meeting scheduled for Monday, April 4, His Grace decided to stay in Washington one more day, and that evening officiated Matins with the reading of the Great Canon of St. Andrew of Crete.
The grace-filled services of these three days gave spiritual wings to the parishioners of St. John the Baptist Cathedral and other worshippers, filling them with determination to continue the Great Lenten path to Christ’s Glorious Resurrection.