WASHINGTON, DC: September 13, 2019
Protopriest Victor Potapov on the 70th-anniversary celebrations at St John the Baptist Cathedral in Washington, DC
With God's assistance, on September 8, the Feast of the Meeting of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God, the Feastday of Sts. Adrian and Natalia, and our general celebration of our Patronal Feast - the Beheading of St John the Baptist – and the 70th Anniversary of the founding of our community, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion presided over he celebration of Divine Services at our church, which culminated with the blessing of a majestic three-meters high monument to the Holy Righteous St. John (Sergeyev) of Kronstadt. On that day, our parish acquired its third heavenly patron named John. The first is St John, the Forerunner and Baptizer of Our Lord. The second is the founder of our parish, Holy Hierarch John of Shanghai and San Francisco. Now, the third is Holy Righteous John of Kronstadt., pastor of all Russia.
The sculpture was created in Moscow in the studio of the Russian National Creative Workshop ARTPROEKT by the talented sculptor Dmitry Kukkolos, and was donated to our parish by the studio’s director general, Evgeny Korolev. Thanks to the financial support of the Foundation “Under the Protection of the Theotokos” Foundation, artists of the ARTPROEKT workshop created a number of similar monuments that now adorn city squares and monasteries in Russia and beyond its borders. Through the efforts of the Foundation, monuments on spiritual themes included: in San Francisco - St. John of Shanghai; in New York - Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II; in New Jersey - a monument commemorating the unification of the Russian Church; and other monuments erected in Europe. The production, packing and shipment of the St. John of Kronshtadt monument was accomplished, entirely pro bono, by the Foundation "Under the Protection of the Virgin" and the Russian airline Aeroflot.
At the close of the 19th Century and in the early 20th Century, Holy Righteous John of Kronstadt gained renown as a preacher of liturgical revival. His sculpture depicts him in the full vestments of a serving priest. In his left hand, he holds the Holy Chalice, and with his right hand, the hand of blessing, he points to the Cup. The monument will serve to remind all those who come to the church of the words of the Savior, "… labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you…". (John 6:27)
The celebrations began on Saturday, September 7, with a Requiem Liturgy at the Chapel of the Montreal Icon of the Mother of God, in Rock Creek Cemetery. At that Liturgy our parish church founders, benefactors, and beautifiers, many of whom have found their place of eternal rest at this cemetery, were commemorated.
On Saturday, the Cathedral Sisterhood and other volunteers worked all day, preparing our parish halls to welcome over 300 guests who were planning to attend the celebrations.
After lunch, His Eminence Hilarion, Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, arrived in Washington. He was accompanied by Abbot Tikhon (Gaifudinov), Rector of the Holy Protection Skete in Buena, New Jersey.
At 5:00 PM, Vladyka Metropolitan Hilarion arrived at the Cathedral and entered the Altar, to pray at the All-night Vigil Service. Throughout the Service, our Cathedral's four priests heard Confessions. At the polyeleos Metropolitan Hilarion was the principal celebrant, and was attended by Archpriest Victor Potapov, Cathedral Rector, and the other clergy of the Cathedral. Joining in with them were Archpriest Nektarios Trevino, rector of the Mission Church of the Martyred Holy Innocents of Bethlehem and St. Nina (Gainesville, VA) as well as Archpriest John Johnson, rector of the new Mission Church of the Holy Great Martyr Thecla (Rockville, MD).
On Sunday, September 8, His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah was greeted, and a Lesser Blessing of the Waters was served. Then the clergy gathered at the entrance to the Cathedral to await the arrival of Metropolitan Hilarion. Abbot Nikodim, representative of the Patriarachate of Moscow and cleric of the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Nicholas in New York, arrived. At exactly 9:30 AM, the Meeting of Metropolitan Hilarion took place. Our new church Starosa [warden], Maxim Agapov, greeted His Eminence with the traditional Bread and Salt, and gave a warm welcoming speech, in which he thanked our distinguished guest for coming, and wished him many good years.
At the Hours, John Stiff, a parishioner of the new Mission of St. Thekla in Rockville MD, was tonsured a reader.
Two choirs – the Slavonic led by Paula Genis, the English led by Konstantine Ogora – sang at the Liturgy.
Following the Eucharistic Canon, Metropolitan Hilarion ordained Subdeacon Peter Gardner – another member of the mission community of St. Thecla – to the Diaconate.
Before the Communion of the laity, Abbot Tikhon (Gaifudinov) gave a wonderful sermon devoted to Holy Righteous John of Kronstadt. Fr. Tikhon told of the Saint's earthly course, and how it would seem that through faith, an ordinary priest could not only heal souls, but could work miraculous healings from physical ailments.
Hundreds of the Faithful communed of the Body and Blood of the Savior, offered from five Chalices.
After the Divine Liturgy, there was a Moleben prayer service to the Most-holy Theotokos, St. John the Baptist, and Holy Righteous John of Kronstadt, with a traditional Procession of the Cross. At the first stop, at the Southern side of the church, Metropolitan Hilarion blessed the new sculpture of St. John of Kronstadt. The curtain covering the monument was removed by Metropolitan and by His Excellency, Ambassador Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the United States of America, Anatoly Ivanovitch Antonov.
At the conclusion of the Moleben and Procession of the Cross, Metropolitan Hilarion addressed the faithful with words of welcome. Vladyka congratulated the parishioners on the 70th Anniversary of he founding of the Church of St. John the Baptist, on the coming Patronal Feastday, and on the 45th Anniversary of cathedral rector Achpriest Victor Potapov's pastoral service.
Then Vladyka-Metropolitan awarded blessed Gramatas [certificates of appreciation] to those who had made efforts to create, manufacture, deliver, and install the sculpture of St. John of Kronstadt.
The first Gramata was awarded to His Excellency, Russian Ambassador Anatoly Ivanovich Antonov, who was able to arrange for free delivery of a heavy monument from Moscow to Washington via an Aeroflot airliner.
The second Gramata was awarded to the monument donor, Yevgeny Yegorovich Korolev, director of the Moscow workshop "Artproekt " and chairman of the Foundation "Under the Protection of the Most-holy Theotokos, " in appreciation for his generous gift to the Cathedral in Washington.
The next Gramata was awarded to Abbot Tikhon (Gaifudinov), initiator of the transfer of the monument to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
Architect Sergei Yevgenievich Plishevsky, a parishioner of our Cathedral, was awarded a Gramata for his efforts in designing the site for the monument.
Builder Igor Yurevich Ponomarev earned a Gramata for his work on the construction of the site for the monument.
Philanthropist Susan Carmel, benefactor to our parish, was awarded a Gramata for her generous support of a variety of our Cathedral's charitable endeavors.
Gramatas were likewise awarded to sculptor Dmitry Vladimirovich Kukkolos, creator of the sculpture, to Peter Mikhailovich Viunov, who had contributed a large part of the funds toward creating the monument, and to Vitaly Gennadievich Savelev, head of Aeroflot Airlines.
Following the awards ceremony, a festal banquet and assembly took place. Seating was provided in the main parish hall and other rooms, as well as specially installed tent pavilions, with live broadcast of the speeches presented in the main parish hall.
During lunch, Fr. Victor gave a talk, in which he described in some detail the participation of the above-mentioned persons in the creation and installation of the monument to St. John of Kronstadt.
Then, Fr. Victor invited the Russian Federation's Ambassador, His Excellency Anatoly Ivanovich Antonov, to speak. The head of the Russian Federation's diplomatic mission noted that "… immortalizing the memory of one of Russia's most revered miracle workers in America's national capital [was] a radiant event in the spiritual life of all Orthodox Christians in the United States." Further, he expressed the hope that "…it also constituted another step in spiritually consolidating and strengthening the unity of our Diaspora…"The Ambassodor emphasized that "…today, for many compatriots living far away from Russia, it is the Church that sometimes is their only little island of the Motherland. "
The next speaker was Susan Carmel, who for a long time has been a benefactor to our Cathedral.
"It is truly an honor for me to be here today, as you celebrate this profoundly historic occasion — the 70th anniversary of your founding.
With the celebration of your first Liturgy on September 11, 1949 — by no less than a future saint, St. John of Shanghai! — the life of this parish was launched.
It must seem a very long way from that inaugural Liturgy within the walls of a small, private apartment to the consecration of your magnificent Church in 1988.
The story of those years — and the years since — is a story of a deep and abiding faith; of an active and holy faith; of a generous and caring community.
It is impossible to pass through your doors and not be touched by the grace of God that lives here — a grace that transforms and perfects the faithful in the love of Christ.
Our world often seems tumultuous and divided... increasingly secular, and unconcerned with matters of faith...…but the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist stands amongst it not just as a refuge, but as an example — an example of holy lives lived well in communion with and in service to Christ.
And that is a brilliant light of faith that burns very bright indeed!"
The final presentation was made by Yevgeny Korolev, director of the Moscow workshop "ARTPROEKT" and chairman of the "Under the Protection of the Most-holy Theotokos” Foundation. He spoke of the work of his sculptors, of and how the idea of placing a statue in Washington, timed to coincide with the 190th Anniversary of the birth of St. John of Kronstadt and 55th Anniversary of his canonization by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, was born.
We conclude our essay with a Gala poem, "Faith Larger Than a Mustard Seed", composed by our parish's talented poet Andrey Gidaspov, in honor of the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Baptist:
Then He said, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and put in his garden; and it grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.” ~ Luke 13:18-19
Have you seen these birds of the air
Nesting under the shade,
Under the shade of the tree,
Of that church built on the corner
And Shepherd Street?
Have you seen
That church built by faith,
Erected in the heart
Of the sower,
Who saw it through the prayers
And the pains of Tubabao Island,
And its people suffering
In a makeshift camp
With their roofs shaking from the high winds
Of the ocean,
Hidden in the kindness of the Philippines
But yet in danger of being abandoned
By their own…
Tell me, was this church
Built by faith?
Was this faith larger than a mustard seed?
Was it greater than the pain of all six thousand refugees
Squeezed by the grip of their sorrow?
Was this faith stronger than the ocean of their tears
Shed in loneliness and grief
Over their lost Homeland?
Was this faith enough to build
A future beyond this ocean?
Where was this faith?
And who could bear that kind of faith?
Who could carry that tree on his shoulders?
Why, it grew in the heart of a simple man,
Who did not wear sandals -
He wanted to feel the pain of the Earth
With his feet,
He wanted to walk on this dirt,
And clean it with his deep belief
In lost mankind.
He wasn’t mad, as some said,
But he was blind,
Blind to people’s failings,
Yet his eyes were wide-open
To their tears and their repentant cries.
O, he cried with them,
O, how he cried,
In the lonely nights
He wept alone
For them all
Asking the Lord
To give them a New Land,
To save their souls.
O this man knew much,
He knew that his cross
Was on that land,
Waiting for him on the West Coast,
But before that
He needed to plant the seeds,
The seeds that St. John the Baptist
Passed himself to him,
Gazing into his heart
From the icon he had held in his hands,
When he prayed for this people
In deep despair.
Was his faith larger than a mustard seed?
Some said that they saw him
Going to hospitals
To weeping children,
He was in two places at once,
Or perhaps it was coincidence,
Maybe someone made a mistake,
And it wasn’t that strange barefooted man
Walking with a chalice
Communing with strangers
Who were about to die
And yet at that very moment
St. John of Shanghai
Would appear with love
In his warm brown eyes
And give his alms to the poor
For the sake of Christ.
Now I am asking you to respond -
Was his faith larger than a mustard seed?
The faith that carried him to Capitol Hill
And made him stand there with a censor
And pray in front of those who could not see
So the stranded strangers on the Philippine lands
Would get their freedom…
O he cried and prayed,
Was his faith larger than a mustard seed?
Now it’s your turn to say.
When you come today
To St. John’s Cathedral in DC,
Come right to the column
On the right as you enter,
To light a candle in front of St. John,
And look straight in his eyes,
Asking yourself deep in your heart,
How in the world seventy years ago
Did this simple man
Plant a seed of faith
On the corner of Seventeenth,
That still stands tall?
Was his faith a little larger
Than a mustard seed?