Parishioners from St George Serbian Orthodox Church in North Canton went on a Lenten Pilgrimage from March 24-27th. Beginning on the morning of March 24th, the 13 attendees offered prayers for safe travel and were blessed in their home church. Later that evening they arrived in White Plains, New York, in Westchester County.
On their first day, the group visited the Cloisters Museum in Manhattan. This museum is a brick-by-brick transfer of a number of medieval monasteries into a new, American setting. The museum collection is primarily western, medieval religious art including tombs, paintings, icons, tapestries, statues and reliquaries. One piece of the collection, the Merode Altar Piece by Robert Campin, is an extraordinary (and famous) depiction of the Feast of the Annunciation (as well as the Flemish culture from which it derived).
Around 2pm the same day, the pilgrims arrived at St Vladimir’s Seminary to join in the new calendar festal celebration of the Annunciation. The almost four-hour service was presided over by His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon of Washington and America (OCA) and His Grace Bishop Paul of the Midwest (OCA). Fr John Behr offered the homily for the day, reflecting on how the Theotokos was able to “let it be” according to the will of God.
After an evening meal, the group returned to St Vladimir’s for an evening retreat with Archdeacon Joseph Matusiak. His offered the pilgrims a chance to reflect on how we, in our American context, can become missionaries for our faith. Archdeacon Joseph reminded the group to look at Liturgy with the eyes of an outsider – the beauty, the strangeness, and the wonder. With those eyes, we can find questions that we, ourselves, can seek out answers to so that we might be prepared to welcome guests.
Further, Archdeacon Joseph challenged everyone to engage with, and learn about, their Orthodox faith as part of their Lenten discipline. More specifically, he suggested that we can read a book, engage with the Fathers of the church, attend more services, and consciously make an effort to become missionaries for Christ in how we live out our faith daily. Our desire to learn, and our Christian demeanor, are attractive to the many people in this country who are seeking truth.
On Saturday the group dispersed in New York City before meeting at One World Trade Center Plaza, the site of the 9-11 memorial. The group reflected on this great American tragedy, offering their prayers as a cold breeze continually rolled through the open expanse where the foundations of the buildings now rest as empty holes in the earth.
The pilgrimage finished on Sunday with Divine Liturgy at St Sava Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Manhattan, New York. Fr Aleksa Pavichevich concelebrated with Fr Djokan Majstorovic, cathedral dean, and Deacon Larry Soper. The service was well-attended with many communicants coming forward to receive the Holy Eucharist. Fr Aleksa offered the sermon in Serbian, exhorting faithful Orthodox to “preach the gospel at all times.. and when necessary use words.” After a luncheon at the St Sava hall, the group departed for North Canton, Ohio.