The monastery has always celebrated the three major feasts of the Church calendar in complete fulfillment of the Church typicon, that is, with festal services for three days. This includes the feasts of Nativity, Pascha and Pentecost. In this way, there is an atmosphere of spiritual joy which pervades the monastery. Despite the current difficulties, the monastery once again was able to fulfill this if even with somewhat more simplicity this year.
His Grace, Bishop Luke, headed up the services not only for all three days, but also for the Eve of Nativity, which this year were followed directly by the Sunday after Nativity, when Holy Church commemorates the memory of the “Fathers of God,” the Righteous King David, Joseph the Betrothed and the Apostle James, Brother of the Lord.
It is the custom of the monastery that all inhabitants and many of the neighbors partake of the Holy Mysteries on the Eve, which this year consisted of the Vespers Liturgy of St. Basil the Great, on Wednesday the 6th. At the end of the service the icon of the Holy Nativity is ceremoniously brought out to the middle of the church, preceded by a lit candle, which signifies that the Light of the World has come to us. This is accompanied by the choir singing the troparion and kontakion of the feast. And thus the feast begins.
Following custom, in the monastery there is only one meal, “when the first star appears.” The traditional foods for the “Holy Meal” in the monastery are kutia, mushroom and barley soup, mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy, vegetables, salad, and compot.
At 7PM the All-Night Vigil began with Great Compline, later followed by Litya and Matins. Sung by the choir were the many special hymns of Nativity. To comply with our local requirements for church capacity, two liturgies were served the following day, one in both churches of the cathedral. The hierarchal liturgy was served at 9AM in the main church.
At the end of the liturgy, a sumptuous meal was served for the brotherhood, with the main dish being the traditional fish holodets. In the evening, at 6:30, Great Vespers and Matins were served, followed by the liturgy at 9AM the following morning. The same schedule was observed for the third day of Nativity. Traditionally, the abbot would have had a reception for all following lunch on the first day. However, this year, due to known circumstances, it was decided to have a reception for the monastics only, on the third day, thus creating an opportunity for the brethren to celebrate and to have fellowship, together with our Vladyka.
There have been many limitations in our customs and our liturgical life this past year. However, we give thanks to Almighty God, that at least we have been able to have our divine services and to worthily commemorate the Church’s feasts and to have the Holy Mysteries. We also appreciate the help of our many friends and donors in being able to continue our monastic life and service to the Church.