By Novice Monk Ioann
A number of pilgrims and families gathered with us here at the monastery on July 2nd, along with our Archbishop Benjamin and several clergy, to help us celebrate our yearly feast day of Saint John of San Francisco. We assembled in the church Tuesday night, one of those warm dry nights that are typical of summer in Manton, to begin the vigil service. Fr. Innocent made a point of singing in the choir, since he would not be able to do so again for a while: tomorrow he would begin serving in the altar as a priest. As we stood through the service of chants and hymns honoring our patron saint, we asked St. John's prayers and archpastoral blessing for the rest of the coming year, as well as for our Superior as he assumes his new clerical responsibilities.
The next morning—bright, sunny, and promising to be hot—the crack of the talanton summoned us at 8 o'clock for the hierarchical Divine Liturgy. Since we don't have hierarchical services here all that often, there was a bit of scrambling the day or two previous to make sure we had everything in order, but happily all went smoothly. There were a few extra musical selections, an interruption half-way through the liturgy for some shouting of "Axios, axios, axios!", and finally a molieben to Saint John with a procession around the chapel. We then processed joyfully to the monastery refectory for some "great consolation", a fine post-liturgical breakfast.
Fr. Innocent's initiation into the service of the priesthood is involving a traditional practice of serving forty Divine Liturgies in a row, so for a short while we are celebrating the Eucharist daily, instead of our usual four times a week. In addition to the Liturgy, he is serving all the other services as well, Matins, Vespers and Compline. Practice makes perfect, as the saying goes. And as our Archbishop commented, learning to serve in the altar is rather like "pat your head and rub your tummy"; much to keep track of and remember. Nevertheless we are grateful to God for another priest to help with the Divine services, the framework around which our life here is built. His Eminence stayed with us for another day to give a bit of extra training, and then headed off to his next appointment. Some of the pilgrims remained for the rest of the week, helping us with various duties and joining in our prayers.
We thank God for this special time every year to honor our patron, to remember his love for his flock and the God-pleasing life he led, and to ask for his intercessions for us and our Church. Our holy father and hierarch John, pray to God for us!