Yesterday, October 12, I was at the OCA Diocese of the Midwest Assembly at St Michael’s Orthodox Church in Broadview Heights, south of Cleveland, where I set up my full Thebaid display, and was able to meet and discuss the project with numerous clergy and lay representatives from several states.
I have found that when I meet people and describe the Thebaid Project in person, there is a much more vivid grasp of the inspiration and purpose of the project, and a corresponding affirmation of it. I arrived during the morning registration check-in and breakfast, and had great conversations through the entire day.
Fr John Memorich, the host priest of St Michael’s, asked me if I was going to photograph any dendrites, and I had to admit I was not familiar with the term, so he explained that referred to monastics who lived either in the hollows of trees or in their branches, like St David of Thessalonica, or St Tikhon of Kaluga (see icon at right). So, all you dendrite, tree-dwelling hermits of North America, be on the alert, as I hope to find you and make some photographs of your ascetical, transfigured life (preserving your cherished anonymity and privacy of course!). (Of course, I doubt there are any hermits, living in trees or elsewhere, who are on the internet to read this, so there is a real sense of irony in this musing!)
Gracing the meeting room for the plenary sessions was a life-size copy of the Tikhvin Icon of the Theotokos, which was a stunning and compelling sight, measuring some 5×6 feet or so. The original Tikhvin icon was secreted out of the Soviet Union after World War II, and brought to America, where it was enshrined in Chicago at Holy Trinity Cathedral. In 2003, a little more than a decade after the fall of communism, the decision was made to return the beloved icon to Russia. Some years later, in grateful appreciation of the preservation and return of the original Tikhvin icon, the faithful in Tikhvin, Russia, commissioned an exact replica to be painted, which was presented to Holy Trinity Cathedral in November 2016. You can read about the miraculous original Tikhvin icon, including how it was providentially saved from the God-hating Soviets and brought to Chicago, here.
I am deeply grateful to His Grace, Bishop Paul for this opportunity, as well as to his secretary, Philip Sokolov, who arranged the details in conjunction with the wonderful staff at St Michael’s Woodside Event Center, to provide a fully dressed table in a prime location in the lobby area between the main meeting rooms. Eis Polla Eti Despota!
From here I am heading to Cincinnati to my home parish of Christ the Savior-Holy Spirit for a few days, to catch up on photo editing and posting galleries from my most recent monastery and parish visits. I will also be scheduling more monastery visits, and plan to be back on the road early next week!
Watch for more posts, photos and news coming soon!
And, as always, thank you for your support and prayers!