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2016.11.11. Jordanville: "And the Light Shineth in Darkness, and the Darkness comprehended it not" – Multitude of Pilgrims gathers to honor Memory of Brother Jose
On Saturday the 29th and Sunday the 30th of October, several groups of pilgrims and individual faithful of the Russian Diaspora gathered at Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, to honor the memory of the guardian of the Montreal Iveron Icon of the Mother of God – Brother Jose Muñoz-Cortes, murdered 19 years ago.
Traveling from Washington, DC, on two buses and several cars were the parishioners of St. John the Baptist Cathedral, led by cathedral rector Archpriest Victor Potapov; also making the pilgrimage were 30 parishioners of St. Alexander Nevsky Diocesan Cathedral in Howell, NJ, and faithful from New York City, Long Island, Boston, and Canada. Arriving with the Washington pilgrims was Subdeacon Nektarios, who had arrived from Honolulu with the myrrh-streaming Hawaiian Iveron Icon of the Mother of God.
On Saturday afternoon, the visiting clergy and pilgrims gathered at the cemetery in order to jointly serve a panihida for Brother Jose. In anticipation of the buses arriving from Washington, Archpriest Serge Lukianov (secretary of the Eastern American Diocese) served a moleben in the cemetery’s Holy Dormition Church before a multitude of the faithful. Fr. Victor led the akathist, co-served by Fr. Serge, Archpriests Rafael Melendez (Albanian Orthodox Church and Zoran Radovic (Serbian Orthodox Church) and Priests Damian Dantinne (cleric of St. John’s Cathedral) and Stephen Kaznica (rector of Sts. Peter & Paul Church in Passaic, NJ). Also praying at the panihida were monastery abbot Archimandrite Luke (Murianka), Archimandrite Nektarios (Harding), the monastic brethren, and seminarians.
Also commemorated at the panihida were those close to Brother Jose: Archbishop Leonty (Filippovich; +1971), the Athonite Schema-Abbot Clement, and Emmanuel Argiris. Archbishop Leonty of Chile received the young Jose into the Orthodox Faith. Schema-Abbot Clement is the very same abbot of Holy Nativity Skete on Mount Athos who originally refused to sell the copy of the Iveron Icon to Brother Jose, and later, unexpectedly, rushed down the path from his cell to pass along a package containing the desired icon – one of the first every painting at the skete. Jose then hurried to the Iveron Monastery, where he laid the icon he had received from the abbot upon the original.
Emmanuel (Manolis in Greek) was the jeweler who created the first silver riza for the icon. And it was his son who made the rize for the new Hawaiian Montreal Icon of the Mother of God. Fr. Victor noted that they are all continued to one another through God’s providence, and called on the faithful to commemorate those who played a key role in Brother Jose’s life.
On Saturday evening, the clergy serve the All-Night Vigil in the presence of the myrrh-streaming image, and on Sunday morning celebrated the Divine Liturgy. In accordance with tradition, those visiting the monastery communed of Christ’s Holy Mysteries. Upon completion of the service, Fr. Serge Lukianov addressed the faithful with a sermon, in which he noted the importance of venerating the Most Holy Theotokos – our Heavenly Mother. Concluding, he congratulated Fr. Luke with his upcoming namesday.
After the luncheon, the monks showed the pilgrims the museum, garden, and farm, as well as the very recently constructed fishery where trout is grown for the brethren’s table. Fr. Nektarios visited every building and obedience on the monastery grounds, blessing the monks and seminarians laboring in each.
The weather on both days, despite the forecasts and to the surprise of the travelers, was warm and still. But, as he pilgrims from Washington once more made their way to Brother Jose’s grave for a panihida on late Sunday afternoon, it began to drizzle, and soon became a downpour. The pilgrims began to depart. At that point, the Hawaiian Icon finally arrived at St. Elizabeth Convent, where the sisters sang an akathist before it. No one anticipated that, that every evening in the monastic cemetery, a miracle would take place.
Nun Theodora of St. Elizabeth Convent explained:
"Nineteen years ago, on October 31, 1997, Jose Muñoz-Cortes – Brother Jose, as we called him – was tortured to death in a hotel in Athens… On Sunday, we served a panihida. The icon, wet with myrrh, lay on the analogion.
’Blessed is our God, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.’ And suddenly – rain: stubborn and enough to soak through one’s clothes The people stood under umbrellas, but the candles on Brother Jose’s grave were not extinguished until the end of the panihida.
And at 5 o’clock in the evening, when Abbess Elisabeth and I came once more to the grave, the candles were still burning. We decided to return once more at 6 o’clock, almost certain that the candles would be extinguished under the strengthening rain. With us was Igor, a pilgrim from Boston, who offered to walk with us to the cemetery.
It grows dark early now, and here in the total darkness of the cemetery we saw it – the victorious Paschal flames at the grave of the martyr, whose entire life had become a witness to fidelity, love, and the strength of the Spirit. In the dark, it was difficult to determine what precisely was burning. It seems at first as though the wet ground itself was aflame, or else that the fire was emanating from the melted wax now mixed in with it. Soft blue tongues of flame flickered above the ground.
Mother Elisabeth and our companion filmed this sight. We stood for a long time before the grave. The tall candles had long since gone out, but in places there were pockets in the ground, which had not preserved even a trace of the candle, but which were encircled with flat waxen crowns. Our companion added his commentary to the film: ‘It has been raining all day, and despite this, the ground is still aflame. It seems as though the fire is rising directly out of the ground…’ And he went silent, not daring to speak aloud the idea that the flame was rising up from the grave itself, bearing witness to the faith of Brother Jose. Truly, thought the stumps of the candles had gone out, the handbreadth wax islands shone like torches.
All around is darkness and cold rain, even our souls would not find warmth and here – Paschal fire emanating from the grave, calling us to spiritual awakening. We stood there, soaking wet, and yet sensing something absolutely unreal, as though from another world.
When we later sang the akathist in the convent, the wooden encasing was so saturated with myrrh that it left a footprint on the analogion cover. The church was filled with fragrance. This was one of the most powerful impressions I had yet received in my many years in Jordanville."
Thus drew to a close the eve of the 19th anniversary of Brother Jose Muñoz-Cortes’ murder at the place of his burial – in his beloved Jordanville, under the protection of the holy icon which has now taken the place – perhaps, only for a time – of the image of the Most Holy Theotokos he so deeply loved.
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