On Friday, May 11, 2018, two Seminary professors, Deacon Andrei Psarev (Asst. Professor of Russian Church History) and Dr. Vitaly Permiakov (Asst. Professor of Liturgical Theology), and five seminarians traveled to New York City on what has become an annual two-day field trip. This year’s trip had a dual-focus (1) the history of the Russian Church Abroad, which the two second-year seminarians in the group--James Racz and Mykola Ivanchuk—were studying all year, (2) the history of the Byzantine Empire, which the three first-years members of this expedition--Lazarus Sparandera, Ivan Nalitov, and Ivan Gryaznov—had studied in the Fall Term.
The first item on our program was the Novo-Diveyevo Convent in Nanuet, NY. We were warmly welcomed by Archpriest Alexander Fedorovsky, who led us on a tour of the grounds. We saw the cell of Archbishop Andrei (Rymarenko, + 1978) that has been preserved exactly as it was during the lifetime of this spiritual child of St. Nectarius of Optina (+1928); Archbishop Andrei was a father confessor of the clergy of the Kiev region before his departure to the West during World War II. The guests from Jordanville were able to venerate the unique portrait of St. Seraphim of Sarov painted during the lifetime of the Saint, as well as the icon of the Mother of God that belonged to the family of General Peter N. Wrangel, commander of the White Army forces.
Our next stop was the residence of the Synod of Bishops of ROCOR, where His Grace Bishop Nicholas of Manhattan met us with fatherly warmth. He shared with us the history of Synod building and offered advice on the pastoral ministry to future priests. His Grace, an alumnus of Holy Trinity Seminary, expressed considerable interest in the life of students and the educational process at his alma mater. At the end of the tour, His Grace blessed the newly-wed seminarian Lazarus Sparandera and his wife Alina with the miraculous Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God. The day concluded with a fraternal meal Bishop Nicholas and Archpriest Seraphim Gan, Secretary to His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad.
The next day, May 12, we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where Deacon Evan Freeman, Lecturer in Liturgical Arts at St Vladimir Seminary, led us on a tour of the Byzantine collection and shared his wealth of knowledge of the history and art of Byzantium. He showed the seminarians how the images on eucharistic objects, the artwork from Egypt, and holy icons reflect the multifaceted traditions in the Orthodox Church since the first centuries of Christianity. After the tour, we had time to explore the permanent collection of the museum in other halls. At the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum in northern Manhattan, we were able to peruse the Western sacred art during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It was very useful to compare the different styles and spirit of that art to our Byzantine traditions.
Next, a visit to St. Nicholas Cathedral (Moscow Patriarchate) on 97 East Street in Manhattan, thoughtfully arranged by His Grace Bishop John of Narofominsk,connected us once again with the troublesome and glorious events in the history of the Russian Orthodox Church in the twentieth century. The cathedral was named after the patron saint of its major donor, Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, and was consecrated by the future St. Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. After the Bolshevik takeover of the Russian government in October 1917, the church building was seized by so-called Renovationists and became an object of contentious court trials between various rival church groups.
On our way home we paid a visit to St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, our sister seminary in Yonkers, NY, founded in 1938. We were warmly welcomed by Archpriest Chad Hatfield, President of the Seminary, and Matushka Robyn Hatrak, Events and Hospitality Officer. After dinner in the seminary refectory, Fr. Chad conducted a tour of the grounds and offered each of us gifts of books by St. Vladimir Seminary Press. We also had the opportunity to attend Great Vespers in the Three Hierarchs Chapel of the Seminary and were greatly moved by the singing of the Seminary Choir, consisting of female and male voices under the direction of Robyn Freeman, Director of Music. The Russian melodies of solemn and joyful Paschal hymns touched our souls. The singing demonstrated, if nothing more, that Christianity is the most joyous faith in the world.
After Great Vespers, the HTOS seminarians returned to Holy Trinity Monastery on Saturday night, sharing enthusiastically their experiences with other students and the invaluable knowledge they had acquired in only two days.
Our group sincerely thanks each of the twenty-one benefactors who, through a crowdfunding campaign, made this trip possible for the benefit of our holy Church.