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A South Canaan Marvel: St. Tikhon's Monastery

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    A South Canaan Marvel: St. Tikhon s Monastery ... By Steve McConnell GateHouse News Service Wed Dec 31, 2008, 01:29 PM EST ... South Canaan - One hundred and
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      A South Canaan Marvel: St. Tikhon's Monastery

      ---------------------------------------------

      By Steve McConnell
      GateHouse News Service
      Wed Dec 31, 2008, 01:29 PM EST

      ---------------------------------------------

      South Canaan -

      One hundred and three years ago, religious pilgrims walked up and
      over the 1,900-foot Moosic Mountains, a 10-mile arduous journey from
      the Mayfield area, Lackawanna County, to South Canaan Township, Wayne
      County.

      On July 29, 1905, these Orthodox Church members embarked upon a
      pilgrimage to Saint Tikhon's Monastery for its dedication ceremony as
      the first monastery of their faith in the U.S.

      A few years prior, Father Arseny Chagovtsev, an Orthodox rector at
      Saint John the Baptist Church in Mayfield, thought it would be
      appropriate to create a home for monastics who were spreading the
      faith throughout the continent from its traditional geographic
      centers - eastern Europe and Russia.

      Father Arseny and Archbishop Tikhon, the latter would become the
      Patriarch, or leader, of the entire Orthodox Church, traveled by
      horse and carriage over the Moosic Mountains scouting sites.

      On their second trip to Wayne County, they located suitable land
      owned by a South Canaan farmer, which was purchased for $2,580 in
      June 1905, according to a monastery history.

      The opening and consecration of the monastery's church took place on
      May 30, 1906, which would also commemorate the second pilgrimage to
      the site.

      And this place of holy worship and reflection spawned long ago still
      resides today, a living example of devout faith in an century - and
      country - of wide-spread secularism.

      The brotherhood within awakens early around sunrise, traversing the
      pine-tree filled grounds to the monastery church, a dedicated
      celebration of the rituals of their faith, a strong following of
      Jesus Christ as the savior and redeemer.

      And they rejoice in this life of independence away from a world
      largely different than the turn of the 20th century when people would
      walk miles to uphold their convictions.

      Tour

      Father Nicodemeus, a monk at St. Tikhon's since 1983, provided a tour
      of the monastery to the Wayne Independent.

      He described its location in South Canaan as "isolated ... a part
      from the world," lending "a contemplative life of prayer and
      fasting."

      The Appalachian Mountain chain arises in the west and there is a
      clear view of the eastern sunrise. The area is sparsely populated -
      farmland and an occasional isolated home along the drive off Route
      296 on St. Tikhons Road.

      The monastery church is modest compared to its flaring European
      counterparts, like Saint Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, Russia, but it
      has the distinctive onion domes - golden and topped by the Russian
      Orthodox Cross.

      In the late 1940s, a brick facade was placed around the original
      clapboard of the church, according to the history.

      The otherworldly, metaphysical experience, however, is inside.

      Transcendence

      Dressed entirely in black with a long black-and-gray beard exuding
      the contemplative life, Nicodemeus patiently explained the numerous
      theological icons painted throughout the church by a Ukrainian
      iconographer in the mid-1960s - a period of extensive renovations.

      Religious iconography is an Eastern Orthodox Church tradition.
      Icon comes from the Greek word, eikona, meaning "image."

      Many scenes at the monastery church depict the life and resurrection
      of Jesus Christ in a dazzling spectrum of colors, evoking a Christian
      transcendental experience.

      Other powerful, religious images array throughout the sacred place -
      Old Testament prophets, the 12 apostles of Jesus, the four
      Evangelists of the New Testament, and contemporary church saints.

      It is said that Luke the Evangelist, the believed author of the
      Gospel of Luke, painted the first icons of Christ.

      "You can analyze the icon and tell the theological truths," said
      Nicodemeus. "And that's a major source of the faith - theology in
      visual form."

      Elements of the Old Testament and the New Testament intersect within
      bridging thousands of years of Judeo-Christian religious tradition:
      the prophets Elijah and Daniel, and Moses, alongside John the
      Baptist, Saint Joseph and Mary, the mother of Jesus.

      "There's ... centuries of Christianity" in here, he said.

      The summa representation of this is the "Iconostasis" - a three-
      tiered, ornate red-oak wall stretching to the church's ceiling,
      adorned with dozens of colorfully painted Judeo-Christian icons, side
      by side, on each tier.

      Archangel Michael, in a red robe, angel wings protrude outward,
      mediates beside a portrait of Jesus Christ.

      The Iconostasis, a common Orthodox element, separates the body of the
      church, where the faithful worship, from a clergy sanctuary area,
      Nicodemeus said.

      Pilgrimages

      Visitors have devoutly frequented the monastery's grounds since that
      summer when about 100 pilgrims, by best estimates, crossed the
      mountain into Wayne County.

      There has been a religious pilgrimage every year.

      "We have people from all over the world come," said Nicodemeus.
      The church's saints have also walked and prayed here: Saint Tikhon of
      Moscow, Saint Raphael of Brooklyn, Saint Nicholai of Zhicha, Saint
      Alexis of Wilkes-Barre, and Saint Alexander Hotovitsky.

      Saint Alexis is entombed inside the monastery church - near the
      Iconostasis.

      "His body was uncorrupted; it hadn't decayed" when it was removed in
      1994 from the monastery's cemetery, said Nicodemeus. "The martyrs and
      saints who loved God more than they loved themselves are the
      foundation of the church."

      Saint Alexis died in 1909.

      He is said to have converted 29,000 people to the Orthodox faith.
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