This second installment was recieved today from Seminary Dean V. Rev. Steven Voytovich chronicling the St. Tikhon's Mission Choir as they are touring churches in the western part of the U.S. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them as they lend their voices and talents to the prayers of the Orthodox faithful an entire continent away.
West Coast Tour: Visit to Tarzana continued (Dean's Journal)
Eve of Theophany, Jan. 5, 2015
With the mission choir’s visit to St. Innocent parish, Fr. Yousuf Rassam (STOTS 1997) planned to celebrate the fullness of the Theophany Feast. We began with Royal Hours, then Vesperal Divine Liturgy and blessing of water. After a short respite, we returned to celebrate the Vigil for the Feast, and again blessing of water. This was a full day of liturgical services. Faithful from the parish prepared a light Lenten luncheon following services, and mission choir members again had opportunity to talk with them.
Theophany Feast Day, Jan. 6, 2015
Fr. Yousuf celebrated festal Divine Liturgy, then we celebrated the Great Blessing of Water in the courtyard between the church and the hall. Fr. asked seminarian J.J. Kotalik to preach a brief sermon after the Gospel. It is ironic that this parish was the first English-speaking parish established by Archpriest Sergei Glagolev in the 50’s, as the make-up of the parish is now quite diverse due to more recent immigration. According to Fr. Yousuf, many will come to draw water over the course of this feast, necessitating the many celebrations of the great blessing of water.
Following Liturgy, Fr. Yousuf and parishioners prepared a tri-tip cut of beef that was perfectly prepared, and especially tasty following the fasting and celebration of services. After enjoying this luncheon, it was time head out to the OCA Cathedral in Los Angeles.
Eve of Nativity Feast (O.S.)
The Mission choir became a partner in a moment of transition in parish life for several reasons. This would be the first time in over 30 years that the Nativity Feast is celebrated on Julian Calendar, again due to recent immigration to the area. In addition, the pastor, Archpriest Nicholas Boldireff (STOTS 1970), was retiring. Just the previous weekend, the new priest, Fr. Nazari Polataiko came to begin serving the parish. He has served for many years as a Protodeacon and administrative support for the Archdiocese of Canada. Our challenge here would be to sing responses and portions of the service in Slavonic. Archpriest Michael Tassos, a long time supporter of St. Tikhon’s Seminary, came to join in the singing of the responses. He read the passage from the Prophet Isaiah in Slavonic while the choir sang the refrain. Services were quite well attended.
After the vigil, Fr. Nicholas invited the mission choir members to his home for a festive meal and fellowship. Fr. Nazari joined us, as did the parish’s long-time Protodeacon Arkady. After dinner, Fr. Nicholas regaled the seminarians with recordings of services and choir celebrations, some of which featured his brother Sergei. Fr. Nicholas also arranged overnight accommodations for the choir. We have also been blessed to use a van from the cathedral used to transport persons in need in the greater Los Angeles area as our transportation while in California.
Nativity Feast (O.S.)
The choir prepared for Liturgy, again with responses in both English and Slavonic. Fr. Nazari celebrated the Liturgy with the Protodeacon up through communion, at which time he had to meet a car waiting to take him to the airport back to Canada. Fr. Nicholas completed the Liturgy, and Fr. Steven was asked to preach a brief sermon.
After Liturgy the choir sang a short concert for the faithful gathered for a luncheon. Then once again Fr. Nicholas invited the mission choir over to his house for a very festive festal luncheon prepared by members of the parish. For several hours we ate, shared stories, and saw further recordings of singers, most notably the Don Cossack Choir, reflecting Fr. Nicholas’ heritage! In mid-afternoon, after packing up once again, the choir was on the road. We stopped briefly at the St. John of Kronstadt Nursing Home, an Orthodox institution, to sing a brief concert for the residents. We also paused a brief moment to visit the Agia Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral nearby. It is an incredible church both in terms of size and iconography.
In the evening the Mission Choir was treated to an evening of fellowship and Nativity Feast dinner at the home of a parishioner from St. Innocent Church, back in Tarzana. We have made it through the intensive services of the early part of the week, and had opportunity to talk with parish faithful we met earlier, as well as extended family members of our host. It was truly a relaxing evening following several very intensive days.
Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015
Even though the Mission Choir’s current singing schedule is based in the Los Angeles area, the Mission Choir members expressed great interest in visiting the relics of St. John Maximovich, in San Francisco. Our plan is to visit the area, stay overnight, and return on Friday in time for an Alumni Reception to be held at St. Innocent Church.