On the feastday of the Protection of the Mother of God, our monastery was honored by a visit from a special delegation of the Russian Church Abroad with a group of pilgrims from the USA.
Archbishop Andronik of New York and North America and Archbishop Sophrony of Saint Petersburg and North Russia, accompanied by several ROCOR priests who had come to Serbia for the renewal of Eucharistic communion between the Serbian TOC and ROCOR, realized with a co-celebration of the Holy Liturgy at Uteshiteljevo Monastery on September 28/11 2020 (See HERE for a report of this celebration).
We were very honored that the hierarchs of ROCOR came to visit and bless our monastery. We were especially glad that the group of pilgrims included Mother Abbess Evfrosinia (Molchanova) of Lesna Convent (France).
On the eve of the feast, we organized several off-road vehicles in order to drive our visitors from the foothills to Mikulj Rock.
All of us at the monastery, we sisters, our helpers, and faithful present, were struck by the Christian love and warm and open hearts of our Russian guests. Prayerful and joyful, our guests brought a big blessing and joy to our monastery.
The presence of an icon painted to commemorate the 100th anniversary of ROCOR, added to the grace-filled joy of the occasion.
We had feared that the weather on the day of the feastday would be unpleasant, as is typical for this fall period, especially as the previous days had been foggy, cloudy, rainy, windy and cold.
Nevertheless, on the day of the feast, at dawn began a clear, sunny and warm day, as if Our Lady had spread her veil over the mountain, showering it with the warm rays of the sun.
On the feast of Our Lady, our spiritual father Bishop Akakije, accompanied by several Serbian and Russian clergymen served a festive hierarchical liturgy in our church dedicated to St. John the Baptist.
As our church (and hence altar) are quite small, not all of the clergymen were able to serve, nonetheless, they were all present.
For some parts of the Holy Liturgy, members of the ROCOR clergy and faithful led the singing in beautiful Russian choral style. The beautiful Russian music sung by deeply pious and prayerful people moved all those in the church to tears.
During his sermon, His Grace Bishop Akakije, along with offering praise to Our Most Holy Lady, spoke to the guests present about Novi Stjenik Monastery, about how the sisters had chosen this very desolate place in imitation of the ancient monastic fathers. Various deprivations, suffering and difficult conditions in these wild conditions are in fact fruitful earth for the cultivation of monastic good works, which in a mystical way bring the desert-dwellers closer to God.
After the divine services, which filled all of us, both the hosts and the guests, with indescribable divine grace and prayerful excitement, there followed the festive meal of love.
Even if it is quite small for such occasions, our monastery’s little guest house, overflowing with guests, was also overflowing with mutual Christian love and cheer.
Despite the fact that we were not acquainted with our guests, and keeping in mind that we live on different continents, we were amazed by the immeasurable mutual love and understanding we felt for each other, along with the warm words addressed to each other in interchanging toasts which at times moved those present to tears.
What was most important to us was the mutual inspiration, comfort, empathy and encouragement we received from each other for today’s far from easy life of confession in these days of apostasy.
After spiritual and bodily nourishment, the guests were led through the entire monastery grounds and buildings by our Mother Abbess Efrosinija.
That day we consoled each other very much, all under the grace of Our Most Holy Lady’s omophorion whose grace brought us together on the day of her feast in our humble mountain monastery.
At the end of the day, we saw our guests off to the ringing of bells and poignant farewells, promising that we would remember each other in our prayers.
Glory and thanks to Our Most Holy Theotokos for this beautiful, grace-filled day which truly befitted Her most wondrous, holy omophorion!