The next day after the Pilgrimage, on Aug. 1, 1905, Fr. Arseny wrote in his diary these words: "August 1. The mother's blessing. Today I have received a letter from my elderly parent, which contains a few warm words related to the undertaking that was bestowed upon me and imbues the very essence of my soul. 'Let the Lord God bless you for the worthy and holy undertaking (organizing the holy cloister and the orphanage). I rejoice and I am in tears from this joy, that the Lord has called you to this endeavor, although I grieve at the separation from you. I hope that once you complete this undertaking you will come to see me. And I will be asking the Lord to keep me alive until that time.'"
After reaching the train station that same day, St. Raphael and Alexander travelled to Scranton. Stopping briefly to admire and pray at the Orthodox Church in Scranton where Fr. Elias Klopotovsky was rector, they then departed for Old Forge, Pa., where clergy were gathering for a church council to begin the next day.
It was at this assembly, so soon after the blessing of the monastery grounds, that the decision was made that patron saint of the new monastery would be St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, a beloved 18th-century Russian bishop and spiritual writer who was an inspirer of Dostoyevsky. St. Tikhon was the patron saint of Archbishop Tikhon. In his life, St. Tikhon of Zadonsk combined service to the Church as a bishop, with and the life of a humble ascetic and man of prayer who was also, as a monk, was much involved in helping those in need. Thus a saint was chosen as an exemplar for the new monastic community who had been, in many ways, "all things to all men" and who had served both God and man. With an orphan's home being established on the monastery grounds, charity would indeed be a significant part of the monastery's work.
Aug. 26th (13th O.S.), 1905, the feast of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, was the first patronal feast of the monastery. Bp. Tikhon celebrated the liturgy and tonsures Br. Andrew Repella as a monk, giving him the name Anthony.
Fr. Arseny, who still resided at Mayfield where he was rector, paid a visit to the monastery and in an article in the Messenger, described with tender words, the life of the habitation and orphan's home at the time. His words also reveal his humble beginnings and his own childhood experience of exile presaging his later monastic calling and also endowing him with a special sympathy for the orphan children.
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In the autumn of 1905, much progress was made on construction of the monastery building. On Thursday, December 21, Archbishop Tikhon and Fr. Alexander Hotovitsky came from New York City to lay the cornerstone. They were met in the middle of the night by Fr. Arseny and Fr. Tikhon Rostovsky, the latter of whom had just arrived from his missionary labors in Hartshorne, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), having agreed to become the spiritual guide of the new community. Fr. Tikhon, a monk from the Glinsk Hermitage in Russia, was appointed to be acting superior in the absences of Fr. Arseny. Also greeting the archbishop on that cold December night were several novices and the orphans, holding candles. The archbishop celebrated the midnight office and matins with the brethren. At noon, after the arrival of several pilgrims from Mayfield and Fr. A. Bogoslavsky from Simpson, the cornerstone-laying ceremonies took place. The same afternoon, St. Tikhon performed the funeral of a small child from Old Forge, Eugenia. Ss. Tikhon and Alexander were back in New York the same evening. Fr Alexander Hotovitsky reported on the events in the Messenger:
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The first two novices were Andrew Repella (later Archimandrite Anthony) and Constantine Chupek (later Igumen Kiprian). Previously, lacking a priest, they had only been able to say morning and evening prayers in the orphanage chapel. With Fr. Tikhon now in residence, a full cycle of monastic services commenced.
By May, 1906, the main building had been constructed, and the monks had made several improvements, including beehives, a cross-shaped well, gardens, fruit trees, and a dam placed across a stream to create a small pond.
The consecration and formal opening ceremonies were planned for May 30, 1906, which would be the the second pilgrimage to St. Tikhon's but the first on Memorial Day. On May 28 Saints Tikhon, Alexander, and Raphael and Bp. Innocent from Alaska were at the monastery. The visitors and Fr. Arseny toured the grounds in advance of the pilgrimage. That night was cold and rainy, but on May 29, wrote Fr. Arseny, "a wonderful, sunny morning showed all the magnificence of springtime . . . The souls of all of us were uplifted and with joy we began preparing the arrangements . . ." Bishop Innocent and Fr. Arseny traveled to St. John the Baptist Church in Mayfield, where Fr. Arseny was pastor. They came to bring back two holy icons, gifts for the new monastery sent from Mount Athos. On their arrival at St. John's at 3 p.m., church bells were ringing and the church was filled with people. While multitudes sang hymns and an orchestra played outside, a cross-procession moved to the train station with the icons and banners and the American flag at the head.
Four reserved cars of a Delaware & Hudson train brought several dozen clergy and pilgrims, including choir singers and children on their journey from Mayfield to the monastery. The two icons were placed on a couch in the middle of one of the cars. Treasured to this day at St. Tikhon's, one of the icons is of the Theotokos, called "She Who is Quick to Hear," and the other is of the Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon.
As the train proceeded up the valley, the voices of the children and all those present filled the coach as they sang the hymns and the akathist before the holy icons. At Carbondale, the train stopped to pick up St. Alexis of Wilkes-Barre. Then it crossed the mountain and made a special stop in the forest. Fr. Arseny described the occasion thus: "In Carbondale . . . a few American reporters came in an orderly way into the coach and inquired as to what sort of festival was taking place and who were its participants. Shortly the fast American train took us quickly up a steep grade and through a thick woods . . . At last the desired destination! Right in the forest, in the place closest to the Monastery, a special stop was made." The place was about 2 miles northwest of St. Tikhon's (2.7 miles walking distance), near the intersection of Canaan and Fox Roads.
Fr. Arseny wrote, "In an orderly manner we got off the train and began to walk in strict order . . . New and wonderful scenes of nature were seen before us. Again the singing of the church hymns were heard over the forests and lands of the American farmers. Now and then people came out of their houses and, with unconcealed curiosity, met and saw off the procession. The road was good and there was no dust following the abundant rain which had fallen the day before . . ."
As the local farmers and their families watched from their houses, the American flag passed by, followed by church crosses and banners, and clergy carrying the new icons. During the eighty-minute walk to the monastery, writes Fr Arseny, "Children who were raised up in America and not accustomed to make such a journey by foot became very tired and the people began to ask the question, 'How soon is the Holy Monastery?' As an answer to that question, soon all saw in the middle of the deep forest a blue cupola with a three-barred Cross." At the monastery gate, the procession was greeted by St. Tikhon, St. Raphael, St. Alexander Hotovitsky and the monks.
Saint Alexander described the moment of arrival of the procession in this way: "Even though I had seen in Russia festive multitudes headed by Hierarchs, with thousands of church banners shining all about and thousands of vestments, the procession here was more impressive. This moment cannot be repeated! This feeling cannot be expressed! I could not expect anything more from this procession! At this moment my whole being was filled with overflowing. Up till now everything else that took place here in this event is nothing in comparison to that moment when we were meeting that procession."
Upon their arrival at the monastery, about 7:30-8:00 p.m, Saints Tikhon and Raphael served a litany before the new icons. Fr. Alexander reported that Arseny's eyes filled with tears as he saw the new icons placed on the stands prepared for them. Soon, the all-night vigil was served, ending at midnight. Most of the pilgrims sleep in the open air.
The next morning, the Wednesday before Pentecost, was Memorial Day. (The civil holiday was at that time always May 30, regardless of the day.) Chartered trains left Wilkes-Barre at 6:00 a.m. and each threaded the Wyoming and Lackawanna Valleys, stopping at every station to pick up pilgrims. The two valleys were home to large numbers of Orthodox Russians (Rusyns), many of whom worked in mines and associated industries. St. Alexander wrote that "the numbers of pilgrims who had arrived exceeded all expectation. One special train had not been enough, and another special train had to be chartered to bring those who were willing to come to the Monastery from the nearby parishes. Twenty coaches were filled to capacity." Each coach held 60 passengers; thus the pilgrims who arrived on these two trains must have reached 1,200. These pilgrims, followed the route of those who had come the evening before. They were greeted at the gates by Bp. Innocent and Fr. Arseny. Other pilgrims walked over the mountain from Mayfield, most likely taking the same route as Fr. Arseny and St. Tikhon had travelled a year earlier when they came to inspect the site.
Soon the day's services began. They lasted from 9 a.m. and till 4 p.m. The newly built monastery was consecrated by St. Tikhon. St. Tikhon was vested and the first two novices of the monastery were tonsured to Riasaphor; Fr. Arseny was elevated to Igumen. Bishop Innocent led a procession to the old, temporary church, in the orphanage. In the new monastery building, the clergy washed the altar table as the first part of the consecration of the holy temple. Bp. Innocent took up and carried on his head the discos holding the holy relics, which had been used in the temporary altar in the orphanage. Fr. Tikhon took the temporary altar and brought it in procession immediately behind Bp. Innocent, to be used by St. Raphael in celebrating the outdoor liturgy. Bp. Innocent carried the relics around the new church and placed them before the doors. Archbishop (St.) Tikhon then took them up on his head and carried them into the church and placed them in the new holy table there. The Mayfield choir sang the service in the church and St. Tikhon served the Divine Liturgy.
Meanwhile, after the consecration, His Grace Raphael, Bishop of Brooklyn stepped outside and served the Divine Liturgy with St. Alexis, the singing being provided by the Wilkes-Barre choir and other singers who came, numbering 300 in all. According to the newspaper account, the total number of assembled pilgrims was estimated at 2,000. The outdoor liturgy was served to accommodate the great crowd. (The tradition of two liturgies, one in the monastery church, and one served in more spacious surroundings to accommodate the many pilgrims, has continued till now.) St. Alexis preached following the gospel.
Archbishop Tikhon gave an address at the end of the liturgy celebrated inside the monastery church, in which he spoke about the importance of the monastic life, of Orthodoxy in America, and in general exhorted the brothers of the new monastery.
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Following the liturgy outside, a greeting was delivered by St. Raphael in which he also commented on the new monastery.
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Afterwards, a meal was served in the dining hall for the bishops, clergy and brethren, with a reading, according to the monastic rule. The pilgrims, far too numerous to be accommodated indoors, dined on the large quantities of food brought in that morning on wagons for this purpose. They departed quickly to catch the train, so as not to be late for work the next day. The icons were carried to the monastery spring where the blessing of waters was celebrated. The clergy returned to their parishes that evening and the next day. St. Tikhon stayed at the monastery during the summer of 1906.
Thus ended the first Memorial Day Pilgrimage at St. Tikhon's Monastery. Fr. Arseny wrote this general description of the day: "It is fitting and right for every participant in this great and glorious festival of the consecration of our holy monastery to cry out with joy. Three Hierarchs, a gathering of clergy, and thousands of pilgrims were gathered from the west and the north, from the sea and from the east, in order to feast with joy this glad event in the life of the American Orthodox Church . . . this first festival in America . . . this took place, not in a noisy populated city, but in a wilderness, amidst a dense forest, where only recently the three-barred cross shone. The thick forest of church banners, hymns in various parts of the grounds, the celebration of services, reminded one of the ancient monasteries of Holy Russia . . . O Mother! O Holy Orthodox Church! Come and see! Behold your children who have come to glorify the Lord whom you glorified!"