Orientation week at St. Tikhon's was, in some ways, normal, but just like everyone around the country trying to figure out how to start school in light of the pandemic, there was plenty about this orientation week that required adjusting.
[ photo: Dn. Peter censing ]
We started off the week with a Liturgy, but the setting of the Liturgy is telling of the times. We celebrated Liturgy in the "patriarchal pavilion", so-named for its original purpose to house the multitudes of pilgrims which coincided with the visit of Patriarch Alexei II back in the early 90s. Now, due to its immense floor space, we can easily distance seminarians and families. We will be able to alternate between the monastery church and the pavilion for services till restrictions lessen and allow a return to more "normal programming".
[ photo: Benedict talking with incoming students ]
Incoming students experienced a somewhat normal orientation week...except that masks are in the picture. They spoke to Abp. Michael, acquainted themselves with the staff, were fitted into a choir group, and even received a tour of the monastery church by the monastic sacristan, as they begin to scratch the surface of the depth of history and beauty to be found at St. Tikhon's Monastery across the road.
[ photo: Dn. Peter and Thanasis in cleaning gear ]
Returning students do not usually return for the first three days of orientation, but this year, those three days became a rejuvenation of the school. Normally, immediately preceding the monastery's Memorial Day Pilgrimage, everybody takes part in a work week. This year, that work week never happened, and the school needed some help, more than what two or three folks could handle over the summer. It was incredibly helpful to the school: messy back rooms which had accumulated boxes of books and audio-visual equipment and photographs were cleaned out and organized, the old kitchen area was ripped, chipped, and mopped down the foundational concrete to be returned to a useful storage space, and the whole school was given a good, general cleaning.
[ photo: Abp. Michael blesses cassocks ]
After our Thursday molieben service, Abp. Michael, our rector, joined us for the blessing of cassocks. He and Apr. John Parker, our dean, not only blessed cassocks but gave some fitting and encouraging words about the importance of the cassock and how it is much more than just an antiquated piece of clerical clothing.
[ photo: Met. Tikhon speaks to seminarians ]
We wrapped up the orientation week with Metropolitan Tikhon. He shared on the diaconate and the life of service to which all Christian are called, and then on the priesthood. The highlights for all of us present were his examples: everything from a heart-wrenching lesson he learned about knowing when to put down a seemingly important task to take care of the people around us in an unexpected way, to an illustration of "a battle of the wits between a certain man in black and the Great Vizzini", a comical illustration that kept the room laughing and learning.
Now, it is time to begin the school year itself, some in-person classes, some online, and some hybrids of the two. As we prepare for this coming school year, our prayer, as it says in the monastery's prayer book, is this: "Lord Jesus Christ, open the eyes of my heart, that I may hear thy word and understand it and so fulfill thy will."