ELLWOOD CITY, PA [Transfiguration Monastery]
On Saturday, October 13, 2012, the sisterhood and friends of the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration here celebrated the 25th anniversary of the elevation of the Very Reverend Mother Christophora to abbess of the monastery.
The day opened with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in the monastery chapel, at which Archbishop Nathaniel of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate presided. Also serving were Bishop Melchisedek of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, Archimandrite Pitirim (Stehnach), and Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko. Attending monastics included Archimandrite Alexander, abbot of the Orthodox Monastery of Saint John the Theologian, Hiram, OH; abbesses Mother Theonymphy of Saint Mary of Egypt Orthodox Monastery, Cleveland, OH and Mother Alexandra of Saint Thekla Orthodox Monastery, Bolivar, PA; and Sister Mary Virginia, superior of the Byzantine Carmelite Monastery, Aliquippa, PA.
A Service of Thanksgiving followed, after which Archbishop Nathaniel presented Mother Christophora with a jeweled cross which he had made. Also present for the Service of Thanksgiving was Metropolitan Theodosius, who presented her with a large beautiful icon of the Mother of God painted in Romania—a gift to him from the Patriarch.
A luncheon was held at a nearby restaurant, attended by the two hierarchs, area clergy, members of Mother Christophora’s family, friends, neighbors, and monastery workers.
The toast was offered by Archimandrite Alexander.
“One thing that has kept the Church together in this country is the monastic communities—the monastics are the ‘glue,’” Archbishop Nathaniel observed, adding that “Mother Christopora has managed to weave together all manner of liturgical traditions, all woven together into an American cloth.”
Archpriest Andrew Matychak, Mother Christophora’s brother, also spoke at the luncheon.
“My favorite memory is Sundays when my sister and I would come home from church to play church,” he reflected. “Even though I was the one who went to seminary, my sister is the one that was called ‘Rev.’ Her heart was in the monastery even before she knew there was a monastery. I am proud to call my sister ‘Mother.’ She is blessed not only with blood relatives that love her very dearly, but also a family of very dedicated sisters who love her also. Thank you for loving my sister and praying for us.”
Father Hopko also addressed Mother Christophora: “We thank God the monastery is here, so we could be here. Thank you, Mother, for being what you are and doing what you do.”
The Very Reverend Madre Ines, abbess of Holy Trinity Monastery, Guatemala, sent greetings: “With indescribable patience, endless hours of teaching, constant joy and love for God, and timely visits to Guatemala, Mother Christophora has formed and given an Orthodox shape to our community since 1996. By God’s grace and Mother’s discreet counseling and strong faith, what then was a tiny Orthodox presence in Guatemala now has become an avalanche, as there is a multitude welcomed into the Orthodox faith.”
Her sisterhood also thanked her for her gently firm leadership, and for teaching us by the example of her godly life which is thoroughly immersed in the ancient monastic tradition. The sisters presented Mother with a hand-painted icon of the Protection of the Mother of God, to whom our future small prayer chapel will be dedicated. In honor of this anniversary, they also set the Paraklesis Service to a Ukrainian/Polish tone and presented her with the first CD of this.
Live music was played and sung by sisters and friends during the luncheon and as a part of the program afterwards.
A gallery of photos is available here.