Source: Orthodox Church in America
This year’s annual pilgrimage to the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, will mark an important milestone in the life of the community. The services for the Feast of the Lord’s Transfiguration, with His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon as the main celebrant, will take place on Saturday, August 5 and Sunday, August 6, 2023 and the 55th anniversary of the consecration of the Monastery church on Saturday, September 28, 1968 will also be commemorated.
The consecration took place just a year after the establishment of the Monastery by its founding abbess, Mother Alexandra (formerly Princess Ileana), under the guidance of Bishop Valerian (Trifa) of the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America (ROEA). An in-depth article published in Solia, the ROEA diocesan periodical, in October 1968 highlighted the missionary vision and pan-Orthodox orientation of the Monastery and gave an eyewitness account of the solemn, festal services of consecration, presided by Metropolitan Ireney (Bekish) in concelebration with Bishop Valerian (Trifa) and two other hierarchs. Numerous clergy and faithful of all jurisdictions were also present. The article concludes:
“The historic event of September 28th marks a milestone in the struggle for unity among us. Here was true unity. No one asked which jurisdiction one belonged to. They just rejoiced in this common endeavor in a language all understood and in an atmosphere which was truly uplifting.
The Romanian Orthodox Episcopate is happy to have helped during the initial stages of this great endeavor – not as Romanians, but as Americans and Orthodox. The monastery belongs to all Orthodox. It is there to be used by all Orthodox. It is the fervent hope of good Orthodox that the monastery will always remain above jurisdictional and nationalistic differences – and be just Orthodox and American.”
While such vision and orientation are the norm today, 55 years ago when the character of Orthodox Church life in America was more centered on ethnicity with less outreach to outsiders, this was forward, courageous thinking. Mother Alexandra espoused this broad missionary and pan-Orthodox vision for the monastery she founded. In this, she was fully supported by her diocesan hierarch, Bishop Valerian, who, in 1960, had joined the Russian Metropolia (now OCA) as he shared the vision of “local” Church and ecclesial unity of its leaders, and this affiliation regularized the canonical status of ROEA. Less than two years later when the Russian Metropolia was granted autocephaly, the Monastery of the Transfiguration followed its archpastor, Bishop Valerian, who without hesitation confirmed ROEA’s affiliation with the Orthodox Church in America through a new agreement.
Today, more than half a century later, under the leadership of its current longtime abbess, Mother Christophora, the Monastery continues, by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, to carry forward its original vision in missionary labors and ascetical struggles for the Glory of God. May Our Lord, whose Transfiguration we will celebrate, through the intercessions of all the Saints of North America, grant that this holy habitation and those who worship and labor there would flourish for Many Years!