BEFORE THE GREAT GRILL OF THE RUSSIAN CHURCH.

_______

Picturesque and Beautiful Ceremony of Ordination Performed by Bishop Nicholas.

THE ceremonies of the Greek Church, always most impressive, were unusually so yesterday morning, because of the ordination of a young priest, Theodore Pashkovsky.

A peculiarity of the Greek Church is that no priest may be ordained who is not married. Theodore Pashkovsky was married on November 8. He was made a deacon a week ago. He made confession to Bishop Nicholas Saturday night, and on Sunday morning, at the little church on Powell street, near Filbert, he became a priest of the Greek Church. In future he will officiate in this church, to which Bishop Nicholas has appointed him.

Everything is foreign, strange, unique at the Greek Church. The services are conducted in Greek and Slavonian. The church itself is small, but glowing with color. The sanctuary is separated from the rest of the church by a red and gold, elaborately carved, richly decorated grill, before which many colored candles burn on tall silver stands. Most of the men of the congregation remain on the right side of the church, while the women are on the left. Far up near the front, in an isolated position of honor, sits the Russian Consul. The Russian eagle is embroidered on the mat upon which the Bishop rests his feet.

Upon his entrance the Bishop is met by two deacons who lead him to a divan throne mounted upon maroon-colored steps in the center of the church. The divan is covered with pink embroidered silk, looped up over dull green velvet. The Bishop is clothed in a long purple silk gown, trimmed with white satin ribbons. Upon his head he wears a sort of high square black cap from which a long black heavy veil flows over his shoulders.

The deacons approach and, after kissing the Bishop’s hand, proceed to divest him of the cap and the purple silk robe; then of the royal purple velvet cloak he wears beneath, till he stands in a purple silk gold-belted gown. Over this they throw a white silk gold-embroidered robe. Upon his wrists they tie wristbands, in commemoration of Christ’s fetters. A breastplate of gold cloth stiff with gorgeous embroidery, a belt of gold and finally a red and yellow embossed cloak gold backed. A wide gold scarf is thrown about his shoulders and upon his flowing brown hair a high broad, richly jeweled miter is placed.

Bishop Nicholas makes a marvelously, effective picture as he stands with the double golden candlesticks, containing lighted candies, in his hands, crossed before him, while the people cross themselves and bow before his blessing, and from the choir comes the music that is unlike any other.

There is no organ in the Greek Church, but you would not know it, for there is a basso there whose marvelous voice rings and vibrates and peals through the place as though master musician were playing upon the most melodious of organs. The depth, the sonority, the exquisite melodic fullness of that voice are a revelation of what the human voice is capable of, and its owner sings the wonderful hymns of the Greek Church as though for this alone such a voice had been given him.

Brother Popoff, the great basso, is the nephew of Bishop Nicholas. He, too, will be married before long, and his ordination as a priest will follow in due time.

The service is largely musical. Most of the responses are sung, and in the throaty, full-sounding Greek and Slavonian is beautifully effective.

At 11 o’clock the ordination procession appeared, coming from the sanctuary out into the body of the church. First there came two altar-boys in glowing red robes, swinging censers, and then two deacons in gorgeous heavy robes of yellow and red. Father Demetrius and Father Sebastian followed, wearing upon their heads the tall, round caps of purple and black, and then came Brother Pashkovsky holding above his dark head the sacramental veil of gold. His robe of blue, embroidered in gold and silver, singled him out from the procession gorgeous in red and gold. While the Bishop intoned the service and the choir filled the little church with such music as stirs every religious fiber in one’s heart Theodore Pashkovsky passed on into the sanctuary glowing softly with lighted candles and stained glass windows, through which the sun came dim and warm. He bowed toward the altar and bent in prayer.

Then the priests invested him with the stole and the chasuble of pale olive green and gold, and he stood before the Bishop, who repeated the word "Accepted" in Greek after the investiture of each garment. Then the choir burst into triumphant song. It was wonderfully effective. The rich masses of color, the stately bearing of the priests, the swinging censers from the silver chains, the dark-eyed, young deacon who had just been ordained, the hallelujahs of the choir, whose waves of music seemed to ride upon that rhythmic, musical bass that filled the church — it is no wonder the people bowed and crossed themselves and prayed with all devotion. Priests and people partook of the communion. Then the men, filing up first, kissing the great golden crucifix the Bishop held, and then the women in their turn came forward.

The Bishop blessed the people, and then his attendants removed the red and gold robe, the gold hip piece, the stole, the scarf and the miter and placed upon his head the great veiled cap and about him the flowing purple silken gown. The last he gave back into the hands of the attendant as he left the church.

A sermon explaining the ritual of ordination was preached in English by Father Sebastian and the congregation passed out. The church was empty. Then, still wearing his green and gold robe, Father Pashkovsky, the new priest of San Francisco’s Greek Church, stepped from the sanctuary. And soon the little deserted church resounded with the "Te Deum" the young priest intoned, while the deep harmony of Brother Popoff’s mighty musical bass chanted the responses.

The San Francisco Call, Monday, December 6, 1897, p. 12:1

Reprinted in the Holy Trinity Cathedral LIFE, Vol. 2, No. 4, December 1994.