of the Right Reverend Innocent, first Bishop of the Aleuts, and latter Metropolitan of Moscow

August 26, 1897

Letter from San Francisco

The cathedral of the Aleutian Diocese commemorated modestly, but with fervent prayer, the one-hundredth birthday of its primate, the ever-memorable Innocent, Metropolitan of Moscow and first Bishop of the Aleuts. Not only in Alaska, whose territory the hierarch covered on foot several times, but all across America under the shadow of Orthodox crosses ardent prayers were offered up for the repose of the soul of the departed. But in San Francisco, the Episcopal see of Bishop Innocent and his successors, August 26, 1897 was celebrated with unusual solemnity.

On the eve of August 26, His Grace the Right Reverend Nicholas, Bishop of Alaska and the Aleutians, celebrated a memorial vigil in the cathedral in accordance with the Kievan Parastasis. The memorial service arouses deep feelings; it moves everyone. During this service even the cold hearted are dissociated from all that is earthly and raised to a higher world beyond the grave. An even greater impression was made on the worshippers by the Archpastor himself serving in accordance with the Parastasis -- and by the atmosphere which distinguished our cathedral that night. The cathedral was fully illuminated, as on Pascha; icon lamps of various colors shone everywhere; the floor was strewn with herbs and flowers; thick clouds of fragrant incense -- a rare gift of the Orient to our Archpastor from his Oriental children (Syrian Arabs) -- wafted up to the arches of the temple. To complete this extraordinary portrait of the temple -- the worshippers and all the celebrants stood holding green candles throughout the service. Lamps and lanterns were lit all around the church. The beautiful singing of our choir, which had long and eagerly prepared for this day, made an especially moving impression on the worshipers. Our entire parochial school was present. The service lasted from 7:00 PM until 9:00 PM. The canon, up to the ninth ode inclusive, was chanted from the ambo in the middle of the church by the Bishop himself. The other readings of Vespers and Matins were chanted in Aleut by the Reader P[aul] Grepachevsky.

On the next day Divine Liturgy, which also was celebrated by the Right Reverend Bishop, began at 10:00 AM. The liturgy was served in three languages -- Slavonic, Greek, and English, and ³Holy God² was sung especially movingly in a melody from Bishop Innocentıs time in the Aleut language. Many people of many nationalities attended. The Russian Consul was also present. Before the dismissal the Right Reverend Nicholas delivered a sermon on the apostolic labors of Bishop Innocent, and after Liturgy, a Panichida was sung. At the conclusion of the service the Bishop, vested in his mantle and carrying his staff, preceded by the choir and a bowl of kolivo, proceeded to his residence, where the memorial Litiya was served one more time and a memorial meal was offered to those present. At the first seating there were more than 60 people; at the second -- half again as many.

On the same day, at 7:00 PM, in His Graceıs residence, a meeting was held in memory of Bishop Innocent. The meeting was characterized by its memorial nature. When the school children, their parents and other honorable parishioners, the Russian Consul among them, had assembled, the Bishop entered the hall and was greeted with the singing of the sticheron, ³The Grace of the Holy Spirit has assembled us together this day...² After that, with the blessing of His Grace, Hieromonk Sebastian [Dabovich] delivered a speech in English dedicated to the memory of Bishop Innocent; at the same time a portrait of Metropolitan Innocent was displayed by means of a magic lantern, which made a forceful impression on those present. At the conclusion of Hieromonk Sebastianıs speech, the singers sang ³Memory Eternal², and a schoolboy, Homer Keppas, recited an address to Metropolitan Innocentıs portrait in English in the form of an acrostic. After that, the reading in English of the booklet, ³On the life and deeds of Innocent, Archbishop of Kamchatka and the Kuril and Aleutian Islands² was begun. At the behest of the Bishop, the booklet was translated into English by Hieromonk Sebastian. Four boys read: Thomas Dabovich, Theros Keppas, Ivan Gojkovich, and Thomas Constantine. The reading was interspersed (at each change of readers) with the singing of ³With the saints give rest...² and -- in Aleut -- ³Holy God.² At the conclusion of the evening, the principal of the school, Th. Pashkovsky, read a report ³On the Labors of Bishop Innocent for the Advancement of Parochial Education in America.² Then ³How Glorious is Our Lord in Zion² was sung and the participants were offered dessert and ice-cream. The evening closed with the singing of ³God Save the Tsar² and with the distribution of booklets on the Right Reverend Innocent in Russian and English, and also of his portraits.

Present at the meeting were many who saw and knew Hierarch Innocent personally, and the evening resurrected in their minds the character of the great Missionary Bishop, whose memory will never die but will be ³praised for ever,² as our Archpastor told us in his sermon that day.

The hall where the readings took place was decorated with the Russian, American, Greek, and Serbian flags, green garlands, bouquets of flowers, and lastly, with a special plaque, very cleverly designed in greenery, adorned with the inscription: ³Innocent 1797 -- 1897,² and surrounded by Russian flags. On the other wall, the portrait of Metropolitan Innocent that hangs there permanently was decorated with natural flowers and green garlands with flags all around it. Like a crown above the portrait a bishopıs miter was fashioned of various flowers, so that even from a distance one could make out all the details of a miter -- crosses, icons, etc.

Th[eodore] Pashkovsky

1 28 August, 1897
San Francisco

Translated from Russian from the American Orthodox Messenger, No. 2, 15-27 September, 1897, pp. 45-46.

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