The Hermitage of the Holy Cross began the celebration of its patronal feast day on Saturday the 26th and Sunday the 27th of September – the great feast of the Exaltation of the Precious & Life-giving Cross of the Lord. Leading the divine services in the monastery’s main church was the abbot, Archimandrite Seraphim (Voepel), co-served by monastery clergy: Abbot Alexander (Frizzell; deputy abbot), Hieromonks Andrew (O’Leary), Nektarios (Merry), Hilarion (Heagy), and Gabriel (Hooten), Archdeacon Sergius (Wilson), and Hierodeacon Paisios (Laiblin).At the All-Night Vigil on Saturday night, Fr. Seraphim led the Rite of the Exaltation, in which the Precious Cross was elevated (exalted) before the people to the repeated chanting of the prayer, “Lord, have mercy,” as the priests reverently poured rose water down its face into a bowl of fragrant flowers. The Rite is usually only performed in monasteries (with the blessing of the ruling hierarch) or when a hierarch is presiding.The following morning, the aforementioned clergy concelebrated the Divine Liturgy, followed by the Rite of the Panagia, which is often performed at the monastery, during which the Theotokion Prosphora was taken in procession from the church to the refectory, where a festal luncheon was served for the brethren and faithful.According to monastery custom, the pilgrimage weekend took place on the Saturday and Sunday following the Exaltation, October 3-4. Clergy and pilgrims came from near and far for the annual event, which this year was led by the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion. The Metropolitan was co-served at the divine services by monastery and visiting clergy:– Archpriest Roman Star (dean of the Central States – Patriarchal Parishes in the USA)– Archimandrite Nektarios (Harding; cleric, Holy Trinity Monastery – Jordanville, NY)– Archpriest John Dixon (rector, Holy Spirit Antiochian Church – Huntington, WV)– Archpriest Onouphry Keith (pastor emeritus, St. Nicholas Church – Fletcher, NC)– Priest Dimitri Ermakov (rector, Holy Dormition Church – McKeesport, PA)– Priest Daniel Marshall (rector, St. George Church – Cincinnati, OH)– Priest Jonah Campbell (rector, Christ the Savior Church – Wayne, WV)– Priest Gabriel Weller (rector, Holy Myrrhbearers Church – Harrisonburg, VA)– Priest Paul Akmolin (cleric, St. George Church – Cincinnati, OH)– Deacon Jeremiah Davis (cleric, Christ the Savior Church – Wayne, WV)– Deacon Alexander Petrovsky (cleric, St. George Church – Cincinnati, OH)– Deacon Andrew Temple (cleric, Christ the Savior Church – Wayne, WV)The pilgrimage began, as in previous years, with the traditional moleben to the Holy Great Martyr & Healer Panteleimon and procession from the monastery church to the outdoor Chapel of Our Lady of the Sign. That evening, Metropolitan Hilarion led the All-Night Vigil, and the following morning celebrated the Divine Liturgy.The far-reaching effects of Hurricane Joaquin were felt until early Sunday morning, when the clouds subsided and the monastics and pilgrims woke to red-tinted skies. The weather became increasingly beautiful throughout the festive day, to the delight of all the participants.During the Little Entrance at Liturgy, for his many years of dedicated service to Christ’s Church, Fr. Dimitri Ermakov was elevated to the rank of archpriest. During the communion of the clergy, a compunctionate homily written several years ago by one of the monastics of Holy Cross.Upon completion of the Liturgy, Metropolitan Hilarion bestowed a Diocesan Gramota upon Maurice and Nadezhda Sill, who in 2000 donated the land on which the monastery now stands to the brotherhood of Holy Cross, who were in search of a new home in rural West Virginia after moving from St. Louis, MO.Greeting the First Hierarch and thanking him for his archpastoral love and visit, Fr. Seraphim presented the Metropolitan with a new and beautifully embroidered set of hierarchal vestments on behalf of the brotherhood.After the service, the clergy and pilgrims made their way to Holy Spirit Antiochian Church in nearby Huntington, where the parish hosted a bountiful luncheon for all, catered by the family of Archimandrite Seraphim from St. Louis, MO.At the banquet, Abbot Alexander introduced the first goal of the monastery’s 30th anniversary in 2016 – the project of moving the remains of the monastery’s founder Hieromonk Kallistos from House Springs, MO, to the monastic cemetery at Holy Cross Monastery. The goal is to bring Fr. Kallistos to West Virginia in November or December of 2015 and place a beautiful monument over his new resting place. Watch the monastery website for updates on this project, which is proceeding with the blessing of His Eminence, Metropolitan Hilarion, and His Grace Peter, Bishop of Cleveland, Administrator of the Mid-American Diocese.Reposted from the Media Office of the Eastern American Diocese.