Icon festival draws huge crowds on Orthodox Education Day 2008
Nearly 1,000 friends, alumni, and neighbors gathered on the campus of St. Vladimir's on Saturday, October 4, 2008, to celebrate the theme for Orthodox Education Day 2008, "Holy Icons and Sacred Arts." Capacity crowds attended worship services, a rare icon exhibit, lectures on the meaning and history of icons, a visually augmented choral presentation, displays by icon artisans, and workshops designed for children, teens, and adults.
Noting the tremendous interest in holy icons from people of various faiths and backgrounds who attended the event along with hundreds of Orthodox Christian faithful, the seminary Chancellor, The Very Rev. Chad Hatfield, emphasized the educational purpose of the annual campus open house. "The intention of St. Vladimir's Seminary is to educate people of all backgrounds and levels in the Orthodox Christian faith," he said. And, remarking on the enthusiasm and diversity of the campus guests, including many friends from the local neighborhood, he continued, "The wonderful atmosphere of the splendid day resembled one huge block party."
Mrs. Tanya Penkrat, Special Events Coordinator at the seminary, agreed. "You know you've generated interest when your local postal carrier attends Education Day!" she said, noting the captivating effect the displays and lectures had on the throngs of people who turned out.
Beginning with the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy in the morning and ending with vespers, the day was crowned by the exhibition of 20 fifteenth through twentieth-century icons on loan from The Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, MA. Curator of the museum, Kent dur Russell, and museum founder Gordon Lankton engaged visitors to the exhibit in deep conversations as they viewed the icons. Both commented on the "high levels of curiosity, warmth, veneration, and respect" shown by the groups of people that wound their way around the spacious seminary library, mesmerized by the stunning icons.
Three hierarchs, two of whom are alumni of St. Vladimir's Seminary, concelebrated worship services during the day: The Most Rev. Seraphim, Archbishop of Ottawa and Canada and Administrator of the Metropolitan See (MTh '82) and The Right Rev. Tikhon, Bishop of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania, both of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA); and The Right Rev. Alexander (MDiv '00), Bishop of Ottawa, Eastern Canada, and Upstate New York at St. Elias Cathedral in Ottawa, of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America (AOCANA). During the Divine Liturgy, The Rev. Michael Tassos, Treasurer of the OCA, was awarded the honor of wearing the gold cross. The Very Rev. Eric G. Tosi, recently elected Secretary of the OCA, gave the homily.
Another highlight of the day was a highly entertaining and educational lecture titled "Holy Images or ‘Sacred Art'? Perceptions of Icons in Contemporary Society," by Dr. Vasileios Marinis, Kallinikeion Assistant Professor of Byzantine Art, Queens College, NY. Dr. Marinis spoke to a standing-room-only crowd, correcting common modern and post-modern misperceptions, even among believers, about the significance and historical development of icons. He especially noted the contemporary "disjuncture between liturgical worship and art," and urged believers "to intrinsically connect icons with the life of the Church."
In addition, the Boston Byzantine Choir performed sacred hymns against a visually expressive background of sacred art, again to a packed auditorium.
One of the day's participants remarked, "I feel as though I've sailed to Byzantium and taken a pilgrimage to Russia. This has been a truly awesome experience."