On Monday, December 19, 2005, the clergy, faithful and guests of Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church (www.holytrinityorthodox.com) in Baltimore, Maryland celebrated the feast day of the Holy Hierarch Nicholas the Wonderworker by singing the akathist to the God-pleasing saint before a 15th century icon of St. Nicholas from Novgorod, Russia. The rector of Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church, Rev. Priest John Vass led the akathist service along with Very Rev. Archpriest Gregory Mathewes-Green, the rector of Holy Cross Antiochian Orthodox Church in Linthicum, Maryland and a small group of faithful from both parishes at the Walters Art Museum (www.thewalters.org ) in Baltimore, where the icon is on exhibition from Russia.
From November, 2005 through February 12, 2006, the Walters Art Museum is conducting a special exhibit of Russian Medieval icons and other items of art and culture from Novgorod the Great titled Sacred Arts and City Life: The Glory of Medieval Novgorod. Organized by the Walters Art Museum in collaboration with the State Russian Museum, in St. Petersburg, and the Novgorod Museum Federation, in Novgorod, the exhibition displays the art and culture of Veliky Novgorod, Russia's oldest medieval city. The exhibition features 290 objects, including 35 icons that trace the culture of Novgorod from the ninth century, through its golden age in the 14th century, to its eclipse by Moscow in the 16th century.
The akathist service to St. Nicholas was sung according to the Russian style primarily in English, but also included a few kontakions and ikos’ in Church Slavonic. At the end of the akathist a litany of supplication was sung for the health of His Holiness Patriarch ALEXIS II, His Excellency Bishop MERCURIUS and of all those in attendance.
Afterwards, Fr. John gave a short sermon on the life of St. Nicholas and the miraculous path of this ancient icon from Novgorod. “This icon,” he stated, “has seen many changes over the last five centuries – the glory of Medieval Novgorod, the rise of Holy Rus’, the persecutions and blasphemies by the communists and the renovation of faith and holy shrines in Russia during the last 15 years. And, thankfully by the grace of God this icon was preserved from harm and has been brought here to America for many to see the religious beauty and sanctity of this holy object of veneration. We offer thanks to God for this miracle!” emphasized Fr. John.
Furthermore, on behalf of Holy Trinity Church and everyone in attendance, Fr. John thanked Dr. Gary Vikan the Executive Director of the museum and Mr. C. Griffith Mann, the Associate Curator of Medieval Art and Co-Director of Curatorial Affairs for their cooperation with organizing such a special event at the museum. Although the museum is usually closed on Mondays, Dr. Vikan and Mr. Mann were very considerate of the parish’s request and graciously agreed to let the service take place namely on St. Nicholas’ feast day.
At the conclusion of the service all were anointed with holy oil blessed over the relics of St. Nicholas in Bari. O Holy Hierarch Father Nicholas, pray to God for us.