29 May 2011
Archimandrite Kiprian's first encounter with Archbishop John (Maximovich)
“VON” – “VON”
In 1954 my father bought a 14 acre plot of land to be near the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, and from the age of seven I served as Archbishop Averky’s staff-holder, standing next to him on the amvon as he gave his wonderful sermons. On Fridays, after finishing my farm chores, I would fetch a ride, walk, or ride my bicycle 6 miles to the monastery, spending my weekends amongst the monks until I entered its seminary in 1966. Father Kiprian (Pizhew) took me under his wing to work in the icon-painting workshop. He was my personal mentor as well as благочиный (Abbot) of the monastery. Many of my remembrances revolve around Father Kiprian.
While working with Fr. Kiprian on the restoration of the soot-blackened frescos of the Jordanville cathedral in the early 1960’s, I recall how Fr. Kiprian sat down to rest – dangling his feet off the scaffolding boards. He asked me to sit down next to him, and pointing to the amvon below said:
“It is exactly from this perch that I laid eyes on Archbishop John for the first time. I had been working, painting these original frescos (I believe this was around 1949 or 1950) while the interior of the church was still under construction. The floor of the church had been laid in as well as the elevated floor of the altar, but the four steps from the floor level to the altar level had not yet been installed, and one could see the support beams under the altar floor.
"In walked Archbishop John. He venerated the icon of the Holy Trinity that was temporarily placed on a makeshift analoy in the middle of the church and then started to look around. I rinsed off my brush and was about to descend the scaffolds to get his blessing when I saw him abruptly turn around and quickly leave the church. “Oh, well’, I thought, and resumed my work. A short time later I saw Vladika enter the church, brandishing an exceptionally long pole, a branch some 10 or 15 feet in length with a tuft of green leaves at the front end. His quick steps down the middle of the church towards the altar reminded me of Don Quixote charging the windmill! He stooped over and started to jab at various parts of the dark space underneath the altar floor. I could not make out his exact words, but in an elevated and demanding tone I heard him say “VON” – “VON” –which means “OUT” – “OUT”! My first thoughts were that a rabbit or some other animal had crawled under the future altar, but then I realized that this could not be – because even in his half voice I could still make out that he was invoking the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"Without any hesitation Vladika then swung the long branch around toward the church’s exit, and in the same brisk manner quickly proceeded out the door. At this very moment a novice (or perhaps it was a seminary student) walked into the doorway, and with a bewildered look, quickly stepped to the side to allow the ‘jousting bishop’ to exit. Vladika John stopped, handed him the pole, and said: “Quickly go, cut up this pole and burn it. Do it right now!”
“Я перекрестился” (I made the sign of the cross) –continued Father Kiprian,” realizing that Vladika John had most likely seen demons trying to set up their ‘nest’ underneath the newly constructed altar.”