By the mercy of God, this year’s great feast of the Exaltation of the Precious Cross, celebrated at St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Howell, took on a special meaning and a beautiful presentation.

On the eve of the feast, as is proper to a church of cathedral status, the full rite of the exaltation of the cross was performed by the rector of the cathedral Protopresbyter Valery, assisted by Priest Seraphim and Protodeacon Nicholas. In this ceremony the four ends of the world are blessed with the cross, which descends and ascends in space, while being sprinkled with rose water, falling on to a bed of flower petals. The touching ancient evening service was a source of inspiration to the parishioners and pilgrims.

On the third day of the feast, Saturday, a very special event took place. Let us first give a short preamble to this memorable day. Two years ago a storm knocked down the cross and damaged the central transept tower of the old church of the Tikhvin Mother of God. The damage turned out to be more extensive than anticipated, necessitating a major reconstruction of the church. The insurance company declined compensation for the loss. The parish started to seek donations for the project. Many kind people responded with their generous contributions. The neighboring Welfare Society “Rodina”, under the distribution of the estate, donated fifty thousand dollars. Construction began with foundations and framing, starting immediately after the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God.

Four weeks later we arrived at the notorious Saturday of September 29th, when it was announced that the main cupola and the new cross would be elevated onto the reconstructed tower. That was also the day of the “Russian” school. The weather was overcast. The cupola and cross assembly, held by the lift cable, was waiting for the ceremony of the blessing of the cross. The school children and teachers, as well as parents and parishioners, were all on hand.

Father Valery started the service, accompanied by the children’s choir. The clouds began to float away and the sun began graciously shining for the occasion. The high point of the ceremony was the lifting of Fathers Valery and Seraphim to the level of the cross and the sprinkling of the cross and cupola with holy water, while the prayerful hymns filled the assembly. Shortly after, the cross and cupola were slowly lifted from the ground and floated onto the nest of the church tower. Never had the old village church appeared more triumphant than on this blessed day, long to be remembered by all present, particularly the inquisitive children.

Thus was the grace of our Lord granted in a double measure of benevolence to the augmented celebration of the great feast of the Cross of Jesus Christ. Glory be to God!