1st / 14th January 2018: Significant progress is being made on a long-term frescoing project at the Monastery of St. Paisius in Safford, Arizona, a women’s monastery in the Western American Diocese that is operated with the blessing of both our Diocesan Bishop, His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill, as well as the Head of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Western America, His Grace Bishop Maxim.
Construction of the central temple of the Monastery, known in monastic terminology as the catholicon, was completed some years ago, and the enormous basilica-style edifice dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos (feastday 15th / 28th August) rises high above the desert landscape and is visible for miles in all directions.
Divine Services have already been held in the new catholicon quite some time, its thus-far whitewashed interior beautified by the integration of a number of holy icons, banners and relics; as well as a beautiful wooden iconostasis and a distinctive pannykadila, or hanging ring of icons that surrounds the central chandelier, and in the combined Russian-Athonite style of the Monastery’s ustav, is swung in motion at various moments of festal Vigils. Icons of the Prophets and Apostles have already been painted for this, and are awaiting installation.
However, until recently, the walls of the church itself have been bare. The years have not been idle time, however, but time used to advance a frescoing project set into motion at the beginning of 2012. The initial scope has been focused on frescoes for the Sanctuary and apse that rises high above it — the most visible focal points of worship — with the whole of the interior to follow in due course. The iconographer, a nun of the Holy Annunciation Hermitage in Indiana, has been working on the initial panel instalments for the past five years, and within the past weeks, by God’s mercy, the first groups of these have come to be installed on the walls by Mother Theodora, with the assistance of the Sisters. There are three tiers in the apse: the Platytera (the name of the icon of the Mother of God with arms outstretched, with the Christ-child in her womb, known in English as both the ‘Theotokos of the Sign’ or ‘Theotokos More Spacious than the Heavens’), stands directly above the Holy Table with a background that is being gilded, beneath which is the Communion of the Holy Apostles, and beneath that a tier of Holy Hierarchs, including the great liturgist-Hierarchs, St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory the Theologian, as well as St. Nicholas of Myra, St. Ignatius the God-bearer and St. Sava the Enlightener of Serbia. (Please see the photo gallery included with this report.)
Instalment of these panels, which involves the erection and movement of scaffolding given the large spaces covered, is ongoing, and aims to be completed in its first phase during the first half of Great Lent.
His Grace Bishop Irenei of Sacramento, Dean of Monastic Life for the Western American Diocese, remarked,
“The instalment of these frescoes marks the next phase in the ongoing work of adorning what is already a beautiful house of worship for a dedicated community of sisters seeking the angelic life through prayer and asceticism. Christ, the Theotokos, and all the Saints who are always mystically present in the Temple when we come together for the Divine Services, are becoming more visibly radiant in the beautiful iconography now adorning the walls, and we pray that God’s mercy will continue to enrich the lives of prayer of both the Monastery’s inhabitants and its many pilgrims.”
The Abbess and Sisters of St. Paisius Monastery appreciate the prayers of all in this time of work, and of the beautification of their Temple; and of course, they always welcome those wishing to make pilgrimage to the Holy Monastery for the fostering of their spiritual life. Contact may be made via telephone on (928) 348-4900 or via email available from the Monastery's web site: www.stpaisiusmonastery.org. Letters may be sent to P.O. Box 1075, Safford, Arizona 85548.