The “Most Holy Theotokos” Visits Holy Trinity Eastern Orthodox Church in State College, Pennsylvania

One of the most beautiful aspects of the From Ocean to Ocean Pilgrimage in Defense of Life has been the wonderful cooperation between Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics.  Father John Reeves, Rector of Holy Trinity Eastern Orthodox Church in State College, Pennsylvania heard about the From Ocean to Ocean Pilgrimage after His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon, the Primate of the Orthodox Church in America gave his blessing to the pilgrimage.   Deacon Alexander Cadman helped to arrange the details of the visit.

I was happy to bring the icon to Holy Trinity in October where I knew she would have a warm reception.  About 250 Orthodox and Catholics attended the Vespers and Athakist services, including some Catholic clergy. This was the only stop Our Lady made in State College which is in the central part of the State. It was especially beautiful to see the fascination and the devotion of the children to Our Lady and the Child Jesus.   Afterwards, the priests and people gathered in the church basement to share some food and refreshments.  The atmosphere was as warm as a loving family gathering.  

The Orthodox and Eastern Rites call the Blessed Virgin Mary the Most Holy Theotokos.  Theotokos is a Greek word which means God-bearer. Father Basil Biberdorf reflecting on the visit wrote in Holy Trinity’s newsletter that women in difficult pregnancies definitely need love, material care and prayers. But, he continued, “More than that they need the intercession of the Theotokos, the joy of those in sorrow and the protectress of the wronged. They need her motherly intercession, to speak without words to their hearts to convince them that their children deserve to live.  Most Holy Theotokos, save us!”

One of the priests I met at Holy Trinity was Father Will Rupp.  Father Rupp is the Pastor of a St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church I was also able to arrange bringing the icon to his parish in Hawk Run, PA and to St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church, which is just next door. 

Later in the month, I visited the Antiochian Village where I visited the beautiful chapel and the Antiochian Heritage Museum & Library.  The collection of iconography, artwork and books celebrates the artistic, cultural, literary and spiritual heritage of the people of Antioch (Syria) and its surrounding area.  It was in Antioch where the Disciples of Christ were first called Christians (Acts 11:26).

I stayed in Fr. Reeves’s home overnight before making my way to St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, PA.  On my drive along the way I saw the first snow flakes fall on the pilgrimage in the United States.

Fr. Peter West
Vice President For Missions
Human Life International

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