As a member of the late “baby boomer” generation, I feel like I straddle two historic epochs. Specifically, I have the very fondest memories of the Byzantine-Rusyn liturgical singing (prostopenije) in Old Slavonic and its rich para-liturgical hymnology in what we lovingly refer to as “po-nashemu.”
In particular, I reminisce about the many annual Labor Day weekend excursions to “Otpust” (pilgrimage) at Mt. St. Macrina as a “palomnik” (pilgrim). Keeping with the tradition well established at the various shrines and sacred spots in their homeland, Carpatho-Rusyn Americans began a new tradition in the “new world,” namely the Labor Day weekend pilgrimage in honor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help to Mt. St. Macrina in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. The “Otpust” is built upon tradition in order to preserve a rich heritage and sustained through faith and the application of the sacred sense here and now.
As I reminisce, I am deeply grateful to God and His Blessed Mother that I have had the privilege of making so many pilgrimages to the Mount. In a very real way, I sense in my heart and hear in my soul the voices of the past that for many of us have become inescapably connected with our faith tradition. The prior immigrant generation, who originated and preserved this tradition, has passed; and, now that they have gone, the torch of faith has been passed to my generation. Sadly, I fear that we have not shown ourselves to be overly faithful stewards of this precious tradition. The number of pilgrims has gradually decreased over the past eight-two years.
I recognize, as a priest and psychotherapist, that this annual tradition evokes deep spiritual and psychological issues for me. The feelings, motivations and aspirations of a middle-aged person living through a faith tradition and culture’s transition phase are quite complex, often leaving me feeling misunderstood, diminished and despondent. The schism between the “old ways” and modern praxis are for me the reflection of a deeper schism or disjunction between genesis and validity, between the transcendent and the mundane, between the divine and the secular.
God willing, I will once again this year be blessed to be present at “Otpust'” as a “palomnik.” Over the next few months, I hope to share with you some of the rich traditions of the pilgrimage that have so deeply impacted my faith and continue to inspire me to this day. And, although Labor Day weekend remains a few months into the future, I humbly request that you please pray for me to be able to make the journey safely and uneventfully.