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Chapter 29: Consolation During Construction

During that first year, after the land was deeded to Dormition Skete, a well was drilled for water. The drilling rig arrived at on the property on the feast day of Ascension. After about four days, water was found at a great depth of 500 feet.

During that first year of building, one other young man named John decided to join Fr. Gregory and Seraphim and spend the summer helping in the construction. One of the parishioners from Denver donated the use of her automobile. Also, a tent was donated for the summer, so they could at least have a covering over their head at night.

The main building was designed by Fr. Gregory, who even made the blueprints. They were stamped and signed by one of his parishioners in Denver, who was an architect named Constantine Karpov, who was an officer in the White Army. He was the head of the soldiers who first entered the Ipatiev House, the House of Special Purpose, in Ekaterinburg, after the Royal Family, Tsar Nicholas, Tsaritsa Alexandra and their children, were martyred by the bolsheviks. He described the horrible sight of that lower room, with the bullet holes and the blood splattered on the walls. Constantine was a very honorable man, of a distinguished, humble character, who was a recipient of the St. George Cross for valor in the Russian Army under Tsar Nicholas.

Construction started in earnest after Pascha. The main slab and footing was contracted out to a professional contractor from Buena Vista. After this, the rest of the construction was done by Fr. Gregory and his two helpers. The foundation walls were 12 inch cement blocks and each one was erected block by block, by hand. Obviously, to erect all the foundation walls and interior cement walls took considerable time. The first floor joists were put in place and the sheathing nailed down. At this point it was August and the feast of the Dormition was approaching. The three workers understood that October was right around the corner and there was an urgency to enclose the building before winter.

On the feast of the Dormition, the workers traveled to Denver to celebrate the feast, and partake of holy Communion, the first feast for them of the Dormition in Colorado. After the Liturgy, they immediately drove back to the monastery and sat on their lawn chairs on the newly constructed main floor of the building. No walls were around them and the ceiling was the sky. At this point, Fr. Gregory had the thought, as they were looking west to the mountains, to erect a cross on the point of a series of hills which were directly in front of them, at a distance of two miles from the monastery. In this way, he said, everybody from their cell window could see the cross, but they had no cross to put up. Seraphim suggested that at least they could put an icon there, facing the monastery, and he suggested that they put this icon in the crevice of one of the cement blocks so as to protect it from the weather. He had just the icon to do it, he said, which was given to him by Archbishop Anthony of Los Angeles. It was a copy of the Kursk Root Mother of God of the Sign.

Immediately, all three got in their vehicle and traveled down the dirt road as far as they could go and then hiked up the hillock to the tip which could be seen from the monastery. They placed the cement block with the crevice facing the monastery and put the icon in it. They traveled back to the monastery with joy and happiness, knowing that on the first feast of the Dormition they had done something significant, however little it was. When they arrived back at the monastery it was dusk, and they resumed their positions on chairs facing the peak of the hillock where they had just placed the icon of the Virgin Mary. The three remained there talking about spiritually edifying topics until it was completely dark and all the stars appeared. As they were about to call it a night, thanking God for all that had happened that day, Seraphim shouted: “Look!”, and Fr. Gregory and John looked up and saw a streak of light descending on the place where they had just put the icon.

It was a pillar of light which also silhouetted the hill. The pillar was about five hundred feet high, which illuminated the sky near the hillock about the same distance. There was no sound and seconds later it disappeared. All three stood up in amazement. Seraphim said he saw it come from behind him, across the sky. When he said, “Look!”, the others only saw the pillar and the silhouette. With trembling and fear, they started chanting the troparion for the Dormition and all other hymns that they knew by heart. They looked at each other in amazement and wonder. This was a consolation and a comfort as a sign, knowing that their labors were pleasing to the Virgin Mary because the pillar was exactly over the peak where the icon had just been placed.

The next morning, they drove again to the place to venerate the icon and to see if perhaps a meteor fell or if there was some natural explanation. There was absolutely no sign of any disturbance on the earth. They drove to the neighbor‘s home who donated the land, Forrest Woodland, to ask him if he noticed anything that night, which he did not.

This appearance greatly comforted the laborers and especially Seraphim, whose sister had just been diagnosed with cancer. He decided that he was going to erect a large cross at that place and raise the icon above the ground and put it in the middle of the cross members. He vowed to do this if the Virgin Mary would help his sister. His sister‘s husband and Seraphim obtained two telephone poles. They cut one in half and used it as a cross member. These poles were exceedingly heavy, but with great effort and a full day‘s labor, they brought the poles to the peak of the hillock where the icon was. They erected it with its cross member and put the icon in the middle of the cross. This cross, because of its size, can be seen from the monastery. Two weeks later, his sister was found to have no cancer. Father Gregory, to remember the appearance of the light, made a painting of this occurrence.

Miraculous Light

The main monastery building was completed the next year, and Fr. Gregory was able to move in immediately.

Archbishop Gregory
Dormition Skete
P.O. Box 3177
Buena Vista, CO 81211-3177
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Last Updated: July 12, 2011