The Consecration of the Chapel of the Holy Dormition
March 8, 2005
Los Angeles, California
“A Bomb Shelter Becomes a Shelter from Earthly Cares”
By: Subdeacon Peter Samore
Since he began his residency and his ministry at the Los Angeles Chancery, His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH never had a specific place for prayer. He told the assembly of his clergy and laity that he would conduct his meditation of the Lord and His Holy Mother in front of one icon, placed in his foyer. Sayidna did not have a place where he could conduct services of worship in his home for ten years. Finally, his prayers of opening a chapel at the Chancery were finally answered, as Mr. Michael Malouf designed and constructed the newly-consecrated Chapel of the Holy Dormition. With careful planning and design, this gracious parishioner of St. Nicholas Cathedral in Los Angeles helped turn a bomb shelter in the basement of the Chancery into a shelter for all—Sayidna, his clergy and laity—from the dangers of this world.
On the morning of Tuesday, March 8, 2005, 34 clergy and laity from southern California gathered to witness the consecration. Sayidna told the gathering that “the Virgin Mary was his life and protection.” She interceded for him during his years as a student at the Balamand Monastery and Seminary, and during the years he diligently served the faithful of Dormition of the Theotokos Patriarchal Cathedral (Al-Mariamiyeh) in Damascus, Syria, first as a priest, then as an auxiliary bishop to His Beatitude, Patriarch IGNATIUS IV. It is after the Holy Theotokos and her Feast of Falling-Asleep that the new chapel is named. Though it is much smaller than the cathedrals His Grace has served, the people present that morning all fit inside, with a little room to spare!
Celebrating the Service of Consecration with His Grace were Father Paul Doyle, the Protosyngellos of the Antiochian Archdiocese and Dean Emeritus of the Diocese’s Southern California Deanery; and Archdeacon George Shishim of the Diocese of Los Angeles and the West. Their service complemented the remaining clergy and laity gathered, whose uplifting voices seemed to carry the entire chapel into heaven. Surrounding the gathering were the beautiful icons adorning the walls, written by the hand of Khouriyee Bonnie Gillis of the Orthodox Mission in Langley, British Columbia. Two of these “windows to heaven” depicted the Dormition, with the vibrant colors bringing the faithful to that very scene nearly 2,000 years ago.
The chapel also has a chanter stand stocked with all the proper liturgical books, a Prothesis Table with the necessary components for communion, and a gorgeous wooden altar table ready for all the daily services and Divine Liturgy. Of course, no altar or temple is complete without the relics of venerable saints, and the Chapel of the Holy Dormition is no exception. His Grace secured the relics of Saint Innocent of Alaska and Saint Thekla the Protomartyr. The clergy and laity were indeed amazed to learn that these holy people will now be a physical part of this chapel; their relics were venerated at the conclusion of the Consecration Service.
Many in the chapel had witnessed a consecration of a church, but may not have had the chance to witness it up-close due to its size and the large crowd. The 34 people assembled had that unique chance on this March morning. They were within a few feet as they watched His Grace scrub down the altar table with bars of soap and sprinkle it with rosewater. They could see for themselves how Sayidna anointed the four corners and the center of the altar table, as well as the Antimins and the icons, with the holy chrism. Nothing was left to the imagination, and none felt they missed anything by being at a distance from the altar.
When the Service of Consecration ended, Sayidna offered his deepest thanks, prayers and love to everyone who helped make the Chancery chapel a reality. He gratefully acknowledged the builders, the donors and his clergy and laity throughout the Diocese for their generosity. Sayidna was especially grateful to His Eminence, Metropolitan PHILIP, Mr. Edward Assile, and all the members of the Order of St. Ignatius of Antioch for their generous contribution toward the chapel. Sayidna thanked Khouriyee Malvi Neyman, Isabel Elac and Bernadette Krank—his “sisters”—for preparing the refreshments afterwards. Sayidna reminded everyone present that the chapel was not just for him, but for all the faithful.
Sayidna’s appreciation also went to those who began the contributions to the Chapel as spiritual bouquets for his mother, Matilda Al-Zehlaoui, five years ago. How ironic that the Dormition of Sayidna’s mother would pave the way for the construction of a chapel named after the Dormition of our Mother, the Theotokos. It is in this holy refuge that we can ask for the intercessions of the Virgin Mary, remember those who have departed and seek shelter from the turbulent world.