The divine services at New Skete are the single most important work of the members in common. They are sung for the spiritual benefit of all who participate in them and for all who are commemorated during our celebrations.
These offices are heartfelt expression of our community of American Orthodox believers, as we bring the Christian message to the people of today.
Two important aspects are immediately obvious to the listener. First, most of the priest's prayers are sung aloud for all to hear. Second, all the services have been translated into contemporary American literary English.
As with the layout, design, and furnishing of the church building, both music, and texts, and the structure and movement, of the liturgical services, form an integral whole. Every element of it must help lead the worshipper to a further experience of the presence of Christ in our midst.
9:00 am Matins – Holy Wisdom Church
10:00 am Divine Liturgy – Holy Wisdom Church (followed by coffee hour, all are welcome.)
Tuesday - Saturday
7:15 am Matins – Transfiguration Temple (small church) Tuesday through Friday (except on Feast Days)
8:00 am Matins – Transfiguration Temple (small church) Saturday
5:00 pm Vespers – Holy Wisdom Church Tuesday through Saturday
Transfiguration - August 06
Dormition - August 15
The Nativity of the Most-Holy Theotokos - September 08
The Exaltation of the Cross - September 14
The Presentation of the Theotokos - November 21
The Nativity of Christ (Christmas) - December 25
Theophany (Epiphany) - the Baptism of Christ - January 06
The Meeting of Christ in the Temple - February 02
Annunciation - March 25
The Entry into Jerusalem - Palm Sunday - April 21, 2019
Pascha - April 28, 2019
The Ascension of Christ - June 06, 2019
Pentecost - The Descent of the Holy Spirit - June 16, 2019
This Lectionary of readings from the sacred Scriptures for liturgical use represents our effort to expand the proclamation of Holy Writ in the course of our formal worship throughout the year. Every monastic by nature uses Scripture in private meditation and prayer, and every community, from the time of the desert monks and nuns, has devised a system for reciting the one hundred and fifty Psalms of David in common.
As New Skete grew, it soon became necessary to build a larger church to accommodate the monastic communities, the local parishioners, and the growing number of retreatants and visitors.
The new building was designed and built by the monks and a crew of skilled carpenters from Vermont. It was consecrated by Metropolitan Theodosius, assisted by eighteen clergy, on the Feast of the Mid-Pentecost in 1983. This church is dedicated to Christ, the Wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24, 30). Its light-filled openness and its U-shaped altar screen are inspired by the early churches of Constantinople. Inlaid in the Italian marble floor tiles, at the entrance to the nave, are pieces of mosaic from the basilica called “The great Church” consecrated to Holy Wisdom, built in Constantinople in 576 A.D. by order of the Emperor Justinian.
On the right or east wall of the narthex as you enter the larger church is the Golgotha, a large icon of the crucifixion, where candles burn as memorials for the dead. Icons are placed throughout the church for veneration, and walnut candle stands are used for votive tapers. The eternal lamp in the sanctuary signifies the divine presence. In the center of the nave of the church are the lectern for the holy Scriptures and the celebrant’s seat, carved from basswood and zebrawood. Surrounding the nave are forty-eight choir stalls of ash and zebrawood.
The central focus of the church is the large deisis depicted on the east wall. Here, Christ, the word and wisdom of God, is shown enthroned on the cherubim (Ps. 80:1). In this portrayal, Christ is also known as the Pantocrator, ruler of all, the fulfillment of the messianic vision of Isaiah and Ezechiel. In the halo are the three Greek letters that render the sacred name of God revealed to Moses in the burning bush (Ex. 3:14)—what became the unspoken “Yahweh” is, in English, “I am who is.” This title appears in all icons of Christ to remind us of Christ’s own words, when he said that in Him we see the Father.
St. John, the forerunner and Baptist, stands at Christ’s left, for as “the last and greatest of the prophets,” he bore witness to the Old Law’s fulfillment in Jesus. Mary, the Theotokos, i.e., the mother of God, stands at his right—the place of honor, indicated by David in Psalm 44:9, “the queen stood at your right”—for through her Christ became one of us.
Gathered below these figures are the early church fathers, successors of the apostles whose role in the church is to “teach the word of truth” embodied in sacred scripture and illustrated by the deisis to which they direct their gaze. These bishops represent the ancient major centers of Christendom: Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem. Also included are St. Philip of Moscow and St. Innocent of Alaska, to show the continuity of teaching down to our own time and place.
The entire eastern end of the church is raised three steps above the nave and is thus called the altar. The sacred area of the altar is defined by the three-sided, open altar screen. This icon screen is carved from natural English brown oak and holds twenty-eight icons of prominent saints and angels. Examples of this design can be seen in mosaics in Constantinople and Kiev, in the churches of ancient Georgia. The open screen or templon is also found in early Roman churches.
In the center of the altar stands the Holy Table. At the consecration of the church, the holy table was washed and anointed as a symbol of the body of Christ. On this table are offered the bread and wine that become the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist. The relics of martyrs are sealed in the holy table as a reminder of the Church’s baptism in blood—the witness of the lives of so many men and women to the good news of Christ. This “good news” is recorded in the sacred scriptures enthroned on the holy table. The holy table and the seven-branched lampstand behind it are carved of red oak. [mentioned in Exodus 25:31-40]
Beyond this, immediately along the east wall, is the stepped platform called the synthronon. In ancient Roman basilicas from pre-Christian times, it was here that officials sat to dispense justice. Since in the church it is the seat of teaching authority, the bishop’s throne is located here, carved of white oak and bearing the image of the Good Shepherd. To either side of the throne are chairs for the assisting priests or presbytery, carved from native ash.
At the northeast corner of the church is a chamber called the prothesis, where the holy gifts are reserved for the communion of the sick, and where bread and wine are prepared for the Eucharistic liturgy. In the southeast chamber, vestments are laid out for liturgy. It is called the daikoniken or deacon’s sacristy.
The north and south walls depict a procession of saints. Holy Wisdom Temple includes not only Biblical figures and saints recognized in Orthodoxy, it also includes icons of contemporary and early Western both officially and not yet recognized saints and holy people. Those persons in the procession include Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Pope Paul VI, Anglican Archbishop Michael Ramsey and Dorothy Day. The intention is to uphold the sanctity of people who live out the Gospel. This is magnified by the people in the procession of saints leading to Christ—just as they are moving in their pilgrimage to Christ, as are we all. This great variety of examples of love and sacrifice, [two who were killed in the Nazi Holocaust and one in the Soviet era] inspire us to make the Gospel real in our lives.
The smaller of the two churches or temples, is dedicated to the Transfiguration of Christ Temple. The Transfiguration of Christ, a feast day celebrated on August 6 and commemorates the revealing of Christ’s divine glory to the apostles on Mount Tabor (Matthew 17:1-8). A sacred icon of the feast is pictured on the upper west wall of the nave. This small church was designed by Brother Marc and built by the monks labor in 1970. Bill Dvorestsky brought earth- moving equipment from New Jersey to prepare sufficient, flat ground on which to build. His generosity for this and other future projects was an enormous gift to the monastery. The temple has a rough-hewn exterior topped by distinctive gold cupolas or “onion” domes. The floor inside is covered with green slate from nearby quarries, and the walls and pillars are covered with cedar and ash.
The upper interior of the nave is adorned with icons, murals painted by Constantine Yousis. On the east wall above the rounded apse (the church faces east) is an icon of Christ giving holy communion to the apostles at the Last Supper. In the apse, behind the altar, is the life-size icon of Christ enthroned. The wood carving of the iconstasis or altar screen was done by a Serbian craftsman Paul Mozes.
To the right of the holy doors leading to the altar area stand the icons of John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene, and Nil of Sora (a fifteenth-century monk of the Volga). On the left are icons of Christ’s mother Mary, Sergius of Radonezh (near Moscow), and St. Herman of Alaska (the eighteenth-century missionary to the Aleuts). With the Christ in the apse, these icons form a traditional Deisis arrangement. The temple is always open to visitors and our guests.
The Bell Tower was built in 1980 and contains seventeen bells. In designing the tower, the Monks were inspired by the wooden bell towers of the Carpathian Mountains in eastern Europe. Traditionally, the bells are struck, not swung. They are rung by hand before each service. The peals announcing major services are composed of rapidly repeated musical patterns played in rhythm with the steady tolling of the largest bell. The art of tolling bells has been handed down within Orthodox monasteries and churches by unwritten traditions.
The largest bell was cast in 1855 by Meneelly of nearby Troy, New York, and is a gift from the former Roman Catholic parish of St. Paul’s in Hudson Falls, New York. The other two Meneelly bells were found locally, and a set of twelve bells from Croyden, England, was donated by the First Presbyterian Church of Stamford, Connecticut. The two smallest bells were cast in Holland by Schulmerich and are a memorial gift.
The bells are rung three times each day, calling us to prayer in the temple.
In 2006, in celebration of New Skete’s 40th anniversary, we embarked on a special project that enhanced our core monastic value of hospitality. Creating a sense of sacred space between our two churches, our Meditation Gardens of Holy Wisdom Temple feature a gently sloping pathway for improved access (replacing two sets of stairs.)
Constructed of stone from our mountain and slate from nearby Granville, NY, it provides an inviting, hospitable, and gracious welcome for our visitors, day guests, neighbors, retreatants, customers, Chapel Community and monastics. This peaceful landscape features a three-tiered series of perennials and water gardens, cascading pools with fish and frogs, and benches for reading and quiet reflection or conversation.
The Meditation Gardens serve as a lovely setting for the beginning of the Sunday Divine Liturgy and other festal celebrations such as the Blessings of the Animals for the Feast of St Francis.