RUSSIA: May 27, 2004



On May 21, the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia headed by His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus arrived in Nizhny Novgorod, where they were greeted by His Grace Bishop Georgii of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamassk.

"The aim of our pilgrimage is to visit Holy Trinity-St. Seraphim Diveevo Monastery," said Metropolitan Laurus. "This great saint, the 100th anniversary of the glorification of whom the believers in Russia and abroad marked a year ago, and the 250th anniversary of whose birth will be celebrated this August, is warmly revered in the Orthodox world."

"We are happy that everywhere there are churches of God opening, that the people are striving for spiritual life," remarked His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, responding to a question on his impressions of Russia. "It gives great joy that we are making a pilgrimage to the holy monastery where St. Seraphim labored. Here we will pray and have fraternal communion," said Vladyka Laurus.

"We make this trip on the eve of the great task being undertaken by both sides, in order to heal those wounds inflicted upon Russian Orthodoxy through the divisions of the revolutionary era and the civil war. We hope that the joint work of our committees created for this purpose will enjoy success and will permit the resolution of the situation that has developed, and these labors will begin shortly," said Vladyka.

Arriving in Diveevo, the delegation venerated the holy relics of St. Seraphim of Sarov, went along the Bogorodichnaya Canal with His Grace Bishop Georgii and Hegumen Sergii, who all the while--as prescribed by the saint--read "O Mother of God, Rejoice…" 150 times, and visited the will-spring dedicated to the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God.

During the festive luncheon organized in honor of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, Bishop Georgi of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamassk said in part: "Each Orthodox Russian person holds dear the image of St. Seraphim of Sarov. This is an image of that person whom each one of us has the possibility to be, should we free ourselves from passions, and be transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit. St. Seraphim said: "My joy, acquire the Spirit of peace and a thousand around you will be saved." And so here, now, it is necessary for us to obtain this peaceful spirit and understand that our power is not in division, but in unity with Christ and with each other."

The following morning, the delegation prayed at divine liturgy and a moleben to the saint performed by Bishop Georgii and the monastery clergy. At the end of the service, Vladyka Laurus turned to the worshipers with warm words of greeting: "I thank the Lord Who brought me to this holy monastery to pray and prostrate myself before the relics of Saint Seraphim. Here is the holy soil of Russia. When after liturgy, they began to sing the akathist to the saint, I remembered the years of the Second World War, the worst years of suffering of the Russian people. At this time, young Russian women, sent into forced labor in Germany, came to the cathedral in Berlin, where they prayed for Russia and tearfully sang the akathist to St. Seraphim. For the Russian person there are no borders, no distances, for the unity of the Russian people is founded on spiritual soil. The rector of the cathedral at the time was Protopriest (later Bishop Adrian) Rymarenko, who possessed a part of the relics of the saint and a portrait of the pleaser-of-God, painted during his lifetime. Now this portrait is in the USA, at Novo-Diveevo Convent, as one of the greatest holy items of the diaspora. There, in the outskirts of New York, the akathist to St. Seraphim is sung according to the Sarov tone."

Then His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus presented the abbess of the convent with a copy of the portrait of St. Seraphim painted during his lifetime, which is kept at Novo-Diveevo Convent, and to Bishop Georgii he gave an icon of St. John (Maximovich +1966) the Wonder-worker with a portion of his relics.

In Nizhny Novgorod, the official delegation met with the Representative of the President of Russia of the Volga District, S.V. Kirienko, who told them of his recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where he was warmly greeted by the nuns of the Mount of Olives and Gethsemane Convents. The Representative of the President also told of the preparations that went into the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the glorification of the saint and on the present organization of the forthcoming 250th anniversary celebrations of the saint's birth.

After this meeting, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus and the members of the delegation venerated the grave of Kuzma Minin in the kremlin of Nizhny Novgorod. Afterwards, the delegation departed for St. Petersburg, where it was met by Metropolita Vladimir of St. Petersburg and Ladoga and Archbishop Konstantin of Tikhvin, Rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Schools. Here the delegation visited the Kazan Cathedral and the St. Nicholas-Epiphany Naval Cathedrals, "Savior-on-the-Blood," the chapel of Blessed Xenia and the stavropighial Convent of St. John, the Gilded Hall of the Metropolitan's Quarters of St. Alexander Nevsky Lavra, where a festive lunch was served, offered by Metropolitan Vladimir in honor of His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus.

In greeting His Eminence Metropolitan Vladimir, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus gave His Eminence an icon of St. John the Miracle-worker, Archbishop of Shanghai and San Francisco. At the end of the excursion to "Savior-on-the-Blood," a part of the delegation, led by Protopriest Georgii Mitrofanov, visited the Royal Cathedral of St. Theodore at Tsarskoye Selo, the Alexander Palace and Novodevichiy Monastery, where they were warmly greeted by Abbess Sofia, who showed them the Kazan Church and the Convent's holy items, among which were the vestments of the Holy New Martyr Ilarion (Troitsky), Archbishop of Verey, in which he was buried.

On May 26, the delegation departed for the Kursk Diocese, headed by Metropolitan Juvenaly of Kursk and Rylsk, who met His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus with great amity.

At Znamensky Monastery, Vladyka Juvenaly greeted His Eminence and gave him a panagia, episcopal vestments, a staff and baculus and an icon of St. Seraphim. Those accompanying Vladyka were also given panagias and icons, and the Synodal Protodeacon Eugene Burbelo, a deacon's orarion. Here the delegation visited the Church of the Resurrection-St. Ilya, where the parents of St. Seraphim of Sarov were married, and where they baptised the young Prokhor, the St. Sergius/Kazan Cathedral built by the labors of the parents of the saint, Isidor and Agafia Mashnin, "Znamensky Grove" and Kursk-Root Hermitage, the site of the finding of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God.