NEWS
 

RUSSIAN MASS MEDIA: July 31, 2004

The Russian Press on the Arrival in Russia of Relics of SS Elizaveta Feodorovna and Nun Varvara

Vremya.ru reports: “Yesterday, a reliquary arrived in Moscow via airplane from Jerusalem containing the incorruptible relics of Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna Romanova, the eldest sister of the last Empress and the widow of the Moscow Governor General Sergei Alexandrovich Romanov, killed by the terrorist Kalyaev. True, these relics, especially venerated by parishioners of the ROCOR, have not returned to Russia foreveróthe reliquary will be conducting a kind of “pilgrimage” from Moscow through the Far East, but only until February 2005. The itinerary was developed in order to give almost the entire post-Soviet territory an opportunity to venerate the relics. Representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate have already called this Ďone of the main church events of 2004,í naturally, after the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God and the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Seraphim of Sarov.”

“This is one of the main Orthodox events of the year,” journalist Sergei Gerasimenko was reportedly told in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Gethsemane Convent. The martyr Elizaveta Feodorovna is revered by millions of believers, and now her relics can be venerated in Russia. On Sunday, the relics were handed to a delegation of the St Andrew the First-called Foundation. After a few hours in the air, the reliquary was already on its way to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. From 6 pm, the faithful were allowed to see the relics.

St Elizaveta Feodorovna is one of the most venerated of the New Martyrs of Russia. The granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England, daughter of the Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt, she was the wife of the last Governor General of Moscow, Sergey Romanov, who died from a terrorist bomb. Converting to Orthodoxy, the Grand Duchess devoted herself to religion and philanthropy. She was a founder of Marfo-Mariinskaya Convent in Bolshaya Ordynka. After the revolution, the English tried several times to bring Elizaveta Feodorovna to London, but she refused to leave the country. In April 1918, she was arrested and taken to Alapaevsk. On July 18, she assumed a martyric deathóshe was thrown alive into an abandoned mine shaft. The bodies of the passion-bearers were kept in a crypt in Holy Trinity Cathedral in Alapaevsk. These are the only remains of a member of the Royal Family whose authenticity is not under question. On March 10, 1920, the coffin holding her body was sent to Peking, then to Shanghai, then to Egypt and from there to Jerusalem. In 1981 in New York, Elizaveta Feodorovna was glorified by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia as a martyr.

Nun Varvara died together with the Grand Duchess. She is also included among the martyrs, and her relics were also brought to Russia.

In the window of the reliquary, one can see the hand and arm of the martyr in a silver vessel. Her three fingers are joined. The reliquary was made of boards from the coffin in which the body arrived in Jerusalem. It also contains a gold cross containing soil from Alapaevsk and Jerusalem.

The relics can be venerated from July 25-31 in the upper church of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, from 7 am to 9 pm. Then the relics will be moved, in a procession of the cross, to Danilov Monastery, where they will remain until August 5. They will then travel to Marfo-Mariinsky Convent.

From August 5-14, the relics will travel throughout Russia. They will be in the country until February 2005 before returning to Jerusalem.

As reported by Gazeta.ru, on July 25, Bishop Michael of Boston emerged from the altar of Gethsemane Convent with a gleaming chest, opened it, showed the worshipers the hand of Martyr Elizaveta, and together with Bishop Alexander of Dmitrovsk (ROC/MP), carried the relics to the foot of Gethsemane Garden. The initiator and organizer of this event is Alexander Melnik, president of the Foundation of St. Andrew the First-called.

The chest was placed into a wooden box and put into a special minivan. Together with the present Superior of the Convent of SS Martha and Maria, Mother Elizabeth, and nuns from the First City Hospital, diplomats, bishops and clergymen of both Churches virtually from across the globe, pilgrims from Georgia and even the entire airliner crew escorted the relics to the airport. The buses and delegatesí luggage were searched here. Finally, the Patriarchal vicar blessed the plane; everyone crossed themselves, even the surly drivers.

At Domodedovo Airport, one hundred clergymen, waiting under the burning sun for two hours, greeted the relics at the plane ladder itself, performed a service of supplication, and the entire procession headed for the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The relics will remain here for ten days, then depart in a procession of the cross to Danilov Monastery, then visit Marfa-Mariinskaya Convent, founded by the Grand Duchess herself.

On August 6, the relics will embark on their pilgrimage from Chukotka to Kaliningrad, through Ukraine from Kharkov to Lvov, visiting Belarus, Moldova and the Dniestr Region, the Baltics, Kazakhstan and Central Asia. In February, the relics will return to Jerusalem. When Marfo-Mariinskaya Convent is fully restored, the Gethsemane nuns will give the wooden chest as a gift.

In January, 2004, before the visit of the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, His Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, to Russia, the Foundation of St. Andrew the First-called appealed to the Synod of Bishops with the proposal to bring the relics of Grand Duchess Elizaveta to Russia. The Synod not only agreed, but also offered to send the relics to Russia not for two weeks as requested, but for a half a year, roughly from the feast day of the Royal Martyrs until that of the New Martyrs of Russia, who are venerated not only in Russia, but the world over. “This pilgrimage will touch everyoneóall will know that these are Russian people, that the relics come from abroad, that there are also Russian people and the Russian Church there. Our mutual movement towards each other will begin,” said His Grace Bishop Michael, returning to the topic of the relationship between the Churches. “Contact, dialog, rapprochement, call it what you will, but do not call it reunification, for there was never separation. We are not in a hurry and are not acting out of stupid willfulness. What this will lead to, we do not know. Three generations of Russians have lived abroad--for society, this is almost an eternity.” Added the bishop: “One is given hope that the President Ďcannot remain remote from this matter and is interested in church matters.í”

As Itar-Tass reported, Bishop Michael of Boston said that the members of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia never considered themselves separated from Russia and always recognized themselves as part of this country. “We all need to make peace, this is a complicated process, a difficult movement towards each other,” said Bishop Michael. He also agreed that the travels of the relics to Russia will give the opportunity for representatives of the two parts of the Russian Church to come to know each other better.

In a conversation with journalists on Sunday, Bishop Michael noted that the arrival in Russia of the relics of Holy Martyrs Elizaveta and Varvara become “a visit from abroad, where the relics were found after the evil deed in Alapaevsk over the course of almost three generations.” “This visit today is a sign of the grace of God, a call to peace and the moral rebirth of every person living in Russia, and also those Russians scattered throughout all the territories of the globe,” he said.

Bishop Michael also reported that the reliquary containing the relics of the saints, made of the wood from the coffins in which the bodies of Grand Duchess Elizaveta and Nun Varvara were transported to Jerusalem will be given to Marfo-Mariinskaya Convent after its renovation.

Olga Kiryanova reports that participating in the ceremonial greeting of the relics at Domodedovo Airport were Archbishop Aleksii of Orekhovo-Zuevo, Superior of Novospassky Monastery, in which Grand Duke Sergey Alexandrovich is buried, the deans of the Moscow region and abbesses of the convents in the capital.

The relics were carried right along the landing strip to a special automobile which brought them to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Here they were met by the hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarchate, headed by Metropolitan Juvenaly of Krutitsa and Kolomensk, the clergy of Moscow and the Moscow oblastí, and also some three thousand believers. During all-night vigil conducted at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Metropolitan Juvenaly read an epistle from His Holiness Patriarch Alexy on the arrival of the holy relics to Russia.

“St. Elizaveta in her life was able to combine the holiness of a pious duchess, a righteous saint and a martyr for Christ, and left us an example of living by the Gospel,” the epistle stated.

“Her selfless service to the poor, the sick and orphaned, her genuine love for God and the Orthodox Church are able even today to waken the souls of many of our compatriots, remind the wealthy of the need to serve the poor and needy, and those granted authority of their duty before God and their people,” emphasized His Holiness. Due to reasons of health, His Holiness Patriarch Alexy could not participate in the ceremony himself. In a few days, however, he will conduct a moleben before the relics.

“The holy relics of Elizaveta Feodorovna are returning to Russia; to the Russia she served so greatly, so seriously, so selflessly, and to the Russia in which she endured her martyric suffering and death. It seems to me that for all of us this will be a great example of how life must be led, how service to others is necessary, how one must respond to all misfortunes which may befall us, all tribulations that lay before us,” said Alexander Melnik, President of the St. Andrew the First-called Foundation, to a correspondent from the program “Vesti.”

“A saint, during his lifetime or at the moment of his martyrdom acquires the gift of great humility before God, and there is no greater sacrifice than that of oneís own life,” averred Bishop Michael of Boston.

“We are all troubled by the lack of unity in the Russian Church, especially since we never felt ourselves separated from Russia,” said Bishop Michael in a conversation in Jerusalem with a reporter from Interfax. Bishop Michael asked that the level of resistance to the peacemaking of the two parts of the Church not be exaggerated. “Although at times rapprochement with the Moscow Patriarchate is met with suspicion abroad, nonetheless all the bishops of the Church Abroad are for making peace,” he said. “We have a great deal in common,” he added. “There remain issues relating to human failings, passions, misunderstandings, but this is because abroad there is an incomplete understanding of how people lived before and live now in the Fatherland.” Bishop Michael repeated this on July 25 in an interview with Russian journalists. “Historically, trenches have always been dug, but the living flame of faith has always existed, and the Church has always been one,” he stressed. Bishop Michael also pleaded with the journalists not to press the issue of time limits for making peace. “This is not a matter of ukases and laws; the body of the Church must be healed,” he clarified.

More than 40 thousand Muscovites and visitors have already venerated the relics of Holy Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna and Nun Varvara at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

This was reported on July 28 by Russian Information Agency Novosti to St. Andrew the First-called Foundation, which had delivered the relics to Moscow on July 25 from the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem, which belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

Together with the relics, the Foundation gave the Cathedral of Christ the Savior 40,000 icons of SS Elizaveta and Varvara for distribution to the faithful who venerate the relics.

“According to plan, these icons were to suffice until Friday (July 30), at which time the relics will be ceremoniously moved from the Cathedral of Christ the Savior to Marfo-Mariinskaya Convent, founded by Elizaveta Feodorovna, then to Danilov Monastery. But the entire edition has already gone out,” the Foundation reported.