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EKATERINBURG: July 25, 2008
Pilgrims Led by Archbishop Mark Visit the Holy Sites of Ekaterinburg

On July 25, 2008, His Eminence Archbishop Mark led a group of pilgrims from Germany to the Ekaterinburg Diocese during the "Royal Days" to pray at the holy sites connected with the martyrdom of the Royal Passion-bearers and Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth and Nun Barbara, as reported by the Diocese of Ekaterinburg. Vladyka Mark also visited Novo-Tikhvin Monastery, praying before one of its main relics, those of St Vasilisk of Siberia, and also visited their workshops and Pravoslavny Hostel.

On the feast day of SS Elizabeth and Barbara, the eminent guest visited St Ignaty Skete, a convent affiliated with the monastery. Vladyka spoke on the greatness of monasticism and of Christianity.

Vladyka Mark first congratulated everyone on the feast day of the martyrs and expressed his desire that the nuns fervently fulfilled the good works prescribed by the Gospel, emulating these saints of God and the countless multitudes of the New Martyrs of Russia.

As the archpastor noted, Russians now have every opportunity to carry on the monastic podvig: there are open monasteries, spiritual literature and magnificent churches holding daily divine services. One must treasure this opportunity: that which seems today so natural was impossible only a few years ago. And we must constantly thank God for this great gift—for the chance to live the monastic life.

"For us monastics, the most dangerous thing is to get used to what we have," said Vladyka Mark. "Taking for granted attending church, praying, the Mysteries. We cannot let this happen, we must think every morning: 'I am unworthy of this.' For if the Lord would judge us according to our deeds, He would strike us down at the doorway of the church, yet He lets us in every day. For decades many of your predecessors wished to become nuns, they were prepared to accept all sorts of need, but they could not manifest this wish: monasteries were closed, and it was almost impossible to enter the few ones still open. Let us not forget this."

Today's monastics have the great example of piety—the New Martyrs, Vladyka went on to say. "All of Russia is a living antimension, every centimeter of Russia soil is soaked in the blood of martyrs." On the land of the Urals, St Elizabeth is particularly venerated. She, a German by birth, could have fled Russia during the times of persecution. But she chose another path and remained devoted to her new Homeland and to monastic ideals. It is known that her assistant, Nun Barbara, also exhibited this devotion: the Bolsheviks suggested that she leave Alapaevsk, for there was nothing that bound her to the Royal Family, she had "nothing to do with them." But St Barbara remained with her "matushka" Elizabeth. This devotion to God, this devotion to one's superiors in today's society is very rare, almost non-existent. But we Christians must obtain this ability to do good, and the monastery provides the best opportunity to do so.

In conclusion, Vladyka Mark wished the nuns well in their monastic labors under the auspices of SS Elizabeth and Barbara, and "to every day hold victory over death, that is, over sin." Especially appreciated by the sisters was the gift Vladyka gave to the spiritual father of the convent, Schema-Hegumen Avraam: a pectoral cross carved out of wood from the coffin of St Elizabeth. That day, Vladyka Mark held a discussion with the nuns, during which he told them of the veneration of the Royal Passion-bearers in the diaspora.