NEW YORK: February 17, 2010
The Delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church Accompanying the Head of St John Chrysostom Returns to Moscow
On February 5, 2010, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, the honorable head of St John Chrysostom, a relic of the Russian Orthodox Church housed at Christ the Savior Cathedral, was brought to New York. The reliquary containing the skull of the Teacher of Universal Orthodoxy was accompanied by a delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church. Among them were Protopriest Mikhail Ryazantsev, Senior Priest of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior; Priest Georgy Kirindas, Head of the Protocol Bureau of the Department of External Church Relations, and Protodeacon Alexander Ageikin of Christ the Savior Cathedral.
This was the first time in 355 years that the relic left the territory of the Russian State. His Holiness Patriarch Kirill responded to the request of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and blessed the visit of the head of St John for veneration by the believers of all Orthodox jurisdictions at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and also at St Nicholas Patriarchal Cathedral in New York.
During the flight to New York on a commercial Russian airliner, Fr Mikhail gave his blessing for the crew and others to venerate St John’s relics.
Representatives of the Russian Church Abroad met the honorable head of the Saint at the airport: Protopriest Andrei Sommer, Senior Priest of the Synodal Cathedral; Protopriest Serafim Gan, Chancellor of the Synod of Bishops and Secretary of the First Hierarch, and Deacon Nicholas Olhovsky, the Chancellor’s aide and cleric of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville. The relic was then brought to the residence of His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion.
The reliquary was ceremoniously brought into the middle of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Sign during all-night vigil on the eve of the Cheesefare Sunday. Vigil was led by Metropolitan Hilarion, Primate of the Russian Church Abroad, who was joined by His Grace Bishop Gabriel of Montreal and Canada; His Grace Bishop John of Caracas and South America, and His Grace Bishop Jerome of Manhattan. Hundreds of people, representing not only Orthodox communities of the New York region but those of other faiths, gathered to prayerfully glorify the Universal Teacher St John Chrysostom. Divine Liturgy on Sunday was headed by Bishop Gabriel, with pilgrims from throughout North America gathering to venerate the honorable head of St John Chrysostom.
On Monday, February 8, the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church headed by Fr Mikhail made a pilgrimage to Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY. There they performed a pannikhida for Metropolitan Laurus, the late First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad. The Seminary choir sang at the service. After a tour of the Monastery, the visitors met with its Abbot, Archimandrite Luke.
On February 9, the feast day of St John Chrysostom, the delegation participated in Divine Liturgy at which Metropolitan Hilarion officiated, along with the members of the Synod of Bishops and other clergymen who made the pilgrimage. At the end of service, the delegation departed for Washington DC, where they were warmly welcomed by Protopriest Victor Potapov, Rector of St John the Baptist Cathedral.
Returning to New York on February 11, the delegation members were invited to a reception in their honor hosted by the First Hierarch and the Synod of Bishops.
The relics of St John remained at the Synodal Cathedral until February 11, after which the reliquary was brought to St Nicholas Patriarchal Cathedral.
The honorable head of St John Chrysostom was brought to Russia in 1655 from Holy Mount Athos through the pious efforts of Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich, and has not left the country since then. In compensation, the Russian Treasury disbursed a generous sum annually to the brethren of Mt Athos, which continued until 1917. In response to a 1682 request made to Tsars Ivan and Peter Alekseevich by Mt Athos’ Vatoped Monastery to return the relic of St John, it was stated that “it was brought to the pious Sovereign for preservation from the impious Agarians, and not temporarily, for no ukase indicating that it was only for a time has been found.” The renowned Russian traveler Vasili Grigorievich Barsky, who visited the Holy Mountain in 1744 writes that he saw at Vatoped Monastery a corresponding decree dated 1710, bearing the monastic seal, where it was clearly stated that the honorable head of St John was “a gift to Russia.”