At this liturgy at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, and in all the parishes of our Church, but not only our in our Local Church, Orthodox people celebrate Nativity evening services. Through this contact with the memory of the greatest event in human history, we touch upon what is, in fact, this event’s essential reality. God wanted to come into the world to unite Himself with mankind, to become one of us, not with force, not with money, not with human power, not with coercive predestination, but rather through people’s free choice to become partakers of divine life. People responded to this great event in simplicity of heart. The shepherds joyfully testified to the birth of the Saviour. The Magi came with gifts to Him, the newborn, to thank heaven, in gratitude to God for this unknown infant, presenting gold, frankincense, and myrrh… gold, as He was a King, frankincense, as He was God, and myrrh, as He was a man.
Today, prayers before these greatest universal Christian relics will follow our liturgy in the Cathedral. The Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Saviour, carefully preserved these Gifts of the Magi, and gave them to the Jerusalem Church, who kept them until the end of the Fourth Century, when they went to the new capital of the Roman Empire, Constantinople. When there was a danger of foreign invasion of Constantinople, the relics went to Mount Athos, where the Monastery of St Paul kept them.
At our request, for the first time in history, these relics are in Russia. Now, we can come to the Gifts of the Magi. They will stand in the centre of the temple, and every one of you throughout this liturgy can pray before this holy shrine of the newborn Saviour, to ask mercy for yourselves, for your loved ones, especially your children, to ask for God’s mercy and His help upon our God-protected country, upon all historical Rus, and upon our Church. We believe that our prayers before these holy relics, overflowing with God’s grace, will fill us with deep faith and hope before the Lord.
Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias
At the western doors of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the Patriarch, hierarchs, and clergy met the ark with gifts of the Magi. Since the 15th century, these holy relics were at the Monastery of St Paul on Mount Athos. A special charter flight from Thessaloniki brought them to Moscow. Archimandrite Parthenios Murelatos, the Abbot of the Monastery of St Paul, monks of the Monastery brotherhood, as well K V Malofeyev, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the St Basil Charity Foundation, S Yu Rudov, the head of the committee that organised the bringing of the relics to Russia, and Yu V Artyukh, a government official, brought the relics from Vnukovo Airport to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Patriarch Kirill took the ark to its prepared place for veneration as the choir sang the Nativity tropar.
With the blessing of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all the Russias, for the first time, the ark with sacred relics from Mount Athos, the Gifts of the Magi, came to the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. Clergy met the ark at Vnukovo Airport on 6 January 2014. In Moscow, the relic will be at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Access to believers will be from 7 to 13 January, from 08.00 to 22.00. Then, the ark will go to St Petersburg, Kiev, and Minsk.
The Gifts of the Magi is one of the few relics associated with the earthly life of the Saviour preserved to this day. The Gospel according to St Matthew tells how Oriental sages brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Infant Christ Jesus. These Gifts have deep symbolic meaning. They brought gold, as Christ was a King, they brought incense, as He was God, and they brought myrrh, to prepare Him for His future burial. Since the 15th century, the Monastery of St Paul on Mount Athos kept these relics. Abbot Parthenios said, “Every year, thousands of pilgrims from all over the world come to the Monastery of St Paul, to venerate these holy relics, the Gifts of the Magi, held at our monastery. Many of these pilgrims are Russians”. Elder Parthenios said that he’s taken the relics to the MP’s canonical territory so that believers can venerate them and receive a blessing. During a pilgrimage to Mount Athos in June 2013, Patriarch Kirill said, “It’s fortunate that there’s a vibrant spiritual relationship between the Holy Mountain and the countries of historical Rus. I’m glad to see ever-increasing numbers of pilgrims visiting this holy place. In the Russia, the Church publishes more books about Mount Athos, there’s growing interest in the history of the Holy Mountain and in the spiritual values held by its monasteries”.
During the stay of the relics at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, the clergy will serve Liturgy for the Nativity of Christ before the ark with the Gifts of the Magi.
According to legend, the Mother of God Herself gave the Gifts of the Magi, along with His belt and His robe to the Church of Jerusalem. They were in Jerusalem until the end of the Fourth Century, when Roman Emperor Arcadios (395-408) moved them to the imperial capital of Constantinople New Rome. After the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks, the relics passed to the Monastery of St Paul in 1470. The Magi’s Gold survives as 28 small fragments of different shapes, artfully decorated with filigree ornamentation. Each of these gold plates has beads on a silver thread attached, sprinkled with a mixture of frankincense and myrrh. The relics are in 10 special arks, one of which is going on tour for believers in Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine.
Schedule of the Itinerary of the Gifts of the Magi on the MP canonical territory:
- Moscow. Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, 7-13 January (08.00 to 22.00 daily)
- St Petersburg. Resurrection Novodevichy Convent, 14-17 January (14 January access 15.30 to 22.00, 15-16 January 15-16, 06.00 to 22.00, 17 January, 06.00-12.00)
- Minsk. House of Mercy, 18-24 January
- Kiev. Assumption Cathedral, Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra, 25-30 January
One can get Media Accreditation for the relics’ stay in Moscow from 7 to 13 January from the MP Synodal Information Department (e-mail email@example.com). For accreditation, the application must include the official name of the publication, indicating names and positions of journalists, the list of equipment, as well as the day and time of the wanted media visit to the church. The telephone for Media Relations is +7 926-40-40-621. A press centre will run during the relics’ visit. Only accredited journalists will have access from Volkhonka Street. The MP invites journalists accredited for the Patriarchal Nativity service from 6 to 7 January, as well as those vetted for Vespers on January 7, to take part in the coverage of the relics’ stay on the following days. The Church has opened a special website on the relics.
6 January 2014
MP official website