On Sunday, 19 August, as part of his official visit to Poland, Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias prayed at the Holy Mountain of Grabarka, along with thousands of pilgrims, as Orthodox Christians around the world celebrated the feastday of the Transfiguration of Our Lord. Grabarka, first mentioned in 1710, is the holiest location in Polish Orthodoxy. Legend has it that during an outbreak of cholera in the region, a man had a revelation from God that the disease would go away if the believers, each carrying a wooden cross, would climb Mount Grabarka, put their crosses up on its top, drink from its creek, and serve a molieben. As soon as they did that, the epidemic subsided. Later, believers built a chapel on the summit, and they established the tradition of planting crosses on the mountain. In 1947, the mountain became the site of the Convent of Ss Martha and Mary. By the way, the Russian aristocrat Sofia Nekhlyudova, who was a childhood playmate of the last Russian tsar’s children at Tsarskoye Selo, had an important part in the history of the convent.
The First Hierarch of the Church of Poland, Metropolitan Sawa Hrycuniak of Warsaw and all Poland, addressed the gathered believers before the service, “For us, this holiday has a special meaning. His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, whom we’ve been looking forward to seeing for a long time, has arrived. He came to see our faith, to give us his blessing, and to pray not only for us, but also for our families, for our children, for our Motherland, and for the world. His visit is a great joy to us. He’s the closest and most akin Orthodox First Hierarch to us, to whom we’re linked by close spiritual ties”.
Patriarch Kirill said, “I’d heard much about Grabarka and about the constant stream of pilgrims going there, but I couldn’t really believe it all until I saw it with my own eyes. My soul rejoiced at the sight of the seemingly-endless convoy of automobiles, of the many radiant and joyful people coming here, atop this holy mountain, gathering for common prayer. That means that you, Polish Orthodox Christians, who’ve walked a unique and torturous path through history, not an easy one, who kept your faith through all difficulties, felt the need to be together and to pray together. I bring you the love and blessing of Holy Rus, of your brothers and sisters in Russia, the Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, and other countries, who share our common history, ethos, and faith”.
Whilst he was in Poland, Patriarch Kirill visited many other locations. Wherever he went, crowds of people gathered to greet him with great joy. Believers waited for hours just to catch a glimpse of their “Holy Father”. An Orthodox believer named Tatiana told VOR in an interview, “For me, it’s a real spiritual boost. It’s an inspiration to know that, after Patriarch Kirill’s visit, Polish Catholics will look upon Polish Orthodox Christians as equals. They’ve had their Pope visit them more than once, and, now, our ‘Father’ has come. Of all the patriarchs, none other is closer to us”.
At bookstalls around the cathedral at the monastery in Supraśl, there was a brisk trade in a book translated into Polish entitled, Patriarch Kirill. It was printed in a high-quality edition, and some of the buyers even kissed the image of the Patriarch on the cover. An Orthodox believer, Sofia, who came to Supraśl specifically to see the Patriarch, told us, “I’m glad that I bought this book, for I’ll learn more about Russian Orthodoxy and about Russia. Our Churches and our faith are very similar, but we still know so little of each other. At present, the politicians have done much to reconcile our countries, but it’s necessary to emphasise that the efforts of ordinary people, of believers, are also necessary. For a long time, we had no opportunity to communicate with one another, although we very much longed to do it. Now, everything is different. We’ve signed a reconciliation pact, which opens a new chapter in our history. To bring this about, we need to get to know and understand your people better”.
A new page in the history of our two peoples begins with the celebration of the feastday of the Transfiguration of Our Lord. It’s a great occasion, symbolising a transfiguration of our souls, peoples, and Motherlands, entering into the hearts of all believers.
Voice of Russia World Service
My hope and prayer for us in the American, Canadian, and Alaskan Russian Orthodox diasporas is simple. The outmoded Cold War structures of the OCA, the MP/US, and the ROCOR are now corroded and beyond repair. It’s time to leave our wilderness wandering and to enter the Promised Land. We should gather together as one, as a single Church body, formally united, under the aegis of the Mother Church (that is, separate unified Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Districts for the USA, Canada, and Alaska). If the konvertsy wise up and want to come with us, that’s fine; if they wish to play around with “religion” and “culture wars“, to putrefy and degenerate in their American phyletism, so be it, we should give them what they want. I pray for the day when HH comes to St T‘s, and we gather about him as the Polish believers gathered at Grabarka.
I’m not alone in longing for that… God wills it…