Letter #23: Nicholas in Russia

May 22, 2017, Monday

“Almost all houses [in Russia] in the past and Orthodox people today have three icons at their homes: an icon of the Savior, of the Holy Virgin and of St. Nicholas.” —Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill on Sunday, May 21 (yesterday) in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, commenting on the importance of the arrival in Moscow of a reliquary from Bari, Italy, containing the bones of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker — arguably the most revered of all saints in Russia. Kirill said Russians venerate St. Nicholas because of the “numerous miracles” in people’s lives which have occurred after prayers to St. Nicholas and because of “the liberating of our Motherland and people from numerous historic catastrophes.” It is expected that in coming weeks, until the end of July, millions of Russians will stand in long lines for many hours to come close to the reliquary and venerate St. Nicholas’s remains by kissing the reliquary and whispering a prayer

Nicholas in Russia

An extraordinary religious event occurred in Moscow yesterday.

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The relics of St. Nicholas (photo above), the Christian saint more revered than any other by the Russian Orthodox people, arrived in Moscow from Bari, Italy, where they have been kept for more than 1,000 years.

They were carried to Russia by a delegation led by Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, the “Foreign Minister” of the Russian Orthodox Church.

(Below, photo of Metropolitan Hilarion carrying the relics of St. Nicholas from an airplane which brought the relics from Bari, Italy)

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(Below, Patriarch Kirill venerating the relics of St. Nicholas in Moscow yesterday)

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The relics will remain in Russia for more than two months, in Moscow and, after July 12, in St. Petersburg.

It is expected that, during the next 10 weeks, several million ordinary Russians will stand in lines for hours to venerate the saint’s relics.

What does this tell us about Russia?

(continued below)

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(continued from above)

Many in the West (and many even in Russia), have expressed grave doubts about an alleged “spiritual revival” in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 — 26 years ago.

They say the revival is in some way fraudulent, a fake, sponsored by a cynical, un-believing state power (the post-Soviet government now led by former KGB-chief Vladimir Putin). The Russian state is alleged to believe that it can use the appearance of a revival of religious faith for its own sinister purposes.

Are the doubters correct?

Is the religious renewal of Russia, the construction of an average of three churches a day for the past 26 years, somehow a fraud, a fake?

I have argued for 18 years, since 1999, that the revival, the renewal, of religious faith in Russia is profoundly authentic.

At the same time I perceive the force of the counter-arguments, and the heavy weight of the counter-evidence, ranging from the widespread recourse to abortion to the embrace by many younger Russians of Western secular, “post-Christian” values.

Into the midst of this debate come the relics of St. Nicholas.

And the reaction of the Russian people to the relics is, to me, an additional piece of evidence in a large mosaic suggesting that the return to religious faith in Russia is real, though occurring under the profound weight of both the Soviet (1917-1991) and post-Soviet (1991-present) time.

A Gentle Breeze

I sat in an unstable motorboat sailing across the wide Volga River near Kazan in 2001 to visit an island where hundreds of Christians had been executed. All that remained was a field of grass.

I saw the return to Russia of the holy icon of Kazan, in August 2004, after it had been kept for 11 years in the private chambers of Pope John Paul II, who wished to carry it back to Russia himself, but was unable to.

I saw the building of a cathedral in Kazan which stands where there was once a tobacco factory.

I saw the return to Russia of the mortal remains of St. Elizabeth Federovna (whose sister was the Empress Alexandra, the wife of the last Tsar), from the Garden of Gethsemane, also in 2004. She was executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918, on the day after her sister, her husband and five children were also executed.

I saw a Russian choir come to Rome in 2007 to sing of the passion of Jesus Christ on a stage where the entire back wall was an enormous icon of Christ.

I saw the same choir come to America in 2007 in December to sing of the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmastime. They sang in the Catholic National Shrine in Washington, in a church in New York, and in Memorial Chapel at Harvard in Cambridge — in the same Harvard Yard where Alexander Solzhenitsyn gave the Commencement Address in 1978.

I  saw the Italian laywoman, Immacolata Solaro del Borgo, carry relics of saints to Kazan in 2009, despite old age and many physical ailments, surrounded by hundreds of ordinary Russians, some of whom wept as they saw her pass by carrying her gifts.

I have watched as dozens and hundreds of young scholars have begun to study in the new theological academies of the Russian Orthodox Church.

And I have listened as many Russian believers have expressed their concern that the West has abandoned the faith we once held as our most precious treasure.

The silent dignity of the Russian people as they venerate the relics of St. Nicholas moves me deeply.

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The Lord Appears to Elijah

The following verses are from 1 Kings, Chapter 19. It describes how the Lord appeared to the Prophet Elijah.

While Elijah was on Mount Sinai, the Lord asked, “Elijah, why are you here?”

10 He answered, “Lord God All-Powerful, I’ve always done my best to obey you. But your people have broken their solemn promise to you. They have torn down your altars and killed all your prophets, except me. And now they are even trying to kill me!”

11 “Go out and stand on the mountain,” the Lord replied. “I want you to see me when I pass by.”

All at once, a strong wind shook the mountain and shattered the rocks. But the Lord was not in the wind. Next, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 Then there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.

Finally, there was a gentle breeze, 13 and when Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his coat. He went out and stood at the entrance to the cave…

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Patriarch Kirill calls St. Nicholas the Wonderworker saint number one for Russia

Source: Interfax-religion
ADMIN | 22 MAY 2017

Moscow, May 22, Interfax – Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia called St. Nicholas, whose relics were delivered from Italy to Russia first time in history, the most venerated saint in the country.

“St. Nicholas the Wonderworker from the point of people’s veneration in Russia was and remains the first saint. Almost all houses in the past and Orthodox people today have three icons at their homes: the icon of the Savior, the Holy Virgin and St. Nicholas,” the patriarch said on Sunday at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, where the reliquary was delivered.

According to him, such veneration is connected with numerous miracles in people’s lives through prayers to this saint, “with liberating of our Motherland and people from numerous historic catastrophes.”

“That is why Russian parishes have great love for St. Nicholas the Wonderworker. In our minds we consider him a Russian saint, though he has never been in Russia, neither his nationality, nor culture was connected with our country,” the patriarch said.

Relics of St. Nicholas were delivered by a special flight to the Vnukovo Airport from the papal basilica in Italian Bari.

The agreement about bringing the relics from Italy was reached on the results of historic meeting between Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and Pope Francis on February 12, 2016.

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To Visit the Relics of St. Nicholas…

If you would like to travel with me to Russia in July to venerate the relics of St. Nicholas, and to visit with leaders and ordinary members of the Russian Orthodox Church, and also of the Roman Catholic Church in Russia, please write to me by return email…

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Pilgrimages

If you would like to travel with Inside the Vatican to Russia, Ukraine and Rome in mid-July on our 4th annual Urbi et Orbi Foundation Pilgrimage, with meetings in Moscow and Kiev with leaders of the local Churches, please ask for more information by return email.

If you would like to make a very special journey with us to England in the footsteps of St. Thomas More at the end of June, please write to ask for more information.

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By | 2018-02-23T13:12:16+00:00 May 29th, 2017|Categories: The Moynihan Letters, Uncategorized|
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