On Tuesday, February 7, Bishop Nicholas visited Holy Archangel Michael Zverinets Monastery and the monastery’s caves. While at the habitation, His Grace was given a tour of the monastery and caves.
It is generally believed that the caves were settled by monks during the 10-11th centuries, during the Christianization of Kievan Rus’. Some time after its founding, the greater part of the brethren moved to the above-ground Vydubichi Monastery, and the caves were later brought to ruin by nomadic raids; the underground monastery was never restored, and was abandoned. At the end of the 19th century, the caves were rediscovered, and in 1913 the monastery was partially reopened as the Nativity of the Mother of God Skete, a metochion of the Kiev Caves Lavra on the Zverinets Caves. Not long before the monastery was closed in the 1920s, the brethren had grown to 40 monks. After the period of Soviet desolation, the Zverinets Caves were once again opened and cleared of debris, thanks to the efforts of the Kiev History Museum and the brethren of Holy Trinity-St. Jonah Monastery. In 1997, the Nativity of the Mother of God Skete was reopened in the Zverinets Caves and, in 2009, Holy Archangel Michael Monastery was founded above the caves.
Bishop Nicholas also visited Holy Trinity-Kitaevo Monastery, better known as Kitaevo Hermitage, where he prayed before the relics of Venerable Theophilus of Kiev. The first documented mention of this monastery is found in 1716. In the 19th century, Kitaevo became a popular destination for pilgrims seeking to visit the elders Dositheus and Theophilus. It is well known that the elder Dositheus – who was, in fact, the Eldress Dosithea, disguised as a man – blessed the future Venerable Seraphim of Sarov to enter monasticism when he came to Kitaevo for spiritual counsel: there is a church in Kitaevo Hermitage consecrated to the Elder of Sarov.
Kitaevo Hermitage is unique in that, in its Church of the Twelve Apostles, it has pieces of the relics of all twelve of the apostles (excepting St. John the Theologian, who was taken bodily to Heaven, and the betrayer Judas Iscariot, who fell from the apostolic calling), as well as pieces of the relics of Righteous Joachim and Anna (parents of the Most Holy Theotokos) and of Righteous Zachariah and Elizabeth (parents of John the Baptist), and of many other great saints.
The third monastery that Bishop Nicholas visited that day was Holy Protection Goloseevo Hermitage. His Grace prayed at the burial site of the Eldress Alypia, who was tonsured a nun in the Kiev Caves Lavra and is highly revered by the faithful of Ukraine.
On Wednesday, February 8, His Grace visited Kiev’s Holy Protection Convent. It was here that, one year ago, Bishop Nicholas brought a youth choir from America, visiting Ukraine on a benevolence mission. During the Liturgy, he prayed in the altar, and later met with Abbess Callisthene (Shamailo) over breakfast. Thanking the mother abbess for her hospitality, His Grace went on to pray at the relics of the Venerable Grand Duchess Anastasia of Kiev and the Nun-Confessor Sophia of Kiev.
The final monastery Bishop Nicholas visited was Holy Ascension-St. Florus Convent, home to the relics of Venerable Helen, Protectress of Kiev, who was glorified by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in 2009.
On Thursday morning, February 9, Bishop Nicholas departed from Kiev for New York City.