This year, the clergy and parishioners of Holy Virgin Protection Church in Nyack, NY came together to design and build a new reliquary, needed to contain all of the individual relics of the holy saints that had been donated throughout the life of the parish.
Over the years, the parish had received as gifts many relics from various sources. One in particular was a large relic of Venerable Herman of Alaska, donated by parishioners Nicholas and Maria Trigniano, who visited Alaska on a pilgrimage. The relics were stored on the altar table for many years. In 2015, the parish received a gift from retired Archpriest Elias Tsivikis from Thessaloniki, Greece (father of parishioner Irina Serdsev), of a large relic of Venerable Theodosius the Great of Jerusalem encased in a beautiful ornate silver reliquary. The need to provide a permanent home for the new relic so that it would be available to parishioners for veneration served as an impetus to design and construct a permanent reliquary to house all of the parish’s relics. The complete list of saints’ relics housed in the reliquary is:
- Venerable Herman of Alaska
- Venerable Theodosius of Jerusalem
- Holy Great-Martyr & Trophy-Bearer George
- Holy New-Martyr George
- Holy Righteous John the Russian
- Holy Martyr Nectarius
- Holy Unmercenaries Cosmas & Damian
- Holy Martyress Constantia
- Holy Great-Martyress Catherine
- Venerable Athanasius of Athos
- Holy Martyr Mamas
- Holy Apostle Timothy
- Holy Martyresses Theodula, Christina & Lucia
- Hieroconfessor Michael of Synnada
- Holy Martyr Pompeius.
The goal was to build the reliquary by parishioners’ own hands, and so they put their talents to good use. A pearl reliquary box from Jerusalem, purchased and donated for this purpose, was already available. Maxim Kudinow, a wood working artist, who had already adorned the church with many of his ornate creations, volunteered to carve the wooden plate to actually house the relics. He then purchased and donated individual relic holders to contain the individual relics and carved places for them in the ornately carved wooden plate. The pearl reliquary box and the wooden plate were modified so that the wooden plate with the relics and the St. Theodosius silver reliquary could coexist in the pearl reliquary with the covers either closed or open for veneration. Ekaterina Piskareva, a parishioner iconographer who restored the church’s frescoes, volunteered to inscribe the saints’ names in the reliquary.
To allow more parishioners to participate in the consecration, the population and blessing of the reliquary was accomplished in two days: first, the lengthy process of the transfer of the relics into the individual relic holders was performed on Saturday, January 21, before the All-Night Vigil; second, the insertion of the relic holders into the reliquary and the blessing of the reliquary according to the rite in the Great Book of Needs was accomplished at the end of Divine Liturgy on Sunday, January 22, with many parishioners participating.
To hold fast each relic in the individual relic container, a special wax-based glue for sacred objects, called "wax-mastic" (particularly used for altar table construction) is used. Archpriest Alexandre Antchoutine (dean of Long Island & the Hudson Valley) provided the parish with the wax-mastic left over from the building and consecration of the altar table for Holy Annunciation Church in Flushing, NY. A hotplate, syringes, and holders were prepared and arranged on a clothed table in the nave of the church. For the consecration, assistant choir director Subdeacon Victor Gonchar compiled the needed troparia, kontakia and – where possible – the stichera for each of the saints’ relics.
After an informative word on the preparation of the relics, parish rector Archpriest Ilya Gorsky began a moleben service. As each relic was rehoused into the individual relic holders by the participating parish clergy – Fr. Ilya was joined by Priest Ignatius Green, Protodeacon Dimitri Temidis, and Deacon Andrew Podymow, with pastor emeritus Archpriest George Larin praying in the church – the clergy intoned "Holy NN, pray unto God for us!", after which the choir sang or read the available hymns to the saint. The process to rehouse the relics took over an hour, and the moleben ended with a dismissal commemoration of all of the saints whose relics were present.
The clergy and parishioners then venerated the relics as they came up to kiss the cross.