On Saturday, July 8, the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, His Eminence Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, began a pilgrimage to the holy sites of Russia. The pilgrimage was organized in conjunction with the centennial of the beginning of the godless persecution and the decennial of the Reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church with the Russian Church Abroad.
Upon his arrival in Moscow, His Eminence prayed in Cathedral of Christ the Savior before the relics of the Holy Hierarch and Wonderworker Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, which after its time in the Russian capital will soon depart for St. Petersburg. Joined by a delegation, the Metropolitan also visited Holy Protection Monastery, where he venerated the relics of Blessed Matrona of Moscow.
Early in the morning on July 9, the pilgrimage group, led by Metropolitan Hilarion, departed for Optina Hermitage, in order to celebrate Divine Liturgy on the feast of the Finding of the Relics of Venerable Ambrose of Optina. The pilgrims from the U.S. and Australia arrived just in time for the celebration of the finding of the relics of the Optina elder.
Metropolitan Clement of Kaluga & Borovsk, head of the Metropolitanate of Kaluga, celebrated the festal Divine Liturgy in Entrance of the Mother of God Monastery – Optina Hermitage – co-served by Metropolitan Hilarion, Bishop Nikita of Kozelsk & Lyudinovo, and Bishop Seraphim of Tarusa, vicar of the Diocese of Kaluga. Concelebrating with the hierarchs at Divine Liturgy in the Church of the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos were monastery deputy abbot Archimandrite Benedict (Penkov), monastery clergy, and clergy from the Kaluga and Kozelsk Dioceses.
Upon completion of the service, Fr. Benedict presented Metropolitan Hilarion with an icon of Venerable Ambrose – a saint who had a lasting impact on the spiritual life of Russia in the 19th century. After the festal divine services in the monastery, the hierarchs visited the Orthodox tent camp "Alexander Peresvet," which abuts the monastery walls in an apple orchard along the picturesque Zhizdra River. With Fr. Benedict’s blessing, children here carry out light obediences on the monastery’s and nearby farms.
From Optina Hermitage, Metropolitan Hilarion led delegation to the territory of the Ryazan Oblast. On July 11, His Eminence and those with him visited St. Nicholas Church in Yamskaya Sloboda in Ryazan, where the pilgrims were able to venerate the relics of Blessed Lubov (Charity) of Ryazan. The guests were also shown the Ryazan Kremlin, where the relics of the Holy Hierarch Basil of Ryazan repose in Nativity of Christ Cathedral.
This was not Metropolitan Hilarion’s first visit to Ryazan. He was there once nearly 15 years before and, in his words, the city had changed significantly in the interim – it had become cleaner and more beautiful, and the restored and newly adorned churches pleased the eye, while the overall health and wellbeing of the city had increased remarkably.
In memory of his visit to Ryazan, Metropolitan Hilarion was presented an icon of the Holy Hierarch Basil and Blessed Lubov of Ryazan, as well as books and brochures about the Ryazan Kremlin and the holy sites, icons, and saints of the city. That same morning, the delegation from the Russian Church Abroad continued their travels throughout the Diocese of Ryazan, and visited Holy Dormition Convent in Vysha.
At the gates of the monastery, the guests were warmly greeted by the rectress of Vysha’s Holy Dormition Convent, Abbess Vera (Rovchan), accompanied by whom the guests proceeded to the monastery’s Our Lady of Kazan Cathedral, where they venerated the wonderworking Kazan Icon of the Mother of God of Vysha, the relics of the Holy Hierarch Theophan the Recluse of Vysha, and other revered icons of the monastery. Metropolitan Hilarion and all of the members of the delegation piously venerated all of the monastery’s major icons and relics. Nun Juliania spoke about the history of the Vysha Monastery, about its most revered icons and relics, and about the history of the finding of the relics of St. Theophan the Recluse.
After visiting Our Lady of Kazan Cathedral, the guests proceeded to the Museum of St. Theophan, where they heard about the life and labors of St. Theophan in his reclusion in Vysha, which lasted over 20 years. The group spent more than an hour in the museum, viewing its exhibits with lively interest. The attention of the guests was particularly drawn by icons painted by St. Theophan himself.
After a busy morning, the guests were invited to the monastery refectory.
Time flew by quickly, spent seeing the pilgrimage sites of Vysha Convent. It was time for the guests to depart for their next stop – Diveevo Convent.
Metropolitan Hilarion bade farewell to the Mother-Abbess, thanking her for the hospitable reception and the busy visitation schedule. In memory of their visit to the convent, the abbess presented the guests with icons of St. Theophan, the monastery’s Heavenly patron.
On July 12, the feast day of the Holy Glorious & All-Lauded Supreme Leaders of the Apostles Peter & Paul, Metropolitan Hilarion and the pilgrims visited Holy Trinity St. Seraphim-Diveevo Convent. At the holy habitation, the First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad served a moleben and akathist to Venerable Seraphim of Sarov, and celebrated Divine Liturgy. The service was held in Holy Trinity Cathedral, where the venerable saint’s relics permanently repose. His Eminence was concelebrated by Metropolitan George of Nizhny (Lower) Novgorod & Arzamas, Bishop Ilia (Elijah) of Balakhna (vicar of the Diocese of Nizhny Novgorod), secretary of the Hierarchal Council of the Nizhny Novgorod Metropolitanate Archpriest Sergius Matveev, local deans, department heads, monastery abbots, and diocesan clerics.
Praying at the divine service were the convent’s rectress, Abbess Sergia (Konkov), and the sisters, General Director of "Spas" ("Savior") TV station Boris Korchevnikov, and a multitude of parishioners and pilgrims. Upon completion of Liturgy, Abbess Sergia thanked the archpastors for their visit and the festal divine services they had just performed, and presented each of them with a prosphora prayed over for their health.
In turn, Metropolitan Hilarion thanked the convent’s rectress for her hospitality, and congratulated all those gathered in the church with the feast of the Holy Apostles Peter & Paul. The First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad said that he was very glad to be at the Diveevo Convent, and was overjoyed for the representatives of his flock in the U.S. and Australia, who were visiting this holy site for the first time.
Metropolitan George expressed his gratitude to Metropolitan Hilarion for their joint service, and presented him with a panagia and an icon of St. Seraphim of Sarov.
Upon completion of the service, Metropolitan Hilarion visited the Diveevo Convent’s school, and the spring of St. Seraphim of Sarov.