Velikoretskoe, Kirov Province, Russia, June 7, 2018
Thousands of Orthodox faithful from throughout Russia gathered yesterday in the village of Velikoretskoe, in the Kirov Province, 575 miles northeast of Moscow, to celebrate the Divine Liturgy and partake of the holy Body and Blood of Christ. This was the main service of the annual All-Russian Velikoretsky Procession.
The Liturgy was celebrated by His Eminence Metropolitan Mark of Vyatka and Sloboda, after which the waters of the Velikaya (“Great”) River and a spring were blessed, reports the site of the Kirov Province government.
His Grace Bishop Leonid of Urzhum and Omutninsk, His Grace Bishop Paisy of Yaransk and Luza, and clergy of the Vyatka Metropolia and neighboring dioceses concelebrated with His Eminence, reports the Diocese of Vyatka and Sloboda.
The Divine Liturgy was celebrated in honor of the appearance of the Velikoretsky Icon of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, a copy of which is carried throughout the entire procession from June 3 to 8. 55,000 Orthodox faithful participated in the Liturgy despite the rain.
This year’s Velikoretsky Procession celebrates two anniversaries: 635 years from the finding of the miraculous icon on the banks of the Velikaya River, and 240 years from the moving of the procession from the river to dry land.
Bp. Mark addressed those gathered with a parting word, before the procession returned to Kirov, thanking them for their prayers, patience, and humility:
“You have undertaken a great labor, praying for yourselves, your loved ones, and your fatherland. Meeting difficulties on our path, through the training of the body we train our souls. Manifesting bodily endurance, we receive the skill of spiritual endurance.”
Following the Divine Liturgy and the blessing of the waters, the icon of St. Nicholas was transferred to the St. Nicholas Church of the Velikoretsky Podvoriye of St. Tryphon Monastery.
The Velikoretsky Procession of the Cross is one of the longest and most ancient processions in Russia.
The icon of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker was discovered in 1383. A peasant named Semyon Agalakov from the Krutitsy village discovered the icon on the bank of the Velikaya River, hence its name, Velikoretsky [“of the Velikaya, or “Great” River].
In about 1400, the icon was sent to the town of Khlynov which was later renamed Vyatka (and in 1934 renamed Kirov). Khlynov residents vowed to bring the icon to the site of its appearance every year. Until 1777, the procession of the cross was arranged by water—on boats and rafts along the Vyatka and Velikaya Rivers, and then it was held by land.
In the 16th century, by order of Tsar Ivan IV, the icon was brought from Khlynov to Moscow. Sick people were healed and other miracles occurred en route. At the tsar’s command, one of side chapels of the Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed, which then was under construction, was dedicated in honor of the “Velikoretsky” icon of St. Nicholas. From that time on the veneration of the miraculous icon began to spread all over Russia. The icon was brought to Moscow for the second time by order of Tsar Mikhail Fyodorovich in the 17th century. The feast in commemoration of the icon (June 6 according to the new calendar) was established in 1668.
In 1935, when the cathedral in Kirov was destroyed, the miraculous icon was lost. The Velikoretsky Cross Procession was officially prohibited in the 1930s and was not resumed until 1989. Today, pilgrims carry one of the copies of this icon instead of the original in the procession.
In 2000, His Holiness Patriarch Alexey II assigned the Velikoretsky Procession the All-Russian status.
The cross procession is held annually from June 3 to 8. The major festive events are organized on June 5 and 6 on the Velikaya River and at the Holy Transfiguration-St. Nicholas Monastery in the Velikoretskoee village.
The procession starts on June 3 from the Dormition Cathedral of the city of Kirov and travels through the villages of Makarye, Bobino, Zagarye, Monastyrskoee, and Gorokhovo. The point of destination is the village of Velikoretskoe, where prayer services are performed at churches and on the bank of the River Velikaya. Pilgrims walk back via the Medyany and Murygino villages and reach Kirov on June 8. Thousands of pilgrims from different cities, towns and villages of Russia walk 112 miles in total. Over 50,000 worshippers gather for services at the Velikoretskoye village.
The “Velikoretsky City” architectural and church complex, which was created in the 18th to 19th centuries in the Velikoretskoe village, is being restored there. It comprises the Holy Transfiguration Church (1739), St. Nicholas Church (1822-1839), St. Elias bell-tower (1860) along with a mall, shopping arcades and four two-storied stone houses for clergy and staff, and a school (the 19th century).
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