Golinchitsa, Ukraine, August 15, 2018
Thousands of Ukrainian faithful started out at about 8:00 AM this morning, bearing dozens of heavy crosses in an annual 3-mile procession to the site of a miraculous appearance of the Mother of God in what is known as the “Valley of Crosses.”
The holy march begins in the village of Golinchitsa in the Shargorod Region and ends in the Josaphat Valley, where the Most Holy Theotokos appeared in 1923 to a shepherd named Jacob, commanding him to erect crosses there. The valley is now filled with crosses placed by Orthodox faithful.
This year, the Divine Liturgy was celebrated at the end of the procession by His Eminence Metropolitan Simeon of Vinnitsia and Barska, reports the Union of Orthodox Journalists.
Last year’s procession was headed by His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine and drew 35,000 faithful. Watch a video from last year’s procession below:
LogoSlovo.ru gives the history of the valley:
In the second half of the 17th century, the residents of Golinchitsa were threatened by the occupying Turks and sought refuge in a nearby monastery. The Mother of God then appeared in a dream to some monks, ordering them to head east through the dense forests. On the third day, they stopped for the night by a well, where the Mother of God appeared again, blessing the whole area. The monks then founded a new monastery there. The laypeople began to build houses there and villages eventually appeared. The well became known as a healing spring responsible for many miracles, and the place became known as the Josaphat Valley, named after the Biblical valley near Jerusalem.
Then, in 1923, a shepherd named Jacob was tending a herd of cows in the valley. He often prayed at the well and drank the healing water. One day, he saw in the water in the well the reflection of the Mother of God with the Christ Child. Her halo shone with golden light.
With reverent fear he asked, “Mother of God, what must we do?” “Glorify Christ, and erect crosses!” she replied.
Jacob immediately ran to the village and told everyone of the vision. With their local priest, the villagers processed to the well and erected the first cross, in obedience to the Theotokos. The news spread and residents of nearby villages began erecting crosses as well, and the whole valley was soon dotted with crosses.
The local Soviet leadership soon began to worry about the influx of pilgrims and the growing number of crosses so they started desecrating the crosses, using them as firewood, and arresting anyone who sheltered pilgrims. 50 people, including the shepherd Jacob were beaten and charged with treason, though none of them would renounce their faith. Jacob was eaten alive by rats in a dungeon, while the other 49 were thrown out on the streets and forced to walk back to their village, where, to their joy, they discovered another 16,000 crosses had been erected.
More than 1,500,000 people visited the valley during 5 months in 1923. Several people were sentenced to forced labor with up to 4 years of isolation.
Though the memory of the events were nearly lost, God did not allow it to be completely wiped out, and on August 15, 2006, thousands of people from near and far, including from Moldova, Belarus, and Russia streamed to the Josaphat Valley to see the place of the appearance of the Mother of God. The celebrations were attended by 2 bishops and about 200 priests.
Today several hundred crosses stand firmly in the valley.
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