Our temporary wooden Church of the Meeting of the Lord in Birulevo, where I read in the choir, is situated in the very south of Moscow, in the West Birulevo dormitory district. Many of our icons were donated by the faithful. But one icon stands out: it is an image of the Venerable Confessor Gabriel (Urgebadze) of Samtavro, a “Fool-for-Christ”, with pieces of his mantle, burial plank, along with pieces of the vestments of his relics. This revered icon was brought to our church two years ago from Samtavro Convent in Georgia where it had been blessed on the holy elder’s relics.
The icon found its home in our church because I, its parishioner, composed the Akathist hymn to St. Gabriel and edited the book by Malkhaz Dzhinoria, Elder Gabriel: A Heart Full of Love, both published by the “Apostol Very” (Apostles of the Faith) publishing house. Among other things, the book tells the story of our miracle-working icon of Elder Gabriel. When I was going to buy a candlestick for the icon, I called an acquaintance of mine and asked him to help me hire a car. But Vyacheslav himself offered to deliver the candlestick. It came as a surprise to me because for half a year he had been suffering from sharp pains in his leg and couldn’t do without painkillers. During the journey he said that his foot hardly touched the gas pedal, but nevertheless we did manage to buy a beautiful Greek candlestick. Vyacheslav loaded the candlestick into the car and transported it to the church on his own. Having prayed to Elder Gabriel, he anointed his forehead with oil from the icon lamp hanging in front of the saint’s icon. A few days later I called him again and wondered how he was feeling. Vyacheslav replied that he had been healed after praying and anointing himself. He has already returned to work after his illness. He thanks God and His holy servant, St. Gabriel.
Our parishioner Nina prays to Elder Gabriel every day. Her grandson who underwent a spine surgery is now recuperating quickly. One day as she was walking home from church Elder Gabriel appeared in front of her for a few seconds. He was walking ahead of her. And then he disappeared…
The servant of God Ludmila found herself in a difficult family situation. When she was praying to Elder Gabriel before his icon with tears in her eyes, she felt as if somebody were stroking her hair. It seemed to her that the elder was supporting and encouraging her.
After we had received the icon of Elder Gabriel, the construction of our new church began to move forward. When we were building the foundation, we had the building materials delivered to the project site. All of us had raised funds to buy them together. On the same night some criminals drove a small truck up to the church. After they had loaded it up, the truck wouldn’t start despite their desperate efforts. And at that very moment the police drove by. The robbers were detained and the construction materials saved.
My life has been closely connected with Georgia—it is there, in the first earthly lot of the Holy Theotokos, that my heart remained forever. People who are close to me live there, and the great and wonderful Elder Gabriel shone forth there.
On February 21, 2019, I came to our church to decorate the miracle-working icon of Elder Gabriel on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the uncovering of his relics. On February 22, after the Divine Liturgy our priest was to celebrate a service of intercession with the Akathist hymn to St. Gabriel. But the day before, our choir director Tatiana fell sick; of all the singers only one young woman was left in the choir, and there was nobody to heat the church properly and bring the water that day to boot.
Having arrived at the church, I saw icicles on the window-sills. The flowers in the vase stood in ice and even the water in the electric kettle had frozen. Despite these temptations, I was confident that Elder Gabriel wouldn’t leave us without his help in such a sorry state. And I noticed at once that I didn’t feel cold at all, though it was freezing hard outside. Soon I even took my fur coat and hat off and put on a light headscarf because I suddenly felt very hot as if the church had been heated thoroughly before my arrival. I also noticed that the cold water that I had brought from the skating rink to soak the flower sponges had become warm.
While I was decorating the icon, four hours flew by. I needed to burn something in the stove and I opened its door. It turned out to be warm. It was something incredible! It was hard to believe! I immediately remembered my recent conversation with Malkhaz Dzhinoria, the author of the book, Elder Gabriel: A Heart Full of Love. He recounted how on a cold autumn day he had gone to the elder’s grave with his friends. Some eleven yards away from the grave everyone felt warmth. It was cold behind them but warm ahead of them! Thus they were standing beside the grave, surrounded by the elder’s warmth and love.
Fr. Gabriel sent us singers, and our choir director Tatiana recovered unexpectedly. Different people came to our church on that day, many of them were afflicted by diseases and suffering. Among them was Alexander, a non-religious man and heavy drinker. He came to the church to take his sister who has problems with mobility due to illness. His sister told us about him and asked us to keep him in our prayers. And a miracle occurred. Having entered the church, Alexander came up to Elder Gabriel’s icon, knelt down and asked for a cross to be put around his neck.
People from different parts of Russia come to our church. One young lady told us about her spiritual father, Schema-Igumen Pimen, who lives in the Penza region [a central European region of Russia with its administrative center in Penza—an industrial city on the Sura, a tributary of the Volga River.—Trans.]. He experienced a miracle too. Fr. Pimen had poor eye-sight and could see nothing without his spectacles. One day when he was hurrying to church he inadvertently dropped and crushed his glasses. It upset Fr. Pimen that he wouldn’t be able to read the Gospel and hold the service. With tears the priest besought the Lord to help him. And in an instant his vision was restored completely and he was able to celebrate the service. So he hasn’t used spectacles ever since. Schema-Igumen Pimen requested that our book with the Akathist hymn be brought to him so that he could pray before the icon of Elder Gabriel, whom he venerates very much.
Fr. Gabriel helps the sick, orphans, the abandoned elderly, those who languish in prisons, those who are despondent, lonely, rejected and have lost hope. He used to say: “Love is above all rules and laws. God won’t accept empty words. God loves deeds, and good deeds are what love is. Strive to be children of God! God is boundless love, boundless goodness and boundless justice.”