Tbilisi, December 6, 2014
On the feast of the Presentation (Entry) of the Mother of God into the Temple Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II of All Georgia greeted the congregation and said: “This is one of the greatest feasts. When the Theotokos was led into the Holy of Holies that could be entered once a year only by the high-priest, it was a sign that She was an extraordinary person …
“Today I want to talk to you of the significance of the Church in our lives. The Church is the gateway to the Heavenly Kingdom. And blessed is the family or the person who stands before these gates. Blessed is he who feels the significance of the Church. A special grace is present in the Church. The grace of the Holy Spirit…
“I recall the time when we started construction on the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Tbilisi, how we dug out the foundations. Many people thought what to fill the trench with, and whether we were really able to build a church.
Even when there was still nothing there, we felt the presence of a special grace on that spot.
I recollect those days when people even did not want to leave the spot. There was just a pit there… But God filled everything. And He built this church for us, and our people together with Him. This was to become the Church of the Holy Trinity. Whatever a man does is his (or her) self-portrait… This means the power of the Holy Spirit has been poured out in abundance on Georgia”.
Patriarch Ilia II went on: “I want to recall my childhood. There was no Sunday or Saturday, when our father, mother, and all of us children missed a church service. We attended the Church of Holy Prophet Elijah in Vladikavkaz. Once during the service mother said to us, children: “Stay here, and I will go out.”
She went to the grave that was and still is there—the grave of Anastasia Andreyevna. Her surname was Andreyeva. She was Greek by birth. Her ancestors were Greeks. She was a wonder-worker. Died in 1932. She worked miracles. Mother came to the grave and saw people there flocked together, kneeling and praying. She wondered why they were crying… “Don’t you see anything?” she was asked. “Nothing,” she replied. “Then make a sign of the cross and kneel down.” It was in the afternoon during a church service. She knelt down and saw the Mother of God with the Savior on Her arm. She bent over to kiss the Feet of the Theotokos but the Latter suddenly disappeared and then reappeared. 17 people witnessed this miraculous event.
The personal keys and staff of St. Anastasia that she always took with her are kept at our Patriarchate. They had been given to my father and he gave them to me.
Anastasia was a wonderful person. During the war the Germans were about to enter the city, when one soldier saw an old woman walking with a staff in a cemetery situated on the outskirts of the city. He stopped her and cried: “Who are you?” She answered: “I am Anastasia; I am guarding over this city.” The Germans failed to enter the city.
I remember how my parents prepared before going to church. How they prepared our clothes, cooked the meal… When we departed on Saturday and returned on Sunday, dinner was ready…
I do not remember a day when we did not stand in prayer together in the evening.
This is the way we should raise our children. With love. I cannot remember any loud word in our family, nor a shout. There always was peace and quiet, and we, children, inherited this from parents.”
The patriarch has also interceded for the people who mortgaged their houses and now are subject to eviction.
At the end of the sermon, Patriarch Ilia blessed the people: “May the Lord send us patience and peace. May He grant us His Divine grace, which heals the infirm and completes imperfection.”