Thousands of Polish faithful go on pilgrimage to Grabarka Mount of Crosses for feast of Transfiguration

Nurzec-Stacja, Poland, August 21, 2020     

The Polish Church held its annual Transfiguration pilgrimage to the Grabarka Mount of Crosses this year on August 18 and 19, thus continuing a tradition that dates to 1710, when a cholera epidemic raged in eastern Poland. Since then, thousands of believers have brought homemade crosses in procession to the mountain, erecting them as prayers for the living.

The Holy Mount of Grabarka, near the border with Belarus, is considered to be the holiest site in Poland for Orthodox Christians. It is home to the Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord and the Convent of Sts. Martha and Mary.

While this year’s celebrations were held under quarantine restrictions, the holy mountain was nevertheless visited by about 4,000 pilgrims, reports Polskie Radio.

The majority of pilgrims this year arrived from the northeastern regions, the strongest areas of the country for the Orthodox faith.     

In addition to the feast of the Transfiguration, on August 18, the Sts. Martha and Mary Convent also commemorates when it received a copy of the wonderworking Iveron Icon of the Mother of God from the Athonite Monastery of Iveron itself in 2000. The icon has become the monastery’s most sacred item, and thousands come to pray to the Mother of God for health and comfort in difficult circumstances.

A number of miraculous healings have also been attributed to the icon.

This year’s celebration of the icon was led by His Eminence Archbishop Jerzy of Wrocławsko-Szczecińska. The first pilgrims began to arrive in the afternoon of August 17, some coming by foot, crosses in hand, and others by car. The solemn All-Night Vigil began a 3-day cycle of services that culminated in the Liturgy for the feast of the Transfiguration.     

In the evening of August 18, on the eve of the feast of the Transfiguration, the abbess of the monastery, Mother Hermione, welcomed His Beatitude Metropolitan Sawa of Warsaw and All Poland together with all the bishops of the Polish Church.

Before the start of the Vigil, Met. Sawa addressed the pilgrims, recalling the beginning of the tradition of pilgrimage to the mountain connected with the pandemic in 1710. Relating this history to our reality in 2020, the Polish primate said:

We are going through a difficult period in our country and in the modern world. A tiny virus has disrupted human life in a broad sense and has also affected our Christian faith. In such a situation, where we can go for help, if not to a place like the holy Mount of Grabarka? … And despite the difficulties and limitations, we are here, 310 years from that moment when God’s glory appeared in this place. I believe that it will appear this year, not just for one of us, but for many.

During the Vigil itself, Archpriest Artur Aleksiejuk preached on the importance of the Transfiguration of the Lord: “We are all invited, without exception, to go with Christ to the mount of Transfiguration. This call is addressed to the entire Church and to each of us individually. Christ Himself invites us to let everyone find their way in their hearts to their personal Mt. Tabor, and when they get there, to be able to admire the Savior.”     

Following the Vigil, several more services were held throughout the night, beginning with an akathist for the reposed at 11:00 PM. Liturgies were then celebrated by various hierarchs at 1:00 AM, 4:00 AM, and 6:30 AM.

The main Liturgy was celebrated later in the morning of August 19 by Met. Sawa and several other hierarchs of the Polish Church.

Following the reading of the Gospel, Archpriest Paweł Zabrocki offered a homily, connecting the Transfiguration of the Lord on Mt. Tabor to the transformation that we experience in every Divine Liturgy—that of the consecration of the Holy Eucharist.

The service was sung by the choir of students of the Orthodox Theological Seminary and Christian Theological Academy in Warsaw.     

The Liturgy was crowned with a solemn procession around the monastic church, during which the fruits brought by the faithful were consecrated.

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