Part 1. “My Cross is Georgia and Half of Orthodox Rus’”
August 26 marked the 93rd anniversary of the birthday of St. Gabriel (Urgebadze). The creative team behind the films The Elder’s Diadem and I’m Waiting for You in Samtavro have been in Belarus with the miraculous icon of Elder Gabriel and St. Seraphim of Sarov since last October.
There were many miraculous events and occurrences in Brest. One day we were showing the film, I’m Waiting for You in Samtavro, at the city theater. The place was packed. After showing the film, I usually talk with the people and tell them various stories from the life of Elder Gabriel, and this day was no different. After my talk, some people came up to me and told me their stories connected with Elder Gabriel. A woman came up, who had come from Ukraine to venerate the relics and the icon. She was weeping and telling me her story. It turns out she was the wife of a priest who had recently joined the schismatics in the so-called “Orthodox Church of Ukraine,” abandoning her and their children. She gave me a note for Mama Gabrieli and left her phone number. The woman’s story and tears affected me so much that I sent the note to the monastery that evening. A few days later, the woman called me and happily informed me that her husband had miraculously repented, left the OCU, and returned to his family and the canonical Church.
We were supposed to leave Brest on December 30, but due to unforeseen circumstances, it turned out that we had to stay in Brest another few days. We went to get a blessing from Fr. Andrei, the rector of the church, and he blessed us to stay, which we gladly did. There was much joy awaiting us. The people of Brest decided to greet the new year with the icon of Elder Gabriel and St. Seraphim of Sarov with an akathist at midnight. When Batiushka told me about it and invited me to the service, I was naturally delighted, but I thought we’d be reading the akathist with his family and then go head off for a small meal. I started baking some Georgian sweets to treat Batiushka, and as usual, I was late. I got to church at exactly twelve midnight. I went in and I was blown away. This large church was overflowing with people! The place was packed to the gills! And we all sang the akathist, “Glory to God for All Things” together.
After the service, the people venerated the icon and the relics, thanked the Elders for their prayers and the Lord for His great mercy, and rejoiced. Several tiny parishioners—children—went up to the icon and congratulated the Elders on the new year. Words can’t describe the feeling, the love, the joy there was in the air that night! Together with the people of Brest, we began this year with the akathist, “Glory to God for All Things,” in the presence of our beloved saints—Gabriel (Urgebadze) and Seraphim of Sarov.
With the blessing of the now reposed Archbishop Stephan (Korzun) of Pinsk and Luninets, from Brest we headed for the Pinsk Diocese. Upon arrival in Pinsk, at the Church of Sts. Peter and Fevronia, we were greeted by the rector Archpriest Alexander (Sitsevich), the clergy, and the bishop’s choir. We had no idea then that they could know about Elder Gabriel in Pinsk and love him so dearly. Thousands of people came every day to venerate the relics and the icon. The youth showed a special interest in Elder Gabriel, and we had several meetings with them. They all had their own stories about receiving help from Elder Gabriel. Some he helped with grades in school, others he helped win some competitions, and some he brought to the Church.
The Elder helped one young man in Pinsk with a seemingly simple issue. The servant of God Mikhail recalls:
Not long before the wonderworking icon arrived in our city, I went to my grandparents’ grave. They were very faithful people. I lit some candles, prayed for them, and drove back. On the way home, I discovered that I had lost my phone. I turned around, checked everywhere I’d been in the cemetery—at the grave, on the path I walked on. I couldn’t find my phone. I was very sad because I had photos of my grandmother on that phone. I was really worried about it.
When you brought the icon to Pinsk, I found out about it two days later. I’ve had a veneration for Elder Gabriel for a long time now. I went to the church, I venerated the relics, the icon, and the words burst out of me by themselves: “Mama Gabrieli, help me find…” I didn’t finish my sentence, but suddenly said to myself: “Shame on you, bothering such a saint about something so small… No, forgive me, Elder Gabriel. Forgive me my impertinence.”
I left the church and headed home. There was some music program on the radio. Suddenly, to my surprise, an old song that my grandmother really liked came on. My heart began to burn with the desire to go to the grave again. I felt guilty about losing the phone and not being able to print the pictures of my grandmother. I went to the grave, I crossed myself—and I saw my phone in the snow by the cross at the grave. My surprise and joy knew no bounds. I exclaimed: “Mama Gabrieli helped me after all… Thank you, Batiushka.” Most importantly, the phone was completely intact. He was such a bold saint. He helped in all matters. The main thing is to turn to him humbly, with love.
From Pinsk we headed for Baranovichi. There were many miraculous occurrences there as well. I remember how dear Vladyka Stephan, who was in the hospital not long before the icon arrived to his diocese, hurried to come venerate the icon and the relics. When Vladyka came to venerate, I had the feeling I was witnessing the meeting of old friends. He spoke so vividly with the icon of Elder Gabriel, he venerated the relics with such love that we all shed copious tears of joy. Vladyka Stephan later came to Minsk on February 22, the day of the uncovering of the holy relics of Elder Gabriel. We had a film screening and a concert with Georgian and Russian folklore numbers. There was a huge number of people there. Many of them spoke about miracles that happened to them by the prayers of Elder Gabriel.
The handmaiden of God Maria shared one great miracle with us:
I just happened to find out about Elder Gabriel online. Someone sent me the film about him, I’m, Waiting for You in Samtavro. I watched half of it, but I couldn’t finish it, because I was weak from going through another round of chemotherapy.
Then I returned to Minsk and heard that the wonderworking icon of Elder Gabriel and St. Seraphim of Sarov would be in the Minsk Cathedral for a while. I went, I venerated the icon, and then they opened the reliquary and placed a piece of Elder Gabriel’s mantia and hat on everyone. When they put the relics on my head, it felt like there was something really hot on my head. The warmth hit me all over, from head to toe. I wanted to lift my head, but I couldn’t. With tears in my eyes, I implored the Elder to help me easily endure the chemotherapy.
I left the church, got some oil from Elder Gabriel’s holy relics, and started anointing myself every day. In January, I went to Germany for treatment again. They examined me, they scheduled me for a consultation, and just imagine… The doctors canceled the round of chemo, leaving me with just a few drugs to strengthen my immune system.
The tumor had completely disappeared. I thanked the Lord and Elder Gabriel for everything. And the most amazing thing was that when I went into the hall for your event, the film was already playing. Traffic had held me up for a bit. The film was at the point where I had stopped when I didn’t have the strength to finish it because of the chemotherapy. I was stunned and realized that Elder Gabriel doesn’t leave me or anyone who turns to him with faith and love. I have his icon in the most prominent place in my apartment. I pray, I sing his troparion, I consult with him and I thank God for sending us such a holy man in such difficult times.
When the concert was over, Vladyka Stephan got up on the stage, blessed all the members of our creative team, and awarded each of us with a gramota and the Order of the Venerable Martyr Makary, the Abbot of Pinsk, for our zealous labors for the glory of the Church of God. Our joy knew no bounds, although we were well aware that we’re unworthy of such a great reward. I’m glad we received the blessing of Vladyka Stephan and the love of so many people who love Elder Gabriel and support our creative team, for the glory of the Lord! The gramotas that Vladyka Stephan gave us had some Psalms verses written on them: The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?... though war should rise against me, in this have I hoped (Ps. 26:1, 3).
Glory to our God for all things, and thanks to our beloved Elder Gabriel!
Appeal to the readers of OrthoChristian.com
Dear brothers and sisters!
The authors and creative team of the films The Elder’s Diadem and I’m Waiting for You in Samtavro are now working on a third documentary about St. Gabriel entitled Mama Gabrieli. With God’s help, and thanks to your support, shooting has already been carried out in different parts of Georgia, and in Moscow, Izhevsk, Kirov, Vitebsk, and Kiev. The soundtrack has also been recorded, although there is still a lot of work ahead of us.
We appeal to you to offer your mite towards the making of the film—even the smallest amount is often decisive in such great works.
Donations can be sent via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When donating funds, please indicate your names in Holy Baptism, and also the names of your departed relatives. All names will be commemorated on the day of the Elder, at the moleben at the relics of St. Gabriel (Urgebadze) at Samtavro Monastery, and also at the relics and wonderworking icon of Sts. Gabriel and Seraphim of Sarov.
Names can be sent in an email to email@example.com.
To be continued…