Zaleszany, Hajnówka County, Poland, August 1, 2023
The Polish Orthodox Church celebrated the wonderworking Zaleszańska Icon of the Mother of God and the Podlasie Martyrs on Saturday.
30 Podlasie Martyrs were canonized in October 2019, and their feast was set to coincide with that of the Zaleszańska Icon, which is celebrated on the last Saturday of July. Another 30 names were added in March 2020.
The main celebration was held at St. Catherine’s Covent in Zaleszany. The festivities were blessed with the presence of His Beatitude Metropolitan Sawa of Warsaw and All Poland, who was hospitalized with cardiac problems just a month ago.
His Beatitude prayed in the altar of the monastery church while the Liturgy was celebrated by His Eminence Archbishop Grzegorz of Bielsko and His Grace Bishop Andrzej of Supraśl and a large number of clerics.
The feast began with the All-Night Vigil on Friday night, with pilgrims from all across Poland. The next morning, an akathist to the Mother of God was prayed before the Zaleszańska Icon, followed by the Divine Liturgy.
In his homily, Bp. Andrzej emphasized that the faithful receive faith through Baptism and the teaching of the Church. In Holy Communion, we open ourselves to the indwelling of God, through which we can sanctify ourselves and others by becoming holy. “Being an active and faithful member of the Orthodox Church, one should love God and correctly profess the faith, as did the Holy Martyrs of Podlase.”
Following, the Liturgy, Met. Sawa led a procession to a cross commemorating the departed inhabitants of Zaleszany. Prayers were offered to for the souls of the reposed, then the participants processed back to the church to consecrate crosses to crown the new monastery church.
Met. Sawa spoke about the monastery as a place dedicated to all those who have given their lives for the Orthodox faith. And speaking of the crosses to be consecrated, he said, quoting St. John of Damascus:
The Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and nothing else, conquered death, took away the sin of our first parents, defeated hell, gave us resurrection, gave us the strength to rise above the temporal and death itself, prepared the return to former happiness, opened the gates of Paradise, placed our nature at the right hand of God, made us his children and heirs.
He also spoke about the importance of the Cross in everyday life and the Cross as the ultimate sign of the victory of good over evil.
Then, to the ringing of the bells and the singing of a troparion, a cross was raised to crown the central dome of the church.
The Podlasie Martyrs suffered for Christ on January 31, 1946 in the forest near the village of Puchały Stare in northeastern Poland at the hands of an emergency operation of the National Military Union under the command of Romuald Rajs.
Under Rajs' command, the unit reached the village of Łozice on January 27, where a number of peasants with the best horses and carts were detained, to act as a transport unit. On January 31, the unit reached Puchały Stare, where it shot 30 detained wagoners, though several were released, having declared their Polish origin. The newly-glorified martyrs were of Belarussian origin.
During the anaphora, the man saw the Mother of God surrounded by seven angels against the background of one of her icons in the temporary monastery church. At the bottom of the icon in one corner was a house in flames, and three children in the other corner.
After returning home, the man fully recovered from his illness. Later, in a dream he heard a calming female voice, calling for an icon to be painted showing what the man had seen in his vision. The lyrics of the troparion for the icon were also dictated.
The content of the icon relates to the tragic events of 1946, when the martyrs gave their lives.