Hypocrisy is Rooted out Here

Summer is the time for Cross Processions

Photo: А.Мyakishev / Expo.Pravoslavie.Ru Photo: А.Мyakishev / Expo.Pravoslavie.Ru     

A Christian must have zeal. Or, enthusiastic drive, enthusiasm. But, of course, we can’t always remain in this state of mind. What should we do? Where are we to get it? I’ve got an answer: at Cross processions. There you meet what is real. All the phony glitz will disappear once you arrive at the first rest stop of the procession, or when you get tired, become hungry, or it’s blistering hot, or on the contrary, it’s freezing or it rains, when your shoes cause you pain, and so on.

My very first procession, the one I went on with my five-year-old daughter, was a hundred kilometers long. Not to say it was way too much, for city folks it was quite a lot. We walked in the heat, slept on the floor of village churches or in tents and ate whatever the locals had to offer us. And I tell you what I have noticed at the time. When we arrived at villages that never had a church built there, the procession participants were offered nothing but overgrown cucumbers. This offering was according to the Russian proverb, “Take, for God’s sake, what I don’t need anyway.” But villages with churches offered us lavish feasts. People prepared for us hot and cold soups and various salads, meat patties and eggs, homemade bread, half-sour pickles, kvass, you name it! Those villagers were friendly, smiling, made quick friends with the walkers in the procession, and they asked us to mention them in our prayers. As for the inhabitants of villages without a church, they were unfriendly and even standoffish. I have made such observations over several years, so this is not some made-up thing; it’s a fact.

What, in my opinion, is the best part of walking in the procession for me? It’s our common processional prayer. We form two choirs, men’s and women’s, and take turns praying and singing. Actually, prayer is the major spiritual feat of the procession. There is neither iconostasis, nor candles, nor oil lamps and the familiar surroundings—there is nothing but prayer. And so, the people are focused on praying. Everyone loves to pray while walking. The favorite ones are the Jesus Prayer and, “Rejoice, O Virgin, Mother of God.”

Prayer is the main feat for those who walk in the procession. There is no iconostasis, candles, or familiar surroundings—nothing but prayer

We walk most frequently to Diveyevo. We walk for almost a week to be on August 1 the commemoration day St. Seraphim of Sarov, at the holy relics of in the monastery he founded.

Summer is the major season for Cross processions. And so, the streams of faithful gradually pour to the gathering point. Everyone comes here! Doctors, programmers, economists, bank employees. We always have a lot of young people and children. There are large families, too. It's funny to watch them. Sometimes you can see three children in the same stroller. There are families with seven children, sometimes even more than that. The youngest pilgrims are not even a month old, and the oldest participants are aged eighty. Everyone is walking to glorify God and His Most Pure Mother.

The tradition of walking in a procession is preserved because it stirs interest in people. And above everything else, they are interested in its spiritual benefits.

Prayer continues throughout the procession. Even when we stop to rest for a short while and have refreshments, we do it with prayer. Because we stop for rest at spiritually significant locations, like a memorial cross, for example. We stop and have a prayer service or a panikhida. Where there were once churches and chapels, the priests hold a prayer service. We do morning and evening prayers, and serve liturgies daily. Everyone reads the morning prayer rule on their own, whereas the evening rule is our common prayer. It is easier to pray in the midst of a large group of people.

Young men and women get acquainted during Cross processions and later start families. We have many such couples. Later on, we see them coming back with their children. First with one child, and then another. And later, there are already three. The happiest ones in the procession are the children. Freedom, summer, forest, lunches and dinners outside, swimming in rivers and lakes—along with sunbathing, running and praying, of course! You can't do without it. My daughter grew up in Cross processions. You can distinguish such children from others—they are able-bodied, hardy, and well tanned. Nowadays, my daughter works as a coach. She works with children, and she thanks me for this school of life known as Cross procession.

People feel the boost they have received here for the whole year. Every procession has its core team—these people are always waking in the front row. It is a Cross procession brotherhood, so to speak.

Most people come to the procession because of problems—it could be an illness, grief from losing a loved one, a wrecked personal life, failures in career, or being besieged by passions. So, Cross procession isn’t always about love, joy, kindness and mutual support. Conflicts, misunderstandings and even serious clashes do happen there. I once had all my cash stolen, and it was a sizeable amount. I felt hurt and bitter. But people remain people everywhere. Cross procession is not some magic wand, like, one touch and a person gets transformed. It is more like work that continues for many years.

I have a special bag for Cross processions. It has things that I wear only while there. Those things have to meet particular requirements: Clothing should be exclusively made from natural fabrics and the shoes from natural leather, purchased preferably at specialized sports goods stores. The same requirements go for my backpack. When I return from the procession, I wash and clean everything, tie things in a knot—and store it deep inside my closet until the next procession.

A week before the procession, you feel a lot of excitement, as if something is about to interfere with your plan, or something is about to happen. I know some people who sacrificed a seaside vacation or skipped a trip abroad more than once for the sake of being a part of this prayerful procession.

A lot of miracles happen before the Cross procession participants’ very eyes. Ruins are restored to become beautiful churches, childless couples become parents to many children, terminally sick live long in gratitude to God, the wrongfully convicted become acquitted, the lonely find love and a lifetime partner.

There are people of different intellectual, cultural, and spiritual level—but all of them find their place here. The introverted open up, the chatty become calm and more composed, while the rowdy become peacemakers.

I think I will express a common opinion if I say that the motto of all our Cross processions is the words by the Holy Apostle Paul: Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing, In every thing give thanks (1 Thess. 5:16–18).

Natalia Krupnova
Tranaslation by Liubov Ambrose



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