Orthodox America

  The Glorification of the Optina Elders – A Second Pascha

Troparion, Tone 1

Abiding in unceasing prayer, * embracing both the good and the wicked with love,* O holy elders of Optina,* ye did serve both God and neighbor." Through vigils, tears, and fasting ye did receive the gift of all manner of miracles. * Glory to Him Who hath given us such intercessors.* Glory to Him Who hath glorified you.* Glory to God Who is wondrous in His saints.


ON SUNDAY, MAY 13 (n.s.), 1990, the glorification of the Holy Elders of Optina was celebrated at the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Montreal, Canada.

      The ceremonies began on Saturday morning with the serving of a commemorative liturgy for the elders. The Divine Liturgy was followed by a panikhida (memorial service) with Metropolitan Vitaly presiding. The spacious St. Nicholas cathedral was already quite filled with pilgrims arriving for the glorification. Spiritual anticipation similar to that of Holy Great Saturday filled the air.

      At six o'clock in the evening the last panikhida for the elders was solemnly served. Vladika Metropolitan was assisted by eleven bishops and numerous clergy who had gathered from all over the world for the occasion. It was hard to hold back the tears when the entire congregation of nearly a thousand people joined in to sign the final "Memory Eternal'' for the elders.

     Vigil began immediately after the last panikhida. The large canonization icon, painted by the iconographers of Holy Trinity Monastery, stood covered on the Holy Altar table, later to be festively revealed for veneration. Two choirs sang antiphonally: the mixed cathedral choir and a male choir composed of singers from all over the diaspora. The service itself had been composed by hiero-deacons Ephraim and Andrew of Holy Trinity Monastery, edited by Archbishop Anthony of San Francisco and Bishop Daniel of Erie, and approved by the sobor of bishops

It was providential that the canonization take place on the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman. The hymns to the elders, who like the Samaritan woman came to the Lord, the ever-flowing stream of true life, and having drunk of it abundantly became sources of God-given grace, blended beautifully with the post-Paschal celebration. It is interesting to note that two of the elders, Nikon and Antony, followed the example of the Samaritan woman (the martyr Photina) still further, when they were murdered for their faith by the atheists and joined the ranks of Russia's New Martyrs.

      According to the traditional rite of glorification, the troparion hymn to the new saints was chanted for the first time at the litya, at the blessing of the loaves.

      If one were to point out the climatic moment of glorification it would be the polyeleos in matins. Here the icon (still covered) was brought out along with relics of elders Ambrose and Nectarios. Vladika Metropolitan majestically unveiled the icon and Archbishop Anthony of Los Angeles, our second ranking hierarch, uncovered the relics. The entire congregation, filling to capacity the largest cathedral of the Church Abroad, joined in singing the Magalynarion: "We glorify, we glorify you, O Holy Fathers of Optina, and we honour your holy memory, instructors of monks and conversors with angels." During the prayer, "Save, O God, Thy people," the newly glorified saints were commemorated by name for the first time along with the other listed saints of the Holy Orthodox Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

   By eight o'clock the next morning many had already gathered in the cathedral for the Lesser Blessing of the Water, which was performed in honor of the glorification Everyone later agreed that the Liturgythat followed was indeed a repeat of Pascha. Such was the joy felt by everyone who attended. In his sermon, Metropolitan Vitaly reminded those present that the very foundation of eldership is obedience. He entreated the faithful to follow the example of the Saints of Optina by being obedient to God through His holy Church.

             During the Divine Liturgy, the first miracle of God through the intercession of the Saints of Optina was revealed. A phone call was later received from Optina Monastery in Russia, which joyfully informed Vladika Metropolitan, and through him all the faithful, that precisely during the Glorifica tion Divine Liturgy at the cathedral, an icon of our Lord Jesus Christ there in Optina began to stream forth myrrh Thus did God bestow His blessing on this joyous event.

             At the conclusion of the Liturgy, a festive moleben was served with a jubiliant procession through the streets of the city of Montreal, joyfully proclaiming to the world the glorification of the Holy Fathers of Optina, whose lives were pleasing to our Lord and God. For He is holy and resteth in the 'saints, and unto Him do we send up glory, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages. Amen. 

Priest Gregory Naumenko

(Reprinted from the parish newsletter of the Protection of the Mother of God Russian Orthodox Church, Rochester, NY; summer, 1990)