RUSSIAN ECCLESIASTICAL MISSION IN JERUSALEM: August 8, 2006
The Feast Day at Gethsemane
Ensconced within the hillside of the Mount of Olives is the magnificent Church of St Mary Magdalene, Equal-to-the-Apostles, surrounded for the last 70 years by a convent. A multitude of pilgrims from many countries gathers every year on its feast day. Although the situation in the Holy Land now leaves a great deal to be desired in connection with the military actions in the north, this did not prevent the pious pilgrims from coming to Jerusalem. On the feast day of St Seraphim of Sarov, we had already greeted His Grace Bishop Agapit of Stuttgart within our walls, who came from Germany along with Deacon Vladimir Boschman and his wife and two little sons.
As usual, all the nuns participated in the preparations for the holiday. We approach the day striving to do as much as possible. For example, this year, our main contribution towards the main convent holiday was the publication of a book titled "Gethsemane Convent," by Galina Meyerthal of Berlin. Galina has been coming to the Holy Land for 18 years now, of which she has spent 10 gathering materials on the history of Gethsemane. We have been waiting a long time for this book. And now with God's help, we received copies of it during the feast day celebrations. These books, printed in a Jerusalem print shop, arrived during all-night vigil. By the next day, we already had them on display. All the nuns received a copy as a gift, so that in studying our historical past, they could learn from those whom we were not fated to meet in person, but whose example would inspire us towards new podvigi for the sake of Christ, for the founders of the Convent were real nuns of high spiritual calling. The book recounts the history of the church and of Empress Maria Alexandrovna, in whose memory this great royal church was built. It contains many valuable photographs and recollections of the Convent's residents. There are also descriptions of all the holy items of Gethsemane. The book is very useful, edifying and timely. All the nuns were happy to receive a copy of the book. Galina Meyerthal has spent time living in Gethsemane itself while making the final preparations for the book's publication. We all helped her. And now this long-awaited moment has arrived. The trapeza was held, as usual, in the courtyard before the church itself. Sitting at a long table under a tent, we celebrated three events—the church's feast day; the namesday of the Convent's Prioress, Mother Magdalena, its senior resident; and the publication of the book.
All this served to unite us even more. We feel a bond with our heavenly protectresses, with Abbesses Maria and Barbara, who have now resettled in the heavenly Gethsemane; and with Metropolitan Elias, reposed in the Lord, who through a vision of the Most-Holy Mother of God was told to give Her miracle-working icon Hodigitria to the nascent Gethsemane Convent in 1939. Reading the history of the Convent, we can study in detail the development and strengthening of Gethsemane as a convent, we can see the providential genesis and establishment around the Royal Memorial Church of a monastic community through the prayers of SS Elizaveta and Nun Varvara, whose uncorrupt relics abide here.
We expressed our gratitude to the author for this great accomplishment. Receiving the books, the nuns carefully examined them and then asked Vladyka and Mother Abbess to sign them. The holiday was indeed spiritually bountiful.
Thank God for all things! Holy Myrrh-bearer Mary Magdalene, Equal-to-the-Apostles pray to God for us!