NEW YORK: December 19, 2013
The Visit of the Head of the Romanov Dynasty to America
On December 9-14, 2013, Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna made a visit to the United States of America on the occasion of the 400 th anniversary of the end of the Time of Troubles, the reestablishment of the Russian Sovereignty and the founding of the Romanov Dynasty. Her Imperial Highness was invited by His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, President of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Her visit coincided with the celebration of the feast day of Protectress of the Russian Diaspora, the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God “of the Sign.”
Her Imperial Highness arrived in New York on her flight from Madrid, Spain, on December 9, and was greeted by Metropolitan Hilarion; His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America, Secretary of the Synod of Bishops; Protopriest Serafim Gan, Chancellor of the Synod; Alexander Nikolaevich Zakatov, Director of the Chancery of Her Imperial Highness; and Sergey Panteleimonivch Zhohov and Vladimir Sushko, organizers of the 400 th -anniversary celebrations of the Romanov Dynasty.
Before the celebration of all-night vigil at the Synodal Cathedral of Our Lady “of the Sign” in New York City, Metropolitan Hilarion met for supper with the Grand Duchess at the rectory of Fr Serafim in Sea Cliff, NY, at St Seraphim of Sarov Church, designated in 2007 as a Memorial to the Reestablishment of Unity within the Russian Orthodox Church. Her Highness was also welcomed by All Nikolaevna Ryl (nee Dombrovsky), who in the 1960’s, with the blessing and instructions of St John of Shanghai, helped the Imperial Family by giving lessons in the Law of God to Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna.
On December 10, the Grand Duchess prayed during Divine Liturgy at the Synodal Cathedral. Officiating was Metropolitan Hilarion, along with the hierarchs participating in a regular session of the Synod of Bishops, which had concluded a day earlier: His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America; His Eminence Archbishop Gabriel of Montreal and Canada; His Grace Bishop John of Caracas and South America; His Grace Bishop George of Mayfield, as well as His Grace Bishop Jerome (retired), plus visiting hierarchs, including His Eminence Archbishop Justinian of Naro-Fominsk, Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA (Moscow Patriarchate), and His Grace Bishop Mitrophan of Eastern America (Serbian Orthodox Church). During the Great Entrance, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna and her son, the Heir to the Russian Throne, Grand Duke Georgy Mikhailovich, were commemorated by Vladyka Mark.
Later, an incisive sermon on the importance of the reestablishment of unity within the Russian Orthodox Church was read by Archbishop Justinian.
The First Hierarch of ROCOR then addressed the worshipers:
“In the great list of miraculous icons of the Mother of God, which church historians continue to study and supplement, the Kursk-Root Icon holds a special place. Tatars hacked this icon in two, but the pieces later miraculously grew together, foretelling the reestablishment of unity between the two parts of the Russian Orthodox Church. Godless terrorists tried to destroy the icon with a bomb, but Her image survived. In the time of troubles, a special mission was entrusted to this holy icon that lies before us—to bring consolation to Russian Orthodox Christians who had lost their Homeland and yearned for her rebirth. Visiting all corners of the Russian diaspora, continuing in the same spirit even now, She blesses the process of the rebirth of the Church in the Fatherland, where hundreds of thousands of faithful have prayed before Her image.
“This year, special attention is paid to the meaning of the Feodorovsky Icon, through which the Mother of God helped our people overcome the Time of Troubles and blessed Mikhail Feodorovich Romanov’s ascent to the throne. In connection with this, on behalf of the Synod of Bishops, I would like to especially welcome you, Your Highness Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, on the 400 th anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty which already approaching its conclusion. It was broadly celebrated not only on our historic Homeland, but throughout the world, and I express our hope that everything that your heart wishes for Russia comes true, and all that your great ancestors of blessed memory now pray for before the Divine Throne comes to be, for they made our Fatherland the most powerful Orthodox sovereignty, and they always strengthened the ideals of Holy Russia within our people.”
His Eminence then awarded Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna with the Order of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God “of the Sign,” of the First Degree, in recognition of the accomplishments of the Romanov Dynasty on the 400th anniversary.
On her part, the Grand Duchess awarded Metropolitan Hilarion with the Medal of the All-Russian Podvig , 1613-2013. The other bishops were likewise given medals, as the staff members of the Synodal Administration: Fr Serafim, Chancellor of the Synod of Bishops; Protopriest Andrei Sommer, Senior Priest of the cathedral; Priest Nicholas Olhovsky, caretaker of the Kursk-Root Icon; Protodeacon Eugene Kallaur, webmaster of the official Synod website; Nicholas A. Ohotin, Communications Director/Jurisconsult; Sergey Yakushin, Warden of the cathedral, Subdeacon George Schatiloff, Building Manager, and Eugene Grigoriak, Assistant Treasurer. Her Imperial Highness also gave a three-tome collection published in memory of the occasion to Holy Trinity Seminary: Holy Mt Athos, the Orthodox Church and the Romanov Dynasty in Exile, along with a book on the history of present situation of the Romanov Dynasty in Russian and English, By God’s Mercy.
After the services, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, the clergymen and a multitude of worshipers from New York and its environs shared a luncheon in the presence of the Kursk-Root Icon prepared by the cathedral sisterhood.
On December 11, Her Highness, escorted by Archbishop Kyrill and Fr Serafim, visited Stavropighial Novo-Diveevo Convent. The Grand Duchess began her tour by visiting the senior home, guided by Maria Nikolaevna Fedorovskaya, matushka of Protopriest Alexander, the Rector of the convent church. Then, the Head of the Russian Imperial House, accompanied by Vladyka Kyrill, Fr Serafim and Fr Alexander Fedorovsky, visited the convent’s St Seraphim of Sarov Church, where a troparion was sung to the patron saint, and Many Years to Her Highness and her son, Grand Duke Georgy Mikhailovich. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna then awarded Fr Alexander the Imperial Order “Jubilee of the All-Russian Podvig .”
The Grand Duchess then toured the cemetery with the clergymen, where she honored the gravesites of her compatriot émigrés. Eternal Memory was sung at the gravesites of His Imperial Highness Georgy Konstantinovich and Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Vera Konstantinovna, along with “all Orthodox Christian lain here.”
From Novo-Diveevo Convent, the Grand Duchess and the clergymen went to Holy Virgin Protection Church in Nyack, NY, where Protopriest George Larin, its rector, greeted them, showing them the church, parish hall and school. Her Imperial Highness awarded Fr George the Imperial Order “Jubilee of the All-Russian Podvig .” The Larin family then invited Her Highness to lunch, at which Fr George told Her Highness about his childhood in Shanghai, where he served as acolyte under St John (Maximovich), who had contributed so greatly to the Imperial House in exile.
On December 12, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna received a number of visitors and took a tour of New York City. She also spoke with her relative, Her Royal Highness Princess Maria Louisa, sister of King Simeon of Bulgaria, who lives in the United States.
On December 13, the feast day of St Andrew the First-Called, the Head of the Romanov House, along with Archbishop Kyrill and Fr Serafim, visited St Nicholas Patriarchal Cathedral, where she was greeted by His Eminence Archbishop Justinian of Naro-Fominsk, Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA. Vladyka Justinian and the cathedral clergymen served a litany in memory of the Dynasty of His Holiness Patriarch Philaret (Romanov), the forefather of the Imperial Dynasty, and Nun Martha, Tsarina Anastasia Romaonva and all the Sovereigns of the Romanov Dynasty, from Mikhail Feodorovich’s enthronement in 1613 to Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich and His Most August Family. After the service, His Eminence welcomed the Grand Duchess, pointing out how important it is to view the life of every person in the context of his service to God and man. Archbishop Justinian stressed that for the Sovereigns of the Romanov Dynasty, their royal virtue was viewed as their service and their duty, and not as a privilege. In conclusion, Vladyka Justinian gave the Her Highness an icon of Holy Patriarch Tikhon the Confessor and Holy New Martyr Protopriest Alexander Khotovitsky, who contributed a great deal to the construction and adornment of St Nicholas Cathedral.
Her Imperial Highness then awarded Vladyka Justinian with the Imperial Order of the “Jubilee of the All-Russian Podvig ” and the Memorial Medal to the 400 th Anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty,” as well as the Imperial Order of St Anna.
Afterwards, the Grand Duchess and journalists gathered in the cathedral hall, where Archbishop Justinian hosted an honorary luncheon for her. Participating were also Archbishop Kyrill, Fr Serafim, the clergymen of St Nicholas Cathedral and Alexander Zakatov. Vladyka Justinian talked about his duties as the Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA. The Grand Duchess and His Eminence also discussed their joint prayers at the Predniestrov region in 2009.
In the afternoon, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna prayed at the consecration of a new fresco performed by Archbishop Kyrill at the Church of St Seraphim of Sarov in Sea Cliff. Her Imperial Highness awarded Serge Shohoff and Vladimir Sushko the Imperial Order of St Anna and Imperial Order of the “Jubilee of the All-Russian Podvig .” The Grand Duchess, listening to an account of the fresco work, which is devoted to the many centuries of the path of the Russian Orthodox Church and the reestablishment of full canonical unity, after which she venerated the kamilavka of St John of Kronstadt, temporarily housed at the church by the rector, whose ancestors were honored to have celebrated divine services with St John, the “Lantern of the Russian Land,” in 1903.
That evening, an official reception was held for Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna at the Swan Club in Sea Cliff, dedicated to the 400 th anniversary of the end of the Time of Troubles and the summoning by the entire Russian nation of the Romanov Dynasty to the Russian throne. The Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God was then ceremoniously brought into the hall; Archbishop Kyrill gave a speech regarding the service of the Romanov Dynasty and the importance of the visit of the Grand Duchess to New York on the occasion of the feast day of the Protectress of the Russian diaspora and the celebration of the anniversary of the end of the Time of Troubles. Vladyka noted the special sense that the Grand Duchess brought with her a spirit of reconciliation and unification in her motherly love, and gave Her Imperial Highness two painted copies of the Kursk-Root Icon, one with an ornamented riza, the other without. The icons were briefly placed onto the Kursk-Root Icon itself, then given to the Head of the Romanov Dynasty.
The Grand Duchess graciously visited every table and talked with the guests, clergymen and laity, descendants of old aristocratic families and compatriots of all sorts, Russian Americans and others. A kind word was offered by Her Imperial Highness to all, thanking them for remembering the great past of their Fatherland and their willingness to support the nation in the future.
On December 14, Fr Serafim took Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna to visit Intercession of the Mother of God Church in Glen Cove, NY, where its Rector, Priest Alexandre Antchoutine, performed a moleben to the Holy Royal Martyrs for her safe return home. Many Years was then sung to Her Imperial Highness and her son, Grand Duke Georgy Mikhailovich. The Grand Duchess then thanked everyone who accommodated her trip and departed for the airport to fly home to Madrid.
The visit by the Head of the Russian Imperial Family drew to a conclusion the international celebration of the 400 th anniversary of the victory of the Russian people over the Time of Troubles and the reestablishment of sovereignty by the All-Russian Zemsky Council of 1613.