The Primate of the Russian Church Abroad Visits Ryazan Diocese
His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, visited Ryazan Diocese, beginning with a visit to the region’s capital of Ryazan. Vladyka and his pilgrims visited Pokrovsky Monastery, where they venerated the relics of St Matrona of Moscow. Then they visited the city of Meshchovsk and St George Monastery, an ancient monastery which was destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries.
Many of the abbots of St George Monastery before the Revolution hailed from Optina Hermitage, and that was the next destination of the American and Australian pilgrims. They arrived in time for the celebration of the translation of the relics of St Amvrosy of Optina. From there, the delegation went to Ryazan.
Vladyka Hilarion and his fellow-travelers visited St Nicholas-Yamsky Church, where they venerated the relics of Blessed Lyubov of Ryazan. They also visited the citadel (kremlin) which locals call the heart of their city.
Metropolitan Hilarion agreed to an interview with the press service of the Ryazan Diocese:
— Vladyka, this is not your first pilgrimage to Russia. What have you observed, and what do such pilgrimages do for their participants?
— The trips are invaluable for the faithful living abroad. This time we have people from the United States and Australia, including Russians, Americans and Australians… They all love Russia. For them, such trips are very educational in a spiritual sense. They get to learn about many holy sites, venerate the relics of saints they read about, see where they carried out their podvigi or ended their lives. They enrich their souls, and I am sure they will return home with a renewed spirit, and their love for Russia, to Holy Rus, will be strengthened.
— Vladyka, you have been to Russia many times; do you discover anything new during these trips?
— Of course! Russia has so many holy sites, icons and relics, churches and monasteries! There are so many regions, each with their own beauty and treasures. I am always very happy to visit new places. Your life is enriched by it. We gain a great deal from having the opportunity to visit.
— You know how people in other countries view Russia. How different is the picture of Russia from what your pilgrims see themselves when they are here?
— I think they fall in love with Russia. These are mostly Orthodox Christian Americans, who are very influenced by our Russian Orthodox Church. They understand that criticism of Russia and all things Russian they see in the West are all lies and false opinions. When they come to witness life in Russia themselves, their love for the country is strengthened, because their own faith is connected with Russia. That is why the existence of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is so important; in fact, the Russian Orthodox Church has existed in America for 200 years already! She was introduced in Alaska, and the history of the Church is tied to America in many ways. Holy Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow and All Russia was once a bishop in America…
Since the 1920’s, the Church Abroad has been scattered throughout the world, throughout almost every continent. It has a great deal of influence, which is important, because people begin to understand Russia better, to value its spiritual legacy, and it is important that they learn about Russia from us, because we paint a correct picture of the nation, the real state of things.
— How closely are traditions held in the parishes of the Church Abroad? Does church life in America differ from that of Russia?
— Of course, we try to preserve our traditions. But the situation is different from parish to parish. First of all, this concerns divine services. In big cities, with many parishioners, services are performed more often, including weekdays. Unfortunately though, as a rule, people are scattered all over the place, and most parishes don't have that many parishioners. To compare churches in America with those in Russia, we have a more meager church life, and many churches often don't have daily services, except for monasteries, where they are performed every day.
The main problem lies in the fact that people live too far from the church, travel time is long. Relatives are often scattered throughout the country, so personal interaction with them and other faithful is difficult. In Russia of course, there are many more Orthodox Christians.
This is Metropolitan Hilarion’s second visit to our city. The first time was about 15 years ago, and he says that everything has changed greatly, the city is in better condition, the restoration and adornment of churches is noteworthy, as is the quality of life in general.
Metropolitan was asked what characteristics he values most in people. First of all, he said, was honesty, humility and meekness, love for one’s neighbor--those are the ideals of Christian life. In conclusion, we must add that Metropolitan Hilarion, during his time as Bishop of Manhattan was called “the good man of Manhattan.” Many immigrants from Russia who found themselves in difficult situations, without a residence or a job, were helped by him. And indeed, he makes that impression, that of a kind and attentive person.
Metropolitan Hilarion was given icons of St Basil of Ryazan and Blessed Lyubov of Ryazan as mementos of the visit, along with books on Ryazan’s Kremlin and other holy sites.
The next morning, the pilgrims of the Russian Church Abroad continued its travels with a trip to Uspensky Vyshensky Convent.