Friday, September 17, 2010

Russia, Day 10: Liturgy with the Patriarch in the Moscow Kremlin

On Saturday morning, the clergy met in the hotel lobby at 8:00, at which time we were taken in two cars to the Moscow Kremlin, a place I had always heard about as a child growing up at the end of the Cold War. Besides acting as the seat of government and the official residence of the Russian president, the Kremlin also contains four historic cathedrals and numerous smaller churches.

Due to security, however, these churches are not used as regular parishes, but rather are used only for special occasions. On those occasions, everyone, including any laity who want to attend, must have a special pass to enter the Kremlin complex.

There was little traffic that early on Saturday morning, so we got there quickly and were waved through security. In the photo above, we got out of the car and walked to the historic Dormition Cathedral, where we would celebrate the Divine Liturgy for thefeast of the Dormition (Old Calendar) with the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia.

Here we are inside the altar during Orthros, before the Patriarch arrived. All together, 18 priests were invited to serve, along with at least 6 deacons, and a total of 7 bishops, including the Patriarch. The first protodeacon was a married man in his 80s who was still quite energetic. He told me that he's been a deacon for 60 years (!) and traveled with Patriarchs Pimen and Alexy II to the U.S. many times.

Shortly before 9:00, I think, we went outside to wait for the arrival of the Patriarch. Here I am in the Russian-style vestments they loaned me.

The Patriarch arrived in a long black limousine around 9:00, surrounded by bodyguards who follow him everywhere, including inside the church. Some of these photographs are from the many professional photographers covering the event. Seehere for more.

This is probably my favorite photograph. Yours truly is on the right. Unfortunately, Fr. Andrew and I didn't have the cool Russian hats.

A view from the back of the church.

Inside the altar. This photograph was taken by a professional, but he must have been standing directly behind me, because this is where I was standing. The issue of where each of the priests stood was a somewhat humorous one. The Russian priests were, from my Greek-influenced perspective, absolutely obsessed with where each one would stand. I suppose that, since we had seven bishops, there was little else for them to do. Compared to Greek practice, the whole affair was quite militaristic, with lots of lining up and marching from here to there without any immediately apparent purpose.

All the bishops behind the altar. Metropolitan Kallistos was given the second position, after only the Patriarch.

The Patriarch during the proskomide.

One of the priests serving with us was Starets Ilia of Optina (above), the Patriarch's spiritual father, whom the Patriarch has kept close to him since he became Patriarch.

Here's a photo featuring my hand. ;)

The iconography from the cathedral was incredible and surprisingly well preserved considering the fact that the church was in disuse for so many years during the Soviet period.

Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Kallistos at the end of the Divine Liturgy. After the Liturgy, which went from 9:30 until almost 12:30, we went outside to bless the four sides of the church with holy water. The Patriarch ended the service by saying a few words about the feast, which were widely played on the national news that day.

After the Liturgy, the clergy were invited to a private lunch inside the Kremlin with the Patriarch. This was one of the most extravagant meals I've ever been to. We each had 5 or 6 forks and 5 or 6 knives and I don't know how many courses, including salads, soup, a fish plate, a sausage plate, a beef plate, etc. The table was also full of top-grade vodka, wine, caviar, smoked meats, and smoked fish (which were particularly delicious). It was so much food that it got to the point where I would just take one bite of the latest plate and then wait for them to take it away. Our Russian tour guide, who works for the Patriarchate, described this as just an "average" feast. Yikes!

The meal was full of lots of toasts from the various clergy in attendance, and it concluded with Metropolitan Kirill speaking. Unfortunately, Fr. Andrew and I didn't have a translator next to us so I don't know what he was talking about. In the photo above, the Patriarch is presenting Metropolitan Kallistos with a present. He also gave us a little something.

Metropolitan Kallistos (and, by extension, we) were invited to stay and attend the re-dedication of an icon over one of the gates of the Kremlin. It was a major event, with President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin to attend, but Metropolitan Kallistos declined and we went back to the hotel for a much-needed rest. Apparently, these icons over the gates had been taken down by the Soviets, and they are now being slowly restored.

It has started raining toward the end of the Liturgy, as you can tell in the photo above. This photo inside the Kremlin was taken as we waited for the car to take us back to the hotel.

For more of my photos from the day, click here.

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