16 December 2013

The Head of the Romanoff Dynasty Visits the United States of America

The Head of the Romanoff Dynasty Visits the United States of America

On December 9-14, 2013, Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria of Russia made a visit to the United States of America on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the end of the Time of Troubles, the reestablishment of the Russian State, and the ascension to the throne of the Romanoff 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” (November 17/December 10).[1]

On December 9, Her Imperial Highness arrived in New York on her flight from Madrid, Spain and was greeted by Metropolitan Hilarion; His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America, Secretary of the Synod of Bishops; ArchpriestSerafimGan, Chancellor of the Synod; Alexander NikolaevichZakatov, Director of the Chancery of Her Imperial Highness; and Sergey PanteleimonivchShohov and Vladimir Sushko, organizers of the 400th anniversary celebrations of the Romanoff 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 at St Seraphim of Sarov Churchin Sea Cliff, N.Y., which had been designated in 2007 as a Memorial to the Reestablishment of Unity within the Russian Orthodox Church. Her Imperial Highness was also welcomed by AllaNikolaevnaRyl (n?e Dombrovsky), who in the 1960’s, with the blessing and on the instructions of St John of Shanghai, helped the Imperial Family by giving lessons on the fundamentals of Orthodox doctrine(or Law of God--ZakonBozhii) to the young Grand Duchess Maria of Russia.

On December 10, the Grand Duchess attended the pine Liturgy at the Synodal Cathedral. Officiating was Metropolitan Hilarion, along with the hierarchs participating in the 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; His Grace Bishop Jerome (retired); as well asseveral 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 of Russia and her son, the Heir to the Russian Throne, Grand Duke Georgeof Russia, were commemorated by Archbishop Mark.

Later, a poignant sermon on the importance of the reestablishment of unity within the Russian Orthodox Church was read by Archbishop Justinian.

The First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia then addressed the worshipers on the significance of the feast day:

“Among the great list of miraculous icons of the Mother of God, which Church historians continue to study and learn new things about, the Kursk-Root Icon holds a special place. Tatars hacked this icon in two, but the pieces later miraculously rejoined, 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 ascension 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 400th anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty which is already approaching its conclusion. It was broadly celebrated not only in our historical Homeland, but throughout the world; and I express our hope that everything that your heart wishes for Russia may come true, and that all that your great ancestors of blessed memory now pray for before the pine Throne, may come to be, for they made our Fatherland the most powerful Orthodox state, and they always strengthened the ideals of Holy Russia within our people.”

His Eminence then awarded Grand Duchess Maria of Russia with the Order of the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God “of the Sign,” First Class, in recognition of the accomplishments of the Romanoff Dynasty and in recognition of the 400th anniversary of the Imperial House.

For her part, the Grand Duchess awarded Metropolitan Hilarion with the Imperial Medals“Anniversary of the Nation’s Victory, 1613-2013” and the “Commemorative Medal of the 400th Anniversary of the House of Romanoff.”The other bishops were likewise given medals, as were the staff members of the Synodal Administration: Fr.SerafimGan (Chancellor of the Synod of Bishops); Archpriest Andrei Sommer (Senior Priest of the cathedral); Fr. Nicholas Olhovsky (caretaker of the Kursk-Root Icon); Protodeacon Eugene Kallaur (an advisor to the Synodal Chancellery and Archives); Nicholas A. Ohotin (the Synod’s Communications Director); Sergey Yakushin (Warden of the cathedral); Subdeacon George Schatiloff (Building Manager), and Eugene Grigoriak (Assistant Treasurer of the Synod). Her Imperial Highness also gave a three-volume collection of published documents entitled Mount Athos, the Orthodox Church, and House of Romanoff Abroad, as well as the book By the Grace of God, which is a history of the Romanoff Dynasty over time and today, written in both Russian and English.

After the services and the awards ceremony, the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Metropolitan Hilarion, the archbishops and bishops, Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, other 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, HerImperial Highness, escorted by Archbishop Kyrill and Fr.SerafimGan, visited Stavropighial Novo-peevo Convent. The Grand Duchess began her tour by visiting the senior home, guided by Maria NikolaevnaFedorovskaya, matushka of Archpriest AlexanderFedorovsky, the Rector of the convent church. Then, the Head of the Russian Imperial House, accompanied by Archbishop Kyrill, Fr.SerafimGan, and Fr. Alexander Fedorovsky, visited the convent’s St Seraphim of Sarov Church, where a troparion was sung to the church’s patron saint, St. Seraphim of Sarov, and the hymn “Many Years” to Her Imperial Highness and her son, Grand Duke George of Russia. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia then awarded Fr. Alexander the Imperial Medal “Anniversary of the Nation’s Victory.”

The Grand Duchess then toured the cemetery with the clergymen, where she honored the graves of the Russian ?migr?s, her countrymen, who are buried there.  At the request of Her Imperial Highness, the hymn “Eternal Memory” was sung at the gravesites of PrinceGeorgeKonstantinovich and Princess Vera Konstantinovna, honoring these members of the Imperial House and all “Orthodox Christian laid to rest here.”

From Novo-peevo Convent, the Grand Duchess and the clergy went to Holy Virgin Protection Church in Nyack, N.Y., where Archpriest George Larin, the Rector, greeted them, and then led a tour of the church and school. Her Imperial Highness awarded Fr. George the Imperial Medal “Anniversary of the Nation’s Victory.” The Larin family then invited Her Imperial Highness to lunch, during which Fr. George told Her Imperial Highness about his childhood in Shanghai, where he served as an acolyte under St. John (Maximovich), who had contributed so greatly to the Imperial House in exile.

That evening, Grand Duchess Maria of Russia visited the Metropolitan Opera, where she attended the Puccini’s opera Tosca.

On December 12, Grand Duchess Maria of Russia received in audience a number of visitors and took a tour by foot of New York City. She also spoke with her relative, Her Royal Highness Princess Maria-Luisa, sister of King Simeon II of Bulgaria, who lives in the United States.[2]

On December 13, the feast day of St. Andrew the First-Called, the Head of the Romanov House, along with Archbishop Kyrill and Fr.SerafimGan, visited St Nicholas Patriarchal Cathedral, where Her Imperial Highness was greeted by His Eminence Archbishop Justinian of Naro-Fominsk, Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA. Archbishop Justinian and other clergy attached to the cathedral together served a Lityain memory of the ancestors of the Dynasty—His Holiness Patriarch Filaret (Romanoff), the Nun Martha, Tsaritsa Anastasia (the wife of Tsar Ivan IV), and all the Sovereigns of the Romanoff Dynasty and their spouses since 1613: from Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich to Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich. After the service, His Eminence welcomed the Grand Duchess, pointing out how important it is to assess the life of every person in the context of his service to God and man. Archbishop Justinian stressed that, for the Sovereigns of the Romanoff Dynasty, their royal rank was always viewed as a form of service and a duty, and not as a privilege. Archbishop Justinian then gave Her Imperial Highness an icon of the Holy Patriarch Tikhon the Confessor and of Holy New Martyr Archpriest Alexander Khotovitsky, who contributed a great deal to the construction and adornment of St Nicholas Cathedral.[3]Her Imperial Highness then awarded Archbishop Justinian with the Imperial Medals of the “Anniversary of the Nation’s Victory” and the “Commemorative Medal of the 400th Anniversary of the Romanoff Dynasty,” as well as the Imperial Order of St Anna.

Afterward the service and the investiture ceremony, Her Imperial Highness took part in a press conference with journalists. The Grand Duchess shared her vivid impressions of the celebrations in Russia and around the world of the 400-th anniversary of the ending of the Time of Troubles and the ascension of the House of Romanoff. Her Imperial Highness also described how meaningful her visit to New York City has been—to be among the Russian community, which has preserved their Orthodox faith and their love for Russia. In answer specific questions posed to her by journalists, the Grand Duchess voiced her approval of President Vladimir Putin’s state-of-the-nation address to the Federal Assembly, which had been delivered on the previous day. “The address contains an important message about the future of our country,” the Grand Duchess said. She particularly pointed to the part of the address where President Putin discusses the traditional values of the Russian people:

“The President stressed the need to preserve and protect traditional Russian values,” the Grand Duchess said. “These values are the foundation for the life of any country, and without them it is impossible to modernize successfully. It is precisely these values that have remained, are today, and will always remain the guarantee of positive social and state development.”

After meeting with journalists, the Grand Duchess went to the cathedral’s hall, where Archbishop Justinian hosted a luncheon in honor of Her Imperial Highness.Attending the luncheon were also Archbishop Kyrill, Fr.SerafimGan, the clergy of St Nicholas Cathedral, and Alexander Zakatov, the Director of H.I.H.’s Chancellery.  Archbishop Justinian described his duties as the Administrator of the Patriarchal Parishes in the USA. The Grand Duchess and Archbishop Justinian also reminisced about their meeting and attending church services together in Transdnistria in 2009.

In the afternoon, Grand Duchess Maria of Russiaattended the consecration of a new fresco officiated by Archbishop Kyrill at the Church of St. Seraphim of Sarov in Sea Cliff, the Church-Memorial to the reunification of the Russian Orthodox Church. Her Imperial Highness awarded Serge Shohov and Vladimir Sushkoeach the Medal of the Imperial Order of St Anna and Imperial Medals “Anniversary of the Nation’s Victory.” The Grand Duchesslistened to a brief account by Fr. Seraphim Ganof the history of the parish and a description of the church’s new frescos, which depict the many centuries of the path of the Russian Orthodox Church and the reestablishment of full canonical unity. Then Her Imperial Highness venerated the kamilavka of St John of Kronstadt, which has been temporarily placed at the church by the rector, whose ancestors were honored to have celebrated pine services with St. John, the “Lantern of the Russian Land,” in 1903.

That evening, an official reception was held for Grand Duchess Maria of Russia at the Swan Club in Sea Cliff, dedicated to the 400th anniversary of the end of the Time of Troubles and ascension of the Romanoff 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 brief speech on the role of the Romanoff Dynasty in Russian history and the importance of this 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 in the 17th century.  Archbishop Kyrillexpressed the feeling of many in saying that the Grand Duchess had brought with her a spirit of reconciliation, unification, and maternal love, and then gave Her Imperial Highness two copies of the Kursk-Root Icon, one with an ornamented metal cover, the other without a cover. The icons were briefly placed under the original Kursk-Root Icon itself, thenpresented to the Head of the Russian Imperial House.

During the reception, the Grand Duchess visited every table and talked with the every guest without exception—clergy and laity; descendants of ancient aristocratic families and countrymen of every background and occupation; citizens of the Russian Federation and Russian-Americans and non-Russians. A kind word was offered by Her Imperial Highness to all, thanking them for remembering the country’s glorious past and for their willingness to support the nation now and in the future.

On December 14, Fr.Serafim took Grand Duchess Maria of Russia to visit Intercession of the Mother of God Church in Glen Cove, N.Y., where its Rector, Fr.AlexandreAntchoutine, performed a moleben to the Holy Royal Martyrs for her safe return home.  The hymn “Many Years” was then sung for Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, and for her son, Tsesarevich and Grand Duke Georgeof Russia. The Grand Duchess then thanked everyone who made her trip to the United States possible, and then departed for the airport to fly home to Madrid.

The visit by the Head of the House of Romanoffto New York served as a symbolic conclusion to the international celebration of the 400th anniversary of the victory of the Russian people over the Time of Troubles and the reestablishment of the Russian state by the Local Church Council and theAssembly of the Land of 1613.

[1] This holy icon was the protectress of all Russian exiles and of the House of Romanoff during the darkest hours in the history of Russia and the Holy Church. First, the icon was brought to the estate of the Imperial Family “Ker Argonid” in St.-Briac (France) in July 1929 by the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) and by Bishop Feofan, the former Bishop of Kursk and Oboyansk. It was precisely then that Emperor Kirill Vladimirovich and Metropolitan Anthony together signed the Act declaring July 4/17, the day of the murders of the Holy Royal Passion-Bearers, a “Day of Universal Sorrow of the Russian People,” which was the first step toward the canonization of the Holy Royal Martyrs. The miracle-working icon was again brought to St.-Briac in October 1930 for the celebration of the silver anniversary of the wedding of Emperor Kirill Vladimirovich and Empress Victoria Feodorovna. And it was before the Kursk-Root Icon that Grand Duchess Maria of Russia and Prince Franz-Wilhelm of Russia (who converted to Orthodox and received the name Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich) were married, and that the couple’s son, Grand Duke George of Russia, was baptized in 1981.

[2]Princess Maria-Luisa (born in Sofia in 1933) is a Princess of Bulgaria, the daughter of Tsar Boris III and the elder sister of Tsar Simeon II. She was married (firstly) to Prince Karl of Leiningen, the second son of Grand Duchess Maria of Russia’s aunt—Grand Duchess Maria Kirillovna (and her husband, the 6th Prince of Leiningen, Karl).

[3] St. Nicholas Cathedral was established on the birthday of the Holy Royal Passion-Bearer Emperor Nicholas II on May 6/19, in the year 1901. The Emperor personally donated 5,000 rubles toward its construction.

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