Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Northern Capital

Today I arrived on the midnight train from Moscow to St. Petersburg With Peter Longan. Such a contrast - a very western city. Especially after having spent two days in Davydovo which is, as all the people there call it, a village. This is not a village like the village of Dexter, MI. This is a village in the contemporary Russian sense - a very small gathering of a few houses and farms. In any case, we came overnight from Moscow since the only practical way to get from Davydovo to St. Petersburg was to take the train from Rostov to Moscow, and then take the overnight train to St. Petersburg. 

The first part of the day was spent seeing some of the historical sights of the city. I got my own personal guided tour by our own Peter, who for years has lived in St. Petersburg with Nathan and Ludmilla his parents, as well as Nicholas his brother. This was a view of the city that I think it is safe to say no tourist gets. We started with the Summer Garden, then the Peter and Paul Fortress, the famous statue of Peter the Great, the less famous (but from an engineering point of view much more amazing) statue of Nicholas I, Isakievsky Sobor, the Holy Synod, Kazan Cathedral, then off to the St. Alexander Nevsky Lavra. In the Lavra neighborhood we were able to do a bit of shopping for the parish. But the main reason for visiting the Lavra was to meet Fr. Vladimir Xylan, who is the Pro-Rector of the Academy there (in other words, he does the same job there as I do for our diocesan seminary). The meeting was very fruitful and I'm so glad we took the time to meet!

After the meeting with Fr. Vladimir I had a chance to meet with Hieromonk Phillip, the head of our ROCOR mission in the Philippines. They are doing amazing work there and it was good to have this opportunity as well (although this was not part of the reason for making this visit it was a great unexpected outcome). Hieromonk Phillip asks all our prayers for their continued work. A few other visits with friends and graduates of the Pastoral School and then we were joined by our Parish Council member Mikhail Fisenkov. He was in St. Petersburg with his youngest daughter Susanna. We were given a tour of the seminary and academy grounds and buildings by Alexander Andreev, who is a graduate of our Pastoral School and a doctoral student here. It was so interesting to see the historical buildings of this island (which before the Revolution was taken up only by the St. Alexander Nevsky Lavra, the Spiritual High School, the Seminary, and the Academy and their various buildings). During the Soviet period of course there were additional buildings built there (like a Psychiatric hospital) and most of the buildings belonging to the Church were taken and used for other things. However, slowly but surely the buildings are being given back. Recently the Academy building (different from the Seminary building) was given back. Much work needs to be done there, including a huge rebuilding of the church of the 12 Apostles within that building. The church has been closed by the government because it is not physically stable. This building was turned into a physical education college and the church became a gymnasium. It was essentially completely destroyed and cannot be safely used now. But I think it is important to note that so much work has been done in the last 20 years to get to this point. We must have hope that the Lord will bless the work of the next 20 years just as he has blessed the work of the last 20 years.

It was very interesting to walk in the buildings and on the campus where so many saints were taught, ordained, and formed into the pastors and arch-pastors they would become. Saints like St. John of Kronstadt (the patron saints of our Pastoral School), St. Tikhon the Patriarch Martyr, and many others (there is a very interesting icon that has been pained of all the saints of the seminary and academy - a picture of this is below with Hieromonk Phillip and I standing on each side of it). 

The day ended with dinner at the Grozovsky home with Fr. Gleb's mother and several of his brothers and sisters. Yulia Paramonova joined us too (she is a professor at St. Petersburg First Economic University) and it was wonderful to see her! Fr. Gleb's case in Israel seems to be coming to a head and we ask everyone to continue to pray for him and his family during this incredibly difficult time for them all! We will continue to remember them at every Divine Liturgy served at St. Vladimir's.

Please continue to pray for me as I travel!

Fr. Gregory

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