I was blessed with a visit to Korennaya Hermitage this summer and I wanted to share some information about my trip .
We were told about the Holy Relics of John the Baptist being at the new Moscow Cathedral and we quickly decided to stop by and venerate the Relics before going north to visit Kursk Root Monastery. It was a nice idea but as we reached the front steps we were told that it was not possible as there were already 1000ís of other Christians in line waiting to enter and venerate the Relics. We left the Church from the opposite street and were amazed to see the three-block line of people waiting to enter. Over 3,000 people! What a site! We tried but it was not Godís will for us and we left giving blessings to those who were able to enter and venerate the Relicts. But God showed His love and mercy to us as on the last day as we were getting ready to depart from the Korennaya Monastery Fr. Damaskin gave me a small icon of John the Baptist that had touched the Relics and was blessed in the Cathedral.
We also visited Holy Thrinity Monastery north of Moscow the same day we entered Russia. It was a very old Monastery but in very good condition. I venerated the relics of St. Sergiy and drank some water from the holy spring. I had dinner at the monastery with the monks. This was a special experience as they ate and listened to the Gospel readings. I highly recommend for all Orthodox Christians to experience this at a monastery. We could only stay for a few hours because we had to make the trip to Kursk that night. It was a rough trip in the large truck van as it was HD suspension and was rough riding van. We had to use a different airline because Aeroflot Airlines did not have any flights leaving from Seattle this summer. The flight we had before was a direct flight over the North Pole and only took 11 hours to Moscow. So we had a stop in NY before reaching Moscow and it took 18 hrs to reach Moscow. Then we went North to Sergiev Posad for 6 hrs then South to Kursk for 10 hr ride. So we were on the road for 34 hrs. I do not recommend to have this fast trip on the way to the Korennaya Monastery in Svoboda because you can get very tired.
When we arrived in Svodoba at about 4:00am. Our friend Valentina had our home all set up with a dinner waiting. We ate, talked, sleped, and next day visited the monastery.
Korennaya Hermitage Summer 2006
Since my last visit Abbot John has retired and I met the new Abbot Benjamin. He is doing a good job of repairing and updating the Monastery this summer. It was a great pleasure to watch the progress throughout the summer. The whole Monastery got new paint, which was going on all summer. The main entry to the main Church got new steps installed which allowed us to have many services in the beautiful lower Church where there are so many ancient Holy Icons that are used throughout the year. New steps were installed from the main Church to the new bookstore and to the top of the steel stairs going down to the main Kursk Root Spring. The whole area was redone around the Holy Kursk Root Spring so that it is more convenient for the people to receive the water. They also put blacktop on the lower roads and maid a nice level area with the tile around the Kursk Root Spring Church. They also added a blacktop walkway to the first spring of the St. Nicholas Spring.
They started to build brand new very large and very much needed new bathrooms in the middle of the side section of the Monastery. On the far end of the Bell Tower new covered steps were installed to make easier entry into upper floors. The large building across from the main Church had a new roof installed and was gutted out waiting for complete new remodeling of the rooms. They looked like large living quarters before maybe for monks as they are just across from the main Church.
The large old hotel at the main gates was still waiting for repairs as it was three years ago and now it only needs mostly the interior completed. Three years ago as I understood it the Russian Government was sending money to repair this but for some reason not much has been done for the hotel. New outside plaster was being applied to outside of lower building as most of it had fell off during the time of the communist neglect to this Monastery.
More repairs & improvements have been done this year than the last six years that I have been in Svodoba. And, as I understand, this is because the Monastery being added to the Kursk Regional Churches where they are able to send more money for repairs. Now the whole Kursk Region is putting money toward repairs. Itís sad the Kursk Region Government dose not help the Churches in the region like other regions do in Russia, so that the churches and monasteries can fix back what the communist government neglected and destroyed.
Also, Moscow business people have came and drilled a well behind the Monastery. Now they sell bottled water and call it Blessed Holy water even thou it dose not come from the original spring. I only hope that the profits are actually going to help in the Lords work as the Monastery is not connected to this side business or know much about this other than Moscow approved it.
Russian Vacation 2006
About a month after our arrivel in Svodoba the Monastery had an English-speaking Priest come to help at the monastery, his name was Fr. Damaskin. He is a newer Priest that came from the Kursk Orthodox Seminary. God dose take care of His children. His English was small but he wanted to learn more as he felt it might be important for his future in the Lords work to get better. His English did improve a lot during the summer even though we had limited time to spent with it. A Priest monk's life is very full with prayer and Service. At the end of the summer he was told that he would be staying in Korennaya Hermitage for a couple of years. He will teach a class on catechisms in Kursk Orthodox Seminary and help at the Monastery on the weekends. I told him I thought it was a miracle from God that an English speaking Priest was sent to Korennaya and he said he also felt it was a miracle or sign for him that he was blessed to learn more English in order to help in the Lordís work. Father Damaskin had done a lot of extra studying about Metropolitan Anothony of Sourozh (England).
I walked to local Church of Sts. Joakim & St. Anna. It was built on the spot where the other half of the Kursk Root Icon was found after it was broken in half in the year of 1383. It is just over a mile from our home but is a long trip for me. I met the priest outside as he was overseeing some repairs on some outside lighting projects and he was so nice to open the Church up for me to enter. I speak very little Russian but he understood me and took time to get keys for me to enter the Church. What a site it is with all its ancient painted icons and beautiful displays of Christ. The Priestís son (about six years old) came in and talked up a storm about his Church. I think he thought I understood him as he gave me tour. A few hours later the Priest came by and gave me some pamphlets about his Church that also has a very long and rich history. This is a must see after the Monastery. The painted icons in this Church will be with your memory for a lifetime. I only hope God will allow me to visit again one day with someone who can translate for me.
Abbot Benjamin took us to visit the gravesite and home of Woman Elder Misaila of Kursk. The gravesite is just off the road west of Kursk. The spring water is about a mile from the cemetery and it is a very cold natural spring that has help cure many people throughout the years. We met the granddaughter of Woman Elder Misaila of Kursk at her grandmother's home. We had a wonderful visit in the original living room of Woman Elder Misaila of Kursk. It has been preserved in its original condition as when her grandmother was there. We talked for a long time and it was a blessing to just seat next to the Woman - Elder Misaila of Kursk Icons in her earthly home. The granddaughter has just written another book about her grandmotherís life. She told wonderful stories and I hope we can visit with her again. She lives in Moscow and was visiting relatives in Kursk that week.
Svoboda, Russia 2006
The Cultural Center has so much ancient history about the Monastery that has been collected together here. So much history about the monastery is inside. Hopefully everyone can fit in some time to visit this building after visiting the monastery. It is located just across the street from the main upper gates of the Monastery. The manager of the center works closely with the Monastery on many needed repairs and improvements.
The WWII Museum has information about the WWII Kursk battle and is the location of the generalís headquarters. It has a lot of visitors all year long. The manager Valentina is a wonderful host and they have guided tours. I enjoy the underground generalís headquarters the most. They also have many outside displays and I and most kids like the T-11 Tank. Not much has changed here except for nicer landscaping. This is a very interesting place to visit every time we return to Svodoba.
The Kursk Root Icon Procession was even bigger this year. It always amazes me on the amount of people that attend this one day event. Sovodoba is a small village of about a five hundred people and to swell up over 30,000 people for this daylong event is overwhelming but enjoyable as people come with so much love in their hearts. The Korennaya Hermitage monks come out to wait and greet the Kursk Root Icon into its summer home at its original roots where it was found in 1295. Everywhere you turn you see priests, deacons, monks, and nuns in there black robes.
I see so many old ladys - babushkas with large Kursk Root Icons tied around their necks as they travel thru the procession. I walk too slow to follow the procession down to the original Spring but it was just amazing to see the whole street full of people moving by so fast and it seemed to last for such a long time. The gate slows the procession down only slightly as so many Christians are following the Kursk Root Icon Procession. There is a wonderful Christian supplies and displays around the Kursk Root Icon Statue and inside the Agriculture University next to the main front gates of the monastery. I wonder if there are other processions that happen in other parts of Russia.
I sorry to say that, but I have no idea how the original Icon is used with the ROCOR in America?? All members should come to Russia and see how the Kursk Root Icon is loved and revered here, in Russia, at it's original home roots.
The Korennaya Fair has really grown in the past three years since I last attended it. It still has the ancient culture feel of old traditions and so much traditional food. I saw a large increase in the business sector and an extra stage has been set up at the other end of main street because of so many performances. Now they have a nice blend of traditional and modern singing and dancing going on all day. I was amazed to see the large building that was built last year next to the Green Hotel. All side streets were full and it was a fun day for all that attended. Itís always my second best highlight of my trip to Russia only being beat out by the holy procession day that comes a day before it.
PERSONAL NOTE: I found the Kursk Root Icon Procession as a very large Christan event. In Kursk it is just a part of there culure and Orthodox Religion but for an Orthodox American converted from Baptist this was a very special event.
I have a love for the Russian Orthodox service in the Russian language but after spending this summer in Korennaya Hermitage I found that I want and need to hear the service in my own language as the words mean so much to a Christian that is growing closer to God. I wonder why there are Orthodox Churches in America that only have services in a foreign language as they were a private closed club. What if we started some English Orthodox Churches in Russia?