Relics of Patron Saint Bring Peace and Unity
12–14 November 2010 • SVOTS campus
“Peace,” “unity,” “togetherness.” This past weekend these recurrent themes permeated the extraordinary visit of the relics of our seminary’s patron saint, the Holy Great Prince Vladimir, Equal-to-the-Apostles, to our campus chapel. Orthodox Christians from near and far, and from various ecclesial and ethnic backgrounds, came to bow before the ornate enameled reliquary that held a portion of the skull of the 10th-century saint and to honor the memory of the man credited for bringing Christianity to the nation of Kievan Rus’.
With great reverence, scores of people gathered to view the relics and to sing praises in honor of the former pagan prince who, upon his marriage to a Byzantine princess and conversion to faith in Jesus Christ, dedicated himself to the precepts of the gospel and the furtherance of Christianity. Many were the progeny of the people that St. Vladimir himself had had under his reign.
Though hagiographers have noted St. Vladimir’s blameworthy actions—both as a pagan warrior and also as a Christian prince—they have as well emphasized his love and compassion for his subjects and acknowledged his attempts to provide unity and peace within his kingdom. Certainly, these marks of his personality imbue his relics, and he continues, in his saintly death, to influence believers and parish communities in awe-inspiring ways.
Ever since the relics were transported from Ukraine to Canada on September 6, 2010, their display in churches from Halifax to Vancouver, and, finally, at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in the United States, has evoked remarkably similar sentiments. Protodeacon Nazari Polataiko, who hand carried the relics from Ukraine to North America and who is the episcopal secretary of the Archdiocese of Canada, Orthodox Church in America (OCA), noted the “amazing” effect the relics have had, saying, “People have been brought together by St. Vladimir, in a way that, on a human level, I did not expect. Inner peace and strength have been given to many; and the visits have been peaceful, prayerful.”
Igumen Alexander Pihach, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Canada and guest homilist Sunday in the seminary’s Three Hierarchs Chapel, similarly observe d, “It’s been a miracle. St. Vladimir brought peace and unity to our communities, building bridges and bringing the faithful together, as his relics traveled from temple to temple.”
Notably, during the weekend hierarchs, clergy, and laity from the OCA were joined in our chapel by bishops, priests, and lay people from the jurisdictions of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) and the Moscow Patriarchate (MP). In particular, His Eminence Justinian, archbishop of Naro-Fominsk and ad ministrator of the Patriarchal parishes in the USA (MP), presided at the Divine Liturgy on Saturday morning; His Eminence Hilarion, metropolitan of Eastern America and New York (ROCOR), presided at the mid-day Akathist on Saturday; and His Grace Tikhon, bishop of Philadelphia and Eastern Pennsylvania (OCA), presided at Vigil on Saturday evening. The choirs of St. Vladimir’s and St. Tikhon’s seminaries sang the responses to the services in antiphonal form, demonstrating in an exceptional manner, unity.
Archpriest Chad Hatfield, chancellor of St. Vladimir’s, offered a heartfelt observation, saying, “For me, two things were notable. First, it was such a blessing to see three churches with Slavic ancestry—the Moscow Patriarchate, the OCA, and ROCOR—all come together around this relic. And second, it was a joy to see our choir joined by the choir from St. Tikhon’s.”
Seminary Dean Archpriest John Behr concurred, stating, “It was wonderful to see happen what we sang in the Akathist to St. Vladimir, that ‘as a father with his children he led all to sing alleluia!’.”
The relics will be returned shortly to Ukraine. Protodeacon Nazari, a native of Chernivtsi, Ukraine, will again hand carry them to their home, the Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in Kiev.
We will add daily to a superb photo gallery of the weekend, with images by Tanya Hoff. Check back often!
View the Vigil service, filmed by David Lucs, on YouTube: