RELICS OF ST. ELIZABETH AT LAKEWOOD

   By the grace of God, the holy relics of St. Elizabeth, the Grand Duchess martyr of Alapaevsk, arrived at the cathedral on Saturday, January 31st. The severely cold weather lifted up and in the quiet of the winter evening a good size gathering of pilgrims assembled at the church to meet the treasured relics of this sister-abbess "Matushka", as she was lovingly called by the sisters of the Martha-Maryinsky convent, established by the duchess in Moscow.
    The beautiful relics of the right arm of the saint, encased in silver and gold, placed in an exquisite gilt with embossed decorations reliquiary, were brought to the cathedral, taken directly to the sanctuary and then placed at the center of the church for veneration by the faithful. The relics were encircled with many flowers and burning candles, creating a touching devotional picture.
    With the choir in full force, five priests and a deacon officiating, the vigil service went on prayerfully. Before the reading of the Gospel, an Akathist to the holy Martyr was read.
    Sunday, February 1st turned out to be a splendid, warm and sunny day. The clergy, vested in red (martyr) ceremonial robes, felt spiritually uplifted, serving the divine Liturgy in the presence of the Royal martyr and a large gathering of parishioners and pilgrims from other parishes.  Ever so inspirational also was the splendid singing of the choir and it was gratifying to see many communicants.
   Preceding the molieben, Father Valery delivered a touching sermon, describing the state of the present world, engulfed in despondency and depression, victimizing all ages , from children in school to adults, unable to meet the chalenges of life and choosing the services of a growing number of psychologists. Not so, the holy martyrs! They had all the reasons to get despondent and to fall into depression, but they remained calm and joyful in the face of the worst tortures, because their hearts and souls were in God's dependency and hope.
    The main parish center hall was filled to capacity at the dinner, prepared lovingly by the sisters of the parish. During the banquet Father Valery read an account of the life and suffering of the beautiful and peaceful Royal Martyr, finishing with the famous poem dedicated to her by the royal poet K.R. This account was received by the assembly in revered  and unbroken silence, so unusual during  public gatherings at the table. Its meaning was emphasized and brought out successfully by a display of icons and marvelous photographs of the Royal Duchess, strategically places next to the podium.
    We are thankful to all those, who helped make this feast such a memorable visit, and, above all, we are grateful to the good Lord for bringing us all together for such a heart-warming call in these spiritually difficult end times.

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