June 13, 2012

St. Lazarus' Relics Brought to Moscow from Cyprus

June 13, 2012

Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of Moscow and all the Russias took a reliquary with a relic of St Lazarus the Four-Days-Dead from the Church of St Lazarus in Larnaka to Russia so that believers could venerate it. The solemn transfer of the reliquary marked the end of Patriarch Kirill’s official visit to the Republic of Cyprus, which lasted from 8 to 11 June. Orthodox Tradition relates that the Righteous Lazarus, whom Jesus Christ himself called his friend, was resurrected by the God-man on the fourth day after his death. Sometime after the resurrection of Christ, St Lazarus had to flee from Judea because his resurrection scandalised many Jews. He left in a sailboat, and, after a few days, the wind drove the fugitive to the shores of Cyprus. Whilst on Cyprus, St Lazarus met the Apostles Ss Paul and Barnabas, they ordained him Bishop of Kition, an office he held for the rest of his life. For his true faith and holiness, the Cypriots loved the saint very much. After his death, his followers buried the Righteous Lazarus near the ancient city of Kition, which later became Larnaks, which means “a grave or sarcophagus”, which subsequently became Larnaka in modern times.

His Holiness, when he took the reliquary from the hands of the rector of the Church of St Lazarus in Larnaka, spoke of the value that the relic had for believers, saying, “You can give us no greater gift than this. We’ll take these relics of your heavenly patron to the city of Moscow and put them in a place where many people will be able to bow before them. All those who bow before the saint’s relics will know your generosity. The veneration of this holy object will strengthen the love for Cyprus and the Church of Cyprus in the hearts of our people”.

In 898, Roman Emperor Leo VI the Wise transferred the recently-discovered relics of Righteous Lazarus to Constantinople (now Istanbul), where he placed them in a silver reliquary. Relics have miraculous powers; therefore, the Church of St Lazarus attracts thousands of pilgrims come from all over the world. Archbishop Chrysostomos Dimitriou of Nova Justiniana and All Cyprus emphasised, “The fact that we loaned these relics to Patriarch Kirill signifies the special respect that the Local Church of Cyprus has for the Local Church of Russia and its First Hierarch. Today, our hearts overflow with a sense of the sacred and with sincere joy, because your presence here provides an opportunity for our pious and suffering people to receive a blessing from the distinguished First Hierarch of the Church of Russia, an exemplary man adorned with humility, sobriety, and love. With admiration, we watch your many-fold activities. Your deeds embellish the majesty of Orthodoxy, and they reinforce the hope for a better society in the world, relying on the principles of love and equality, based in the acceptance and recognition of the basic human rights inherent in all mankind”.

The history of warm relations between these two Local Churches spans the centuries. Russian pilgrims, travellers, sailors, diplomats, and merchants, en route to the Holy Land and the Levant always made a detour to the island to pay homage to its holy sites, to rest, and to replenish their supplies. Many left behind writings noting their fond memories of this blessed land. More than once, Russian icon-painters came to Cyprus to help decorate local churches. One could see an example of this at the world-famous Holy, Royal, and Stavropegic Monastery of the Mother of God of Kykkos that the Patriarch visited during his visit. At the monastery, His Holiness said, “When I was Metropolitan of Smolensk, I helped with the decoration of the Monastery of Kykkos. In the economically-hard times of the 1990s, I blessed a talented team of Russian painters and gilders from the Diocese of Smolensk to go to Cyprus in order to contribute to the beautification and restoration of this monastery. I haven’t been here until today, but it seems to me that they made the grade, as I see how well they restored the art here, including the iconostas in the church”.

In 1988, the then-First Hierarch of the Local Church of Cyprus, Archbishop Chrysostomos Arsitodemou, took part in the celebration of the Millennium of the Baptism of Russia. Since the early 1990s, many thousands of our compatriots have moved to Cyprus. In 1997, in Limassol, the Russian-speaking community of the city received a small church, where the clergy serve regularly in Church Slavonic. This helped to alleviate the problems in caring for the spiritual needs of Orthodox Russians living in Cyprus. During his current visit, Patriarch Kirill blessed the hillside site of another Russian church and laid its foundation stone. There are four Russian-language schools on the island and many colleges and secondary schools throughout the country offer courses in Russian as a second language.

The reliquary with the relics of St Lazarus will reside at the Stavropegial Convent of the Conception in Moscow {the convent is accessible by Metro: editor}. For its part, the Church of Russia gave a reliquary with the relics of Russian saints, as well as 19 icons painted recently by Russian icon-painters, as a gift to Cypriot churches and monasteries.