Gifts of the Magi have been brought to St. Petersburg. People started cueing up at the Novodevichiy monastery at night. Pilgrims are braving sub-zero temperatures and are not afraid to stand for a few hours.
You’re only given a few seconds to touch the relic, which dates back to Jesus Christ’s earth days. Gifts of the Magi will stay in St. Petersburg until January 17th. In less than half-hour, they will be closed until 6 in the morning. Tomorrow and on Thursday all those willing to touch the sacred relic would be able to do so until 2200, on Friday from 0600 to 1300. Maria Marchenko reports on the first viewing day.
The Gifts of the Magi’s arrival was anticipated in a devout silence. One of the greatest Christian relics, which is directly connected to Jesus Christ’s earth days, has come to St. Petersburg - for the 1st time in 2000 years. It was brought from Moscow to Pulkovo on a private jet. Monks of the Afon monastery solemnly handed over the shrine to the bishop of Tsarskoe Selo – Markell.
A short prayer at the VIP arrivals hall and a cue of people immediately arises. Airport workers, officials, “Zenit” footballers, who are going to a training camp in Qatar – all wanted to embrace the sacred relic.
Vasiliy Kichedzhi, vice-governor of St. Petersburg: “Im sure that the weather will be good, and people will be able to stand in cues to bow to the sacred relic”
Gifts of the Magi – its 28 gold ornamented tablets with balls of myrrh and incense attached to them with a silver string. But only three of those have been brought to Russia. As it’s believed, the wise men from the East presented Mary with them when Jesus was born. Before death, Mary handed the relic to the Jerusalem church. Now, it is kept at the St. Paul monastery on the saint mountain of Afon. The relic left Greece for the 1st time in 500 years.
Konstantin Malofeev, head of Vasiliy the Great fund: “It was very difficult. Negotiations with the Afon lasted for 10 years. And now we have finally managed it”.
The silver shrine was taken to the Novodevichiy monastery at the Moskovskiy avenue by a minivan, escorted by a police motorcade. 10 thousand believers were there to welcome Gifts of the Magi beside the monastery’s walls.
Mariya Marchenko, correspondent: “The cue at the Novodevichiy monastery has stretched for almost a kilometer. People are standing from the Kievskaya street to the Vitebskiy avenue. Many came here in the morning. Now its 1700, so that means the people have been standing here for more than 10 hours already”
The cue is made mostly of women. Females are forbidden at the Afon Mountain. Pilgrims have come from as far as Kamchatka to witness the relic. Said that standing in the cold for more than 10 years is a little of Christian heroics to them. People stay at the shrine for only a few seconds, asking for piece and well-being. Legend has it, that Gifts of the Magi is a miracle-making relic – that it can cure cancer or infertility.
There is a separate cue for the disabled, survivors of the Leningrad Siege and for mothers with small children.
Alexey Isayev, head of Church-Society communications department of St. Petersburg Metropolis: “We’ve taken into account many mistakes made in Moscow. Now with have hot food vendors here, toilets and volunteers working with the people”
You can get warm in special buses and tents, recharge your strength at field kitchens. All with no exceptions are given buckwheat porridge with beef and tea. Tomorrow the Kazanskiy temple of the Novodevichiy monastery will begin its work at 6am. Believers will be able to observe the sacred relic for three days. On January 7th, Gifs of the Magi will travel to Minsk.