On May 27, 2016, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of
Moscow and All Russia celebrated a moleben of thanksgiving
at the Russian Monastery of St. Panteleimon on Mt. Athos.
Below is the text of his primatial homily.
Your Eminence Metropolitan Apostolos of Miletus, Your
Eminences and Your Graces, Very Rev. Father Jeremiah, dear
Fathers and Brethren, Christ is Risen!
Every time I set foot on the ground of Athos I have the special feeling
that this is a land in which ascetic work has been
carried out for many centuries by people who left the
world to come here, to a lonely place, and devoted
their life to prayer, contemplation and labor. Prayer
is the core of monastic life. As one saint put it, a
monk without prayer is a smoldering piece of wood,
worthless because it can neither burn nor be used for
anything. The same applies to the monastic life: if a
monk no longer has sincere prayer of the heart, nothing
is left in his life, for prayer is its core. It is
because all monks of Mt. Athos have zealous prayer,
combining it with fasting and solitude, that those who
come here feel that this place is a spring of Divine
I have come here with my companions to celebrate together
with you, my dear brethren, the millennium of the Russian
presence on the Holy Mountain. Most researches
unambiguously state that Russians first came to Athos
immediately after the Baptism of our people or perhaps
even before that. However, since we have no other
historical evidence, we reckon the millennium of the
Russian presence on Mt. Athos from 1016, since a document
of that time has the signature of the igumen of the
“monastery of the Russians.”
Much has happened in the history of Athos,
as well as in the history of our land for these thousand
years. Yet, the ties established a very long time ago have
never really broken, even in the hardest times of
godlessness and tribulations. Albeit physical
communication was impossible, here, on Mt. Athos,
especially at the Russian Monastery of St. Panteleimon,
there were those who always prayed to God for our people
and our Church. When the first opportunity to visit the
Holy Mountain opened up, our bishops, priests and lay
pilgrims started coming here, only several people a year
at first, then the number started growing.
I remember well my first visit, my first pilgrimage to
Athos in 1971, when I accompanied His Holiness Patriarch
Pimen. Seven monks were here at the time. When we went to
the church of the Protecting Veil of the Most Holy
Theotokos to celebrate the All-Night Vigil, there was no
electricity, it was dark and we had a feeling that no one
was around, there were just quiet empty corridors. It was
only when I reached the entrance to the church and saw
icon-lamps burning and several hunch-backed Russian monks
that I realized that our people were here and our Church
was present here, and that the number of people was not
the main thing. My heart was filled with joy, for in this
little flock I saw the glorious future of our abode.
As we see today, times have changed and numerous pilgrims
representing all countries and all peoples living under
the omophorion of the Russian Orthodox Church visit the
Holy Mountain. We wanted to organize special celebrations
to mark the millennium of Russian monasticism on Athos
and, of course, to restore what was destroyed, be it by
fire, time or desolation. That is why I have a special
feeling as I now see the old Monastery of St. Panteleimon
completely renovated. It has been made possible, because
nothing stands in the way of maintaining spiritual ties
between Russia and Athos. We know with what selfless love
many Orthodox Christians responded to the appeal made by
the Patriarch, contributing to the restoration of the
Monastery of St. Panteleimon on the occasion of this
millennium jubilee. Among those who responded to the call
were the Russian government and many faithful children of
our Church who helped make this old dream come true.
I thank all those who have made their contribution. I am
grateful to Russia’s state authorities, to the
President who, I hope, will pray with us tomorrow, to the
Prime Minister who is the head of the foundation for the
restoration of the monastery, contributing to the
implementation of the proposed projects, as well as to all
the benefactors, whose names are known to God.
I am glad that this love finds response here, on Mount
Athos, first of all, in your prayers, dear brethren. I ask
all of you to continue to pray for the Russian land, for
our Church and people who, in spite of the hardest
historical ordeals, have preserved faith and remained
faithful to Christ.
I am happy to see Father
Jeremiah, our elder, abbot and Archimandrite of this
holy abode. I recall Father Jeremiah not exactly as a
young man, but as a very energetic monk who would work
zealously, fulfilling his obediences. I was always deeply
moved to see Father Jeremiah returning back from
Thessaloniki with food stuffs and the necessities for the
monastery. I remember once Father Jeremiah broke his arm,
but he continued to fulfill his obediences nevertheless.
This remarkable example is to help young monks realize the
importance of obedience in monastic life, no matter what
is our position in the Church or in the monastery.
Obedience is of utmost importance for every monk, and he
should think about it with humility and meekness.
I would like to once again greet all of you, Father
Jeremiah, the brethren, the pilgrims, the guests and all
those who today begin to celebrate with us this momentous
event in the life of the Russian Church and Mount Athos.
May God’s blessing be with you all. God save you!