Russian Ecclesiastical
Mission in Jerusalem
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

The Patronal Feast Day at the Holy Ascension Convent

In the Russian Holy Ascension Monastery on Olivet, which stands next to the place where our Lord Jesus Christ ascended to heaven 40 days after His glorious Resurrection, this holiday was solemnly celebrated. The temple was prepared and decorated with flowers by the sisters of the monastery for the festive service.

Bishop Alexander (formerly of Vevey) arrived from Switzerland to the Holy Land for the feastday. Bishop Alexander led the all-night vigil. The head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem, Archimandrite Roman (Krassovsky) and the clergy of the monastery concelebrated with the bishop.

At the polyeleos, the Psalms of Praise were sung in full by two choirs: the choir of sisters under the direction of nun Ioanna and the clergy in the altar. After the singing of the Magalyarion and the reading of the gospel narrative of the holiday, Vladyka Alexander anointed everyone with holy oil.

In the morning, after the midnight office and the small consecration of water, the Meeting of the Hierarch took place. The abbess of the monastery, Mother Varvara (Novikova), escorted Vladyka to the temple. In addition to the monastery clergy, pilgrims in holy orders arrived from Ternopil. The Mission deacon, Fr. Amphilochius with a censer and trikiri met the bishop with the words of the Theotokion of the feast.

Attending the Divine Liturgy were the abbess of the Gethsemane monastery, mother Elisabeth (Smelic), the abbess of the Gornensky monastery – Ein Karem, mother Ekaterina (Chernysheva), and the elder sister of the Bethany community of the Resurrection of Christ - nun Maria (Wall) with a gathering of many pilgrims.

Towards the end of the service, His Beatitude the Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and All Palestine, Theophilos III., arrived with accompanying bishops: Metropolitan Hesychius of Capitolia and Archbishop Aristarchus of Constantine, with the Patriarchal Archdeacon Mark. His Beatitude congratulated everyone on the holiday and said the following edifying word for the feast:
Your Grace,
Dear Archimandrite Roman,
Dear Abbess Varvara,
Beloved Sisters of this Venerable Convent,

Christ is risen!

On this joyous feast, when we celebrate the fulfilment of the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Gospel, we bring to you the blessing of the Holy and Life-Giving Tomb.

As the hymnographer writes
O Christ our God,
upon fulfilling your dispensation for our sake,
you ascended in glory,
uniting the earthly with the heavenly.
You were never separate but remained inseparable,
and cried out to those who love you,
“I am with you and no one is against you.”

(Kontakion for the Ascension)

These words remain of crucial significance for us, especially in this time of the crisis of the war and of the extreme difficulties that we are facing in our region. We hold fast to the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ who has assured us that he is always with us, even to the end of the age (Mt 28:20).

We are a people of the resurrection, and even in challenging times, we cannot abandon hope. And we must be a beacon of hope to all. As Saint Paul says, though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, you do not have many fathers (1 Cor. 4:15). By divine providence, the mission of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem is to be both father and instructor of the Church, for here the Church was revealed at Pentecost, and from here the teaching of our Lord spread throughout the world. So all are united under the wings of the Patriarchate. This double vocation of the Church of Jerusalem means, therefore, that we cannot be frightened by the war to neglect our work. On the contrary, our mission and moral obligation is so to intensify our prayers that we may have the courage to meet these difficult days with resolve and faith in the resurrection.

We also remember that here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come (Heb. 13:14). For we are thankful that we are privileged to be standing today on the mount on which our Lord gathered his disciples, and from which he ascended. As we read in the Gospel of Saint Luke, he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven (Lk. 24:50-51). So the disciples were looking toward the eternal city.

Today we are celebrating the fulfilment of the promise of our Lord who takes our humanity into the eternal city, and so opens up for us the possibility of eternal union with God. We are hopeful because we have inherited this same power that our Lord promised to his disciples on this mount (cf. Lk. 24:48-49), and therefore our hope is unwavering. In all this we rejoice in this bright and holy feast.

May God bless you, dear Father Roman and dear Abbess Varvara, and this venerable convent, as you shine like a beacon on a hill to show to the world the hope of the resurrection.

Christ is risen!
After the departure of the Patriarch, a moleben was served with a procession around the temple with the sprinkling of holy water.