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Τετάρτη, 19 Οκτωβρίου 2016

Liturgy in Hebron with Fr. Ignatius the Russian





—It was a great blessing for me to know holy people—Russians, Romanians, and Greeks. The older fathers told me how in former times, Russian pilgrims would come to the Holy Land on foot.

There was a certain Fr. Ignatius in Hebron. A saint. A Russian. He died in deep old age. At that time I was serving as a deacon in Bethlehem and in 1975, on the feast of St. George, I set out in the evening for Hebron and spent the night there. At 2:00 in the morning, the bells would ring there for services. At three, the prayer “Blessed is our God…” would be intoned and Matins would begin. Monk George read the Six Psalms in Church Slavonic, and then Fr. Ignatius began the Proskomedia. I did not know Russian, but I simply assisted him as a deacon. At the moment he took the prosphoron for the Eucharist in his hands to cut out the particles for the chalice, tears would stream from his eyes. I and other priests complete the Proskomedia in fifteen to twenty minutes. He would take an entire hour! When he cut out the particles in remembrance of the Archangels, the Honorable Forerunner, the saint of the day, and a thousand(!) saints, tears fell from his eyes. He was seeing something! He was a saint.

We usually serve the Liturgy beginning after the prayer, “Blessed is the Kingdom…” in an hour and a half. But no matter what prayers he pronounced, Fr. Ignatius would bend his knee, and tears would stream endlessly from his eyes! We began the services at three in the morning and ended at 11:30 in the morning. His whole being was immersed in the prayers. His arms would be raised. When he prayed he never allowed himself to be distracted with any conversation. We received Communion and pronounced the dismissal. It was close to noon! I had stood on my feet for eight or nine hours! Then we went into the house by the church; Fr. Ignatius took out some dried bread, some sweet red wine that he made himself, and some olives. We drank the wine, in which we soaked the dried bread, and ate the olives.

I have been a priest for thirty-five years, but I will never forget such reverence and such a Liturgy (not the fatigue, but the Liturgy itself)! After I became an abbot, they would bring me his wine for the Liturgy—it was red, sweet, and without any additives.


Fr. Ignatius was a holy man! He reposed in the 1980s—I can’t remember exactly when—in Hebron where he served all his life, and was buried there. He never washed! He went around in worn-out shoes without socks. His hair was tangled like threads. His black nylon ryassa was oil-soaked, because as I recall he would light 150 lamps himself. At 2:00 a.m. he rang the bell and for an entire hour afterwards he would light a lamp before every saint—here, there, and everywhere—and make prostrations. Oil dripped down his hands and onto his ryassa… He had a purse in which he kept an icon of the Mother of God of Kazan, and when you wanted to kiss his hand he would take out this icon. There was simply a fragrance coming from him! He was a real saint. I have never known any other person like him in my life!


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