On July 24 celebrations are starting in Russia that are dedicated to the 1025th anniversary of Christianity in Russia. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church patriarch Kirill will lead the service in the country’s main cathedral – the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The 1025th birthday of Russian Christianity will be marked by church services and cross processions not only in Russia, but also in Belorussia and Ukraine.
The festivities start on the day of celebrating St. Princess Olga, which is quite symbolic. It is a known fact that she was secretly baptized Christian in Constantinople three decades prior to the official adoption of Christianity by the Kiev Rus. The choice of religion made by the princess, which was later confirmed by prince Vladimir, in the end determined the future of Rus, patriarch Kirill is convinced.
«The 1025th anniversary of Christianity in Russia is the date, which is of great significance for the peoples of Russia, as well as of Belorussia and Ukraine, as well as for all the countries the historic Rus included. It is to the Baptism of Rus that we owe the formation of our unique civilization. The faithfulness to its spiritual principles guarantees that we really remain true to ourselves, which means we will be truly happy. Because nations that betrayed themselves, which are not free and spiritually dependent cannot be happy».
The current celebrations place a special accent on the last quarter of a century of the history of Russian Christianity. This is no accident. The rebirth of the faith started with a large-scale celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the baptism of Rus, says Vladimir Legoyda, the head of the Synodal Information Department.
«In 1998 a turn that was unexpected for many people took place when it became possible to talk about the Church without criticizing it. Back then the spiritual values were reconsidered, which had been banned for decades prior to that and had been viewed as negative. Over the past 25 years we got used to common postulates that the Baptism of Rus determined the historic choice of the people who now populate the countries of the post-Soviet territory. But nevertheless, this holiday is still dear to us as an opportunity to consider important questions: who we are, where we came from and where we are going».
A large-scale open-air concert will be the culmination of the Moscow festivities. It will take place on Red Square in the evening of July 25. Classical music groups, young rock and pop-groups are to take part in that event that will last for hours. Besides Muscovites and the guests of the capital delegations from all 15 Churches of the world are invited to the concert. Of the 15 Churches eight, naturally including the Russian Orthodox Church, will be represented by their first hierarchs.
On July 26 the patriarchal delegations will go to Kiev in a special train, where they are to celebrate the Day of the Baptism itself. On July 28, the day when we commemorate St. Prince Vladimir, the Baptist of Rus, patriarch Kirill together with Orthodox clergy from various countries of the world will lead a liturgy in the Kiev Pechersk Lavra. The joint prayer by the first hierarchs will become yet another testimony of the unity and power of the Christian Orthodox faith globally. The festivities will finish in Belorussia's capital Minsk, where the representatives of the world Orthodox churches will come after their visit to Ukraine.
It is symbolic that a great Christian sacred object – the cross, on which the disciple of Jesus Christ Andrew the Apostle was crucified – will accompany the «patriarchs' train» as well. The arrival of the St. Andrew the Apostle cross was meant to mark the jubilee of the Baptism of Rus and will become a sign of spiritual unity of brotherhood nations, stressed Igor Yakimchuk, secretary for inter-Orthodox relations of the Department of External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, in his interview to the Voice of Russia.
«According to the legend preserved by the Russian Orthodox Church it was St. Andrew the Apostle who predicted the future glory of Orthodox Christianity in Rus. Andrew the Apostle travelled along the famous route from the Varangians to the Greeks. The chronicle says that he stopped at the hills where eventually the city of Kiev appeared. The Apostle put a cross at that place and predicted a great future to both that place as well as to Christianity on that territory. That is why there has always been a special attitude towards St. Andrew the Apostle in Russia».
From the Greek town of Patras, where Andrew the Apostle was crucified, the cross was first brought to St. Petersburg. Then churchgoers could see the holy object in some churches of the Moscow Region. Starting with July 19 the cross has been exhibited for public worship in the Christ the Savior's Cathedral in Moscow. About 400 thousand people have worshiped the cross in Russia.