It’s been exactly a year since I had the great honor of attending the translation of the relics of the Venerable Dmitri of Thrice-blessed Memory.
I realize that’s a long time and it’s been a disservice to many of my readers here. For that I apologize.
Anyway, where was I?
Ah yes. It was about one o’clock when the hearse from the cemetery pulled up with his remains. A few more people had started coming. Milos Konjevic of course was there. Fr Gerasim had asked me to put on an altar-servers robe and together with another five men, we retrieved Dmitri’s coffin from the hearse and brought it in to the Nave, where a special bier had been constructed to receive it.
It was eerie. About a dozen or so of us were standing around the coffin in the Nave, not saying anything. This was the dream of a lifetime for many of us. I for one, couldn’t still grasp the reality of it all. Silence prevailed. Then Fr Gerasim pointed to me and said: “Start the Trisagion Prayers”. After I finished then one of the other priests (I believe it was Fr Michael) took over.
As I wrote in the previous installment, more people started coming. About two o’clock or so, the Psalter was being read. I got to read part of it but after about 10 minutes, I sat down, still taking it all in. After about an hour, I got up to go look for some coffee. Driving around I found a Panera Bread about half a mile away and ordered a bagel and mug of coffee. While refreshing myself, I whipped out my Android and started texting people.
Then I went back to the Cathedral. By now, it was packed. People were everywhere, both inside and outside. There was a definite buzz in the air.
Walking around, I saw some old friends and acquaintances. I try to go to Dallas about once or twice a year, usually on my way to Houston but sometimes just to go to the Cathedral. It’s always good to see the old crew: Milos, Maureen, Vladimir, Murray, Jesse and so on.
I hadn’t seen Murray in quite awhile and he recognized me before I recognized him. He was standing outside the newly-built chapel/mausoleum and was showing pictures and videos of the re-internment. He had been present throughout the whole proceedings, along with Dr Rodrigues (the Archbishop’s personal physician) as well as the clergy who were doing the actual removal of the body and revesting of it.
He had literally dozens of photographs (if not hundreds). What struck me however was a video he had taken which showed the Archbishop stripped (except for a loincloth) and being moved on a winding sheet. The angle was from the head down and I could clearly see the bald pate of His Eminence. It looked like he was asleep.
To be sure, he was emaciated to the extreme, looking somewhat like a concentration camp victim. However his skin was intact and supple. I gasped. I asked Murray to download the video to me. What was the harm? Anyway, I wanted all visual proof of his incorruptibility to remain intact, away from those who wished to do his memory harm. Unfortunately, just as he was getting ready to do it, a priest had come out and told us to put away all video equipment –immediately.
Metropolitan Tikhon and Archbishop Alejo had arrived a little bit earlier than this (I’d say about 30 minutes before). It was on their orders that the priest came up to the crowd that was gathered around Murray and said: “no more”. All photos and videos were to be kept on close-hold until further notice. (Someday, I hope to get a hold of that video but for now, I’ll just continue the story.)
Vespers was wonderful. At least two hundred and fifty people were there. Afterwards, we retired to the parish hall and had a wonderful dinner. After that, I went tomy cousin’s house and spent the night. The next day was Liturgy. And it was packed. Some people from Tulsa had heard about his state of incorruption and got up early to attend Liturgy. I imagine there were many others from nearby and not-so-nearby who made the effort to do the same.
After Liturgy, a special molieben was held and his coffin was taken in procession around the cathedral before it was brought into the mausoleum. Vladimir, Maureen and myself were patiently waiting, not saying anything but feeling sad. Vladimir especially was choked up. If I had to guess, I’d say it was because we were being deprived of him a second time. I don’t know, that really doesn’t sense, does it? After all, hundreds of people had moved heaven and earth to get Dmitri disinterred and placed back where he belonged. I guess the initial euphoria of the previous month, when we had been given permission to translate his relics had now been displaced by a sadness. I don’t know. Maybe it was just me who was sad.
Then the procession arrived and the little mausoleum was being filled to the brim. Myself, I have acrophobia and as I stood at the edge of the crypt (which was at least eight feet deep) I wondered if anybody else would fall in. The place was that jam-packed. Two-by-fours had been placed across it upon which the coffin would rest. Once the coffin had been placed on them, that worry went away.
Another service, this one lasting a good twenty minutes was said by His Beatitude and His Eminence. A wonderful eulogy was spoken by a visiting priest. It was a rousing one; I’m sure Dmitri was pleased. Like many of his sermons, it had the right amount of humor thrown in to break the sadness.
But then the time came to remove the two-by-fours. Ropes had been strung beneath the coffin and then six of us –three on one side and three on the other–had grabbed firmly the rope. I wrapped my end firmly around the length of my elbow and right hand, twice. I didn’t want to lose my grip.
And then we lowered it slowly into the crypt.