Pilgrimage to Russia: Part VI-Diveyevo

diveyevo monastery
The bus ride from Nizhni-Novgorod seemed endless. It really wasn’t but I was dog tired and it’s nigh impossible for me to fall asleep sitting up.

We pulled into Diveyevo a little after 10 pm. Our stay was at this charming rustic lodge out in the countryside, about a mile from the monastery itself. We each got a key to our cabins which were well appointed and cozy. Saunas were available for those who wanted to partake of that experience but Denny and I were dog-tired. Tomorrow, we’d have a leisurely breakfast then head on to the monastery to pay our respects to St Seraphim of Sarov.

Breakfast was fantastic and we piled into our bus. Our driver, Ruslan was a stand-up fellow and our tour guide, Natalya, worked at the chancery in Nizhni-Novgorod. A charming woman, she had the right connections and it was a joy.

The monastery itself was a wonder to behold. I still can’t come to grips with all I experienced there; I guess it’s enough to say that this was probably the high point of the pilgrimage for me. (What follows is merely a truncated version of what we experienced.) We walked along the ambulatory, about a half mile I’d say, which was at the apex of the entire grounds. Since this monastery is devoted to the Theotokos, this ambulation reminded me of the processions that I witnessed as a young boy on the island of Tinos, which was also dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.

Later, we went to Vespers in the church you see in the picture. I’d say there were close to a thousand people there. We gave our confessions to the three priests who accompanied us. After Vespers, we paid our respects to the reliquary of St Seraphim of Sarov. Because of Natalya, several of his personal effects were brought out including his cloak and his shoes. I didn’t realize it but St Seraphim was a giant of a man, standing well over six feet. The entire experience was something to behold, especially his stunning reliquary, which reached well over 20 feet into the air.

Night had fallen and we were told that we would attend Liturgy at 5:30 in the morning, this was because Metropolitan George of Nizhni-Novgorod was going to celebrate the 9:30 Liturgy and that would put us off our schedule.

Denny and I had no trouble getting up but we thought we had more time than we did. By the time we got to the drop-off point, the bus had already taken off. We looked at each other and said, “let’s walk.” And so we did.

It was daylight so it wasn’t a problem. After a hundred yards or so, we saw our bus heading toward us. Ruslan told us to get in and so we did. I tried to give him a tip and he refused. Anyway, we got to the Narthex and Natalya found us and escorted us through the crowd to where our group was.

Liturgy was fantastic. I’d say there were at least 3,000 people there –remember, this was 5:30 in the morning–and it was so crowded I could have slept standing up. Liturgy was celebrated at a brisk pace and the deacon –well, what can I say about deacons in cathedral churches?–had the loudest basso profundo voice I’d ever heard. Where do they get these guys? He must have had testosterone injections from an elephant. He could have easily shattered windows.

I could go on but words fail me. I’ll write more later in the commentary about visit of Tsar Nicholas II and his wife there and the message they recieved from St Seraphim (which he wrote several decades earlier). If anybody else would like to comment about this mystical event, you may do so.

All I’ll say for now, is that if you ever get a chance to go to Diviyevo, do so. You won’t be disappointed. In the meantime please take the time to watch this time-lapse film entitled “One Day in the Life of Diviyevo.”


  1. Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

    Nice American style accompaniment to the vocal combo!