The extract is taken from the website of the TARBEINFO – RUSSKI TELEGRAF publishing house. Monthly newspaper World of Orthodoxy, №11 2010

Pilgrimage Ecclesiastic Educational Center Andcross celebrates 10 years

Orthodox pilgrimage is a long-time and honourable tradition for Christ-loving people. It is blessed by the feet of Christ the Saviour Himself, Who, according to the Gospel Book, went “to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover” (Luke 2:41) with His Mother and righteous Joseph. Church hierarchs, pastors, monastics, and laity, who sought to worship Orthodox shrines and say fervent prayer before them, have been following this tradition for the ages.

The Orthodox Pilgrimage Center Andcross celebrates the first significant milestone in its history – 10 years. The name of the organization is an abbreviation of “St Andrew’s Cross”.

In November 2000, with the blessing of His Beatitude Cornelius, Metropolitan of Tallinn and All Estonia, the head of the Center Andrey Nikolaevich Yakovlev began to carry out the difficult task of organizing pilgrim trips to holy places for every Christian who wants to worship Orthodox shrines in joint prayer, and thus, come in contact with the history and basics of Christianity. By now, more than a thousand Estonians have visited these special places of sanctuary in Russia and in the Holy Land.

The first destination of the pilgrimages was the Puhtitsky Assumption Monastery. A day trip included preparing pilgrims to partake in the Holy Mysteries, participate in the Divine Liturgy, bathe in the holy spring, and also have tours and meals. As Marina Pavlovna Yakovleva, who works as an organizer and guide of the groups of pilgrims of the Andcross Center, says, people were drawn to the shrines: in the monastery, they could communicate with the priests, find peace of mind in prayer and find the solutions for their spiritual or family problems, bring back home holy water from the spring, or be baptized.

Time was passing quickly, and thanks to the diligence of the Pilgrimage Center, the destinations for pilgrims from Estonia expanded: first, to the great and vast land of Russia, where the restoration of the previously destroyed Orthodox heritage and the revival of monastic life, churches, and ancient cities are being done. The organizers of the Andcross Center were creating all tour routes themselves, selecting the places to sleep and eat, and most importantly, finding the sites to pray and worship the shrines.

Over the past ten years, Estonian pilgrims have made many trips, including multiple visits to St. Petersburg and its surroundings, the monasteries of Ladoga, the islands of Valaam, Konevets, and Solovki, the churches and monasteries of the Pskov and Novgorod regions, the Holy Trinity-Saint Seraphim-Diveyevo Monastery, the ancient cities of the Golden Ring of Russia, Moscow and the Moscow region, the Optina Pustyn in Kozelsk, and numerous memorable and holy places of almost the entire Crimea. They prayed together with pilgrims in Latvia, Belarus, and Ukraine.

It should be noted that the clergy of the Estonian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, with the blessing of His Beatitude, Metropolitan Cornelius, was accompanying most of the pilgrim trips.

A multi-day pilgrimage requires a lot of work for each participant and organizer, but the priest’s spiritual care for group members helps to overcome all difficulties and hardships. During the trip, the priest has to answer a lot of questions and, of course, prepare pilgrims for joint prayer in holy places. Pilgrims have to seriously prepare for each trip, not only spiritually, but also think of possible donations. Many people sewed and knitted warm clothes themselves, others bought construction or locksmith tools to offer to those who need them, or simply donated money or valuable things. If possible and desired, pilgrims can take part in the daily work of monasteries, leaving a part of their effort and a good memory of their help there. By the way, pilgrims are happy to offer 2-3 hours of their work to thank those who pray for us all day and night.

The personnel of the Pilgrimage Center also had to learn new things in this new sphere, and participating in international pilgrimage conferences in Moscow has been quite beneficial. Only after gaining huge experience in organizing tours in Russia, did the Andcross Center decide to organize trips to foreign countries – including the Holy Land (Israel and Sinai). Prayers for all Orthodox Christians have been pronounced in the most ancient cities – Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, and Hebron for five years already… In 2010, for the first time ever, pilgrim groups went to Italy to worship the Shroud of Turin and to celebrate the day of St Nicholas. With God’s help, the personnel of the Center hopes to create new routes for pilgrimage in the coming 2011, so that more new parishioners would start attending the churches in Estonia and find the meaning of life in the Orthodox faith.

World of Orthodoxy, №11 2010

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