MOSCOW - About 130,000 believers have had a chance to worship one of the greatest spiritual treasures of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the Gifts of the Wise Men to the newborn Jesus, which have been displayed at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral since January 7, the Orthodox Christmas Day, head of the city department of interregional cooperation, nationality policy and relations with religious organizations Yuri Artyukh said on Friday.
“By 11 a.m. Friday morning, some 130,000 people have worshiped the relic,” he said. “By that time, the queue of about 25,000 believers stretched along the Frunzenskaya Embankment.” According to Artyukh, 280 people sought medical help, mainly those who have chronic diseases. About 1,050 policemen and 60 volunteers are involved in securing law and order. “No incidents have been reported,” he added.
Moscow’s Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has ordered municipal services to offer all possible assistance to the pilgrims and to work out a draft resolution on allocating money from the reserve fund to cover expenses of city services backing up the relic’s stay in Moscow. Thus, the city’s transport companies have provided 53 buses where the pilgrims may get warmed and have some rest. Medical and social services have response teams in the vicinity of the cathedral. Hot tea is served at a fixed price of 15 roubles. Army field kitchens however offer hot tea for free.
On January 14, the shrine with the Gifts of the Magi will be brought to St. Petersburg where it will be accessible for pilgrims at the Novodevichy nunnery till January 17. Later on, the Gifts of the Wise Men will be displayed at the Charity House in Minsk on January 18-24, and at the Kiev Pechersk Lavra in Kiev on January 25-30.
The Gifts the Wise Men of the East, gold, frankincense and myrrh that are kept at the sacristry of the Agiou Pavlou (St. Paul’s) monastery on Mount Athos in Greece have left Greece for the first time since the 15th century. The gold is in square and triangular plates bearing the finest ornament and measuring 5 by 7 centimeters. The frankincense and myrrh are in dark olive-like balls numbering 70.
The legend has it that shortly before her death Virgin Mary gave these gifts to two righteous women. Later on, these relics were brought to Byzantium, and after the Turkish conquest in 1453, they were taken to Mount Athos by a Serb nun Mary.
Athos monks believe that the Gifts of The Three Kings have healing power, thus testifying to the Christ's coming to this world.