An Indulgenced Pilgrimage to Krekhiv on "Summer Nicholas"
You can say that a big yearly gathering of faithful who come to the beautiful Basilian monastery in Krekhiv to receive an indulgence is a pilgrimage. It takes place on the feast of the transfer of the relics of St. Nicholas, or as it is called in Ukraine “summer Nicholas.” (On the Julian Calendar, this feast is celebrated on 22 May, while the feast of St. Nicholas is on 19 December.) It is hard to imagine the life of a modern Christian pilgrim without participation in this event.
The tradition of indulgenced pilgrimages here started from the time when monastic life revived after a few decades when activity was forbidden. Since 1992 many people have come here to see the beautiful natural surroundings, meditate on God’s word, and pray for grace for the Ukrainian people.
Indulgenced pilgrimages have standardized their form in recent years and many people who love God visit this place. Many pilgrims all over western Ukraine and some Greek Catholics from central and eastern Ukraine come here on Saturday. The May weather encourages an outdoor religious procession that has always taken place in past years, in the woods around the monastery. During the procession Basilian monks and secular priests lead meditations on the mysteries of the savior’s life. The devout follow on their rosary beads, listening to the instructive words of the clergy.
The next part of the Saturday celebrations is a procession with candles to the miraculous well-spring and a night vigil. At this time of year, the procession looks like a great mystical event in which you can see people’s desire to hear the voice of God. He talks to their souls while candles burn and the Scriptures are read...
Dawn. The pilgrims start to wake with the sunrise. At 11.00 a.m., after matins, the monastery bells start to ring. Hundreds of people from nearby villages and dozens of cars and buses from all over are coming. A pontifical Liturgy is being prepared on an improvised stage on the glade in front of the Krekhiv monastery.
The procession ascends the stage and the most important prayerful part of the indulgenced pilgrimage starts with the participation of Bishop Emeritus Sofron Mudryi of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) in Ivano-Frankivsk, Order of Saint Basil the Great (OSBM), and Exarch (bishop of a mission territory) Vasyl Ivasyuk of the UGCC in Odesa and Crimea.
The preaching of Bishop Sofron is full of felicitous images typical for this season full of flowers. He recalls the glorious deeds of Nicholas the Wonder-worker. A local choir lead by Fr. Vasyl Mendrun, OSBM, a member of the Writers’ Union in Ukraine who has authored a number of collections of poetry, lifts everyone’s spirit with its songs. The song “O Krekhiv Pilgrimage” shows the specificity of repertoire for pilgrimages.
Coming down from the improvised altar, the Basilian fathers begin to give Communion to the hundreds of pilgrims who fill every corner of the glade. After the words of thanks of Bishop Vasyl, the song “Many years” (“Mnohaya lita”) for the leaders of the pilgrimage, the bishops of the UGCC, and the whole nation is sung. That part of the nation present at this great feast of forgiveness lift their eyes to the sky, appreciating the opportunity to gather with their brothers and sisters in Krekhiv again.
At the end of the festive Liturgy, thousands of pilgrims go back home. Those who have not yet visited the well-spring with healing water going to this famous place in the Krekhiv woods. They pray and ask for blessings from Mary, protector of the whole world.
After that they climb steep hills to visit a cave monastery on the Tymosh rock where monks have lived since the late 16th and early 17th centuries. They started the history of this cloister that was and is still a source of spirit and dedication to God. Between World Wars I and II, thousands of pilgrims came here and, together with the monks, looked for their path to God, sometimes very tragic and full of obstacles.
Then a government came to rule the country which saw a danger to its ideology in this place and hundreds of others all over Halychyna (Galicia, far western Ukraine). Only a few elderly Basilians are left who can tell what happened when the Bolsheviks came. But the numerous faithful and regular tourists who come to the monastery, among whom there are many Poles since the site is located close to the Polish border, will tell other stories.
Today it is a modern monastery complex with walled and wooden churches, two famous icons , of the Mother of God and of St. Nicholas, a modern monastery with a bakery, a blossoming apple orchard, a vineyard, and a beehive. Beyond the monastery there is a cemetery where monks of the various generations who created its history are buried. Krekhiv has become an object of scholarly research not only in Ukraine but also abroad, which demonstrates that it is an important religious center for the country.
RISU’s Ukrainian-language site posted the story on 24 May 2007.