Editor's Note: In years past, Russia was famous for its severe problems with alcoholism. But times are changing. Just within the past few years, alcohol consumption in Russia has been reduced by 80%.
Such encouraging news is thanks to the power of prayer, and to the work of people like Metropolitan Sava and Fr. Alexander Goryachev, who not only pray for individuals, but also pray for the inhabitants of an entire city, literally blessing the entire city with holy water from an airplane. The current story takes place in Tver, a major city just northwest of Moscow.
The traditional religious flight on Sobriety Day on September 11 started from Zmeyevo airfield. Priests poured holy water from the airplane from the city, Metropolitan Sava of Tver & Kashinsky read a prayer service and circled Tver with the relics of Tver saints. On board the plane, in addition to the clergy, a married couple flew, and the husband was miraculously cured of drunkenness.
And this is no joke. In Tver, there are real cases of miraculous deliverance from drunkenness, says Alexander Goryachev. He is the chairman of the parish council of the Cathedral in honor of the "Inexhaustible Chalice" icon of the Mother of God. He organizes these events, and he enjoyed talking about the people who have been helped:
Since 2006, we have been flying over Tver with the “Inexhaustible Chalice” icon, which is one of this city's most holy objects. Believe it or not, one day while a man saw a plane flying, he admitted to his wife that he was addicted to alcohol. The couple was reunited after he was delivered from drunkenness. Multiple couples in Tver have come to us with similar stories.
Many come from other cities to pray, and to give a vow of sobriety to the "Inexhaustible Chalice" icon. And not only do they stop drinking here, but in a number of cases they also find their soul mates. Today, couples will give a general vow of sobriety — there will be no alcohol in their life from this point on. In addition, they will instruct other people on the true path of sobriety.
One of these couples is Vyacheslav and Olga. Vyacheslav came to Tver from Moscow to pray before the “Inexpressible Chalice” icon, asking for help to get rid of the disease. Shortly afterwards, he met his love. The couple got married and now the couple lives in Tver.
Father Alexander himself is inclined to think about the spiritual causes of diseases. He says, "Any disease is primarily a spiritual disease."
Some people do not take this seriously, and they laugh at him. In response, he said: "Laugh — laughter prolongs life. Just what is the reason for laughter? Is it because we are trying to help people get rid of diseases? Is it because we encourage people to stop using alcohol and drugs, and to stop fornication — does this cause laughter? Let them laugh — and we will do our job."
The clergy brought 70 liters of holy water with them, and two icons: one of the “Inexhaustible Chalice”, and one of John the Baptist. Vladyka Sava himself came on the flight, bringing the relics of Tver saints with him. He said:
First of all, I would like to look at Tver from a bird's eye view. Secondly, I want to take holy objects and bless our land - this is a good work and a good cause. I would like to pray during the flight, that God will protect the city from various misfortunes, such as accidents and social disasters. I understand that there are many reasons for this, but maybe a prayer for the well-being of the city will take effect. And then we'll see how earnestly I prayed.
Father Alexander poured holy water on the city at an altitude of 200-300 meters, and the Metropolitan recited a prayer service. Father Alexander explained that the holy water must be poured out of the bowl, since the spray from the sprinkler would just fly back into the plane.
The first Sobriety Day in Russia was observed in 1913 at the initiative of the ministers of the Orthodox Church. In March 1914, the Holy Synod decided on the annual celebration of the All-Russian Day of Sobriety. The date was chosen in honor of the Orthodox feast of the Beheading of the head of the Holy Prophet John the Baptist, during which strict fasting should be observed.
15 years ago, they began holding religious processions on the Day of Sobriety. Tver thus became one of the first cities where such a religious procession took place.
In Russia on these special days, the wine shops close and the sale of alcoholic beverages stop. Religious passages are read in Orthodox churches, and appeals are made regarding the importance and significance of a sober lifestyle. Then a prayer service is held for John the Baptist. Many people take a vow of sobriety, and are blessed by a priest.