MOUNT GRABARKA has been one of the most prominent sacred places in the Orthodox regions of Poland. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world visit this mountain every year. They come here to thank God for his miracles and quietly ask him to bless the intentions of their hearts, hoping that God will heal their relatives’ mental and physical illnesses.
WHY IS THIS MOUNTAIN “HOLY”?
HOLY MOUNTAIN GRABARKA was first mentioned in the early 18th century. According to a legend, Polish people suffered from a plague outbreak at that time. The disease affected everyone. No one could avoid it. A peasant who lived in a remote hamlet had a dream in which he was ordered to take a cross and direct his steps to Mt Grabarka with other people who were still able to walk.
The people set out to the mountain. They were praying for the deliverance of their native villages from the disastrous epidemic. After a moleben, the first pilgrims climbed the mountain and erected their crosses. The legend claims that none of those who climbed the mountain on that day died of plague. That was how the tradition to carry and erect crosses on Grabarka with prayer for the healing of ailments and troubles began.
SS MARTHA AND MARY CONVENT
Archbishop Timothy of Bialystok and Bielsk inaugurated the foundation of a new convent on Mt Grabarka in 1947. The convent received Saint Martha and Saint Mary as its heavenly patronesses. Abbess Maria, born in a Russian family, became the convent’s first Mother Superior.
Life was especially difficult for the nuns during the first couple of years because they didn’t have anywhere to stay and anything to eat. However, the faithful supported them with food and money. In spite of the difficulties, new nuns, eager to serve God and people, were coming to the convent every year.
The convent sped up its growth in the second half of the 20th century. First of all, they built and consecrated a wooden church, and then added new buildings to meet their needs.
TAKE UP YOUR CROSS…
Gradually, the tradition of taking up crosses and setting out on a journey to the Holy Mountain with constant prayer was revived.
The Transfiguration of our Lord, celebrated by the Orthodox on August 19, is a special day for the convent and for the Holy Mountain Grabarka. Hundreds of pilgrims of various ages and ethnic backgrounds climb the mountain carrying their crosses, which symbolise salvation and repentance. The pilgrimage takes several days and finishes at the Holy Transfiguration Church. The pilgrims crawl around the church on their knees three times, even though their knees are bruised after that. Later, each person leaves his or her cross on the mountain as a donation.
The Transfiguration night is a special night. The faithful pray, confess, and ask for heavenly intercession in the midst of nocturnal silence. Usually, there are so many pilgrims that confession takes up the whole day, from early morning till late night. Four Liturgies are celebrated on August 19. Orthodox believers from various jurisdictions worship together. The mountain is wrapped up by the spirit of unity, love, and repentance on that night.