Moscow - - 20081209 -  Russia's political leaders joined prelates of the Orthodox Church on December 9 at the funeral of Patriarch Alexei II. The deceased Patriarch's success in restoring the prominence of the Russian Orthodox Church after decades of Soviet repression was confirmed by the presence of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at his funeral in Christ the Savior cathedral. Medvedev had ordered regular television programming suspended during the funeral and the burial service at Epiphany cathedral.

Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, the chief ecumenical official of the Moscow patriarchate, presided at the funeral. On December 6 the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church had elected Metropolitan Kirill as the "patriarchal locum tenens," or interim head of the Church following the death of Patriarch Alexei II the previous day. At least six months must pass between the death of a patriarch and the election of his successor. Since 1989, Metropolitan Kirill has served as the Russian Orthodox representative in ecumenical dialogues as chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate. He recently wrote a foreword to a book by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state.

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Joachim and Anna Rejoice

Today the bonds of childlessness are loosed, * for God has heard Joachim and Anna * and He promises manifestly that they, against all hope, would give birth to the Maiden of God * from whom the Uncircumscribed One Himself would be born, becoming man, * and he commanded the Angels to cry out to her: * “Rejoice, O Full of Grace, the Lord is with you!” (Troparion - Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Today the whole world celebrates * the conception of Anne which was brought about by God, * for she gave birth to the one who, beyond understanding, * gave birth to the Word. (Kontakion - Tone 4)

Saint Nicholas of Myra

The truth of your deeds has revealed you to your flock, * as a rule of faith, an image of meekness, and a teacher of abstinence. * Therefore, you attained the heights through humility, * and riches through poverty. * O Father and Hierarch Nicholas, * pray to Christ God that our souls may be saved. (Troparion, Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

In Myra, You were shown to be a servant of the sacred things, O Holy Nicholas, * for, fulfilling the Gospel of Christ, you, O Venerable, laid down your life for your people, * and saved the innocent from death. * Therefore, you were sanctified as a great initiate of the grace of God. (Kontakion, Tone 3)