By Vladimir Grigorenko
Photo by Vladimir Grigorenko
Editorial Note: Vladimir Grigorenko was the iconographer of St. Seraphim’s Orthodox cathedral in Dallas and a close friend of Archbishop Dimitri’s. He was present both at his funeral and the five days until his burial, and at his exhumation and reinterment on Friday.
“Yesterday we put Archbishop Dmitri in his final resting place in St. Seraphim Cathedral in Dallas.
I was blessed to be a part of a team, which uncovered Vladika’s earthly remains and transferred them into new coffin to be buried in the crypt of the Resurrection Chapel and probably should offer some comments about these events.
It was Archbishop Dmitri wish and our deep desire that he would be buried on the premises of St. Seraphim Cathedral in Dallas. We started to plan that next morning after his departure in August 2011.
Unfortunately, we had not enough time to satisfy all the requirements of the city code, which is why the parish decided to bury our beloved pastor at the Restland Cemetery, on the plot owned by the cathedral. The idea was that we would bring his earthly remains to cathedral as soon as a proper burial place would be built.
Due to lack of space under the cathedral’s foundation, we had to build a memorial chapel adjusted to the cathedral with an underground burial chamber in it. This building process, together with filing all the necessary paperwork and acquiring all the permits, took us a little over four years. We scheduled Vladika’s re-internment for the closest available date.
In accordance with federal law as it had been presented to us by the Restland Cemetery Funeral Director, in order to be moved to the new place, the body of the deceased person has to be transferred to a new sealed coffin by Cemetery employees, who will deliver the body to the Church site.
I personally negotiated with the Funeral Director that Church representatives must be allowed to oversee this transition. I have to admit, during this negotiation the Funeral Director (with 25 years of experience) explained to us in details what horrific picture we would see if we chose to be present.
Several people, clergy and laity from different parishes throughout the diocese, including myself, were chosen to participate. Dr. Ron Rodriguez, MD, Vladika’s primary physician, was one of them.
In the early morning of March 4, when Restland employees opened the concrete vault that contained Vladika’s wooden coffin, I was ready to see all these horrible things I was told about. To our amazement, Vladika’s coffin was found intact amidst the wet atmosphere of the sealed vault and was easily opened.
The Funeral Director, who was present there in a complete haz-mat mask, stated that she had never seen a non-embalmed body in such a condition after 5 years in the grave, and that she believes it is a miracle.
From that moment on, Restland employees stepped aside and allowed us to do everything we needed.
Vladika’s body was found incorrupt and covered with several layers of soaking wet vestments. I will not go into much detail here – you can tell a lot from the few pictures attached.
His skin was dry but covered with condensed water, his pectoral cross and Panagia are tarnished, and the enamel images are peeling off and destroyed by harsh conditions.
Since we were obliged to transfer the archbishop to a new coffin and the condition of his body allowed it, it was decided on the spot to remove the old vestments and to cover him with a new set. It was done with great reverence, and without any damage to the body.
Vladika Dmitri’s new coffin was then sealed and transferred to St. Seraphim Cathedral, where a memorial service was served by the OCA’s Metropolitan Tikhon and Bishop Alejo of Mexico, with over 20 priests and a few hundred lay people from all around the USA and Mexico.
The next day, after the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, Archbishop Dmitri’s relics were placed for eternal rest in a closed underground chamber in the Resurrection Chapel of St. Seraphim’s Orthodox Cathedral in Dallas.
A few personal notes:
Obviously, I was glad to see Vladika’s body incorrupt, but had it been otherwise, it would not affect my opinion about his sanctity at all.
The body of St. Seraphim of Sarov, the patron of our cathedral, was corrupted, but it does not change the fact that he is one of the most beloved saints around the world.
We all know that an incorrupt body alone is not a reason for glorification.
Having known Vladika for 11 years and seeing the fruits of his life in the Lord, I am personally convinced that he is a saint. I believe that there are many more people all over the country who share that conviction.
No decision of any group of people, respected (or not) would be able to change that. If his body will corrupt in two, 20 or 200 years (as some may wish), or will start to stream myrrh (as others may desire), my opinion will not change.
No one can stop me or anyone else from addressing Vladika Dmitri in prayer, and feeling his response and intercession; the same as many others all around the US feel his love and help.
All the pictures I took during the transfer of Archbishop Dmitri’s body will be forwarded to the proper Church authorities together with my written statement for consideration.”