On December 13, 2009, His Eminence Archbishop Ilarion of Volokolamsk, President of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, who was in Switzerland for a meeting of the Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commission for the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, officiated at Divine Liturgy at Elevation of the Holy Cross Cathedral in Geneva.
Vladyka Ilarion was joined by His Eminence Archbishop Mark of Berlin and Germany; His Grace Bishop Michael of Geneva and Western Europe; Protopriest Nikolai Balashov, Vice Chairman of DECR; Protopriest Michael Gundyaev, Representative of the Moscow Patriarchate at the World Council of Churches; and Protopriest Pavel Tsvetkoff, Senior Priest of the Cathedral.
The hierarchs prayed for the blessed repose of His Holiness Patriarch Pavle of Serbia.
At the end of Liturgy, a moleben was served to Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called, after which Archbishop Ilarion prayed before the relics of Holy Martyrs Grand Duchess Elizabeth and Nun Barbara.
In his sermon, Bishop Michael thanked Vladyka Ilarion for their joint prayer, stressing that the President of the DECR is in Geneva for the purposes of strengthening the fraternal bonds between the Local Orthodox Churches. “The joint service today of hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church is a visible example of the unity of our Local Church. Our prayer is a source of spiritual strength imparted by the Holy Spirit for all flock of the Church who live far from their homeland,” said Vladyka Michael.
The President of the DECR, in turn, reminded everyone in attendance that on this day, the Church honors the memory of Holy Apostle Andrew the First-called. “The person of Apostle Andrew, the first disciple of the Savior, is the prototype of all the subsequent disciples of Christ,” said Vladyka. “Having heeded the call of Jesus to follow Him, Apostle Andrew left everything and followed, destined to become a herald of Divine truth. In the same way, the other Apostles, and then a great multitude of bishops and teachers of the Church, devoted their lives to serving God and mankind. The Holy Church was established by their podvigi over many centuries.”
“Divine Grace, received by the bishops from the Apostles, and through the bishops to the ordained priesthood, had existed in the Church through the centuries. No one has the right to think that the Holy Spirit acts less generously in our day than in the ancient Church, that the granting of Grace has diminished. And today, as in Apostolic times, the same Holy Eucharist is celebrated in our churches, which Christ established at the Last Supper, in which the same Grace of the Holy Spirit abides, which on the day of the Pentecost descended upon the Apostles. Invoked by the joint prayer of Christians during Divine Liturgy, the Holy Spirit unerringly comes down upon the Holy Gifts and upon the worshipers, granting spiritual strength towards growth in the truth,” continued Archbishop Ilarion.
In the opinion of the President of the DECR, one should not think that only those given the power of the episcopacy are witnesses to and preachers of Christ in this world. “Every Christian is called upon to be an apostle, each Christian is called upon through his words, but especially in his way of life, to bear witness to Christ and become an instrument of the Holy Spirit. It is in this that the essence of Apostolic service is found, to which every Christian is called,” concluded Vladyka.
In memory of this joint service, Archbishop Ilarion gave Bishop Michael a holy panaghia made in the workshops of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Archbishop Ilarion then congratulated Fr Nikolai on his birthday. “Bearing the difficult tasks of Vice Chairman of the DECR, you, dear Fr Nikolai, are a bright example of hard work and obedience to the Holy Church. You are always prepared for ‘battle,’ ever ready to help. These qualities, along with your great abilities and broad erudition, make your service invaluable and fruitful towards the glory of the Holy Church,” said Vladyka.
Archbishop Mark then spoke, noting that serving outside of the borders of the Fatherland requires special efforts in carrying on Christian witness, and also for the preservation of Inter-Orthodox peace. Noting the importance of such gatherings, Vladyka Mark expressed his profound joy that the bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church, celebrating divine services together, serve as an example of brotherly communion and love.
Press Service of the DECR/Patriarchia.ru