PARIS: July 27, 2010
The “Concord of Orthodox Youth” Pilgrimage to the Holy Sites of France Continues
On Saturday, July 24, 2010, the feast day of St Olga, Equal-to-the-Apostles, the members of the “Concord of Orthodox Youth” pilgrimage visited Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Few are aware that this magnificent and renowned temple contains one of the greatest of Christian relics: the Crown of Thorns of the Savior, and one of the nails with which He was crucified on the Cross. At the request of the Ambassador of the Russian Federation, the pilgrims were granted the opportunity to perform a moleben at the Crown of Thorns without the presence of tourists. The concentrated expressions on the faces of the youth revealed their inner state. Every pilgrim venerated the reliquary containing the Crown of Thorns while lifting prayers to the Lord.
Proceeding thence on foot to the Church of St Leo and St Gilles, the youth entered the crypt containing the relics of St Helen, Equal-to-the-Apostles. The troparion and laudation were sung to the great saint.
After a brief tour of the “hill of the holy martyrs,” Montmartre, which reveals a magnificent view of Paris, the young pilgrims traveled to St Sergius Podvorie. They prayed during vespers in the cozy chapel, infused with years of prayer, and, exhausted, returned to their hotel.
On Sunday, the members of the “Concord” group rose early to attend Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Three Hierarchs, which was followed by a moleben and akathist before the Kursk-Root Icon of the Mother of God. Afterwards, they boarded a bus which took them to Amien, where the local cathedral contains the honorable Head of John, the Forerunner of the Lord. It had been brought from Constantinople after it was stormed in the year 1204, and two years later deposited in Amien. It was precisely for this relic that the Cathedral was built, styled after Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Since then, Amien became a pilgrim’s destination for the French, but since the French Revolution, their faith quickly waned, and pilgrimages almost ceased completely. However, in this new millennium, with the onset of large streams of Russians, the relic is once again a focal point for pilgrims. The youth were permitted to take the gold-plate relic and take it on a procession of the cross to the winter church, where a moleben and akathist were performed, and everyone then venerated the relic.
Monday, July 26, was the Synaxis of Archangel Gabriel. It was the namesday of the spiritual leader of the “Concord” pilgrims from the Church Abroad, Protopriest Gabriel Makarov. Congratulations kept coming all day, and Many Years was repeatedly sung to him. Later that day, the “Concord” delegation headed for the city of Lyon, where they were greeted by Priest Quentin de Castelbajac. Fr Quentin is known to many, having participated in the first “Concord” program in 2008.
After prayers at the Church of St John the Russian, the pilgrims went to the Church of Hieromartyr Irenaeus of Lyon. St Irenaeus arrived in Lyon in the second half of the second century, laboring greatly in the preaching of Christianity in Gaul, and met his martyric end in the year 202. He is renowned also for his struggle against the Gnostics. A sarcophagus is located in a large crypt under the cathedral where the hieromartyr’s relics have been located for over 12 centuries. In 1562, Lyon was seized by Calvinists, who opened the sarcophagus, mocked the relics and scattered the bones of the saint throughout the necropolis, together with relics of hundreds of other martyrs who died during the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus. After a few decades, when the Catholics finally retook the city, the bones of the martyrs were collected and placed all together, but of course it was impossible to identify the relics of St Irenaeus. The pilgrims then sang the laudation to the hieromartyr and made prostrations before the relics of the other martyrs of Lyon.