WESTERN EUROPEAN DIOCESE: March 24, 2021
The Triumph of Orthodoxy in the Western European Diocese
On the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, the First Sunday of Great Lent, His Grace Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe, in accordance with the customs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, served the Moleben for the Restoration of Those Who Have Gone Astray, including the Rite of Orthodoxy, at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy in the Diocesan Cathedral of the Nativity of the Mother of God and the Holy Royal Martyrs in London, England.
Co-serving His Grace were the clerics of the Diocesan Cathedral: Archpriest Peter Balk, Archpriest Vitaly Serapinas, Archpriest Yaroslav Hudymenko, Deacon Andrei Borisas and Deacon Timothy Phillips, who were joined by the cleric of the Moscow Patriarchate, Archpriest Maxim Nikolsky. At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy of St Basil the Great, Bishop Irenei delivered a homily on the compassion and care the Church exercises for the faithful, ensuring they are always aware what to believe and what not to believe; how to worship, and how not to worship. ‘Today we are called to give thanks,’ said His Grace, ‘for the fact that, by divine inspiration, guidance and activity, the Church defeats every error that the devil and fallen man concoct against the salvation that God offers. The devil wishes us to believe a lie; our own sinfulness at times provokes mankind to favour falsehood and self-made beliefs; but God responds, in His Church, by ensuring that in every generation, in every place, those who would cling to Him will be preserved from error and established in Orthodoxy - that is, correct belief, right faith, true worship, and a saving way of life.’
The Archpastor went on to say: ‘No loving mother would ever hide from her child the way to live a good life: what things the child ought to do, or say. And similarly, no loving mother, knowing in advance the pits and dangers in the road ahead of her child, would fail to tell the child fervently: “Do not step in that hole, or you will fall!” In the same way, our Holy Mother Church does not fail to tell us how to live, and what to believe, so that we might grow into Christ. And our Holy Mother Church also does not fail to say to us “Stop!” when we are about to walk headlong into a pit. She does not hesitate to say, when she sees us wandering close to the edge of a cliff: “No, my child, I forbid you to go a step further in that direction; for if you do, you will surely fall.”‘
Expounding the love the Church demonstrates in tirelessly revealing to man the truth and guiding him towards it, away from error, His Grace Bishop Irenei then presided over the moleben and Rite of Orthodoxy. During the rite, the Deacons solemnly intoned commemorations of the Church’s proclamations of truth, reminding the faithful: ‘This is the Apostolic faith! This is the faith of the Fathers! This is the Orthodox Faith! This faith confirmeth the universe!’ and reciting the Creed as the central confession of true Christianity. They then intoned the ‘Anathemas’ confirmed by the Church, after each of which the clergy and the people sang ‘Anathema!’, since, in the words of the Bishop, each of these ‘demonstrates the tireless labours the Church has undertaken to identify for us the main errors of faith that have plagued mankind across history. … Each of the errors that the Church identifies is something that leads us to death, not to God: therefore it is essential that we know these errors, so that we do not walk into them; and it is necessary also that the Church remind us that they are deadly. We do not wish to follow teachings that are accursed, but only those that are divine - therefore, it is important to know the difference!’
Following the Anathemas, a host of names were recalled, from the centuries of the Church’s history, of those who had stood fast for the truth against error - prophets, hierarchs, teachers, kings and queens, and many others - and ‘Memory eternal!’ was intoned many times. His Grace had especially noted in his sermon: ‘This is the only occasion in our Church life when we sing ‘Memory eternal’ for canonised saints: normally after their canonisation we stop singing this for them, and instead ask for their heavenly intercessions for us. But on this one occasion the Church appoints us to remember them in this way, since today we especially commemorate their labours to preach the truth in the face of every error. We must not forget their examples!’
The Rite of Orthodoxy concluded with the manifold singing of ‘Many Years’ for those amongst the living still striving with fervour to protect the faithful by guiding them always into truth and not into error: patriarchs, hierarchs, pastors, teachers, and many devout faithful - including those present. The clergy, led by Bishop Irenei, and after them all the faithful, then venerated the specially-arranged icons and relics placed in the centre of the Temple, in memory of the triumph over iconoclasm that was the historical occasion giving rise to the present commemoration.
Following the Divine Services, His Grace Bishop Irenei, who has been serving daily in the Cathedral, departed to begin a series of parish visits throughout the United Kingdom during the remainder of Great Lent, in anticipation of being able to resume visits to the European parishes shortly after Holy Pascha, when COVID-related travel restrictions are relaxed. His Grace will next serve in Belfast, Northern Ireland (his schedule of visitations is found here).