His Eminence, Metropolitan Silouan with His Grace, Bishop Irenei
On December 19th, His Eminence, Metropolitan Silouan, visited the Cathedral of Nativity of the Theotokos and Royal Martyrs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) in London on the invitation of His Grace, Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe.
The two hierarchs celebrated the Divine Liturgy on the occasion of the Feast of St. Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra (according to the Russian calendar), with many faithful in attendance. Assisting them were Archpriest Vitaly, Archpriest Yaroslav, Father Deacon Andrei - all of the ROCOR cathedral, and Father Deacon Dmitry of our Archdiocesan cathedral parish. Sayedna Silouan was also accompanied by Ramy Haddad, a server at our cathedral. A festive parish lunch with a great variety of tasty fasting food prepared with love by the people of the cathedral followed the service.
At the end of the service Vladyka Irenei, addressed Sayedna with a welcoming word. He emphasised a strong connection that historically has existed between the Russian and Antiochian Orthodox churches. He expressed hope that Metropolitan Silouan’s visit would pave the way for fruitful cooperation between our two dioceses in their blessed but difficult mission of bringing people in Britain and Ireland into the One, True and Holy Orthodox Church. In the words of His Grace, although the existence of multiple Orthodox Jurisdictions in these lands may seem strange for an outsider, in a peculiar way it is a blessing for him to know that “he is not alone” in bearing the missionary Cross, but can share it with his brothers in Christ - the other Orthodox bishops. Vladyika Irenei thanked all faithful who attended in great numbers, as well as the clergy, servers and choir members, for the beautiful service.
Sayedna Silouan, in his response, thanked Vladyka Irenei for the kind invitation to celebrate the Feast together. He joined Vladyka in thanking the faithful, clergy, servers and choir for their hospitality and spiritual fellowship. He specifically emphasised how beautiful the Cathedral’s building is: “Even from outside the church is very beautiful, but when I entered the church I felt like I am in Heaven on earth”. In his short homily, Metropolitan Silouan spoke about the importance of prayer and the forthcoming Feast of Nativity of Christ. He told the faithful that the Feast would be just another day in the calendar unless Christ is born in our hearts. The key to avoiding this are prayer, regular attendance of church services and partaking in Divine Mysteries. Otherwise, in Sayedna’s words, it is “very, very difficult to be saved in this world”. He called on all faithful to pray and care for each other, their families, their fellow parishioners, and all the faithful worldwide, especially for the people in the war-torn regions of the Middle East.
Both hierarchs spoke about St. Nicholas as an example of true Christian ministry and love. Sayedna Silouan emphasised how profound is that the Feast of St Nicholas falls in the calendar before the Nativity of Christ, and we, Orthodox Christians, are blessed to know the real meaning of a “Santa Claus” persona: an example of humility, love and care for the fellow people. Vladyka Irenei mentioned that St. Nicholas is a quintessential example of what an Orthodox bishop is. He was a great defender of the faith, fighting Arian heresy at the First Ecumenical Council, but combined it with a humble ministry to the needs of his beloved flock. In the words of Vladyka, it is not surprising that the troparion originally compiled for St. Nicholas became a standard troparion to many other holy bishops.