Tuesday, May 5, 2009

ROCOR Liturgy at the Holy Sepulchre

Here is my translation of an exclusive news story from the French-language blog Moinillon au Quotidien, from which the two photographs have also been taken (I've added the hyperlinks):
Yesterday evening, for the first time in many years, a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia celebrated the Liturgy at the Holy Sepulchre. Bishop Agapit [of Stuttgart, vicar of the German Diocese] (in gold vestments) celebrated with Metropolitan Aristarchos [of Constantia] of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

During the Soviet period, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem (as did the majority of official Orthodox Churches) ceased official relations with ROCOR at the request of the Patriarchate of Moscow.

After the reunification of the Russian Church, on the Feast of the Ascension two years ago, Patriarch Alexy [II] wrote to the Patriarch of Jerusalem. The response came two years later: the Patriarch of Jerusalem, in a benevolent letter addressed to Moscow, formalized the relations between the Church of Jerusalem and the reunited Russian Church.

It is particularly joyful that it was precisely Bishop Agapit of Stuttgart – one of the most humble of our Church – who had the joy of participating in this Eucharistic communion.
A few additional historical remarks: While it is true that, following the reemergence of the Moscow Patriarchate onto the world scene following the Second World War, ROCOR clergy were prevented from serving at the Holy Sepulchre and concelebration between clergy of the Jerusalem Patriarchate and ROCOR was indeed rare, the Patriarchate of Jerusalem never ceased to recognize ROCOR's canonical validity. All Divine services performed in ROCOR's Russian Ecclesiastical Mission were done with the Patriarch's blessing, on antimens consecrated by the Patriarch, and with the Patriarch's name commemorated. Clergy and laity were allowed to receive Holy Communion at Divine Liturgies performed at the Holy Sepulcher, but not to serve there. My friend and former colleague Andrei Psarev offers further historical background here:
The Second World War brought changes to the course of political events in the USSR regarding the Russian Orthodox Church, and redrew the political map of Europe. These events could not have failed to reflect on the relationships of ROCOR to other local Orthodox Churches. Other local Orthodox Churches recognized the Moscow Patriarchate, and this acknowledgement required them to attentively regard the persistent expectations from Moscow that they abrogate their relationship with ROCOR. While in Jerusalem in 1952, Bishop Seraphim of Mahopac met with Patriarch Timotheos, who explained that Bishop Seraphim had been denied the opportunity to serve at the Holy Sepulchre because the Church of Jerusalem had recognized the Moscow Patriarchate. The promise made to Moscow to no longer pray with “the Karlovites,” however, did not prevent Patriarch Timotheos from serving liturgy in May 1954 at the Convent on the Mount of Olives with Bishop Leontii of Geneva. Just as before, all heads of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission, as well as the abbesses of monasteries, were affirmed by official letters issued by the Jerusalem Patriarchate.
The reestablishment of full and normal relations between ROCOR and the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and particularly of the reacquired blessing of celebrating the Divine Liturgy at the Holy Sepulchre, is joyous news indeed.


aaronandbrighid said...

This is wonderful news, Father! I dream of making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land one day (oh, for the funds!), and as a sheep in the flock of the Russian Church Abroad it will be wonderful to see our Church enjoying such a close relationship with the Patriarchate.

Felix Culpa said...

I've been on pilgrimage to the Holy Land once, in 1996. I had no idea whatsoever of what to expect, but I found the experience wonderful and overwhelming. We did attend a midnight Divine Liturgy at the Holy Sepulchre that was, to speak in a secular tongue, completely magical. (My account appeared in English in The Shepherd,and a photo-essay appeared in two other languages.) I had a very long and edifying talk with a young hieromonk then serving in Canna of Galilee who had recently returned from doing his doctoral work with Fr George Dragas at the University of Durham. This young hieromonk is now the Patriarch of Jerusalem!

It really is worth going. Travel to the Holy Land is one of the few instances in which travel with a group really is preferable. For those in North America, I'd particularly recommend going with a group lead by Fr Victor Potapov of Washington, DC.

Jacob Noah said...

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Trip to Holy Land

Thanks a lot again.