His Grace Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe visited the Memorial Church of St Job and the Church of the Resurrection of Christ, both in the capital of Belgium, on the weekend of the principal feast day of St John the Wonderworker of Shanghai, Brussels and San Francisco, and the Sunday of All Local Saints.
Though intending to arrive on Friday, flight cancellations meant that the bishop was able to arrive in Brussels only on Saturday morning. This did not prevent him, however, from meeting with members of the parish Association and clergy of the Memorial Church in the afternoon, before serving the All-Night Vigil in the church, co-served by Archpriest Leonide Grilikhes and Priest Vassili Orekhoff, upon whom the Bishop bestowed the nabedrennik; and the prayer was accompanied by beautiful singing from the Memorial Parish choir. At the Polyelei of matins, the Magnification was sung for all the saints of Belgium.
On Sunday morning, Vladyka Irenei was greeted at the door of the Resurrection Church, where he headed the Divine Liturgy for the Sunday of All Local Saints, co-served by Archpriest Stefan Weerts. During the Little Entrance of the Liturgy, His Grace bestowed the Jewelled Cross upon Fr Stefan, a Synodal award granted for his many years of diligent and faithful service to the Church Abroad, the Diocese, and multiple parishes.
During his homily, Vladyka called to mind the special focus of this Sunday in the Church Abroad: ‘On this third Sunday after Holy Pentecost,’ he said, ‘we keep the memory of our local saints. We bear witness that the universal activity of the Holy Spirit also takes place at the most local level. We walk, here, today, on ground that has been walked upon by saints of God. Holiness is not some dream of far-off realities, an idea obtainable only by those in some other place or time. Right here, where we live and work, eat and sleep, men and women have followed God with deep ascetic devotion and attained the heights of sanctity.’ His Grace called to mind the example of St John the Wonderworker, whose feast had been celebrated the day before: “Yesterday we kept the memory of St John, who is a shining example of this reality. For nearly twelve years he was the Ruling Bishop of our Diocese. He walked along the same streets that we walk; prayed in many of the same temples; preached from the same ambons. He kept the fasts, here where we are now engaged in the fast of the Apostles. He honoured the feasts, here where we, too, honour them. He saw a troubled world, marred by war. He beheld the temptations of worldliness, ecumenist laxity, syncretism, and the increasing abandonment of morality and the adherence to divine Truth – things that we certainly see marking out our lax and decrepit age. And yet, living in the midst of all this, he attained profound holiness. This very land, in such times, produced one of the greatest saints of the Church’s history: who could see into hearts, who defended the faith, who could heal the sick, who could calm the storms of the passions – both in himself, and in others. And he is only one example. We can think of countless others. Perhaps we might call to mind St Alina of Belgium, who lived in the seventh century in Dilbeek, just outside this city. Or the hundreds and even thousands that have been sanctified all around us.”
The preacher concluded: “The Church wishes us, in being reminded of this, to be encouraged, so that we do not lose heart. But the Church also wishes us to be spurred to action. It is time to stop making excuses for our weak faith or Orthodox witness, as if it could be stronger if only we lived in a more comfortable Orthodox place, or in less troubled times. This is a temptation of the evil one. We must fortify ourselves with the examples of our forebears, and recognise that God provides us here – and wherever we may be, or wherever we may go – with absolutely everything required to attain the heights of salvation. All that is lacking is our will to be obedient to Him, to follow Him without equivocation, to be bold before the world, and to fight the passions in ourselves.”
Following the Divine Services and congratulations for the newly-decorated Fr Stefan, a banquet was served in the hall of the Resurrection Parish, and Bishop Irenei was able to remain for several hours with the clergy and faithful, discussing spiritual topics and the life of the Church.
In the evening, His Grace departed for the airport.