On the feast day of the St Mary Magdalene, Equal-to-the-Apostles and Myrrh-Bearer, festal Divine Liturgy was concelebrated at the Gethsemane convent of St Mary of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem by His Eminence Metropolitan Mark of Berlin and Germany, locum tenens of the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and His Grace Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe. Co-serving their Graces was Archimandrite Roman (Krassovsky), Chief of the Ecclesiastical Mission, with a great host of the local clergy of the mission and its monasteries, and guest celebrants.
The Gethsemane Liturgy in honor of St Mary is one of the focal points of the pilgrimage currently taking place in the Holy Land, led by Metropolitan Mark and Bishop Irenei, with a large group of pilgrims from the European dioceses of the Church Abroad.
At the conclusion of the service, His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem and All Palestine, joined their Graces and all the faithful for a procession of the cross and moleben in honor of St Mary Magdalene, accompanied also by other hierarchs and clergy of the Patriarchate.
His Beatitude greeted the assembled faithful with a word on the importance of St Mary to all Orthodox Christians. He was in turn greeted by Metropolitan Mark, who thanked him for his care for the Holy Land and his close friendship with the Church Abroad; and by Bishop Irenei, who thanked His Beatitude for the example of prayer and devotion to the saint that his presence demonstrated to all the monastics and pilgrims.
Following the Divine Services, an outdoor festal banquet was held for the monastics and pilgrims.
Speaking with the pilgrims later in the day, Bishop Irenei noted the deep significance of the day for him personally, as since his youth Vladyka has held an especially close veneration of St Mary Magdalene, whose heavenly intercessions he credits for drawing him into the angelic monastic life. “To celebrate the Divine Liturgy and partake of the Sacred Mysteries here in her honor and in the very place where she toiled in love for our Savior, Who healed her and Whom she served with all her heart – this is for me a moment of profound gratitude and awe. I have for many years been waiting to make this pilgrimage, to thank St Mary Magdalene for her guidance and blessings and counsel, in my own life and in the lives of many whom I hold dear.”
His Grace continued, “At long last, and despite my unworthiness, I have been granted this great blessing. As we stood here together in the presence of the Divine Mysteries, I felt my soul saying with the Apostles, ‘Lord, it is good that we are here’” (Matthew 17:4).
The diocesan pilgrimage to the Holy Land continues throughout the next ten days.