WESTERN EUROPEAN DIOCESE: July 25, 2017
Archbishop Michael of Geneva and Western Europe Leads Feast-Day Celebrations at SS Peter and Paul Church, Built by Protopriest Sergei Poukh
Every year, the Russian Orthodox community in Luxembourg eagerly awaits the feast day of SS Peter and Paul Church. This year, the greeting of His Eminence Archbishop Michael of Geneva and Western Europe was held on July 12, 2017, followed by Divine Liturgy.
Children grow up, their grandparents grow old, yesterday’s young parents mature, and new parishioners seek out answers to their questions. Despite the work day, approximately 100 parishioners trekked through the rain to the event, bringing pot-luck meals for the trapeza that followed divine services. The parish’s feast day is celebrated like a communal birthday, every parishioner looks at the changes in his life over the prior year.
Last year, the parish lost their long-time rector, Protopriest Sergei Poukh, and have since gathered around their new priest, Fr George Mashtaler, who has served at the parish since January, 2012, when Fr Sergei fell ill. Fr George has been able to inspire hope in his flock, encouraging them to pray for Fr Sergei and his Matushka Emilia, and to pray to the Lord Jesus Christ for many years of continuing service by Fr George.
Fr George began teaching classes in the Law of God, restoring traditions originated by the late Fr Sergei which had faded with his increasing age. In 2014, they celebrated the 85-year anniversary by renovating the church; a new choir was organized, since Matushka Emilia was no longer able to serve as conductor. A memorial album was published by the parish that year.
Fr George worked closely with the late Fr Sergei and with the Ruling Bishop, Archbishop Michael. With their help, and with Divine aid, Fr George has managed to become a worthy successor of the builder of SS Peter and Paul Church in Luxembourg, Fr Sergei himself. In recognition of his efforts, Vladyka Michael awarded the purple skufia to Fr George.
Not because you earned it over your five years of work, Fr George,” said Vladyka Michael, “but because you fear God,” as he place the skufia upon his head. The parishioners were moved to tears, seeing that they were not the only ones who saw Fr George’s work.
The holy water sprinkled by Vladyka Michael mingled with the raindrops as the parishioners went on a procession of the cross. They sang Many Years to Matushka Emilia, who became the parish warden and returned to singing in the choir, now under the direction of Elena Wittel. They also sang a commemorative prayer to Fr Sergei.
Vladyka Michael’s sermon touched upon the rock of faith that was Apostle Peter, who had thrice denied Christ, demonstrating not sinlessness but repentance; that the celebration of Holy Apostles Peter and Paul includes following the example of St Paul, who was not broken by torment, but strengthened through suffering; and that at the foundation of everything lies the love of Christ as imparted to us through the Word of God.
Joining Vladyka Michael in the service were Fr Ioann Churin from Bern; Fr Peter Sturm from Zurich; Fr Nikolai Nikishin from Paris, and Fr Konstantin Dutuc from the Romanian Orthodox Church.