WESTERN EUROPEAN DIOCESE: September 30, 2021
Feast-day celebrations at the Elevation of the Cross Cathedral in Geneva
On the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, the altar feast of the Geneva Cathedral in Switzerland, festal divine services were headed by His Grace Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe. Co-serving were His Grace Bishop Alexander of Vevey, Vicar of the Diocese, together with the clergy of the Cathedral, Archpriest Pavel Tsvetkoff, the senior cleric of the Diocese, Archpriest Emilien Pocinoc, and Archdeacon Dometian (Redko). The local clergymen were joined by a host of others: Archpriest Peter Sturm and Priest Vladimir Svystun of the Zurich Parish; Priest Georges Machtalere of the Luxembourg Parish; Priest Ioan Ciurin of the Bern Parish; Priest Aviv Sallou-Diallo and Protodeacon Michel Vernaz of the Vevey Parish; and special guests and friends of the Cathedral, Archpriest Michael Gundyaev of the Moscow Patriarchal parish in Geneva, and Hieromonk Peter (Tsyura) from the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra in Ukraine.
The Divine Services were accompanied by beautiful singing by the Cathedral’s newly-expanded choir, with the Cathedral itself beautifully decorated for the feast by the parish Sisterhood. Earlier in the weekend, the parish had held its annual Parish Assembly, chaired by the Bishop, uniting the work of its organization and labors with the joy of its altar feast.
On Sunday evening, at the conclusion of the all-night vigil of the feast, the special rite of the Elevation of the Cross - unique to cathedrals and large monasteries - was performed by Bishop Irenei and Bishop Alexander, with the historic cross of the Cathedral solemnly lowered to the ground and then ceremonially raised high in the midst of the faithful, being anointed with rose-water throughout by the priests, while the people prostrated before it and the choir sang “Lord, have mercy!” five hundred times to special melodies. At the conclusion of the rite, all venerated the precious Cross together to the common proclamation: “We venerate Thy Cross, O Master, and Thy holy resurrection do we glorify!”, after which all were anointed by Bishop Irenei and received a flower that had been anointed with the rose-water flowing from the Cross.
On the feast itself, the solemn Liturgy was celebrated by the assembled clergy, headed by the two hierarchs. The feast day proved an occasion for many clergy of the surrounding regions of the Diocese to come together, and was therefore celebrated in a special spirit of brotherly love and joy.
In his homily for the Feast, His Grace Bishop Irenei spoke of the power of the Cross, which is a foolishness to the world. But despite the doubts of the world and the apparent folly of our Christian hope, Vladyka encouraged the faithful with the sure truth of Christ’s saving work upon the Cross. “Let this same Cross be always for us the sure guide and guardian of our lives,” Vladyka preached, noting the words that appeared to Emperor St Constantine and are inscribed upon the Cathedral’s walls: “’In this sign, conquer.’ 'Turn nowhere else! Flee to no other refuge! Seek no other wisdom! But take this Cross into your hearts, bear it upon your shoulders, for, as the Lord Himself says, my yoke is easy and my burden is light' (Matthew 11:30) - and if we cling to the Cross of Christ with all our hearts, then we will live in its power, a power greater than the world itself, and shall truly be the sons and daughters of Jesus Christ, Who saves mankind.”
At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, the customary Cross Procession around the Cathedral was this year replaced with a moleben inside, since building works made the procession impossible. Greetings and fraternal exchanges were made from the ambo, and Bishop Irenei greeted the faithful with the joy of the feast and in congratulation of the wonderful spirit of shared piety and devotion that now reigns in the historic Geneva Cathedral - a true blessing of the Cross of Christ.