WESTERN EUROPEAN DIOCESE: October 21, 2021
Bishop Irenei of Western Europe visits the Church of the Savior and St Seraphim in Italy
On 10 October, 2021, the 16th Sunday of Pentecost, His Grace Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe made an archpastoral visit to the Parish of Christ the Savior and St Seraphim of Sarov in Sanremo, Italy.
Greeted by the Parish Rector, Priest Dionysi Baikov, before the Saturday evening Vigil, Bishop Irenei was met at the church door by a host of faithful. Vigil was served with great solemnity and beauty, thanks in large part to the labors of the parish choir, under the direction of Ioanna Kyrianchuk. On Sunday morning, His Grace was met at the porch with the traditional bread and salt, presented to him by a large collection of children who gathered for the greeting, and who also formed a children’s choir that sang portions of the Divine Liturgy.
In his homily at the conclusion of the Liturgy, Bishop Irenei reflected upon the words of the Apostle Peter, recounted in the day’s Gospel reading, uttered upon beholding the miracle of the catch of fish: “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). Remarking on the apparent strangeness of this statement, Vladyka said: “The holy Apostle recognizes, immediately, something that our sinful generation is slow to understand. He recognizes not only that he is in the presence of true holiness … but also that the very fact of this holiness is a revelation of something else, something essential: the unworthiness of the saint himself to stand in the presence of such holiness.
“The Apostle Peter reacts in this manner,” Vladyka continued, “not because he shuns the miracle or the miracle-worker, not because he is upset or shocked, not even because of cowardice or fear - which he will nevertheless demonstrate later in his life, but which will be compassionately forgiven by Christ; he says these words, here, because in his heart there is an awareness of the profound need for him to change, to be made ready for such intimacy with God. He is aware, as it were ‘automatically,’ because of his deep spiritual faith, of the reality we confess in words in our pre-Communion prayers: that to draw near to the Giver of Life in a state of worthiness is to draw near to a fire that illumines the soul and body; but to do so in a state of unworthiness is to draw close to a fire that burns and consumes.”
The Bishop thus urged all the faithful to have the same spirit in their approach to holy things: to be humbled, aware of our own sinfulness, and to recognize the need to change, to repent and to struggle in faith towards a holier life, in order to be rendered worthy by God of the mercies He bestows.
At the end of the service, Fr Dionysi greeted the Archpastor with words of happiness at the first visit since the lifting of Covid restrictions, and the joy felt by the parish and its faithful that, throughout the pandemic, they have deeply felt the unity of their shared life in the Diocese, joined in prayer and worship with its other parishes, clergy and faithful. The parish then welcomed the Bishop to a festive meal in the crypt hall, after which Bishop Irenei for several hours answered questions on a wide range of topics about the spiritual life.
During his visit, Bishop Irenei inspected the status of the new project of renovations to the Sanremo church, including the advancing program of bell tower restoration and the production of new mosaics for the church exterior. His Grace expressed his happiness at seeing such a transformation in progress, and especially thanked the benefactors and laborers who have dedicated time, energy and resources to this ongoing project.