Saturday, January 15, 2005

Christmas Holidays in Suzdal

(Suzdal Diocesan Herald--Vertograd: Suzdal)

Solemn Christmas divine services took place throughout the Temples of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church in Suzdal. On Christmas eve, January 6, at the Tsar-Martyr Constantine Cathedral the Royal Hours were served by Archbishop Seraphim of Sukhumi and Abkhazia, who presided over Vespers and the Liturgy of St Basil the Great. The service was held in a Church decorated with fir trees and garlands, filled throughout with a prayerful atmosphere, with many pilgrims and catacomb Christians from different cities of Russia and abroad. After Liturgy Archbishop Seraphim removed an icon of the Nativity of Christ from the altar area, placing it in a manger in the center of the Church with a candle. This ceremony began the festivities of the Holy Nativity of Christ and blessing of Christmas foods.

In the evening at Holy Cross-St. Nicholas Church, the All-Night Vigil was performed by Metropolitan Valentine, the First Hierach of the Russian Autonomous Church. The First Hierarch of the Free Russian Church was assisted by Archbishop Theodore of Borivosk and Otradnoe, and Archbishop Seraphim of Sukhumi and Abkhazia and clergy under them. The Divine Service was accompanied by harmonious antiphonal singing with two alternating choirs. After the end of the service, a procession with a traditional Christmas star and Christmas carols was held to the Tsar-Martyr Constanine Cathedral where Christ's birth was again commemorated.

The Midnight Service was officiated at Dormition Church by Archbishop Seraphim with the Divine Liturgy beginning at 1 O'Clock in the morning. Later in the morning the Liturgy in Holy Cross-St. Nicholas Church was officiated by Metropolitan Valentine. Night Divine services were also held in other Suzdal parishes of the Free Russian Orthodox Church, with the traditional Christmas message of the First-Hierarch of the Church being read.

On the evening of January 7, after the evening Divine services a traditional Christmas Tree was arranged in the assembly hall at Vasilievsakya street, with the participation of children from the Sunday school and Children's chorus.

By God's favor, Christmas this year for the faithful of the Free Russian Orthodox Church passed easily, without attacks and provocations from the Church's enemies.