Besides being the 5th week of observing the Easter lent, I expected the Liturgy on March 25th, 2018 in the St. Nicolas Church in Helsinki to be ordinary (nevertheless, always wonderfully divine).
However, for the reasons I will explain in this post, it was special, and for the same reasons, I decided to write this post.
First, several times during the Liturgy, we could hear some parts of it pronounced and sang in English, which is uncommon. According to the website of the Church itself, Liturgies are carried out in Church-Slavonic, sermons are performed in Russian. Occasional religious rites are delivered in Church-Slavonic and in Finnish. Then, the person who pronounced or sang those English parts was a priest who came from St. Petersburg, as we discovered by the end of the Liturgy. He held an important position there. The reason why he was visiting our Helsinki Patriarchy was the same for which the whole event was special.
Namely, there was a father from the English Anglican Church who was present at the Liturgy who had just a week ago converted to the Orthodox faith. Apparently, before he held an important position in one of the oldest Anglican Churches in London (but also, given the long history, it was a former Orthodox Church). And this was his first Communion. Hence, the priest from St. Petersburg came to acknowledge the important event. Also, apparently, they knew each other with the former Anglican father or could have even been friends for a long time. There was a confusion among our Russian priests as to how to address the former Anglican father, but newly Orthodox brother (as he could not keep or transfer his former religious position to the Orthodox Church, at least not simply for the time being).
We sang together for him многая лета and I believe he has felt genuinely welcome.
Another important part of this Liturgy for me was the final priest’s sermon to us. He started by asking whether we can say: “I am good”. This was indeed difficult for many of. I feel only the people who knew what the priest was aiming at could easily and loudly repeat “I am good”.
Then he continued to explain that indeed we are all good as we are made in the face of God. However, many of us, because of sins during our lives, do not feel like that anymore. Nevertheless, the father reminded that not only us, but also all the other people, are good, and how we should never be angry with or criticise the people, but only their sin that made them do something that makes us upset or angry.
Moreover, and these were the words I appreciated very much, he told us that the more we can feel our divine goodness in us (“I am good”), the more we will be able to fight the sin and become such. And to the contrary, if people allow the grime of sin to make them forget such deep goodness in them, the more likely they are to stay in sin and the harder it gets to come close to our divine and to the God.
Never hate the sinner, but only hate the sin.