Christ cross

An Easter like no other at Harold’s Cross Russian Orthodox Church

Patience is needed to last until Easter services at the Russian Orthodox Church.

The first Divine Liturgy service on Great Saturday lasts three hours, and then many return for the midnight service which lasts a similar length.

The church was full for the midnight Easter service, a ritual that ends with a procession around the church grounds and the acclamation “Christ is risen” in the various languages ​​of the congregation.

The Russian Orthodox community in Ireland celebrated Easter this weekend, a week after Western tradition. The two Christian traditions work on different calendars for the calculation of Easter.

The only Russian Orthodox Church in Ireland is at Harold’s Cross in Dublin. The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul was formerly the Church of Ireland, which became Russian Orthodox in 2001.

Irish Ciara O’Sullivan from Cork has been a member of the congregation for 18 years. She lived next door.

“I was drawn to the beauty of faith,” she says. “It’s a very deep faith. . . It is close to what Christ taught like any faith in the world today.

It’s an Easter like no other in the Orthodox tradition. Moscow-based Patriarch Kirill and Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church has sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the war in Ukraine. Patriarch Kirill opened the Irish Church in 2001.

An open letter denouncing the war has been signed by 293 prominent clergy in Russia as the church in Amsterdam quit the Russian Orthodox Church in protest.

There is a donation box for Ukrainian refugees in the small shop adjoining Harold’s Cross Church and on its website the church offers English classes for refugees.

Parishioners said many were helping Ukrainians with deeds, not words – accommodating them and helping them find jobs. A call for a Ukrainian woman in labor resulted in a bed, a stroller and lots of baby clothes.

“It’s painful for people. People mostly come for soul salvation. We don’t talk about it,” Ms O’Sullivan said.

Diana Ivanova, who is Latvian and is helping a Ukrainian couple find work, said: “Most people stay away from politics. It is a place where people can gather, pray, be together and help. The ceremony is in Russian because Russian is the language of the former Soviet Union countries. We hear all the stories. All we can do is support them and help them build a network in Ireland.

The social highlight is the blessing of festive Easter food on the big Saturday afternoon. Parishioners bring bread, wine, cakes, sweets and chocolate to share with others. There are the “pysanky” or painted eggs, a Ukrainian tradition and carried out this year in solidarity with the refugees.

The offerings are laid out on long tables and are blessed with holy water by the priest, Father Mikhail Nasonov, not with a gentle sprinkling as in the Catholic tradition, but with a great rustle descending on the congregation.

Church director Alexey Gaskov said the dishes on offer reflected the multinational nature of the church. Most worshipers are not Russian, he said. In addition to painted eggs from Ukraine, there were Moldovan wine and Russian breads, as well as homemade cakes from all parts of Eastern Europe.

He said the congregation had been praying for peace in Ukraine, but had been doing so for the past eight years since the start of the war in the Donbass region.

Russian Ambassador

Throughout the Saturday afternoon, people came and went and were blessed by Father Nasonov. Among them was the Russian ambassador to Ireland, Yury Filatov, who made a discreet entrance and then left quickly.

The ambassador said he would like to come to church more often. “When I have the chance, I come here. Faith is an important part of my life.

He went on to defend his government’s actions in Ukraine, saying the Irish government and public had only heard one side of the story.

A Russian parishioner, who said she would speak only on condition of anonymity, defended the war in Ukraine. She claimed to have been attacked three times since the start of the war, simply because she is Russian.

“To be honest, I support Putin, as do 87% of the Russian people. Putin has brought Russia to its knees. We were very poor,” she explained.

“Ukraine has only been separated for 30 years. Eighty percent of Ukrainians are Russian. Since 2014, when we had the revolution in the Maidan, half of the population does not want to go to Europe. America is spending billions to send weapons to Ukraine. This is not a war between Russia and Ukraine, it is a war between Russia and America in Ukraine.