Cardinal O'Malley and Metropolitan Methodios light a candle by an icon of St. Andrew before the Nov. 29 vespers service. Pilot photo/Mark Labbe
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BROOKLINE -- Following long-standing ecumenical tradition, the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston invited representatives of the Archdiocese of Boston, Nov. 29, to celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral Center Chapel in Brookline.
Locally mirroring the practice of the pope and the ecumenical patriarch, since 1996 the Greek Orthodox and Catholic communities of Boston have exchanged delegations on their patronal feast days -- the Feast of St. Andrew for the Orthodox and the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul for Catholics.
Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley led the representatives from the archdiocese, and exchanged gifts with Metropolitan Methodios before attending a vespers service celebrated by the metropolitan.
The service began with chanting as incense filled the packed chapel. An icon of St. Andrew was carried in procession around the chapel and placed on a podium behind a small table on which sat five loaves of bread to be blessed and distributed at the service.
The bread served as a reminder of the five loaves that were used at the miraculous feeding of the 5,000, as it was St. Andrew who told Jesus of the boy with "five small barley loaves and two small fish."
In remarks at the end of the service, the Metropolitan thanked Cardinal O'Malley and the other representatives from the archdiocese for their presence.
The metropolitan recalled how in June he led the delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to the Liturgy of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul celebrated at St. Peter's Basilica.
"It was an experience which will forever be etched upon my soul, because I had the opportunity of being in the presence of Pope Francis, truly a dedicated man of God," Metropolitan Methodios said.
"During our time together, His Holiness stressed the need for us all, Roman Catholics and Orthodox, to bear witness to the love of God in the world in which we live in. He stressed that the search for unity among Christians is an urgent task, indeed it is imperative, because our world thirsts for truth, for love and hope, for peace and unity, and yearns to hear Orthodox and Roman Catholics proclaim with one voice the Ama Deum, the good news of the Gospel," he said.
In his own remarks, Cardinal O'Malley thanked the metropolitan for his hospitality and his friendship, and also recalled Pope Francis, saying that the pope has stressed that the quest for Christian unity is "central to our mission as Jesus' disciples."
That is something, he said, that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of Orthodox worldwide, has stressed as well.
In a world in which people are persecuted for their faith and where people turn away from the values given in the Gospel, "it's very important that we come together as believers, to join our voice in praise for God, and to join our voice lifting up the truths of the Gospel so that the world we see Christ's light and rejoice," said the cardinal.
Speaking with The Pilot at a reception following the service, Jesse Kroger, an Orthodox seminarian at the Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, said he had attended a few feast day services before, and noted the steps towards unity the archdiocese and the Orthodox Metropolis have made.
The fact that the cardinal attends the Feast of St. Andrew and that the metropolitan attends the Feasts of Sts. Peter and Paul "shows that they do support each other," Kroger said.
"They have been very supportive of the dialogue that's been going on for the last 50 years," he said.
He added that while he has not attended the Mass for the Feasts of Sts. Peter and Paul, "it would be really interesting to see."
Charlie Bates, a Catholic who is studying theology at Boston College, said it was his first time attending an Orthodox vespers service.
The spiritual leaders' remarks at the end of the service "resonated" with him, said Bates, particularly the messages of proclaiming the Gospel with one voice.
"I think the theological differences are there, and that's going to take a long time to work out, but the really urgent thing is proclaiming the Gospel, and there's a lot we can do right now in uniting our voices," he said.