An Orthodox Divine Liturgy was recently held at the North Pole. The three-hour service devoted to the upcoming Easter was the first such Orthodox service ever held on the top of the world. A small tent, a wooden cross… that’s about all there was to the improvised Orthodox chapel hastily erected on a giant ice floe floating above the place where all meridians come together as if symbolising the eternal continuity of the Lord Jesus’ teachings.
“A freezing temperature of -25 degrees Celsius (-13 degrees Fahrenheit), a flimsy tent with snow piled against the sides to keep the wind out, a floor of pack ice under our feet, the priests wearing their traditional vestments without any fur coats on… it was really a hard thing to go through, it really was”, said Archbishop Ignaty of Petropavlovsk and Kamchatka who conducted the service. “All I can say is that when we started, we suddenly had that amazing feeling of God’s Grace descending upon us, sending away the cold and making our freezing fingers go warm and then even hot”, Vladyki Ignaty continued.
During the three-hour service they performed five out of the seven Orthodox sacraments, baptism, confession, communion, anointing, and ordination. They also consecrated a 2 meter wooden cross that will forever remain on the North Pole as a symbol of the first Orthodox service ever conducted there. “We also wanted to draw public attention to the problems facing the region and ask the Lord to lend a helping hand to the researchers and travellers attempting to conquer the North Pole”, Vladyki Ignaty added.
“There’ve been a whole lot of people who at various times attempted to conquer the North Pole but never did”, the archbishop said. “You can get to the pole, but, not necessarily conquer it. What was driving all these people to the very centre of the Arctic Ocean? This is a question only those who’ve been there can answer. There is an amazing magnetism in this white silence, the sparkling snow, the bright sun, the unbelievable beauty of the icy blue skies overhead, and the piercing wind you have nowhere to hide from. Still, despite all the hardships we encountered on the way, our hearts were overflowing with joy. It’s now safe to assume that, moving down the meridians from North to South, God’s Grace will descend upon all people no matter where they live and what they believe in”, Vladyki Ignaty said in conclusion.
8 April 2008
Voice of Russia World Service