Plovdiv, Bulgaria, February 7, 2023
A joyous celebration occurred in Bulgaria on the feast of the Meeting of the Lord, February 2, when hierarchs of the Bulgarian Church concelebrated with hierarchs of the newly autocephalous Macedonian Orthodox Church-Ohrid Archbishopric.
At the invitation of His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas of Plovdiv (Bulgarian), His Eminence Metropolitan Timotej of Debar and Kičevo and His Eminence Metropolitan Ilarion of Bregalniča of the Macedonian Church celebrated the Divine Liturgy for the feast at the Church of St. Marina in Plovdiv, reports the Bulgarian Patriarchate.
Met. Nicholas and his Macedonian guests were also joined by another eight hierarchs of the Bulgarian Church and Bulgarian and Macedonian clerics. Hundreds of faithful filled the church.
The Liturgy is reported as the first time BOC and MOC hierarchs have concelebrated since the end of the 55-year MOC schism. In fact, a concelebration was already held in Orestiada, Greece, together with the local Greek hierarch in November. However, the Meeting of the Lord marks the first exclusively BOC-MOC concelebration, in Bulgaria, and since the Bulgarian Church recognized the MOC’s autocephaly.
At the end of the Liturgy, Met. Nicholas spoke about the importance of the day’s events:
For 55 years, the Bulgarian and North Macedonian Orthodox Churches had to wait for the blessed meeting in the Holy Eucharist. It’s a great spiritual joy for us that it was on this bright feast—the Meeting of the Lord, that we met our dear brethren… We had the spiritual joy of celebrating the Divine Liturgy together and receiving the Precious Blood and the Precious Body of Christ together.
… Praise God, the wound is closed today. Today, the torn garment of the Lord is whole again, and the dioceses in our southwestern neighbor and fraternal country are again connected with all the Local Orthodox Churches, connected by the bonds of love, unity, and Eucharistic communion.
The Bulgarian hierarch then awarded Met. Timotej of the MOC with the highest honor of the Plovdiv Diocese—the Metropolitan Order of the Holy Apostles Hermes, 1st Degree, for the donation of a part of the holy relics of St. Clement of Ohrid to the church named in his honor in Plovdiv.
He also gave both visiting MOC hierarchs an episcopal Panagia and a Cross.
The Debar Diocese of the MOC writes: “We thank His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas of Plovdiv for the warm welcome and the beautiful Liturgy, with the hope that these meetings and communions in the Cup of Salvation will become more and more frequent, and the connections between the two holy Churches will be filled with love in Christ.”