The Parable of the Wedding Feast

“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come.

A second time: ‘Tell those invited: “everything is ready; come to the feast.”’ Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them.” (Matthew 22:2-4)

This most definitely is no way to respond to the generous, kind invitation of the king to joyously celebrate the wedding of the king’s son.  The king prepared a feast or banquet in celebration of this joyous event.   The fattened calves and fattened cattle were killed and all was prepared to begin the banquet.  The message to the invited guests was: “Everything is ready, come to the feast.”  However, those first invited ignored the cordial invitation.  They make excuses of various kinds as to why they cannot come:  some just ignore it and leave, another to his farm, another to his business.  Some do not merely refuse to accept the king’s invitation, but lay hold of the messenger servants and mistreat or even kill them.  We read that the king is upset (enraged) over their refusal and mistreatment of the messenger servants.  The king then sent his troops to punish them.

The king regards these first invited as not worthy to attend.  He then orders the messenger servants to go out “into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.”  The banquet hall is now filled with guests.  The invitation is an open one to the good and to the bad.

God’s love for man is for all.  God calls each and every one of us to salvation, to come and partake of the Heavenly Banquet.  All, however, will not respond positively to this invitation.  God is calling us to love Him above any other person and any other thing or possession.  God is to be at the center of our daily lives.  We need to set our priorities straight so that when the King calls us to the Heavenly Banquet we may be willing and ready to respond “yes”.  We are to “set aside every earthly care.” God alone is to have the first place in our daily lives.  Those in today’s gospel speak about going to one’s farm or taking care of some business.  For us today, the distractions may be money, power or prestige.  May we be living in the Spirit of Christ so as to be ready to open our hearts to the Lord and follow His Holy Will.

We who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  We’ve taken off the old self laden with sin and put on Christ.  The baptized in Christ have been cleansed of all sin.  The baptized have promised to serve Christ.  This decision to serve the Lord is not just a one-day occurrence.  But rather, the Christian life is to be lived all the days of our lives.  The guest who came to the wedding feast without the proper attire (clothing) showed a lack of respect and concern for the ways of the king.  Likewise, when we stand before the Lord God seeking entry into the banquet in the eternal Kingdom of God, may we be properly clothed.  The true Christian remains a humble servant of the Master who seeks to render constant praise to the eternal God.

When our time comes and indeed only the Lord God knows the hour and the day, may we be ready having “put on” Christ and living in the grace of God.  May our lives be so in tune with the Lord that we could say as did St. Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives within me.  Our hearts are to remain open to keep the Commandments to live according to the Holy Will of God.  May we be humble servants of the Lord who live here on earth “with and in Christ” in order to one day live forever with Him in Heaven.  May we enter into that place of Light where all the just and saints repose.

Rev. D. George Worschak




Tens of thousands of pilgrims from around Ukraine took part in a pilgrimage to Zarvanytsia this year

A nationwide pilgrimage to the miraculous icon of the Mother of God of Zarvanytsia finished today with the Hierarchal Divine Liturgy led by His Beatitude Sviatoslav, the Head of the UGCC. This year Zarvanytsia hosted tens of thousands pilgrims from around Ukraine and from abroad. The pilgrimage to “Ukrainian Jerusalem” is dedicated to the 425th anniversary of the Union of Brest and a prayer for peace in Ukraine.

Among the participants were bishops from the Synod of Bishops of the UGCC, bike pilgrims with a route Częstochowa – Zarvanytsia, groups of pilgrims from eparchies around Ukraine, a pilgrimage walk of some groups lasted for almost a week. Among the guests was the fifth president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko with his wife.

Commemorating the 425th anniversary of the Union of Brest which liquidated the separation between the Western and Eastern Christianity bears a special meaning for the UGCC, which rekindle memories of a single Church.

At the end of the Liturgy His Beatitude Sviatoslav awarded Mykola Kmit with the Order of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky for his active public and social position in regard of cherishing Christian values, active participation as a senator of Ukrainian Catholic University, whole-hearted service and support of many Church projects.

The UGCC Department for Information

 

 




Bishop Mykola Bychok Enthroned as New Bishop of Australia and New Zealand

On July 12, 2021, in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Melbourne the enthronement of Bishop Mykola Bychok took place.

Pontifical Divine Liturgy was led by Bishop Petro Stasiuk, the Bishop Emeritus of the Melbourne Eparchy of the UGCC. His Eminence Peter Comensoli, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, performed the ceremony of enthronement.

An interesting relic, which Bishop Mykola Bychok brought from Newark (NJ) to Australia was a wooden cross donated in the 1960s by Ukrainians of Australia to Archbishop Ambrose Senyshyn when he visited their communities. This cross was preserved by Bishop Emeritus Basil Losten, who handed  it to Bishop Mykola Bychok.

Bishop Mykola noted: “This is an important sign: Metropolitan Ambrose once received this cross from the faithful here in Melbourne, and 60 years later this cross returned to Australia with the third bishop. This is an incredible sign that will accompany me in my service to our faithful in Australia.”

Bishop Mykola said that the faithful and the priests of the UGCC accepted his appointment and arrival as another gesture of unity with Ukraine. Interestingly, he as well as the two previous bishops of the UGCC in Australia—Bishops Ivan Prasko and Petro Stasiuk—have roots in the Ternopil region. In 1958, the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Australia was formed, and its cathedral consecrated 58 years ago.

 




Archbishop Borys with Ukrainian American Community Leaders in Meeting with Biden Administration

Two Biden Administration members, Chris Smith of the National Security Council and William McIntee, Associate Director for Public Engagement, held an online meeting with Ukrainian American community leaders. Among community leaders in attendance were His Excellency Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Church’s Archeparchy of Philadelphia, His Excellency Daniel Zelinsky of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A., Andriy Futey of the UCCA, Michael Sawkiw of the UNIS and U.S. Holodomor Committee, and Walter Zaryckyj of the Center for U.S.-Ukraine Relations. The event was organized by Ulana Mazurkevich.

Chris Smith has been the NSC’s director for Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, and the Caucasus since February. Prior to this he served as INL director at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv from 2014 to 2018 where he helped establish anticorruption institutions and worked on police reform. “I bring these experiences with me to work every day,” Smith said during the Zoom call. He also noted that President Biden knows a lot about Ukraine and has a deep history of commitment to the country dating back to 2009 when he began visiting while Vice President of the Obama Administration.

The Biden Administration’s strategic goals regarding Ukraine are revitalizing U.S.-Ukraine bilateral relations, helping Ukraine in a challenging struggle against Russian aggression, as well as helping in the war against corruption.

“If Ukraine can succeed—can integrate with the West, can strengthen its institutions, can deliver on prosperity, can deliver on the aspirations that were voiced at Maidan and every day since and before—that would solidify and secure democracy and Western values not only in Eastern Europe but also in Central Europe,” said the NSC representative. He believes Ukraine’s success holds prospects for many people in Russia who seek to build a better nation.

U.S. strategy in Ukraine focuses on three major lines of effort: standing up to Russian aggression; structural anticorruption reform, which is an area where the U.S. can extend assistance in action-oriented results; and the economy–namely energy infrastructure.

Archbishop Borys Gudziak expressed gratitude to the President’s Administration and Consular General in Kyiv for the recent breakthrough in issuing visas to Ukrainian Catholic clergy ready to serve in the United States. Ukrainian Catholicism in the U.S. has been crippled by a clergy shortage, and efforts to meet the needs of the faithful were only exacerbated by the pandemic. “Having good clergy here will help address diverse social needs and will save a lot of taxpayer dollars if we can do some preventive medicine in the social context,” explained the Archbishop.

He also expressed thanks for the support given to the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, where he serves as president, as well as for attention paid to the dire humanitarian situation in Ukraine. The Metropolitan stressed the importance of media support in this respect. “Russia is waging informational warfare, and we ask that there be continuing official explanations on many fronts–to the American public, American political leaders, and to the international community about exactly what is going on. The good offices of different information agencies of the U.S. are highly appreciated, and I hope that they continue their efforts.”

By Mariana Karapinka




Patriarch Sviatoslav: “Freedom is the ability to do good”

In the framework of the special project “University of the XXI century” of the media source The Ukrainians and Ukrainian Catholic University, Patriarch Sviatoslav spoke on the role of the contemporary university, and we offer you some of his main ideas:

If we imagine a state, society as a body, then the university should be its brain that develops specific guidelines by perceiving, exploring, and analyzing the surrounding world. Universities must perceive the modern world’s data, its components, tendencies, and tell where we, as a society, are in our development, what are our risks and dangers. And the most important – where should we head.

University should be progressive and not reactionary. Like a brain, it has to push the “body” forward. If the university does not answer what to do tomorrow but only reacts to the things, where it itself does not play the role of a protagonist, leader, or promoter – it will always fall behind.

We still do not have a clear state policy on the development of universities, but there is a positive effort to introduce the so-called university autonomy. It is crucial that the ministry wouldn’t be a total controller but would instead enable higher education institutions to form their agenda, educational process and become a part of particular needs of society, not just fulfill orders. In my opinion, this reform launches the real separation of soviet heritage in Ukrainian education.

The year 2020 highlighted many weak spots of contemporary society and societies in general. It demonstrated that the biggest weakness of a modern person is his or her ability or inability to create interpersonal relations. Obviously, we can be in contact with hundreds of people, but the online work regime causes burnout. In natural communication, we can only build real human relations with a limited number of people, and now it seems like we are required to broaden those numbers to hundreds of people. It exhausts our ability to build full-blooded, deep relationships.

Freedom is the ability to do good and do it not only because someone forces me but also because I understand it’s the right thing to do. It is quite immature to force someone to do something or to forbid something to someone. A mature person is someone who consciously chooses from many different possibilities what is good, useful, and helps my neighbor and me to become better. 

A modern young person in Ukraine lacks somebody, who would be interested in him or her, who would be concerned about his or her endeavours, interests or pains. This person lacks a community that would wish him or her all the best professionally, in a modern way, progressively, and where they would help make the next step.

Prior to the pandemic, we sometimes underestimated or devalued meetings with people, or, even sitting around the table, we would stare at the gadgets and ignore the presence of someone close by. I hope that the circumstances of the pandemic, which caused the transition to online learning, would provoke a particular thirst in students and professors, the need to meet in person and not through the flat screen.

Today every student needs a teacher, who wouldn’t block the road, but lead to the original sources. As for the relations between the students, they should form a community of those seeking the truth together, cooperate, and share experiences for the sake of mutual growth.

The rector of today’s higher education institution must be a true creative leader of the intellectual, academic environment. This is a certain vocation, charisma – the ability to lead. He must also be a good educator, a father who, on the one hand, watches over the whole community of the university, and on the other hand, really feels the students who are the addressees of the work of this academic community.

Translated by Kylyna Kurochka

About the project:

The special project “University of the XXI century” of the media outlet The Ukrainians and Ukrainian Catholic University, in which experts from various spheres speak about problems, challenges, and tasks of the contemporary university and offer their ideas how the higher education should look.




Pastoral Letter of His Beatitude Sviatoslav To the Clergy

Dearly Beloved Brothers in the Priesthood of Christ!

This year, as we experience the profound mystery of Holy Thursday, we hear the special invitation of our Lord Jesus Christ to once again sit down with Him at the mystical banquet of the Last Supper. Our spiritual eyes are directed towards the only and eternal Celebrant of the Divine Liturgy—our Saviour and Teacher, who leans down towards contemporary humanity, wounded by the current pandemic, and scourged by new types of loneliness, poverty, suffering, and despair. This Servant-Minister rises from His place of honour at table, disrobes and, taking a washbasin, gets down on His knees before present-day humanity in order to wash its feet.

In order to fulfill this ministry today and make it accessible for all people, He calls on us, His priests, to reimagine in a new way the content and tasks of our priestly ministry. It is in us and through us that He wishes to get on His knees in order to lean down towards the world. It is with our hands that He longs to wash the wounds of contemporary societies. It is us whom He made partakers of His Divine Priesthood and to us He handed over His Holy Mysteries as medicine, capable of healing these wounds by the power and action of the Holy Spirit. Gazing at this ineffable divine ministry in contemporary circumstances and events, on the occasion of the day in which the Holy Mystery of the New Testament Priesthood was established, we ask ourselves: what does it mean today to be a priest of Christ “after the order of Melchisedek” and how should we act, in order to be faithful to our vocation and to the will of our Lord?

In pandemic conditions the Lord speaks to His disciples and to the world, compels us to reflect on how we should “be Church” in this time of “social distancing and isolation,” on the lasting impact this time will have on the life of Christians. The Saviour calls us to learn to differentiate between that which is substantive and a priority for the Church at this time—without which we cannot be authentic disciples of Christ—and that which is less important and can be disregarded; what decisions need to be made in this testing time in order to reorient the spiritual life of the people.

In the course of the past year, we have learned, as never before, to use contemporary social media communication technologies in a new way. Indeed, in many cases, online broadcasts of liturgical services were the only means available to our faithful to satisfy their spiritual needs. However, Pope Francis, understanding well that the path to a full restoration of the normal rhythm of life will take time, insistently encourages all the faithful to accept this time as a temporary phenomenon, in the midst of extraordinary and forced circumstances, for the ideal of the Church was and will always remain—to gather together the people, be with them and bring them together in the Holy Mysteries. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Mt. 18:20) – says the Lord. For this reason the Holy Father cautions against an abstract connection between God and the community, saying: “This closeness to Christ without community, without the Eucharist, without the people of God assembled together and without the sacraments is dangerous.” We can pray together with the assistance of live broadcasts, we can listen to the Word of God and preach the Gospel of Christ, but in this manner we cannot administer the Holy Mysteries, without which the fullness of Christian life simply does not exist.

When the contemporary world speaks ever increasingly of economic and social crises and even about the danger of a famine of biblical proportions for contemporary humanity as a result of the pandemic, our faithful begin to call out to the conscience of their pastors, attesting to their eucharistic famine. Speaking to His Apostles, Jesus said: “They need not go away; you give them something to eat” (Mt. 14:16), telling them to give of what they had in the desert, thus making them capable of feeding five thousand people with five loaves and two fishes. Today, He says the same to His priests, having in mind not only the need for earthly bread, but also hunger and thirst for the Heavenly Bread. Our people love work enough to be able to provide daily bread for themselves, but only a priest of Christ can feed them with Heavenly Bread. Let us heed this cry that expresses the Eucharistic hunger and spiritual thirst of our people!

Even though the circumstances in which humanity has found itself because of the pandemic continue to influence our church life, yet even when strict quarantine measures are introduced, such external factors cannot paralyze us in our ministry and church life, cannot prevent us, as Church, from continuing to care for human souls. However, it is necessary to reflect on the style and new forms of pastoral ministry during and, especially, after the coronavirus pandemic. I am certain that this crisis is an occasion for pastoral conversion, as Pope Francis says in his Apostolic Exhortation “Gaudium evangelii” (par. 27). Today, at the level of the Universal Church it is said that possibly the most effective method of fulfilling spiritual care is through accompaniment. This method can help keep the clergy from returning to the pre-pandemic “old normal,” and make radical changes for the better, beginning with the building of healthy interpersonal relationships. This includes the need to rethink and modify the form of our pastoral ministry, seeking to be next to a person , guiding him or her on the path of life. In order to be present in the life of our parishioners, in order to know them and be able to listen to them, we must find a way to them through relationships. To be close to a human being, connect with him or her and guide them in the living circumstances of today—this is something more than merely being concerned about the good of our parishioners.

During the pandemic we thank God for many good priests, who not just passively stand by their parishioners, but through preaching the Word of God, celebrating the Divine Mysteries, and performing works of mercy make our Lord God visible and present to each person, especially in the dramatic moments of their lives. They personally accompany their faithful, give of themselves fully in their service, take unto themselves their difficulties and pain, show them compassion in their suffering, and find happiness in their joys. The pledge to successful conversion, of which the Holy Father speaks, is to change the manner in which we stand with our people, the manner in which we are priests, relate to civil authority, society as a whole, the youth and our parishioners., This is a difficult but important task!

And so, in the circumstances of today, a priest is called to build a new Christian culture of relationship. Loneliness without community may lead to escape, to isolation, and even to deep depression. Most probably, we have realized more than once that life in community, where people live in fraternal love, makes a greater impact than impressive and splendid edifices. This is why we are called to not only create and adorn the church built by human hands, but above all to foster the beauty and grandeur of the temple that is not built by human hands—a human being, and to build the Church as a living community, as the mystical Body of Christ.

In times of quarantine, we rediscovered for ourselves the importance of interpersonal relations and the value of human solidarity, and also—that not one of us is saved alone, as Pope Francis frequently reminds us. We’ve understood that the ability to relate in person, to listen and speak, is more precious than all our modern technologies, which, even though they support our lives, helping us take part in the Eucharistic service through social media, but can never be able to guarantee for us a real encounter, one person with another, and with the living God in common prayer. We can meet online, but to teach and love only online—that’s difficult, if not effectively impossible. Therefore, there is always a need for healthy, complete, and authentic human relations.

This important building up of a new type of interpersonal relations, founded on the Gospel leaven of merciful and compassionate love, must begin from our immediate surroundings—our community, with our bishop and among ourselves. I assume that all of you are already convinced of the importance of vibrant contacts and a sincere relationship within the priestly community.

On the day of our ordination, we became members of the presbyteral order. And so, especially today, it is important to realize that this order is not something akin to an elite club with special clergy privileges. This is a living brotherly community of the Christ’s closest disciples and sharers in His priesthood. Sustained by the Holy Spirit, today it should become for our clergy a place for mutual listening and support, solidarity and assistance, a sharing of hurts and joys, failures and successes—a place of maturing in the priesthood of Christ. “Look, how they love one another”—is what pagan society would say with admiration, observing the life of early Christians. May these same words express the admiration of today’s world, in response to seeing the authentic Christian solidarity of our communities. One of the effective ways of fostering such priestly communion is the presence of priestly fraternities, which I continue to encourage you to establish and join.

Dear Fathers, Hieromonks, Deacons and Brother-seminarians! This day, when we celebrate the Institution of the Holy Mystery of the Priesthood, I long to greet all of you as we remember this great gift that God has bestowed on us. I thank you from my heart that at a certain time you responded to this calling from the Lord and, having received the Holy Mystery of the Priesthood, you do not neglect this gift, but live it, grow in it, and bear fruit. This day the entire Church together with her Head—Jesus Christ, prays for you! May the grace of the Holy Spirit strengthen you in this ministry, endow you with creativity and sensitivity in the search for new forms and methods in its realization, so that we might help the person of today increasingly experience within our church communities a healing and saving encounter with the living Christ.

Entering this Paschal time, I wish you the heavenly joy that comes from fulfilling the task, that we are able to offer the Risen Lord according to His word: “”We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty” (Lk. 17:10).

The blessing of the Lord be upon you!

+ SVIATOSLAV

Given in Kyiv

at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ,

on the Day of the Holy Martyr Eupsichius, April 22, 2021 A.D.




PASTORAL LETTER OF HIS BEATITUDE SVIATOSLAV TO YOUTH

Beloved Youth in Christ—in Ukraine and abroad!

Palm Sunday, the Feast of our Lord’s entry into Jerusalem, is the day when our Church with special attention embraces you in her thoughts and prayers. Our tradition of engaging with you in prayer is a most important experience, especially now, when, because of quarantine restrictions and social distancing, we must make an even greater effort to keep our connection vibrant and strong. COVID-19 has impacted all of us: the old and the young, families and communities—which is why the Church wishes to stand by every human being. However, we especially want to accompany young people, who are growing and being formed in this time of immense challenges and trials.

If you are 21 years old, you have spent a third of your life under the shadow of war in East Ukraine, and for the last year and a half you are experiencing a pandemic, which the world has not seen for a century. If we add political polarization, economic hardship found in many countries where our faithful have settled, and personal restlessness, which is typical for every young person, the result is—a twisted ball of knots, or even an explosive mixture.

And yet, the Good News of Christ reassures us that in the events which we remember today, in spite of the fact that they took place two thousand years ago, there are subtle answers to the challenges of today. What is it that we celebrate and experience anew this day?

After three years of preaching and teaching in different corners of Israel, after healings, miracles, and conflicts with teachers of the law, Jesus together with his disciples goes to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover there. This practice—to celebrate Passover in the city of the temple—was for the People of God of that time the spiritual event of the year! Let’s imagine Jerusalem in the day—the capital of the country, a great city, a sea of pilgrims from all over the world, Roman legionaries, customers and merchants, all searching for their role and place. Similar to our globalized world, is it not? And here Jesus appears. He had just resurrected Lazarus. Many inhabitants and pilgrims know Him through his preaching, healings, and miracles, which he had performed earlier, and so the news of His appearance is immediately carried through the city, and the people come out to greet Him.

Whom do they greet? Christ’s entry into Jerusalem is called triumphant, regal. Various signs indicate this—palm branches, which in the ancient world was considered a symbol of victory; the ass, which for the Jews embodied the fulfillment of prophecies about the Messiah, who will come to liberate the people from enslavement; the crowd, that greets Christ with exclamations of “Hosanna!” and calls him a king.

In biblical understanding, the king of Israel is the one who creates and protects the fullness of life for his nation, and is the intermediary between God and His people. In other words, through the king God continuously creates, gives life to and cares for His people. At the time of the events of which we speak, there had not been a king for centuries—captivity evolved into enslavement, revolts suffered defeats, the people grew accustomed to ever new invaders, and began to cooperate with them in order to survive. But the Jews do not lose hope, they expect a warrior-king, who will liberate the people, will end Roman rule, will restore the glory of the past, and establish prosperity.

And what ultimately happens? The king does come, but He is different from what the Jews expected and what we imagine today. The one who comes is not an intermediate, but the Lord Himself, not a warrior, but God the Creator and Saviour, who willed to become a servant for His creation. He grants victory, but enslaves no one. In His camp there are no prisoners, and the prize is for all. He conquers not a land, city or throne, as Romans and the Jewish leadership feared, but the hearts of the people—He Himself wins them over, enthralls them with His example, moves them with His Word, calls them to follow Him!

Where is Christ going and calling others to follow? Jerusalem archeologists have reconstructed the Lord’s path through Jerusalem. They suggest that He entered the city through the south gate near the Pool of Siloam, a place known as “the lower city.” It was a gathering place for the outcasts, the poor, the sick and crippled, those deprived of a chance at life and even the possibility to climb up the temple hill and offer sacrifice, to celebrate along with others. He goes to the downtrodden, to the ones rejected by the people, in order to open up for them the fullness of life and health, and the gift of Passover. These people are precisely the first who—together with the enthralled and excited youth—greet Him as Saviour and Messiah.

The expression, “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!” in the language of today we might translate as “Blessed is the one, who gives me a chance, the possibility to rise up from the depths, where life has thrown me, to rediscover myself in this huge and foreign megapolis.” The divine power of Christ finds expression in His making the impossible possible for these people—healing those, whom the medicine of the day was unable to help, allowing those whom society and even the priestly order would denigrate and reject, to see themselves as worthy in God’s eyes, and, through the resurrection of Lazarus, demonstrate that He has the authority to bring back to life those, who lack the hope and strength to live.

Christ gives all a chance! A strange King is He! He does not take the lives of His opponents; to the contrary—He offers His own life. For the final destination of Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem is Golgotha, and His throne—the Cross. From there He reigns not only over Judea, as the Roman soldiers mockingly inscribed, but over the entire world, conquering not earthly enemies, but sin and death itself.

The King, whom we greet today with willow branches, collects nothing from us, but gives and returns to us everything. He grants and protects “the fullness of life” for all, He fulfills all dreams of the young person of today. He not only opens up the meaning of life, as a great teacher or prophet, but gives it in a way that only God can. Today, when our world trembles because of a pandemic that has made us hostages to fear, it is so important to remember this divine power and authority—to heal and grant life. The virus kills and cripples without mercy—it is likely that each one of us has friends, family members or acquaintances, who became its victims. In addition, it targeted the very heart of human relations—today in our human imagination another person represents not mystery and possibility, but danger and threat. The world of coronavirus has already changed our reflexes and customs. Humanity has lived under a regime of self-preservation for more than a year. Strangers are no longer able to exchange the occasional smile in public transport or supermarkets, and friends refrain from spontaneous hugs of support and fellowship. In protecting our elderly family members from the disease, we unintentionally increase the boundaries of their loneliness.

Let us not doubt that the world will be freed from the captivity of the pandemic. We, Christians, believe that rescue comes from God. However, He acts gently through the intellect, heart, and hands of others, granting them all the necessary means. Our neighbours not only represent danger, but also salvation. We think of the doctors, who selflessly fight for each life; of the volunteers, who purchase ventilators and oxygen concentrators; of benefactors, who assist with funds and materials; of those, who by following guidelines preserve humanity; of our neighbours and friends who, in spite of all the restrictions, support us with their kind thoughts, sincere prayer, daily service. The pandemic teaches us to not fear, and on the contrary—to understand that, in spite of our fragility, we are, in fact, strong.

At the same time, we do not fully comprehend how wounded we are because of the present experience, and how deep this global trauma may be. The coronavirus laid bare and sharpened the emotional and social problems of many people. We will take off our masks, but will we be able to trust others? Will not our automatic reflex be to shut off our homes and hearts to the pain of another, the moment a shadow of fear suggests that the other may be a threat? We don’t have ready answers to these questions. Dear young people, it is together with you that the Church will search for them and seek to heal the wounds inflicted upon humankind by the pandemic and other challenges and problems, which the global disease has brought to the fore.

Humanity needs a Healer. Only He is capable of swooping us up, moving us, filling us with meaning, granting us the sense that we are capable of overcoming this tempest. The Lord silences the storm and at the same time teaches us to row.

“Fear not, daughter of Sion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!” (John 12:15; see Zech 9:9). Dear Ukrainian Youth, together with the entire world, you are going through so many difficulties! Possibly, because of the pandemic and quarantine, some of you have lost your job or part-time work as a student. Maybe you’ve been unable to enroll in the university you dreamed of joining or travelling to study abroad. Maybe you’ve been forced to completely change your plans and place your dreams on hold. Maybe you’ve suddenly lost family members and friends…

However, let us not fear. In this time of challenges our King, our Lord, is by our side, as He was with Mary and Martha when they mourned their brother Lazarus, or as He was with the rejected at the pool of Siloam. Where there is pain, fear, and hopelessness, He is there, to heal the wounds, restore hope, and create the fullness of life.

The Lord God is the kind of leader and guide who does not humiliate and conquer by force, but grants a sense of dignity and gives wings. And so, in seeking out earthly authority and teachers, give note to those, in whom there is something of Christ, who does not fear pain, but rather seeks to ease it, who does not rule, but serves, who calls others to follow by their personal example, and does not enslave. And you be the same. May the Lord in today’s feast win over and touch our hearts, lead us to follow Him and grant us the strength to sing: “Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”

The blessing of the Lord be upon you!

† SVIATOSLAV

 Given in Kyiv

at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ,

on the Day of the Our Holy Mother Matrona of Thessalonica,

April 9 (March 27), 2021 A.D.




Pope Francis to young people: God is thirsty for you

Pope Francis has penned some words of introduction to a book written by Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, the Preacher of the Papal Household.

The new book titled “Francesco il guillare di Dio” (loosely translated as “Francis, God’s jester”) tells the story of Brother Pacificus, a storyteller, who was a follower of St. Francis of Assisi. The book is published by the Edizioni Francescane Italiane.

Addressed to young people

The Holy Father highlights that the book is written for young, searching people “as a gift” filled with the “esteem and trust” that he places in all young people.

Pope Francis notes that many, perhaps, have read and questioned Jesus’ words in the Gospels: “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you. For whoever asks receives, and whoever seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Mt 7:7-8).

“These are powerful words, full of a great and demanding promise,” the Pope affirms. “But, we might ask ourselves: are they to be taken seriously? If I ask the Lord, will He really listen to my request? If I seek him, will I find Him? If I knock, will He open the door to me? …Doesn’t experience sometimes seem to belie this promise? …Can these words be trusted or not? …Won’t they, too, like so many others I hear around me, be a source of illusions and therefore of disappointment?”

These questions call to mind another passage of scripture which illuminate them in all their depth, the Pope said: “You will seek me and you will find me, for you will seek me with all your heart; I will let myself be found by you”. (Jer 29:13-14).

Likewise, “God allows Himself be found, yes, but only by those who seek Him with all their heart,” Pope Francis writes.

The Lord answers if we seek Him

Pope Francis goes on to illustrate examples of promises fulfilled when Jesus encountered people. He says that the Lord allowed Himself to be found by the insistence of the importunate widow, by Nichodemus’ thirst for truth, by the faith of the centurion, by the cry of the widow of Nain, by the leper’s desire for health and by Bartimaeus’ longing for sight.

These people, the Pope notes, “are the ones for whom finding an answer had become an essential matter…any one of them could have rightfully uttered the words of Psalm 63: “My soul thirsts for you [Lord], my flesh longs for you, like a barren land without water”.

In the same way, “the one who seeks finds if they seek with all their heart, if the Lord becomes as vital for them as water for the desert, as the earth for a seed, as the sun for a flower.”

This also is respectful of our freedom, as faith is not given automatically, indifferent of our participation, but rather “it asks you to involve yourself in the first person and with your whole self. It is a gift that wants to be wanted. It is, in essence, Love that wants to be loved.”

God is thirsty for us

“Perhaps you have been looking for the Lord and have not found Him. Allow me to ask you a question: How strong was your desire for Him?” The Pope inquires.

“Seek Him with all the impetus of your heart, pray, ask, invoke, cry out, and He, as He has promised, will be found,” the Pope urges. Because “the Lord desires that you seek Him so that He can find you.”

Recalling the words of St. Gregory of Naziansus “Deus sitit sitiri”, Pope Francis further explains that “God is thirsty for us to thirst for Him” so that by finding us willing, he might meet us.

Responding to God’s call

“What if He knocks on your door today?” the Pope asks: “When the Lord calls us to Himself, He does not want compromise or hesitation on our part, but a radical response.”

Illustrating the importance of responding to God’s call, Pope Francis recounts the story of a renowned “King of verse” who met St. Francis one day in the monastery of Colpersito in San Severino Marche. In a similar manner as St. Paul, struck by light on his way to Damascus, this “king of verse” was struck by the holiness of St. Francis and immediately lost all his hesitation.

In that moment, “a new man was born,” the Pope explains.” He was no longer William of Lisciano, the king of verse, but Brother Pacificus, a man inhabited by a new peace previously unknown. From that day, he became all for God, consecrated entirely to Him, one of Saint Francis’ closest companions, a witness to the beauty of faith.”

God has not stopped calling

Further inviting young people to read the book, Pope Francis reminds them that “God has not stopped calling,” and he does not tire of coming to meet us “as the shepherd seeks the lost sheep, as the woman of the house seeks the lost coin, as the father seeks his children.”

“If you only lower the volume on other things and raise the volume of your greatest desires, you will hear it loud and clear within you and around you,” Pope Francis notes.

God continues to call and patiently awaits from us the same response that Our Lady gave: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).

“If you have the courage to leave your securities and open yourself to Him,” Pope Francis concludes, “a new world will open up for you; and you, in turn, will become a light for others.”




Easter Pastoral letter of His Beatitude Sviatoslav

Most Reverend Archbishops and Bishops,

Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers,

Venerable Brothers and Sisters in Monastic and Religious Life,

 Dearly Beloved Laity in Christ of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church

 

Christ is Risen!

 

Bearing torches let us meet the bridegroom, Christ,

As He comes forth from His tomb,

And let us greet, with joyful song, the saving Pascha of God.

Ode 5, Paschal Canon

 

Beloved in Christ!

Today the heart is jubilant, the soul rejoices, feet rush to church, arms stretch out to the Lord, resounding song comes from our mouths, for this day is truly the feast of feasts and solemnity of solemnities: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs bestowing life!” As smoke which is blown away by the wind, and as wax which disappears in fire (see. Ps 67:2-3), so today all our anguish, worries, doubts, and fears dissipate and lose their power over us: “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps 117:24).

Let us meet… Christ, as He comes forth from His tomb…  

We go to encounter the One, who emerges from the grave, having undergone horrific torture, suffering, and death. In rising, Christ passes from death to life. He emerges from the confines of a limited and narrow tomb, with the entrance closed by a stone and signed with a seal. Christ passes by the guard, placed there at Pilate’s command. The glorified body of the Saviour cannot be held, neither by time, nor by the space of earthly human existence, as we pray in the Anaphora of the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great: “He loosed the pangs of death, rising on the third day and making a way for all flesh to the resurrection of the dead – for it was not possible for the Prince of life to be mastered by corruption.”

Christ opened a new Pascha of God, for not Moses, but the God-Man leads humankind – not from Egyptian captivity, but from death to life, and from earth to the heavens. The paschal matins service depicts this paschal movement, this exodus of the New Covenant as that of a Bridegroom emerging from the wedding chamber., This image is familiar to us! Already, during Passion Week, the Church prepared us for the coming of Christ the Bridegroom: “O faithful, let us be on fire with love for the Bridegroom, and with lamps burning, let us go out to meet Him. May the light of our virtues shine brightly, and may our faith be radiant. With the wise virgins, let us prepare to enter the banquet hall of the Lord; for the divine Spouse offers us the crown of immortality.” (Great Tuesday, Matins, Lenten Sessional Hymns). And lo, the grave is transformed into a chamber, with Christ’s Resurrection funeral services are transformed into the joy of encountering the Bridegroom, who dispels sorrow, fulfills the time of expectation, and invites us to the paschal feast of the Heavenly Kingdom. With Christ’s Resurrection, we become partakers of eternal life—not observers, but real participants in the life of God’s children.

Bearing torches let us meet the Bridegroom!

This past year we have lived as if in a tomb “behind the locked doors” of quarantine restrictions that periodically intensified. Our churches and monasteries in some parts of the world were truly inaccessible to worshipping faithful, out of concern for the safety and health of both clergy and religious, as well as the laity. However, today Paschal Matins help us accept these restrictions as a form of expectation—of the exodus and of the risen Bridegroom-Christ, whose arrival is awaited vigilantly in the night by the wedding guests (see Mt 25:1-13). And here we sense that this time is approaching. The Bridegroom draws near, announcing to us that the exodus has begun. The light of hope shines through, that with God’s help we will be able to emerge from this global “incarceration,” to return from the virtual world to the expanse of our churches and communities, in order to pray together “with one heart and one voice” in God’s assembly. But for this to happen, is it especially important that the torch of the Resurrection—the light of faith, hope, and love—not be extinguished.

In going out to meet the risen Christ this paschal night we carry our torches of faith! Even in circumstances of strict quarantine we’ve learned to practice our faith, to differentiate between its substance and its forms of expression. We may have had to change our practices and customs, but we did not weaken our relationship of faith with our Lord God, a faith that filled our life with light through prayer and daily reflection on the Word of God, through participation in the Divine Liturgy in a different way, through a heartfelt desire to receive the Body and Blood of our Saviour. The torch of faith in us did not go out. 

We carry today the torches of our hope! Drawing strength from our faith, we have fostered expectations that we will overcome and survive these complex times. Christian hope gave us strength to continue living, to adapt to a culture of preserving a healthy life in these new circumstances. We shone our torches of faith and hope in the resurrection even as we mourned our dead. When the world became disoriented and lost its bearings, the torch of Christian hope helped us find an exit-exodus, move towards an encounter with the Bridegroom, who today joyfully and victoriously emerges from the tomb!

We are encountering the risen Christ, carrying our torches of love in action—of God and neighbour. As the wise virgins of the Gospel parable (see Mt 25:1-13), this pandemic night of waiting for the coming of the Bridegroom filled our lamps with works of mercy and service to our neighbour. We understood that we will find our way out of these complex circumstances of life only if we create authentic and vibrant Christian communities, built on mutual assistance and sacrificial service to one another. The torch of love for neighbour in us did not die out, and on this paschal night it allows us to go out to meet the risen Christ!

And let us greet, with joyful song, the saving Pascha of God.

We joyfully praise Christ, who emerges from the tomb, as a spring bird, who, with the thaw, begins to sing louder and more cheerfully, and does not cease, even when it senses that the branch on which it is perched is swaying—for it knows that it has wings of faith, hope, and love! Let us gaze upon the body of Christ, covered in wounds from brutal scourging, without breath or life. A body crucified and buried, it would seem, irrevocably and forever. And yet, the Spirit of God revives this broken human body, which in the brightness of Divine glory comes out to meet us and lay a path for us to eternity. This is the salvation of which we sing today: “O Son of God, who are the giver of life to the whole world, for this the whole world glorifies You.”

Therefore, if we are under the impression that humanity has become like a body tortured unto death by the pandemic—and our people suffer this evil in the midst of the horrors of war, which continue now for the eighth year—let us gaze towards the Bridegroom, who emerges from the tomb fully alive and surrounded by light, and let us not doubt even for a moment, that a light-filled resurrection also awaits us, that we too are true partakers of the Resurrection which we celebrate today by the power and action of the Holy Spirit!

 

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ! On this bright, joyful day I greet all of you with the Pascha of our Lord. Especially in this Year of St. Joseph the Betrothed I greet all our husbands-fathers. My wish for you is that you be a light of faith, hope, and love for your families, models and icons of God’s love, fidelity, courage, creativity, industriousness, patience, openness—for your beloved spouses and children. Christ is the only icon of God the Father, but children, as they grow up, develop an image of Him on the basis of their family experience and the example of their dad.

I greet those who in this pandemic feel lonely and abandoned. Remember: when you pray, the risen Lord is always with you, and by the power of Christian prayer you are united with the entire community of His Church. You are not alone!

I greet all the sick and frail, as well as medical professionals and your family and friends, who care for you. On this feast of victory over death I ask you: cherish the gift of life, and embrace bodily suffering as sacrifice in prayer, for this is “a spiritual fragrance” pleasing to the Lord.

To our soldiers and to those who remain in occupied territories and in Crimea, I send you my sincere paschal greeting and assure you of my prayers, that the risen Lord strengthen you and keep you alive and healthy.

I embrace with a fatherly love all the clergy, religious, and faithful in Ukraine and throughout the world, and sincerely wish you all a blessed Easter feast, a tasty sharing of our traditional blessed egg, and a Paschal joy that is full of light.

The grace of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

 Christ is risen! – Truly, He is risen!

+ SVIATOSLAV

 

Given in Kyiv

at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ,

on the day of our Venerable Father and Confessor Theophanes of Sigriana, 

Our Holy Father Gregory the Dialogist, Pope of Rome 

and Blessed Priest-Martyr Omelian Kovch

March 25 (12), 2021 A.D.




In the spring of 1991, the head of the UGCC, Myroslav Ivan Lubachivsky, returned to his seat in Lviv.

On March 30, we commemorate an event that was one of the symbols of the renewal and development of our Church in Ukraine after 45 years of persecution. It all started with the statement of 23 priests and faithful under the leadership of Bishop Pavel Vasylyk in 1987, the celebration of the 1000th anniversary of Baptism of Ukraine in 1988, the resumption of the Lviv Theological Seminary, the invalidation of resolutions of Lviv pseudosynod of 1946,  and blessing and confirmation of the legal status of the UGCC by Pope John Paul II. The final chord was the return to Ukraine in 1991 of Cardinal Myroslav Ivan Lubachivsky, the Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

“I had the honor to accompany His Beatitude on this moving journey home, to be on the same plane, to interpret these events for a wider network of international journalists who were flying with us at the time. This media coverage was effectively provided by Sonya Glutkovska (Soutus) under the general direction of Father Ivan Datsko. It is difficult to forget or overestimate the importance of this historic moment. Cardinal Lubachivsky was returning home, to his faithful, and the Church in Ukraine and in the Diaspora was finally united,” said Archbishop and Metropolitan of Philadelphia Bishop Borys Gudziak.

After 53 years of migration, realizing the momentum for the Church, Cardinal asked God for strength to fulfill the hopes of the faithful. Patriarch Lubachivsky began to develop the basic structures of the Church: he founded the curia, established four new eparchies, ordained more than a hundred new priests, established relations with the Orthodox, paid great attention to education and youth, organizing catechetical training. In the social sphere, he resumed the work of Metropolitan Sheptytsky’s clinic and founded the international charity organization Caritas in Ukraine.

Myroslav Ivan Lubachivsky was born on June 24, 1914, in the town of Dolyna in the Ivano-Frankivsk region. After graduating from the Lviv Theological Academy, he studied at the Jesuit College Kanizianum in Innsbruck (Austria). He defended his doctoral dissertation on theology on the topic: “The struggle of St. Basil the Great with Arianism, expressed in his liturgy”. He has written a large number of papers, articles, manuals, and books. Three volumes of his sermons (1984-1990) were published by the Ukrainian Catholic University in Rome.

In May 1947, he went to the United States to care for Ukrainian Catholic immigrants in Philadelphia. He served in various parishes and was a spiritual director at Stamford and Washington seminaries.

On September 13, 1979, Pope John Paul II appointed Lubachuvsky Archbishop and Metropolitan of Philadelphia, and on November 12, 1979, together with the Patriarch Jofyf Slipyj and Metropolitan Maksym Hermanuk, he personally ordained him as a bishop in Sistine Chapel in Rome.

On March 27, 1980, after the Synod of Bishops of the UGCC, Lubachivsky was appointed coadjutor of the Major Archbishop with the right of succession. After the death of Josyf Cardinal Slipyj on September 7, 1984, he became the head of the UGCC. On May 25, 1985, he was appointed a member of the College of Cardinals. Died on December 14, 2000. Buried in the crypt of the Saint George Cathedral in Lviv.