Feast of Peter and Paul – June 29, 2022

The Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul on June 29 commemorates the two leading apostles and their martyrdoms in Rome. This article examines their origins, deaths, and relics. It is vital to remind ourselves periodically that our faith is grounded in history and has been handed down for twenty centuries.

Peter and Paul offer a striking contrast. One hailed from the backwaters of Galilee and spoke with an accent thought uncouth by more cosmopolitan Jerusalemites (Matthew 26:43). He had been with the Lord from the beginning. The other was a Roman citizen who knew the traditions of Greek rhetoric and philosophy and met Jesus only after the Resurrection. Peter and Paul were very different men called to Apostleship at very different moments. The two even argued at times, as we read in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. Nonetheless they shared profound devotion to Christ which helped the men lead the Church during a critical period of growth and persecution. This same growth and persecution would bring them to martyrdom in the Eternal City.

Two Men, Several Names

St. Peter’s birthname was Simon, but Jesus renamed him Cephas early in his ministry. Cephas means “rock” in Aramaic–the native tongue of Jesus and the Apostles–and the word comes into Greek and Latin as Petros and Petrus. These are ancient versions of our modern Peter. At various times throughout the gospels, he is called Simon, Simon Peter, and Peter.Peter had a brother named Andrew, also one of the Twelve. Peter and Andrew’s father, John or Jonah, appears to have had a fishing business for which his sons worked. Interestingly, the Apostles James and John likely worked for their father Zebedee’s fishing business too. John/Jonah and Zebedee may have been in business together, judging from Mark 1. We know Peter was married because in the same chapter Jesus heals his mother-in-law from a fever.

Saul or Paul was born in Tarsus, located in modern Turkey. Some have tried to interpret the Apostle’s two names theologically, arguing he went by “Saul” before his conversion and “Paul” afterwards, but this is unlikely. Saul was probably his Hebrew name, used among family and fellow Jews, while Paul was his Roman moniker, used for gentile contexts. Regardless, Paul was a Pharisee whose trade was leather-working and/or tent-making, and he seems to have had at least some formal education. Paul persecuted the Church until encountering the Risen Christ on the Road to Damascus.

Rome’s Christians before Peter and Paul

Peter and Paul were active in Jerusalem, Antioch, and elsewhere before making their respective ways to Rome. They did not establish the Christian community there, though they would eventually lead it. Interestingly, St. Ignatius of Antioch invokes the legacy of Peter and Paul’s apostolic authority in Rome in a missive to the city’s Christians dictated before he was fed to lions ca. 110.

The Christian community in Rome originated incredibly early, even by New Testament standards. It predates Paul’s Epistle to the Romans which was written ca. 56-58 as well as the Apostle’s first visit to the city ca. 59. We also know Emperor Claudius (r. 41-54) expelled Jews from Rome after much infighting over “Chrestus,” seemingly a Latinized version of χριστός or Christ (Cf. Suetonius and Acts 18:2). Thus, Christians appear in Rome no later than the early 50s, if not earlier. This would make sense because there were about a dozen synagogues in the city during the 1st century. The primitive Church’s growth often took place in Jewish temples, so these surely helped the Gospel to spread. Peter’s timing in Rome is unclear, he may only have arrived in the early 60s. Much has been written about the Apostles’ missionary activities, but we must fast forward to the period when they were killed.

Persecution and Martyrdom

The best estimation of Peter’s death in Rome is AD 64. Rome suffered an infamous fire in July of that year and most of the city burned. From the historian Tacitus (ca. 56-120) we know “only four of the fourteen districts of Rome remained intact. What was even more disastrous was that numerous public buildings were damaged or even destroyed.” (Keresztes, 1984) Many blamed Emperor Nero (r. 54-68) for the fire, who then scapegoated the city’s Christians. The resulting persecution created many martyrs, including St. Peter. Multiple traditions describe him as having been crucified, with at least one specifying he was upside down. This explains for example Caravaggio’s masterpiece, Crucifixion of Saint Peter.

Tertullian (ca. 155-220) tells us Paul was beheaded, but neither he nor any other source settles the question of when. Paul may have died in 64 along with Peter during the Neronian persecution or a few years later ca. 67. The exact dates of martyrdom for Ss. Peter and Paul are irrelevant, of course, but this has not prevented much scholarly conjecture. Moreover, what we lack in chronology we more than make up for in archaeology.

Finding the Saints in the Flesh

Many Catholics do not realize that St. Peter’s Basilica was constructed over the tomb of the Apostle himself. In fact, the main altar stands directly over Simon-Peter’s relics. The ground level of the Basilica is most familiar to the popular mind, containing some of the greatest works of art in Christendom like Michelangelo’s Pietà, the Baldachin designed by Bernini, and others. Two floors below is an archaeological site straight out of an Indiana Jones movie.

In a dark, damp environment, nearly 10 meters underneath the Basilica, are the tombs and monuments of a 1st century pagan cemetery. It was here that St. Peter’s bones were laid to rest. Ancient graffiti attests to the Apostle’s presence, mentioning his name again and again. One example is a happy note carved by someone “expressing joy that the lost relative lay in the same cemetery that held Peter’s own body.” Constantine the Great constructed Old St. Peters over this site in the 4th century where it stood for more than a thousand years until the present Basilica was constructed during the 16th and 17th centuries. Anyone can visit the site by purchasing a ticket for the Scavi (“Excavations”) Tour, the cost is very reasonable at around $16.50.

Paul’s relics aren’t far away. San Paolo fuori le Mura (literally “St. Paul outside the walls”) is located about 4 miles (6.5 km) south of the Vatican, just east of the Tiber. The main altar of St. Paul Outside the Walls, as with St. Peter’s Basilica, was constructed over the remains of the Apostle himself. These remains are contained in a late 4th century sarcophagus which is quite accessible and may be viewed after descending a small set of stairs. Also on display is the chain said to have bound St. Paul when he was arrested in Rome.

Conclusion

The leading Apostles, Ss. Peter and Paul, ministered in Rome and were killed there during the mid-60s. They may both have died in 64 during the Neronian persecution, or Paul may have been beheaded a few years later. Regardless of the exact dating, their martyrdoms are jointly commemorated by the Church on June 29 each year. Their relics have been venerated in Rome from antiquity through today and may even be visited by the public.

This brief investigation into the saints’ origins, deaths, and relics is an important exercise reminding us that our faith is grounded in history. We may be confident in the accuracy of what has been handed down to us. Our Lord lived, died, and rose–and He will come again in glory. Many saints over many centuries, including Peter and Paul, willingly gave their lives for these truths, and still more will follow in the future. Ss. Peter and Paul, pray for us!

By Sean McLaughlin

SOURCES

https://www.catholic.com/tract/was-peter-in-rome

https://www.college.columbia.edu/core/content/romans/context#:~:text=Unlike%20his%20other%20writings%2C%20Paul’s,ever%20visited%20the%20illustrious%20city.

Keresztes, Paul, “Nero, the Christians and the Jews in Tacitus and Clement of Rome,” Latomus

  1. 43, Fasc. 2 (AVRIL-JUIN 1984), pp. 404-413

https://stpetersbasilica.info/Necropolis/Wall%20G.htm




The Feast of Pentecost

Already in Old Testament times, we hear of a celebration of Pentecost, which started as a harvest festival.  Later to this was added the commemoration of the giving of the Mosaic Law on Mount Sinai. The Ten Commandments were given by Yahweh (God) to Moses to help the Chosen People, the Israelites to remain faithful to the covenant established between Yahweh and their father, Abraham. The Mosaic Law was given so they could lead good and moral lives.

The Christian celebration of Pentecost in the early Church, both East and West, was a commemoration of the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. Just as the Lord had promised His disciples before departing and ascending into Heaven, He would ask the Father to send them another Advocate Who would continue to guard, guide and protect the faithful followers of Christ from all the onslaughts of the evil one.

We honor the third Divine Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit, Who is a Spirit of Love and Truth. He is God Eternal, one in being with the Father and the Son. He is consubstantial. Here as at the Theophany, the Baptism of the Lord in the River Jordan, God reveals Himself as the Triune God, one God in three Divine Persons.

The account in the event in the life of the Apostles is recorded in Sacred Scriptures, in the acts of the Apostles, chapter 2. We read: “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.” (v. 1-6} In verses 32-33, we read of Peter in public speaking: God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured it forth, as you (both) see and hear.”

Pentecost is one of the twelve (12) major feasts of the liturgical year. On this Feast, the Church, both in the East and in the West celebrate the Birth of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. In the administering of each of the seven (7) sacraments (Sacred Mysteries), we receive sanctifying grace, the operation of the Holy Spirit. The grace imparted strengthens us in our daily lives, helping us to withstand the temptations of the evil one and to keep us firmly rooted in the Faith and on the path to the Heavenly Kingdom, which is the final destination, we pray that we be deemed worthy of one day

In our special prayer in honor of the Holy Spirit, we call Him: “Heavenly King, Giver of Life, Comforter, Spirit of Truth Who is present everywhere.” The Holy Spirit is the source, the Treasury of Blessings and the Giver and Sustainer of Life.  The Holy Spirit will cleanse us of all sin, all that stains the soul and impedes us from our God-given call and mission in life. The prayer is a call to save us.

The Icon of Pentecost is a depiction of the Twelve Apostles (12) seated in serenity and composure. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is a seal of the New Covenant wrought by Our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ. In the icon, the Apostles form a semi-circle, expressing the unity of the Church. We, the many members of the Mystical Body of Christ, comprise one Church. Christ is the invisible head of the Church.  We Christians through a worthy reception of the Eucharist are then to bring Christ to others, announcing to them the Good News of salvation.

We all have been created in the image and likeness of God. We have all been endowed with unique and special gifts, charisms and talents. This is so that we fulfill our God-given mission in life. The seven (7) gifts of the Holy Spirit are an enumeration of seven spiritual gifts first found in the Book of Isaiah and later commented in much detail by the patristic fathers. They are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.

St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians tells us what a life filled with the Holy Spirit is. In Chapter 13, verses 4-7, St. Paul speaks in terms of what Christian love or charity is: “Love is patient. Love is kind. It is not jealous. It is not inflated. It is not rude. It does not seek its own interests. It is not quick-tempered. It does not brood over injury. It does not rejoice over wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

The Church enumerates the spiritual and corporal works of mercy as a practical guide to good Christian living. The spiritual works of mercy are: counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing the sinner, comforting the sorrowful, forgiving injuries, bearing wrongs patiently and praying for the living and the deceased. The corporal works of mercy are: to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to give shelter to travelers, to visit the sick, to visit the imprisoned, and to bury the dead.

Heeding the words of Our Lord and Master, we as a group and individually care, show compassion, and manifest our belief through concrete acts of love, mercy and compassion, even to the so-called “least of the brethren.” That means, we tear down the barriers of prejudice and sin and manifest love for those who oppose us, dislike us, persecute us, causing us grief, sorrow, and suffering.

To love those who love us should be rather easy. But to love those who have caused us immeasurable pain, suffering and loss of health, property or good name is not easy. It can only be done by those of us who are steadfast in the faith and have placed Christ God in the center of our lives. This inner spirit of peace, joy and blessed assurance of a future inheritance yet to be fulfilled that give us the strength and the impetus to walk in the footsteps of Christ and remain “faithful and true,” even when manyare not.

In Baptism, we are no longer mere persons of natural descent, but rather we have become children of God, and inheritors of a divine and eternal Kingdom, Heaven, if we but remain faithful to Christ, serve Him in love and truth as we sojourn to this ultimate and final destination.

Rev. D. George Worschak




Pentecost is one of the most important moments in salvation history

This year Pentecost will take place June 5 (Gregorian Calendar) and June 12 (Julian Calendar). It is one of the most important liturgical feasts and signifies the Easter season’s end. It is also traditionally considered the Church’s birthday. We have St. Luke to thank for most of our knowledge of Pentecost which he describes in the last chapter of his Gospel and at the beginning of his second work, the Acts of the Apostles.

The word Pentecost derives from the Greek for fifty. The feast “always occurs 50 days after the death and resurrection of Jesus, and ten days after his ascension into heaven.” (Source: CNA) The order of events is critical: RESURRECTION, ASCENSION, and PENTECOST.

The Lord appeared to the apostles for forty days after he rose from the dead. (Luke 24:3) The apostles saw, conversed with, ate with, and even touched Jesus during this time! One morning, for example, He makes breakfast for them on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias. (John 21) After forty days Jesus ascends to the Father (Luke 24:50-53 and Acts 1:6-12), and Pentecost takes place another ten days after that.

Luke sets the scene in chapter 1 of Acts of the Apostles. The founding members of the Church are staying in Jerusalem and remain devoted to prayer. These include the apostles, some women disciples, the Theotokos, and Jesus’ brothers.

Then in chapter 2 we read, “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.” (Acts 2:1-6)

The descent of the Holy Spirit, accompanied by wind and fire, sparks the Church’s birth and evangelizing mission. In fact, Luke notes that about 3000 people were baptized the same day. (Acts 2:41) Jesus’ promise to send the Advocate is fulfilled (John 16:5-33), and repentance and salvation spread abundantly.

Pentecost has inspired profoundly beautiful art and liturgy over the centuries. For example, Bernini’s stained-glass window, located behind the Chair of St. Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica, depicts the Holy Spirit as a beautiful dove hovering amidst fiery illumination.

Also in Rome, just 1.25 miles (2 km) east of the Vatican, stands the ancient Pantheon. The structure was built ca. AD 126 as a pagan temple but was converted to a church by the early 7th century. Each year on Pentecost rose pedals are dropped from the large opening in the ceiling to symbolize the Holy Spirit’s descent. This is called “la pioggia di petali di rosa” which translates to shower or rain of rose petals. (Source: LAJ)

Pentecost is one of the most important moments in salvation history and so is beautifully commemorated in art and liturgy. Luke the Evangelist preserves details about this wonderous event in his second work, the Acts of the Apostles. Let us renew our familiarity with his account and ask God to strengthen us in the Holy Spirit.

By Sean Mclaughlin

SOURCES




Sister Teodora Kopyn: The Way of the Cross in the footsteps of the Ukrainian people

My mission trip to Ukraine began in Mukachevo on April 16, 2022 as I boarded a free train to eastern Ukraine, stopping at Lviv, Kharkiv, Poltava, and Lozova. I felt relatively safe because my uncle was the train’s conductor.  He had been, from the war’s beginning, bringing refugees from the dangerous eastern part of the country to the west.  He said that on one of his first trips very close to the Russian border, not only the train shook from the bombing, but his feet could feel the entire earth under him moving!  Also, his stop in Kharkiv on the Monday after Easter was terrifying because a low-flying plane right above him was bombing, and the bombs hit somewhere close.  Because no one knew exactly where, all began to run and scatter – some running OFF the train, and others hiding in corners in the train station. It was dangerous and frightening!

On the first day of my trip, because of lack of time and because stores were closed, I had very little to give.  I found in one open store 5 packages of colored pencils which I cut in half.  These, in addition to the pictures which I printed, brought joy to so many children on the train!  At least for a short while, they were able to forget what they were going through. So many times during my train rides, children would run to me to beg me for anything I could give them so that they could more easily pass the time…

Each time we went through villages in eastern Ukraine, we were met with an eerie silence and TOTAL darkness, because lights were forbidden. On the day before we arrived in Kharkiv, (as well as the after we left), the city was bombed. 

Lozova, our last stop on the way to Eastern Ukraine, was the most dangerous, and instead of our planned 10 hours there, we had to leave after only 8.  In both of these cities, we actually saw and heard the extremely close explosions…

On the way back, our train stopped again in Kharkiv, this time to pick up refugees. They were crying, and unable to be comforted.   Then as the train began to move after 2 hours, I could hear a combined loud sigh of relief.  

In Poltava, I saw one woman at the train station holding two small children, crying “I want to go home – why must we run away? – where are we going?” Her husband tried to comfort her, but no words would help.  It was so heartbreaking to see!

On the train were many families with children.  They told me, “We cannot stay in Kharkiv anymore. Our houses are ruined, and it’s too dangerous to stay there.  We don’t know where we are going or what will happen to us.”  

One woman told me that all have left her city except government workers, and so she had to stay.  But she was taking her 16-year-old daughter to safety in the west and then would return.  Her heart was broken, as Kharkiv was becoming more dangerous for her family there each day.  As I left her, she told me that she had just told her husband that seeing the religious Sister on the train had brought her peace and relief…   I keep remembering how, as her husband bid them farewell in Kharkiv, all were crying, not knowing if they would ever be united safely again…

There were so many more people I met who wanted to share their stories with me… So many told me that their apartment buildings had been bombed, but that they were so grateful to have made it out alive!

One family said that having the military all over their city was frightening, but not as frightening as the constant sound of sirens!

Those who were fleeing only carried small bags with themselves. They were saying how hard it was to leave their homes and were so hoping to come back as soon as possible. One man said, “I cannot leave my dear Ukraine!  I was born here! My children were born here! I’ve spent my entire life here! One day I WILL return!”

Most people could not tell their entire stories, but I could see so much pain in their eyes.  When I could not comfort them, I felt so helpless ….   Their pain will last their entire lifetimes, and it was unbelievably caused by those without any sense of human compassion.

As I was walking through the train, I met one family with 5 children.  There was a 5-year-old girl named Bohdana who was drawing. When I asked her what she was doing, she said, “I am painting a devil.  I want him to go away.”  I said, “Would you like to draw an angel?” As soon as I showed her a picture of an angel, she quickly drew many angels and promised me, “I will never draw a devil again.”  But then she went on – “I don’t like Putin.  If he comes here, I will tell him to get out!”  The next day when I visited her again, she told me that she wanted to give her painting of an angel to someone who looked like an angel.  Then, as for so many there, after a short period of unexpected joy, the cloud of darkness settles in…   So, after a few minutes of quiet, she said “My grandmother was crying all night.” 

And they kept coming to tell me their stories…. One woman was fleeing from Kharkiv with her husband. Her children had already been sent to western Ukraine.  But she, like all the others, had taken nothing with herself.  She could not even afford to buy an empty cup. When I tried to give her money to buy tea, she refused, saying “I don’t want to take your money.”  But I told her that this was war, and that she MUST accept help from strangers now.  She hugged me and assured me that she would now be okay. But my uncle came to tell me soon thereafter that he had just seen that woman alone in a secluded part of the train – sobbing uncontrollably.

My trip lasted an entire night and day. One little girl came to me and wanted to share something with me. She said, “Every day I kneel and pray: Please, God, keep my mother and father and sisters safe!”  

At one point I asked my uncle if I could buy from him some tea and crackers to give to the refugees. When we gave crackers to an elderly man, he kept repeating, “For ME?  For me?  For free?” It was so heartbreaking to see so many suffering people who had just lost their homes and everything they had, and yet they were SO appreciative now – for even small things!  

My uncle had told me that the earlier trips were much harder – the train was PACKED with people who had to STAND the entire time, some in total shock, but most of them simply crying throughout the entire trip. They were all hungry, and whatever food my uncle had was given out in one hour!   He had to call his boss who then arranged for the volunteers at the next train station to give him more food, but it was never enough… As the people left the train at the end of their journey, so many people, filled with gratitude, hugged and kissed my uncle.  They were so relieved that he had gotten them to a safer place…

At the end of the trip the children especially were happy to get off the train.  They felt safe, even though they didn’t know where they were going. One very small boy said, “I’ll help you, Mom – I’m strong enough – don’t worry!”  It warmed my heart to see how children cared for their parents, and of course it was evident how parents cared for their children…

This trip had been an extremely long one because as we approached Lviv, we heard that the train station there had just been bombed.  The delay was long and made everyone feel even more anxious.

I cannot put into words how heartbreaking it was to see such sadness everywhere – people crying with no words to express, or desire to express how they felt – people who had until recently lived normal and happy lives but who had suddenly witnessed their homes completely destroyed.  They had to leave not only all their possessions behind, but elderly relatives and friends.  Life as they knew it would never be the same.  

As they were running away, most did not know their final destination.  All they knew was that they must seek a safer place.  I had to witness fathers and husbands at train stations having to bid goodbye to their wives and children, not knowing if they would ever see one another again.  It was so difficult to watch and to hear… On a brighter note, I met so many kind volunteers at the train stations.  But unfortunately, by the time I met them, they had run out of food and all other necessary supplies! They said that it was especially hard for them to tell the children who were asking for water and fruit that they just didn’t have any. They told me that they needed EVERYTHING!

The next day I started my trip to Zaporizhzhia with Ivan, the driver of a small van.  He wanted to help me get there and back safely. We first visited Drohobych where there was an organization which was helping ALL refugees in need.  Because it was a few days before Easter, they gave us all kinds of Easter foods for those in Zaporizhzhia  . 

There was a priest in our van who was returning to help his parishioners after he had just taken his family to a safer area in western Ukraine.  He said that it was so hard for him to leave them because they, like so many others, were unsure of what would become of them…. And would they ever be reunited?  I had already met SO many people who had first fled to the west but were now returning to the dangerous east to serve those in need.  Their hearts were so filled with love for their homeland that they could not stand to be away…

During our trip, our driver suddenly said, “Now we’ll pray the rosary.”  To see a grown man with a rosary in his hand and to hear him praying not just words, but words filled with emotion and hope showed me how powerful a weapon prayer is…   This gave me (as well as my driver) solace and hope. 

When we reached the city of Zaporizhzhia, it was early morning.  Our Sister Lukia met me and she was in tears – she was thrilled that I had come from so far to visit them.  The Sisters there were caring for refugees, helping out at the hospital, and especially helping the military who came to them for help.  They were working so hard to help anyone and everyone in need!

Sister Lukia was telling me that the Russian troops were now only 40 km. away.  When the war first began, most of the people had fled, and so Zaporizhzhia  had become a “ghost town”.   But now people were beginning to return.  But it still remains unsafe because of frequent bombing. I myself heard the sirens there many times…

On our way back, we met a woman named Natalia who was fleeing from her village of Irpin which had been totally destroyed by the Russians.  She said that she had just left her apartment to do some quick shopping.  When she returned, she found that her entire building was gone!  She tried to run to two other family buildings, but found that these had also been destroyed. She was now on her way to Lviv where hopefully she would meet a volunteer who would help her.  She had absolutely nothing with herself except two small bags and was telling me that it was a miracle that she had not been in her building when it was bombed.  She was crying, but humbly said, “I don’t need anything – just a small room to go to, so that I can be safe.”  

One stop on the way was the city of Kamiansk where one church, open to the public, served 200 families each day.  The priest there said that all who came were in need of food and housing – not clothing.  But unfortunately they were quickly running out of food.

We picked up refugees who were most in need and took them either to Lviv or to the Polish border. But when we came to one rest stop, the sirens sounded and the driver said, “We must leave quickly!”  Everyone was terrified, but it was especially difficult to see the children so afraid, not knowing what would happen to them.  The sound of sirens made everyone live in fear every moment…

When we finally arrived in Lviv, I met Natalia once again. She was standing in the bus station, not knowing where to go. I said, “Come with me,” even though no one was allowed on the streets yet.  But I took her inside the station and found a volunteer who was so kind and told me, “Don’t worry, we will help her.”  When I gave her money, she, not looking at it, simply said, “Thank you.”  Later she returned to me, hugging and kissing me, saying, “You gave me so much!!!”  She was SO appreciative!!! She said, “This will help me A LOT!!”  

The train trip from Lviv to Mukachevo was extremely long.  The delays were due to the several sirens that were sounding in Lviv. When I finally arrived late in Mukachevo, there were MANY people.  But when the sirens sounded, they all fled.  I was standing there alone.

It seemed so unfair – especially for the children – to have to live in constant fear in this century.  The sounds of sirens still frighten me in the middle of the night – until I realize that I am in America!!

On the Tuesday after Easter, I visited an organization in Mukachevo which was caring for 100 people, including 37 children who had fled from Bucha and other decimated cities. There I met one woman who had fled from Bucha with her two tiny children and her friend’s small child.  There was also an elderly couple who had been in their apartment when it was bombed. Volunteers got them out.  The man was paralyzed and could not speak.  The woman was out of breath as she told me her story.  As she spoke, the man listened intently, and then kissed my hand – so grateful for someone to listen and to care.

The next day I visited our Sisters in Lviv who were caring for refugees and really helping so many people.  Our Sisters in Beryhy had 30 refugees in their home, and our convent in Yavoriv was also housing approximately 30! Our Sisters in Perechyn also were housing refugees.  ALL of our dear Sisters in every region of Ukraine are continually helping refugees in all parts of Ukraine.  May God bless them all!

When in Mukachevo, it came to my attention that the volunteers there were all out of food and medicine.  This was the first stop for refugees from the east as they approached Europe’s borders.  So, the next day my brother and I went to the bazaar where we purchased fresh fruit, as well as crackers and cookies.  The children literally RAN to the table where they were put and were thrilled to be able to have fresh fruit, such as apples and bananas!! It was heartwarming to see their happy faces (especially when they saw some lollipops I had purchased)!

As my mission trip was coming to an end, I met with my brother’s parishioners at church. All shared their sad stories with me.  One woman with two sons in the military asked for prayers – for them and for herself, because she couldn’t sleep at night, filled as she was with worry about them.

Daily there is news for these people of their loved ones who have either been killed or wounded.  It must be terrifying to wait for such news!  And how can I comfort the young woman who just found out that her husband was just killed and who kept sobbing, “I can’t believe it! I want him back! I want to build my future with him!” Or what can I say to another young pregnant woman with a small child who just received the same news? 

I suddenly received a call from a family friend – a soldier from Moldova stationed near Belarus.  He shared with me how badly those in his battalion were suffering. As they were trying to dig trenches, the nonstop rain prevented them from doing this.  He asked me to send him heavy plastic with which to line the trenches, as well as other items.  When I told him that these items were expensive, he said, “We can do without food – and clothing we do not need.  But things such as sleeping bags and tents are so necessary because we need to protect ourselves and to survive.  When we first arrived here, we had none of these, and we need them badly…”

He then went on to say that they have many soldiers from western Ukraine there, and that on that very same day their main headquarters in Lviv was bombed by the Russians.  So many soldiers died.  But that particular group somehow, miraculously, was not present when it happened.  They had been saved…

During my travels throughout Ukraine during this mission trip, I saw so much beauty still left – fields full of flowers blowing in the wind, and people tending to their gardens and trying to keep their tiny villages neat and clean. I cannot imagine anyone wanting to destroy this beauty, and my heart breaks daily as I hear how the enemy continues to persecute my beloved people and their land. 

I soon left Mukachevo, and bade goodbye to my mother in the Czech Republic before I boarded a plane back to the U.S.  My mission trip had ended.

Here in America, as I work with homeless people, I feel their pain.  I understand how hard it is for them not to have housing or food. But their pain is totally different from the pain felt by the people in Ukraine. Ukrainians must flee suddenly from their homes without ANYTHING, and the most terrifying part is that they are not sure if they will even HAVE a future. The entire country is constantly in fear and in tears.  

Please, dear Lord, bring a speedy end to this unjust war, and let my people live in peace!

 




SUNDAY OF THE HOLY FATHERS OF THE FIRST ECUMENICAL COUNCIL IN NICAEA – 325 A.D.

This Sunday we commemorate the Holy Fathers of the Ecumenical Council held in Nicaea in 325. They had gathered to explain the relationship Jesus Christ to God the Father. A priest from Alexandria named Arius had been falsely teaching that Jesus was created by God and that there was a time that He (the Son) did not exist. This heresy was condemned by the bishops who attended this first Ecumenical Council. The bishops came from the various Christian communities throughout the Christian world. 

Arius had been spreading the false teaching or heresy for some time, as early as the year 315. The bishop of Alexandria had attempted to correct Arius through admonitions. Arius’ bishop had called for a local council in 321 to deal with this matter. The decision was to depose the unyielding cleric. Nonetheless, Arius continued to spread this false teaching, creating controversy and division within the Christian community.

Constantine the Great, Emperor of Byzantium at that time, possessed a zeal and concern for Christian unity. He therefore asked the bishops of the Church to gather in Nicaea and to resolve the issue of Arius’ false teaching. Emperor Constantine had asked Bishop Hosius of Corduba to convene the Council and was supported by Constantine. At the opening of the Council of Nicaea in 325, Emperor Constantine made a ceremonial entrance. He attended and participated in the ecumenical council, but did note officially vote.   

It was St. Constantine who in 313 had issued the Edict of Milan, which had permanently established religious tolerance for Christianity within the Roman Empire.  The Edict granted all persons the freedom to worship. This assured the Christians of their legal right to organize churches. It also directed the prompt return of confiscated property. Previous edicts that had been issued were short-lived. But the Edict of Milan had effectively and conclusively established religious tolerance.

It is widely accepted that the number of bishops in attendance was 318. A large majority of the attending hierarchy was from the East. Patriarch Alexander of Alexandria and Patriarch Eustathius of Antioch were actively participating in the Council. Papal legate(s) may have likewise been in attendance. The Holy Fathers of this first Ecumenical Council came from every region of the Roman Empire and from Christian communities within the Sassanid Empire (Middle or Neo-Persia). The participants came from Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Syria, Palestine, Phoenicia, Arabia, Assyria, Mesopotamia, Caesarea, Sardica, Thesosaly, Carthage, India, Armenia, Georgia, Calabria, the Danube, Gaul (France) and others. The early church historian Eusebius place St. Nicholas of Myra in attendance.

In response to Arius falsely teaching that Jesus was “created,” the Council asserted that Jesus Christ “was begotten, not made.” In response to Arius falsely teaching that Jesus was created out of nothing or out of something else, the Holy Fathers of the Council stated that Jesus Christ was begotten “of the same substance or essence of the Father.”  The Holy Fathers of the first Nicaean Council asserted the full or complete divinity” of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Second Divine Person of the Blessed Trinity. 

The decision to condemn the heresy espoused by Arius and to depose Arius was nearly unanimous. All but two bishops had made this resolution. Indeed, the issue of Arianism was their primary concern. In addition to that, the Holy Fathers of the Council also dealt with establishing a date for the celebration of Pascha (Easter) and the promulgation of Canons (church laws or regulations) regarding the standards for ordination of clerics (behavior and background), the reconciliation of lapsed Christians (public penance and repentance) and the readmittance of heretics and schismatics, and the role of deacons in the liturgical life of the Church. 

Regarding the celebration of Pascha/Easter, it was established to be the first Sunday after the full moon, which comes after the vernal or spring equinox. There was discussion whether to independently designate the date or to rely on the Jewish calendar. The Holy Fathers of the Council decided to separate Easter computation from all dependence on the Jewish calendar.

The Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council in Nicaea had safeguarded the holy faith from error, the heresy of Arianism and had sought to state clearly and adequately the relationship between Jesus, the Son of God, and God the Father. They affirmed the true and complete divinity of Christ. They asserted their belief “in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father (the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God), Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father…” 

This credo or creed of Nicaea along with the teaching and promulgations of the Council of Constantinople in 381 would help formulate the “Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed” that Eastern Catholics and Orthodox profess at each Divine Liturgy. May we honor the steadfastness of Faith of the Holy Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils. May we Ukrainian Catholics come to a deeper appreciation of the great and precious treasury of Faith inherited. May we understand and share this “pearl of great price” that is ours.            

Rev. D. George Worschak




FEAST OF THE ASCENSION (May 26, 2022)

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to Myself, so that where I am you also may be.” (John 14:3)

The Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ, is one of the twelve (12) major holy days that the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Churches celebrate each year. Forty (40) days after the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection, the Church commemorates the return of Our Lord and Savior to His Heavenly abode, the eternal Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus Christ, Our Lord, the Son of God, has fulfilled the Holy Will of Our Heavenly Father. Jesus was sent by His Father to redeem mankind from sin, evil and death that separates us from our God and Creator.

We all have been created in the image and likeness of God. This original beauty and order given to us at Creation have been marred, disfigured, stained through sin. When Adam and Eve had sinned, of their own free will chose to not listen to God and act under the influence of the evil one, the harmony of creation was disrupted.  Adam and Eve were sent out of the Garden of Paradise and were then to work by the sweat of their brow to live, for daily sustenance. God promised that one day He would send a Savior to redeem the world from sin and all its terrible consequences.

God did not forsake His creatures. He gave us the Law, the Ten Commandments, through Moses, so that we might truly become “His Chosen People.” Through the Mosaic Law, God was seeking to guide us onto the path of salvation – towards a life of good moral and upright living. The call was to love God above anyone and anything else (commandments 1,2 and 3) and to love our neighbor as ourselves (commandments 4-10). Besides this, God had sent to His Chosen People the Holy Prophets to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah in due time.

In the fulness of time God sent His Only-Begotten Son to redeem mankind from sin, to release sinful mankind from the clutches of the devil and to open wide the gates to the Heavenly Kingdom. With the Passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord, we were once again given access to the Heavenly Kingdom. In one of the icons of the Resurrection, “The Descent into Hades,” Jesus is shown lifting Adam and Eve from the abyss, from there “waiting place” known as “Hades.” In the singing of the Resurrection hymn “Christ is Risen”, we joyously sing this hymn of victory: “Christ is Risen from the dead, conquering death by death, and to those in the tombs (grave) bestowing life.” By His self-giving, self-sacrificial act of Love for us all, Jesus on the Cross makes “satisfaction” for sin and makes all creation anew.

The Lord’s mission of salvation has been accomplished. And this was done once and for all. Jesus alone is our Lord and Savior. There is no need to look for any other. While on earth, Our Compassionate Lord healed the sick and called the sinner to repentance and conversion. Jesus had given His disciples and us today an example to follow. The life of a true-believing Christian is not easy. It will be filled not only with times of gladness and joy, but also with sadness and suffering. But the Lord Jesus instructs us to take up our cross daily and to walk in His footsteps. For in the words of St. Paul throughout His epistles, we are told that if we “die and rise with Christ” here on earth, we shall die and rise to new life, eternal life with Christ in Heaven.

Before bidding farewell to the Apostles, the Lord tells them that He is returning home to the Father and He will ask the Father to send to them “another Advocate,” a “Comforter,” the Holy Spirit. This Spirit of Love and Truth will guide, guard and protect them on their earthly sojourn to the Heavenly Kingdom.

While on earth, we pray “Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” We are called upon to encounter the Lord, to build up the Church, His Mystical Body, and to each personally development a close, spiritual relationship with Our Lord, God and Savior. We are members of His Mystical Body, the Church, who are called to continue to preach the Good News of salvation to all the nations and to baptize them in the Name of the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

On this Feast of the Holy Ascension of Our Lord, we celebrate the joyous return of the Son of God to the eternal Kingdom of Heaven. Amidst the shouts of victory, the sounds of the trumpets blaring, the Lord returns and “sits at the right hand of the Father,” and there He shall be until the Second and Glorious coming of the Lord. And on that day, He shall come again to judge the living and the dead. Our All-loving and Compassionate Lord once again does this on our behalf – to prepare a place for us so that we too may live forever in Heaven

May we graciously be deemed worthy of entry into the eternal Kingdom of Heaven where Absolute Love, Truth and Justice reign. For such is the Kingdom of God Eternal, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Rev. D. George Worschak




SUNDAY OF THE HOLY MYRRH-BEARING WOMEN

“Having bought a linen cloth, he (Joseph of Arimathea) took Him down, wrapped Him in the linen cloth and laid Him in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses watched where He was laid. When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint Him. (Mark 15:46-47)

Due to the fast-approaching Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea boldly went to Pilate. He asked Pilate to release the body of Jesus for appropriate burial in accord with Jewish customs of that time. Joseph had bought a linen cloth, took down the body of Our Lord from the cross and wrapped Him in the linen cloth. In a tomb, hewn from rock, Jesus is placed. Then the Arimathean rolled a rock (stone) over the entrance to the tomb.

Since the ceremonial Jewish burial rites were not able to be completed due to the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Joses, pay careful attention where Jesus was laid. As soon as the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome went to buy spices so that they would complete the burial rites with its appropriate anointing.

They arrive at the tomb very early in the morning, with the rising of the sun. It was the first day of the week. As they approach the tomb, they wonder who is going to roll back the rock (stone) from the entrance. They notice that the very large stone (rock) is already rolled back. Upon entering the tomb, they are utterly amazed. A young man, clothed in a white robe, sits on the right. He knows that they are seeking Jesus of Nazareth, the One they crucified and tells the women: “He has been raised; He is not here.” (16:6)

These Holy Myrrh-bearing women are the first to receive the joyous news: Christ is Risen! Having received this joyous news of our Lord’s victory over sin, death and evil, they are called upon to share this message of salvation with others: “Go and tell His disciples and Peter that He (the Risen Lord) is going before you to Galilee.” (16:7) It is just as the Lord had told the disciples.

Christ’s Resurrection is a pledge, a promise, of our own resurrection. When we stand before the Lord on that awesome Day of Just Judgment, we pray to be deemed worthy of entry into the Heavenly kingdom. The Lord God Who knows and sees all will judge each according to his/her deeds while here on earth. There is nothing now hidden that will not be made known. Everything will be brought to light. Thus, there will be no deceiving the Lord, King of kings and Lord of lords. We await this day in hope of His mercy and blessed assurance of His promise.

We Christians are to preach this good news of salvation to others, not only in word but in action. We are called to have compassion for one another, to love one another as Christ the Lord first loved us. The authentic Christian life is one of Love and Truth. It is one loving dedication and service, the kind those Holy Myrrh-bearers had for the Lord. We as Church are called to continue the redemptive mission of Christ.

We are to call the sinner to conversion, to experience a metanoia – a change of heart. We all are to seek the ways of the Lord. We are to stay far away from sin, acts of sinful pride. May sinners repent of their sins and make reparation for them. May we be of one mind, one spirit, one heart. For together mankind can do great and amazing works. But fixated upon personal desires to possess and to control with no regard to the Holy Will of God that can only lead to tribulation and devastation.

But take heart for the Risen Lord has set us free from sin and all its consequences. May we ever seek to live in the spirit of Christ, which is one of Absolute Love and Truth.

Rev. D. George Worschak





Saint Thomas’ Sunday

“Put your finger here and see my hands and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and My God!”   (John 20:27)

It was the first day of the week. It was evening. The disciples remained behind closed doors “for fear of the Jews.” The Risen Lord appeared to them, saying: “Peace be with you. The Apostles were there together except for one, Thomas. 

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples* were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” The Apostles were behind closed doors except for Thomas. It is interesting to note that for whatever the reason Thomas was not behind closed doors as the others and was not afraid to do so. 

Upon Thomas’ return, the other Apostles relay to him their account of the Risen Lord in their very midst.  Thomas is skeptical and wants empirical proof: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (v.25) 

During the first visit of the Risen Lord to the Apostles, Jesus brought them the message of Peace. The Lord greets them: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.” (v.21) The Risen Lord breathes upon them, saying: “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  He then gives the Apostles the power to forgive or retain sin.

A week after the first visit of the Risen Lord, Jesus comes to them a second time. This time all the Apostles, including Thomas, were present. Appearing to them once again behind closed doors, Jesus stood in their midst and greets them: “Peace be with you.” (v.26) Jesus then addresses Thomas who was not present the first  time and was quite skeptical: “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side…“ Our Lord then concludes with this admonition: “Do not be unbelieving, but believe.” (v.27)

Thomas now recognizes it’s the Lord and exclaims: “My Lord and My God.” (v.28) The Lord acknowledges this apparent change in Thomas who had come to believe because he got his empirical proof – Thomas had seen for himself. Our Lord then has a message for all of us: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed,” (v. 29)

We, authentic Christians, believe that Christ truly exists and is present in our midst. This belief in the Risen Lord, in the Resurrection, is based upon the empty tomb and the appearances of the Risen Lord among His disciples. Our Christian Faith is based upon this testimony as recorded in Sacred Scriptures and in Sacred Tradition of the Church. 

CHRIST IS RISEN! INDEED HE IS RISEN! 

Rev. D. George Worschak









Feast of St. George Great Martyr and Wonderworker

The patron saint of Western Ukraine is St. George. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Cathedral in Lviv is named in his honor. St. George was an officer in the Roman army. He was a Christian who had refused to sacrifice to the pagan gods. For that George was tortured and beheaded at Nicomedia in Asia Minor.  His great faith in Christ enabled him to face martyrdom with courage and peace.

In the icon, George is riding on a horse in military uniform. He slays the dragon with a lance. He rescues a woman who was in danger of being devoured. George is depicted fighting a dragon, symbolizing the devil. Victorious in his struggle with the evil one, the devil, George defends and protects the royal maiden, symbolizing the Church.

The Feast of St. George is celebrated on April 23rd on the Gregorian calendar and on May 6th on the Julian calendar.  The faithful had immediately following his death recognized the saintly qualities of George whose intercessory power had resulted in many a miracle. When the persecution of Christians ended, churches were built dedicated to St. George in Constantinople, Syria, Egypt, and elsewhere throughout the world, including Ukraine.

The tropar for his Feast speaks of St. George as  ”Liberator of captives, defender of the poor, physician of the sick, and champion of kings.” He was loved and admired by many who were not Christian. On his Feast Day, tens of thousands of people would climb the stairs to the Monastery of St. George located in the Princes’ Islands each year. They would come to venerate his miraculous icon, light a candle, embrace the icon and implore Saint for help.  Many who were not even Christian came from a great distance to thank the Great Martyr for answering their personal prayer.

The great love of St. George for others is rooted in his love for God, our Heavenly Father. The saintly martyr understood well the words of Our Lord who taught us that God ”makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). 

This spirit of Love without discrimination was taught by Our Lord in the parable of The Good Samaritan. Let us remember the words of Our Lord that He will speak at His Second and Glorious Coming: ”…I was a stranger, and you welcomed Me…” (Matthew 25:35).”Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of Mine, you did for Me.” (v. 40)

May we today have this same spirit of self-giving love in imitation of Christ Who redeemed us from sin and opened wide the gates to the Heavenly Kingdom.

Rev. D. George Worschak






CELEBRATION OF GREAT AND GOOD FRIDAY IN OUR UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC CHURCH 

Vespers with the Veneration of the Holy Shroud

Prior to the celebration of Vespers, the Lord’s Tomb is set up in the center of the Church in front of the ambon. Candles or vigil lights are placed on each side. After the procession with the Holy Shroud (Plaschanitsa), the shroud is placed in the Lord’s Tombs. The faithful come after services and the next day to venerate the Holy Shroud.

The Vesper service of Good Friday re-enact the crucifixion and death of Our Lord as described in the Holy Gospels. The reading of the Gospel for Great and Good Friday is a combination of the account in the various Evangelists. The special reading starts with the account of the chief priests and elders of the people gathering together and after consultation decide to put Jesus to death. Jesus is bound and then led away to face Pilate the governor. Having seen Jesus condemned to death, Judas repents and wants to return the thirty silver pieces, saying: “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” However, the chief priests and elders refuse to accept back the coins. Judas despaired, left the temple to hang himself. They considered the money “blood money” and did not put it into the Temple treasury. Instead, what happened was a fulfillment of what was prophesied by Jeremiah: “They took the thirty silver pieces, the price of the man on whom a price was set by the sons of Israel, and they gace them for the Potter’s Field, as the Lord ordered them.”

Now Jesus, standing before Pilate answered ‘Yes, as you yourself say” to the question whether He is the King of the Jews. The chief priests and scribes accuse Him, but Jesus gives no reply, not even to a single accusation. This truly surprised Pilate. Pilate then assembles a crowd to decide which of the two persons arrested would be released. For it was customary during the festival, Passover approaching, to release one prisoner.  Pilate knew that it was out of envy that Jesus was handed over to him. He then poses the question: “Barabbas or Jesus Who is called the Christ.” 

Pilate suddenly receives a message from his wife: “Do not meddle with that righteous man, for I have suffered much in a dream today on His account.” Meanwhile, the chief priests and scribes instigate the crowd. They had managed to persuade the crowd to ask for the release of Barabbas and the execution of Jesus. When Pilate does ask the crowd, they reply: Barabbas. Pilate asks then what to do with Jesus Who is called the Christ. And when asked what evil has He done, the crowd just repeats: “Let him be crucified.” Each response would increase in volume.

After attempting to dissuade the crowd, Pilate washes his hands, saying: “I am innocent of the blood of this righteous man. Look to it yourselves.” The crowd’s reply was “Let His blood be upon us and upon our children.” Pilate eventually gives in to the demands of the crowd: release Barabbas and crucify Jesus.

This is how the Totally Innocent One was unjustly treated. Not willing to stand up and do what was being revealed to him, Pilate hands over Jesus to be crucified, even though knew envy was the motive and his wife’s warning in a dream. For such lack of fortitude and conviction to do the right thing, we profess in the Creed: “For our sake He (Jesus) was crucified under Pontius Pilate.” This was inserted into the Creed in the early Church to remind us that ceremonial washing of the hands does not absolve one of guilt. Christians are to be willing to suffer and die for the Faith: to follow Christ despite any false accusations or tribulations come our way. 

Christ then willingly endured the “terrible Passion, and the life-giving Cross and the voluntary burial in the flesh.” The Passion Christ endured was indeed “terrible”: “They stripped him, put upon Him a scarlet robe, plaited a crown of thorns and placed it on His head, pit a reed in His right hand, knelt before Him, mocking him: Hail, King of the Jews.” One of the criminals crucified with Jesus demands: “If You are the Messiah, save Yourself and us.” The other criminal crucified reproves him for talking as such: “Have you no fear of God when you undergo the same penalty? We suffer justly indeed, for we are receiving the due reward of our misdeeds. But this man (Jesus) has done nothing wrong.” Jesus then assures the good thief (criminal) that he shall that very day be with the Lord Jesus in Paradise (His Kingdom).

Passerbyers jeered shook their heads also said: “Save Yourself.” So too the chief priests, the scribes and the Pharisees: “He saved others, but He cannot save Himself.”  They wanted Him to come down from the Cross and only then would they believe or so they said.

  Jesus expires. Nature witnesses this great injustice, atrocity and signs appear in reaction to this great wrong sinful mankind had done: the Temple curtain was rent into two, the earth shook, the rocks were split, the tombs were opened, many bodies of the saints arose, came out of the tombs after His Resurrection, went into the holy city and appeared to many.” The centurion and soldier attested: “Truly, this was the Son of God.”

Seeing that Jesus was already dead, they did not break His legs as was done with the other two crucified with Him. However, a soldier pierces Hi side and blood and water flow out. It is time to bury Jesus quickly for the Sabbath was approaching. Joseph of Arimathea goes to Pilate and request the body of Christ to be taken from from the Cross and buried in a tomb which Joseph provided.

The Gospel for Great and Good Friday ends with Pilate granting this request. Following some prayers, the Procession with the Holy Shroud begins. Elders have been designated to carry the Holy Shroud in procession around the church. The four elders hold it by each of its four corners. 

Aposticha are sung giving glory to the Lord’s condescension. Being God, the Son of God, Jesus had become man and died on the Cross to save sinful mankind from sin. As Jesus is laid in the tomb and is wrapped with balm in a linen shroud. Hell is mocked and was terrified by the long-suffering of the Lord, for its bonds were broken, its gates demolished, graves opened and the dead arose. Those awaiting the coming of the Messiah, Adam and the faithful ones of the Old Testament covenant are about to rise and enter into the heavenly Kingdom.

As the Holy Shroud (Plaschanitsa) is placed in the Lord’s Tomb prepared in the center of the church for veneration by the faithful in attendance, the following hymn is sung three times: “The noble Joseph took Your most pure body down from the Tree, and wrapped it in a new linen shroud with aromatic spices, and sadly laid it in a new tomb. 

In our Ukrainian Catholic Church, we recognize the Sorrowful Passion of the Mother of God for Her Son so cruelly treated. Mary stood by Her Son at the Cross until the very end – always faithful and truly expressing Her unshaken love. The hymn, “Mournful Mother” expresses this most dearly. The second stanza of the Hymn says it so beautifully: “With my bitter tears how lovingly I bathed You; When You were a child from Your foes I saved You. But now You leave, and My heart so grieves Me. For My dearest Son, no longer will I see You, O My Son.”

Rev. D. George Worschak