risu.org.ua - Seventy years ago, on March 8-10, 1946, under orders from Josef Stalin, an illegal “synod” of Kremlin-controlled clergy gathered in the city of Lviv, recently absorbed into the Soviet Union as part of the settlement of World War II. The purpose of the gathering was to liquidate the independent existence of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, or rather to “reunite” it with the Russian Orthodox Church. This flimsy ruse derived from the church’s origins as a result of the Union of Brest in 1595 when thousands of faithful and their clergy—the Metropolitanate of Kyiv-Halych—broke away from Eastern orthodoxy to place themselves under the authority and pastoral protection of the Latin Catholic Pope of Rome.

The next three-and-a-half centuries established the church as a thriving spiritual center that was closely connected to rising social and intellectual movements as they struggled to define an identity for nascent Ukrainian populations that found themselves under the serial domination of empires and states in the region.

By the middle of the twentieth century, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) included over three thousand parishes, 4,440 churches, five seminaries, and 127 monasteries. Over three million believers were served by three thousand priests, ten bishops, and the metropolitan at the head of the church. As Stalin’s regime moved to subdue and absorb the Western Ukrainians, it was clear that this large and vibrant institution that answered to an authority outside of the state would continue to nurture the same patriotism and independent spirit that had proved so problematic during the first Soviet occupation in 1939-1941. Moreover, during the Second World War, even though the Communist Soviet regime had moved away from strict atheism, recognizing that religion could play a role in supporting the war effort, the imperative to control all religious institutions remained. The “reunification” of the UGCC with the Russian Orthodox Church emerged as the solution. A “synod” was assembled without the participation of any UGCC bishops; those who had been coerced into attending cast their votes and the church was officially absorbed into the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate along with most of its property. In a cynical move that reinforced the decision, the announcement was made on the first Sunday of Easter Lent, on the 350th anniversary of the Union of Brest. As a result, the UGCC became the largest outlawed church in the world.

Harsh repressions followed. Ukrainian Catholic priests were beaten, tortured, and given long prison sentences. Tens of thousands of religious laity met the same fate. UGCC Metropolitan Josef Slipiy was exiled to a hard labor camp in Siberia. The church went underground: services were held in the forests, or in private homes where they dared. Children were baptized in secret and religious rites performed clandestinely, while the Soviet state continued its assault on priests, monks, nuns, and the Catholic faithful, offering respite within the Russian Orthodox Church or repression as the price for refusal to cut ties with the bishop of Rome.

And yet the flame of resistance endured and provided inspiration as stories of brutality and courage were shared among trusted family members and passed down from one generation to another. Western Ukraine, with its aspirations and support for an independent Ukraine, remained a hotbed for anti-Soviet sentiments and religious diversity. When the long struggle of the underground church finally ended in 1989, only three hundred aged priests remained.

The vitality of the church quickly reasserted itself, with the support of the diaspora, the thousands of Ukrainians who had fled their homeland during the war and settled in North America, Latin America, Europe, and as far afield as Australia.

Today, with a spiritual center in Rome, the recently reestablished Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv and newly built cathedral in Kyiv, the church has thirty-three eparchies and exarchates and fifty-three bishops on four continents, with over three thousand priests whose average age is thirty eight.

The church’s influence on Ukraine’s social and political life has been evident since independence. Students from the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv were some of the first to come to Kyiv in 2004, to support the ideas and aspirations of the Orange Revolution against an authoritarian regime. And in 2013-14, Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity was suffused with the moral values and tolerant attitudes propounded by the church. Its clergy were a daily presence on the Maidan throughout the three months of struggle. Together with the other churches and religious denominations of Ukraine, the UGCC has helped to create an ecumenical and diverse environment for social movements in Ukraine. As a bulwark against authoritarianism, this spirit of ecumenism continues to be Ukraine’s best instrument as it struggles toward becoming a democratic and prosperous state.

Nadia M. Diuk is Vice President—Europe, Eurasia, Africa, Latin America & the Caribbean at the National Endowment for Democracy

Source:http://www.atlanticcouncil.org
   


Teachings of Christ

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35 ESV)

Exaltation of the Cross

Save Your people, O Lord, and bless Your inheritance; * grant victory to Your Church over her enemies * and protect Your commonwealth by Your Cross. (Troparion - Tone 1)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Willingly lifted up on the Cross, O Christ God, * bestow Your compassions upon the new commonwealth that bears Your name. * By your power grant joy to Your Church, * granting her victory over her enemies. * May she have your Cross as the weapon of peace * and the invincible ensign of victory. (Kontakion - Tone 4)

The Church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on September 14th.

Nativity of the Mother of God

Your nativity, O Virgin Mother of God, * heralded joy to all the world; * for from you has dawned the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, * and, having annulled the curse, He gave the blessing * and by destroying Death He granted us eternal life. (Troparion - Tone 4)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Through your holy nativity, O Immaculate One, * Joachim and Anna were freed from the reproach of childlessness, * and Adam and Eve from the corruption of death. * Delivered from the guilt of sin, your people celebrate this as they cry out to you: * "The barren woman gives birth to the Mother of God, the Nourisher of our Life." (Kontakion - Tone 4)

The Church celebrates the Feast of the Nativity of the Mother of God on September 8th.

Random Proverb

"My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live." (Proverbs 7:1,2 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

I pray Thee, compassionate Lord, do not allow me to be condemned because of the unworthy and ungrateful manner in which I contemplate the great mysteries that Thou hast revealed to Thy saints and through them to me, a sinner and Thy unworthy servant. For see, Lord, Thy servant stands before Thee, idle in everything, speechless, as one who is dead; and I do not dare to say anything more or to presumptuously contemplate further. But as always I fall down before Thee, crying from the depths of my soul. . . .

St. Peter of Damascus