Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Transfiguration

УКРАЇНСЬКA КАТОЛИЦЬКA ЦЕРКВА ПРЕОБРАЖЕННЯ ГОСПОДНЬОГО


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Let us offer a prayer for our mothers and all those who have been like mothers for us. May the Lord bless them and keep them close

It has become commonplace for the Sunday of the Myrrh bearing women to evoke the prominence of women in the Gospel mission. And how fitting that this year in North America we celebrate Mother’s Day on this same day. Although it is nice to have specific days of appreciation, it is also ironic that both these illuminations of women appear in contexts that privilege men and persistently devalue the women’s roles that are being celebrated.

  Perhaps the time has come for us, once again, to examine the role of the Myrrh bearers, but this time to hear their call to action. It is critical that we recognize these women in their historical context in order to relate to them today.

  The very presence of women in the Gospel accounts of Jesus alerts us to their significance in Christ’s message. Biblical scholars attest that early Christian communities strove to emulate Christ in their relationships and social structures. Thus, as Paul explains, there was neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor freeman, man nor woman . . .

That Jesus spoke to women as His equals was a radical act, worthy of recording. Therefore, women in Early Christian communities exercised leadership roles alongside their brothers in faith. Eventually, as the Church flourished, Rome sought to destroy the Christians, using them as scapegoats for its neglectful and destructive policies. Christian communities sought acceptance in the mainstream, thereby gradually eroding Christ’s revolutionary equality and inclusivity. Despite women disciples, prophets, martyrs and saints, as the Church entered the mainstream, the role of women in the Church began to mirror its patriarchal society rather than the astonishing equality demonstrated by Christ.

  Today, as we reflect on the Gospel message, we can see how Christian living demands openness. Love is dynamic; it does not stagnate. Therefore, even as Church, we do not act simply because “that’s how it’s always been.” We must always be open to the fresh possibilities of sharing love. This is a choice we make with support and deliberation.

  Females are not biologically programmed to love more than males. Love in humans is nurtured from the womb. Women, having the potential to give birth have developed a social position as nurturers not only of humans, but of all life. We look to the Myrrh bearers and, indeed, to the mother of God as choosing to live God’s love. They have said yes to God, to Christ—despite the danger, fear, and undermining of norms.

Imagine the disciples, men and women, hiding away at Passover—their dear Jesus in the tomb. Imagine the courage it would take to leave the room, knowing that followers of Jesus are at risk of the same treatment He received. They were afraid—as any sensible person would be. Nevertheless, they went to the tomb. They risked their lives to honour the death of their friend in the customary practice of their Tradition. They chose to show their love, more than their fear. These women were the first to know the news of salvation, the first to know the Resurrection, the first to tell the others. Imagine, the fear. Imagine the courage.

  Today, as we honour this event together with mothers in our life, let’s look to the astounding courage of our own mothers who have said “yes” to love, teaching us how to love others, our culture, our Church. Let’s acknowledge the courage of the women of Ukraine, feeding others, caring for others, working to preserve the dignity and integrity of Ukraine and its people. Let’s work to recognize and stop the sexism all around us that devalues women on a daily basis. We look to the Myrrh bearers and all caring women to learn the courage, honesty and generosity of life lived in love.

With gratitude to our mothers, sisters, aunts, daughters whose loving lives bring hope to our world.


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We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.

(Teilhard de Chardin)

  How fortunate that Thomas wasn’t hiding out with his fellow apostles, that first day of the Resurrection. A week later, on his return, he hears that Jesus is actually alive after dying, because Mary, the other women, and then the others staying together, had seen and spoken with Him, even

eaten with Him. They believed Christ had risen from the dead because they saw Him with their own eyes. That core group of disciples described their experience to Thomas. It’s no wonder Thomas needed that experience as well. “Hey—I want to see our beloved friend too. I’ll believe my own eyes.”

  We are human beings; we experience life through our physical bodies. We experience God through our physical bodies. When we listen carefully to what has been recorded in the Gospels of the Risen Christ, we see a clear pattern. The disciples have real, tangible interactions with Christ, but He always sends them beyond Himself to others. He tells the women at the tomb to tell the others. He tells those locked in the room to go out and spread the news. He tells Thomas: “Peace. Don’t worry; come see for yourself.” There is no rebuke—only tenderness and understanding.  Thomas’s need is natural and those who hear about his experience will be happy and blessed. They now have the opportunity to see the Truth without needing to verify Christ’s death by touching the mortal wounds. They are you and me.

  But how do we encounter Christ? How do we know God through our human physicality? Christ leaves no doubt that we meet God through each other and all creation. Through the Risen Christ we see the world transfigured in holiness. When we see the world transfigured, we experience Christ. Every Sunday, as we celebrate Christ’s triumph over death, we share the Eucharistic bread that sustains us as the Body of Christ. Christ is tangible through us—His followers. The reading from Acts (as do the Gospels) tells us that Christ is physically present through you and me, when we live in Love, as Jesus did.

  Our Ukrainian custom of having a community Sviachene on the Sunday of Thomas is a perfect echo of the early Church’s experience of the Risen Christ that we hear in today’s readings. Through being together and sharing hospitality, the walls of our doubts, yearning, illness, and sorrow are shattered, and we can come into the peace of Christ’s presence among us. As we meet our brothers and sisters again, or for the first time, at Divine Liturgy and over coffee, let’s feel the Love and Peace of Christ that our togetherness brings.

God works through life, through people, and through physical, tangible,

and material reality to communicate [God’s] healing presence in our lives.” (R. E. Webber)


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CHRIST IS RISEN!

On this Easter morning, let us look again at the lives we have been so generously given and let us let fall away the useless baggage that we carry – old pains, old habits, old ways of seeing and feeling – and let us have the courage to begin again. Life is very short, and we are no sooner here than it is time to depart again, and we should use to the full the time that we still have.

  We don’t realize all the good we can do. A kind, encouraging word or helping hand can bring many a person through dark valleys in their lives. We weren’t put here to make money or to acquire status or reputation. We were sent here to search for the light of Easter in our hearts, and when we find it we are meant to give it away generously.

  May the spirit and light of this Easter morning… bless us all, watch over us and protect us on our journey, open us from the darkness into the light of peace and hope and transfiguration.

John O’Donohue, Irish poet and philosopher


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Love is greater than hate. Love is stronger than death

Another Pussy-willow Sunday. Our Lenten reflections recognized the Divine Liturgy as a renewal of our relationship with God, each other, humanity, creation. We are connected as one body through the Eucharist; we are family. Throughout Lent this year, we, together with most of the Western world, recoil in horror at russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In our interconnection, each prayer and thought filter through the unfathomable pain of our sisters and brothers in our homeland. We enter into Passion week hearing the cries of children, mothers, friends and families—plunged into hell for no reason but that they live in a country of peace. T. S. Eliot writes:

‘And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.’

Annually, our Lenten exploration into our souls can bring us to the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection as if “for the first time”. Undoubtedly, the violence we know this year vibrates with the senseless killing of innocence seen in the crucifixion. There is so much similarity between current events and the events we remember each Paschal cycle. Sometimes it seems that Christ’s humanness is lost when we celebrate His divinity at Easter. We forget that He was a man who did not want to die and prayed that “this cup be taken from him”. We forget that God did not force Him to be crucified. Jesus, the man, did not want to die, but He would not compromise what He stood for in order to save himself from the untrue accusations of His enemies.

Hence, it can be misleading to say that “Jesus died for our sins,” as if He had planned the event. Jesus died because of our sins. Jesus’s life demonstrates how a human being can live an ordinary human life choosing love always. Through Christ we see that living love begets life—all the good things we call “life” such as inclusion, kindness, compassion. These qualities lead to equity, and ultimately happiness, because people would help each other to mitigate the inevitable pain and problems that come with being alive.  We would recognize and act on our interconnection the way Jesus did.

As much as love begets life, hate begets death. Throughout life, of course, we humans struggle in a vast spectrum between the two: Love=God; hate=sin.

We desperately want to simplify life by reducing the constant struggle into categories of good/bad, right/wrong, white/black. (For example, I might see what is easy and desirable for me as right, ignoring any negative effects on you). And so we live in a perpetual muddle of uncertainty over claims of power, rules, laws, whether political or religious.

So why did Jesus, who kept His focus only on goodness, “have” to die? Love does not mean that you “let” others kill you. No.

Christ’s way of living threatened those who profited from human oppression and fear. In fact, Christ stood with the oppressed. In the words of Pope Francis:

“If we really want to love God, we must be passionate about humanity, about all humanity, especially those who live the condition in which the Heart of Jesus was manifested, that is, pain, abandonment and rejection; especially in this throwaway culture that we live in today. When we serve those who suffer we console and rejoice in the Heart of Christ.”

We want to believe that the “victory of the cross” is a vanquishing of suffering. If we are good Christians all will be well, right? We want to believe this, despite the teachings of the gospels. But this Sunday, as we take our branches home, we cannot ignore the present anguish of Ukraine and we recognize anew the cross and resurrection.

In the time of Christ, the cross was used as a criminal penalty by the dominant power—Rome. It was an instrument of humiliation and degradation as well as death. Remember, Christ embraced humanity, his own and all people’s. A crucifixion is designed, as it were, to dehumanize the victim.

The victory of the cross is that despite all the abuse and indignity, Christ did not stop loving. He did not stop caring. He maintained His human dignity and refused to become like His tormentors.

“To make the same point differently, people like Jesus and Paul were not executed for saying,

‘Love one another.’ They were killed because their understanding of love meant more than being compassionate toward individuals, although it did include that. It also meant standing against the domination systems that ruled their world, and collaborating with the Spirit in the creation of a new way of life that stood in contrast to the normalcy of the wisdom of the world. Love and justice go together. Justice without love can be brutal, and love without justice can be banal.“

 (M. J. Borg and J. D. Crossan)

Currently, the world sees Ukraine, defending human dignity, standing for justice and peace. Again the power of oppression and greed is threatened. Hate strives to destroy love.

But this is why we celebrate the victory of the cross. Love is greater than hate. Love is stronger than death. Christ is with us. He is and always will be. Ukraine will rise again!


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Blessed is the Kingdom….

We have focused on the Proskomydia and the Liturgy of the Word; this Sunday our Lenten reflection rests on the third part of the Divine Liturgy: the Liturgy of the Faithful—the culmination of our common prayer, where we share in the Eucharistic meal and reinforce our unity as the body of Christ. 

 

Recall that in the Early Church, believers in Christ were being persecuted, tortured and killed, as our people are by Russian forces in Ukraine today. After hearing the scriptures and the homily, only the baptized could stay for the sharing of communion. This was done not to be superior, but to protect those who had committed their lives to Christ’s way. Only the truly dedicated received baptism, because a Christian was more likely to undergo the suffering of Christ than the safety and health that many today mistakenly expect from faith in God.

Therefore, the unbaptized were asked to leave, since imposters and betrayers might be among them. Thus the Liturgy resumes with the words: “Only the faithful, again and again in peace let us pray to the Lord!”

Now, no one is asked to leave. We “the faithful” stand before the altar—before God—asking for mercy (God’s tenderness) on behalf of all humanity. The peace, health, and safety we entreat is for all creation. With the Cherubic hymn we enter a heavenly space: We are angels; we put aside our cares; we sing joyfully.

In this way we enter into the mystery of our life in Christ—God becoming human unites our humanity with God. The alleluia is our response of awe to this inexplicable mystical reality. While we sing, the gifts of bread and wine are brought to the altar (the Great Entrance); again the incense fills our physical senses with the knowledge of the Spirit filling our being. The Great Entrance symbolically represents Christ’s passion and death. As Jesus did, we pray to be delivered from “tribulation, wrath, and misfortune.” Together we recite the “Creed” confirming the baptismal commitment we made as we became members of our Church family. But first, we join in the flow of the Trinity by showing our love for each other. “Let us love one another, so that with one mind we profess.” We complete the statement: “The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Trinity one in being and undivided.” Now of course, the pandemic prevents close contact, but without pandemic precautions, we embrace each other as sisters and brothers in a kiss of peace saying: “Christ is among us! He is and shall be! We strive toward a relationship of unity with each other in Christ.

After this, the Eucharistic prayer or Anaphora begins. “Eucharist” means thanksgiving. Gratitude in itself is relationship with another beyond ourselves. We raise our hearts in thanksgiving as Father lifts up the bread and wine of the eucharist. The prayer over the gifts follows the same form as the Jewish Prayer of Thanksgiving, the Birkat-hamazon, prayed by Jesus the night He was betrayed. In this silent prayer, the priest recalls all that God has done for us since the beginning of time and asks for the Spirit to come upon us and the gifts of bread and wine. We respond with gratitude, placing ourselves in Christ’s presence just as His followers were at that Lord’s Supper. We hear Christ’s words spoken to them, and now to us, that this bread and wine given to us by Christ—Is Christ Himself.  The next silent prayers encompass everyone again including those before us, the angels, saints, and Mother of God. We prepare to receive communion with gratitude, prayer, and love for our neighbour. As Pope Francis has said, Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, as some like to think. It is a mystical event that raises all humanity to equality, dignity, and union. Eucharist is communion/koinonia: sharing in common.   

The sacrament of Eucharist is the fulfilment of the Divine Liturgy; it is how we physically take part in Christ’s heavenly presence among us. The Eucharist is a gift of grace that unites us as a community of faith, so we are all invited, by Christ, to receive the sacrament.

  Unless we have committed a mortal sin (that means we are very troubled and need to look for spiritual guidance), we come to the Eucharistic celebration to be renewed in our faith and to strengthen our relationship with Christ through our church community. When we receive the Eucharist the priest reminds us that “the servant of God is communicated with the precious

body and blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting, amen.”  The sacrament of confession (penance) is not mandatory before receiving Communion. Can we, as human people, ever pretend to be so perfect as to approach God? We approach, not because we are sinless, but because we accept God’s grace that we know through Christ and experience through the Holy Spirit as community.

  Before we share in communion, we pray the Lord’s prayer, calling God our Father, admitting we are His children. We pray before approaching that this meal not be “for judgement or condemnation but for the healing of soul and body.” “Jesus still and always ‘eats with sinners’.” (R. Rohr)

The Divine Liturgy concludes in thanksgiving, and newly inspired prayer for our world. We leave in peace, committed afresh to spreading love where we are, recognizing others as our siblings and treating them with openness and honesty.

“Do not forsake us who hope in you. Grant peace to Your world, to Your churches,  . . .to our nation under God, to our government and to all your people.”

  We are not alone. We are loved. We are wanted. We are invited to a table of life-giving nourishment together with all humanity on behalf of all creation. We are invited and we respond: Amen!


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Blessed is the Kingdom!

Our Church leaders, Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky, Patriarch Josyf Slipyj and their successors worked tirelessly to restore our Traditional liturgical practices in the face of Latinization from Polish Roman Catholicism that dominated Halychyna at the end of the 19th c. Soviet rule tried to destroy our Church, just as now Russia desires to annihilate everything Ukrainian.

Here, we resist with our prayer and with a determination to protect and preserve our most sacred of services: the Divine Liturgy.

Last week we looked at the Divine Liturgy as relationship: we come to church to join with our community of faith. We come to be together with Christ in the company of others who also long to be with Christ. There we join with the entire Church, including past and future, living and dead. We join with all creation in celebrating our salvation and the hope of everlasting life with God. We give ourselves in gratitude as we do when we are with someone we love. We are present in our inadequacies, our exhaustion, our failures, and fears. We come for acceptance, welcome, comfort, encouragement, and strength. As with our closest loved one, we find joy in simply being together.

In order to really see it as relationship, we have to understand that each Divine Liturgy is not only a celebration of Easter—the resurrection—but it is also an entrance into the profound, unfathomable meaning of God becoming human. If we are mindful, the Divine Liturgy helps us to encounter our own humanity and the sacred in us. Hence the rituals are symbolic and ancient, speaking to us on many levels of our being, both conscious and subconscious. Over the centuries, the DL has evolved into 3 sections: We have looked at the first one: the Liturgy of Preparation or Proskomydia. Today we see the second section: the Liturgy of the Wordю Next week we’ll look at the third and final section: the Liturgy of the Faithful.

Liturgy of the Word

When Father proclaims “Blessed is the Kingdom . . .” he faces the East together with us. At each Liturgy we stand together as pilgrims, transforming, growing, on the path to conversion or (in Pope Francis’s terms) integral ecological conversion. We grow in Christ: recognizing Him in all creation. The “royal” doors are open—joining heaven and earth. We are with the angels and saints–the entire church living and deceased. The deacon has incensed the church, bowing to us in greeting. We bow in return, inhaling the incense that signifies our prayer, and the Holy Spirit, “Heavenly King, Advocate, Spirit of Truth, everywhere present and filling all things…”.

With Christ, with the Spirit, we join in the community of the Trinity together with all creation.

Our first prayers together are the Great Litany (ektenia) where we bring before God’s love and tenderness (mercy) all humanity and creation: “in peace” we pray for peace. We name ourselves, our leadership, our nation, every country and place. We pray for the military, the captives, those suffering, or sick, those travelling on land or sea. We even pray for good weather and crops!

Close your eyes. Take a few moments to focus your consciousness on this notion:  we stand as a community sharing our faith in the Trinity—in our connection to all living things. Individually we would surely lack stamina to pray so inclusively, but together we are like the incense—filling the air with our desire for peace and goodness in our present world. We place ourselves in the mystery of the universe—without end or beginning.

After our petitions to God, we sing the Antiphon: excerpts from psalms and scripture. These change with the celebrations of feast days, but on Sunday the first antiphon is always that of Easter (except during Great Lent)! Every Sunday is a celebration of our salvation through Christ’s resurrection. Again, that is why we do not kneel during Divine Liturgy: “Shout to the Lord, all the

earth; sing His name and give glory to His praise!”

We sing the 6th century hymn: Only begotten Son and Word of God . . . as a statement of our faith before the “Minor Entrance” where Father, Deacon and altar servers bring the Gospel (the Incarnation—the Word of God) to us. Children and candle bearers gather close, remembering Christ’s welcome of everyone, especially children, to hear Him speak.

We sing “Holy God . . .” expressing the total unfathomable mystery of Christ: at once Divine and human, before listening to the Epistle and Gospel readings.

We hear excerpts of letters written to the first Christian communities and then a segment of Christ’s teaching as recorded by His followers. After over two thousand years, the words speak directly to us. And so, in the Homily, the priest reflects on how the readings can guide us today.

  The Liturgy of the Word ends with another litany of petition, as we again join in care for our world.

It is awe inspiring to know that our Divine Liturgy was practiced during the first Christian persecutions. This section of the service was called the Liturgy of the Catechumens, allowing new followers of Christ to hear and learn from the Scriptures. However, the Eucharist was allowed only for those committed to the faith through Baptism. Unbaptized were asked to leave as a precaution, ensuring no infiltrators seeking to destroy the Church would be admitted to share the sacrament of the Eucharist. Those without baptism were asked to leave and the doors were closed, leaving only the most faithful.

Perhaps we have taken our DL for granted. In Ukraine, suddenly, people living ordinary lives have lost their lives, simply for being Ukrainian. Our Faith, our culture, our people are, once again, under attack, besieged, martyred without even knowing why.

Let’s be a resistance of love, kindness and solidarity—knowing the powerful meaning of our DL and our Faith Traditions.


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God is our support at times of war, when the very foundations of life are being destroyed.

Patriarch Svyatoslav

If you’re like me, when travelling to a foreign place, finding a Ukrainian Church and attending Divine Liturgy can feel a bit like an oasis in a desert—even if the service is in a foreign language. The rituals are familiar, the icons well known, the melodies comforting. This familiarity is part of our cultural heritage. The Divine Liturgy as we know it dates back to the 9th c, but its meaning and origins reach back to the 3rd c. It is phenomenal to imagine the generations of lives throughout history that have honoured, protected and maintained this way of approaching God, bequeathing it to us so that we, today in 2022, could be enriched and pass on this treasure to future generations.

When, through its laws and slaughter of hierarchy and faithful, the Soviet Regime believed they had destroyed our Church, Blessed Joseph Slipyj proclaimed that all the Soviet tactics of brutal annihilation would not erase our Faith Tradition because it would flourish in the diaspora. Now, while our Lenten meditation is to deepen our understanding of the Divine Liturgy, as a diaspora we have a renewed imperative to cherish and keep our inherited Tradition of Worship, to share its peace and beauty with all the world, and to preserve it for those to come.

We see the Divine Liturgy start when Father opens the Royal Doors of the Ikonostas and exclaims: “Blessed is the kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and forever.” We agree with an easy “Amen”. Yet, what is this Kingdom?

Every time we take part in the Divine Liturgy, we approach this very thing that we pray for in the Our Father. We can explain the Kingdom of God in all the simplicity and complexity of a single word: relationship. Whether we come to church alone, or merely from habit, we enter a relationship. We enter the presence of God because we have come together in the name of Christ whose humanity has shown us the Divine. Each one of us comprises the Body of Christ. We are related. We are one. We belong to a reality that transcends space and time. We all belong in peace and love at this celebration of life in the Triune God: Father-Son-Spirit sweeping us—you and me—into mindful being. This is the start of the Divine Liturgy that immediately requires our engagement. But the initial section of the service has already taken place behind the Ikonostas. Historically the Proskomydia, or Liturgy of Preparation, was also public, but although we do not see it performed today, it illuminates our participation in the cosmic events of the Incarnation and Resurrection: the mysteries that reveal God with us now—in every form of goodness and love. Amen!     

When Father enters the church, he prays before the Ikonostas, and enters the sanctuary. There he kisses the Gospel and altar and then, reciting specific lines of scripture, he puts on the liturgical vestments. He washes his hands signifying that he approaches the altar with a pure heart. The Proskomydia, or preparation of bread, water and wine, is

done at the small table at the Eastern wall near the altar. The East, where the sun rises, symbolizes life, creativity, resurrection. The incarnation and resurrection are symbolically represented in every item and action of this ritual. The table is the cave of Christ’s birth. The prosphora recalls those 5 loaves that fed multitudes (Matt 14: 13-21). The prosphoron (bread for communion) is a small round loaf with two segments baked together: human and divine as one. The yeast bread: risen life. The top segment is stamped with: ICXC HIKA (Jesus Christ conquers). The priest cuts out

this cube which will be used for Communion. It is called the “Ahnets” or Lamb. With a small altar knife (spear), the priest makes a cross in the bread saying: “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, is offered as a sacrifice, for the life of the world and for its salvation.” Piercing the right side of the Ahnets, he says: “One of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. He who saw this has borne witness about it, and his witness is true” (John 19:34). He pours the wine and water into the chalice.

Throughout the Proskomydia, the priest follows a precise order of prayers while cutting out sections of prosphora. Each cube of bread represents a member of the Body of Christ, the Church, the Kingdom, and is placed on the diskos. In the centre is Christ. Surrounding Him are the Mother of God, the prophets of the Old Testament, the Apostles, Saints, Martyrs, Church Mothers and Fathers, the hierarchy, civil authorities, and members of our church, dead and living. When we leave names for Father to specifically mention at Divine Liturgy, they are named in prayer and stand together with the vast family of God that are present with us at Liturgy. The diskos is covered with a cloth and a star shaped cover: the star of Bethlehem.

Having prepared the bread and wine, the priest incenses them, praying: “O God, You sent the Heavenly Bread, the food of the entire world, our Lord and God Jesus Christ, the Savior, Redeemer, and Benefactor, who blesses and sanctifies us: Bless this Offering and accept it on Your Heavenly Altar. O You who are Good and Love humanity, remember those who offered it, and those for whom it is offered, and keep us blameless in the service of Your Divine Mysteries.” 

Now, having spoken in prayer and represented in actions the unfathomable wonder of God becoming human, dying and living in us, the priest goes to the altar, opens the Royal Doors and proclaims: “Blessed is the kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and forever.”

You and I together with creation respond in unison: Yes. Truly. It is so. AMEN.


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Prayer for Ukraine

At the conclusion of the Pope’s General Audience on Wed. March 16th, he prayed the following prayer written by the Archbishop of Naples, Domenico Battaglia. The Pope began by saying, “Dear brothers and sisters, amidst the pain, brought on by this war let us pray together, and ask our Lord for forgiveness and peace.”

(https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/250689/ukraine-war-here-s-the-prayer-for-ukraine-cited-by-pope-francis)

Forgive us for war, O Lord. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners!

Lord Jesus, born in the shadows of bombs falling on Kyiv, have mercy on us!

Lord Jesus, who died in a mother’s arms in a bunker in Kharkiv, have mercy on us!

Lord Jesus, a 20-year-old sent to the frontlines, have mercy on us!

Lord Jesus, who still behold armed hands in the shadow of your Cross, have mercy on us!

Forgive us, O Lord. Forgive us, if we are not satisfied with the nails with which we crucified Your hands, as we continue to slate our thirst with the blood of those mauled by weapons.

Forgive us, if these hands which You created to tend have been transformed into instruments of death.

Forgive us, O Lord, if we continue to kill our brother;

Forgive us, if we continue like Cain to pick up the stones of our fields to kill Abel.

Forgive us, if we continue to justify our cruelty with our labours,

if we legitimize the brutality of our actions with our pain.

Forgive us for war, O Lord. Forgive us for war, O Lord.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, we implore You!

Hold fast the hand of Cain! Illumine our consciences; May our will not be done; Abandon us not to our own actions!

Stop us, O Lord, stop us! And when you have held back the hand of Cain, care also for him. He is our brother.

O Lord, put a halt to the violence!

Stop us, O Lord! Amen.


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We pray for Ukraine

This year our Lenten meditation will focus on the Divine Liturgy. Do we know what goes on or what it means when we come to church on Sundays? Since COVID, we may be attending virtually, or maybe we’ve gotten out of the habit. Since Russia has brutally attacked Ukraine, some, for the first time, feel a need to attend Divine Liturgy, perhaps without knowing why.

Over the next few weeks we’ll look more closely at this service, because Great Lent is our preparation for Easter, and every Divine Liturgy is a celebration of Easter: our new life in Christ’s resurrection.  That’s why we don’t fast on Sundays and why we do not kneel during the Divine Liturgy. We come together in hope and gratitude. From the Greek, the word Liturgy means public work. Indeed we come together to be together; to pray collectively for all humanity; to meet Christ among us (“Wherever 2 or more gather in my name, there am I”).

We have been baptized into our family of the Ukrainian Catholic Faith and so, like all families, we share food: nourishment, that sustains us and gives us strength. The Divine Liturgy centres on the Eucharist, which recalls the Last Supper where Christ, recognizing that His path of Love was leading to His betrayal and death, did not back away, but embraced His followers. Kneeling before them, He washed their feet.  

Christ suffered and died, showing us that a full human life is lived for each other. At the Divine Liturgy we all come to Christ’s table as equals—servants to each other and all human beings. We know that living as Christ, we don’t escape suffering, but have strength and peace through Love. The good news of Easter is the faith that death is not the end, and that all the Love we have given continues in the humanity we have shared.

At every Divine Liturgy, as at family gatherings, we hear the stories that ground us and inspire us to be our best selves. This Sunday in Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, he writes of the horrific persecution of people of faith. We hear this while our fellow Ukrainians are undergoing equally horrific circumstances today. Paul compares these innocent victims to Moses, who chose to be with his enslaved people rather than accepting the luxuries of an Egyptian prince. Moses did not see the “promised land” but he led his people out of slavery onto the path of freedom.

Today Ukraine is persecuted because it represents human dignity and the desire to live freely. The parallels are clear. Paul tells us that, like the Hebrews, we (and indeed the free world) are the beneficiaries of Ukraine’s suffering. Their innocence reveals the evil that destroys their life and home. They make the way clear for others, for us, to live in Love; to stand with them in Christ for goodness, dignity, freedom. As we take part in the Liturgy, we continue to pray for our sisters and brothers in Ukraine, and for the wisdom to help in any way we can.

“Therefore . . . let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1, 2)