Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Transfiguration


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Our church is a sanctuary. According to the dictionary, this means a holy place, a refuge. The sanctuary in a church is the holy of holies and to give sanctuary means to protect—as in current Canadian examples where individuals reside in a church in order to avoid deportation. This practice draws on the ancient belief that “normal” rules don’t apply to sacred spaces. A place becomes sacred because it is the dwelling place of God. For the first Christians, the understanding of sanctuary shifted from place to people: “wherever two or more of you are gathered in my name, there I shall be” (Matt. 18:20). Christ is among us. So together, in our parish community, we ARE sanctuary: we are immersed in kindness, caring, love, at the same time that we practice kindness, caring, love. Why? Because we are the vehicles of Christ; we meet God through each other. Here each and every one of us belongs: just as we are. If we need to sit at any time or throughout the entire service, that’s ok: the pews are there for that. If physically we could use some assistance to improve our participation in the Liturgy, we can let Father or a fellow parishioner know and perhaps accommodations can be made.

On Sundays, when we leave church to return to the “normal” world, I hope we will be a bit more revived, inspired, and at peace, having shared the refuge of the sacred space we create together.

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This is the greeting we, Ukrainian Christians (Catholic or Orthodox), have used during the Easter season for generations.

Not surprisingly, with our current immersion in multifarious diversity, this “religious” greeting, together with so many rituals and traditions is fading away—possibly because in our lives of unending choices, we gradually forget “the why” of doing things. We lose the meaning, the symbolism, and ultimately the benefit of a given tradition when it is only repeated because “that’s what Baba did”.

Recently I heard an Indigenous man explain how his tradition teaches an obligation to honour the rituals of the past 7 generations, with the responsibility of passing them on to future 7 generations. I was struck by the similarity to our cultural heritage that also unfailingly encompasses both those who have come before us and those who are yet to come. Our refrain of Vichnaja Pamiat’, our kutia, our pysanky, reflect our practices that, in the here-and-now, at once involve past and future community. With our traditions we participate in a universal reality.

Similarly, our Easter greeting holds so much more than a statement of belief in the miraculous revival of a man. It is a statement of the revival of humanity. The icon of the resurrection conveys the personal relevance of this event: Christ pulls Adam and Eve out of hell; that is, Christ pulls creation out of the depths to a level with Him.

Anyone who enters into love, and through love experiences inextricable suffering and the fatality of death, enters into the history of the human God, for [their] forsakenness is lifted away from [them] in the forsakenness of Christ, and in this way [they] can continue to love, need not look away from the negative and from death, but can sustain death.”    (Jurgen Moltmann)

Our rituals rooted in Byzantine theology contain a treasure of wisdom that, currently, Western theologians are eagerly discovering.

In this way we, next Sunday after Bright Week, will celebrate together, with a blessed Paschal meal, the beauty and goodness of our life in love, shared with God.

Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!

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“The mirror of the Cross”

Clare of Assisi [1194–1253] spoke of “the mirror of the cross” in which she saw in the tragic death of Jesus our own human capacity for violence and, yet, our great capacity for love. [3] Empty in itself, the mirror simply absorbs an image and returns it to the one who gives it. Discovering ourselves in the mirror of the cross can empower us to love beyond the needs of the ego or the need for self-gratification. We love despite our fragile flaws when we see ourselves loved by One greater than ourselves. In the mirror of the cross we see what it means to share in divine power. To find oneself in the mirror of the cross is to see the world not from the foot of the cross but from the cross itself. How we see is how we love, and what we love is what we become. (Ilia Delio, Clare of Assisi: A Heart full of Love (Franciscan Press: 2007), 26)

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Astonishingly, God manifests unlimited patience, continuing to speak to us, telling us of our capacity for goodness and love

Reviewing the Genesis readings from this week’s Presanctified Liturgy, I’m struck by the recurring theme that we saw from the very start of the creation stories: We humans are in conversation with God and all is good; then, we humans mess up, so to speak. We engage in dishonesty, betrayal, jealousy, greed . . . We mess up the goodness and push God’s patience beyond the limit: hence, expulsion, flood, babel, Sodom & Gomorrah. It looks like we humans don’t learn from our mistakes! Nevertheless, astonishingly, God manifests unlimited patience, continuing to speak to us, telling us of our capacity for goodness and love. Throughout the ages, humanity has always been given another chance, despite our track record. I speak of a collective us and we, because through Christ we know that we are as interconnected as parts of a body or branches on a vine. Only together can we glimpse our wholeness and recognize divinity in our world. Through Christ we see God as human and we see how we can live to the fullness of our humanity. Yet, even with God as our brother, we humans rejected God’s incarnate goodness and, unleashing our worst traits, we tortured and sentenced goodness to death (all in the name of righteousness and law).

We really really messed up.

God: infinite patience. Infinite love. Year after year, we celebrate the Resurrection, not as an historical event—but as the miracle of miracles: we humans cannot kill love; we cannot destroy God. God gives us life, in all its wonder and joy. We humans bring the darkness to reign, but in recognizing the light of Christ we become the vessels of God—here and now.

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What can I do to care for the environment?

environmentIn the face of environmental devastation and political unwillingness to realize unpopular changes to industries and economies, we might feel that our actions are irrelevant. But it’s not so. As Christians we know that there can be hope and power in every individual—and together we are stronger.

Care for the natural world around us is an attitude that can come with our desire to be like Christ and see all life through a prism of love.

We, as individuals, are always in a process of development. We can imagine our personal growth as being both creations and creators.

Follow this link to  a list of suggestions for environmental care. Some are small and some are large; easy, difficult, some possible, others impossible—depending on our context. But all are positive actions of love for God’s creation—for us—for humanity.

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Stewards of Creation

Last week we looked at how our faith, that mirrors the Trinity, cannot escape any aspect of our daily life. How we see the world, how we vote, spend money, treat others—everything can be imbued with our refreshed mindfulness of the Sacred. We’ve often talked about the sacred aspect of water: every year when Father blesses the Jordan water, we renew our gratitude for this essential element of life.

As Christians living in our world today, we must protect and care for the natural world including our water sources, which are exploited and endangered by what can be called corporate greed. One way to start is to recognize the harm caused by the bottled water industry. Let’s take a stand against bottled water and the devastation caused by corporations such as Nestlé. We can be informed about unethical practices around, and sourcing of, products, so that, as much as possible, our buying power will support a better, more caring world. Bishop Crosby (RC Hamilton diocese) in keeping with Pope Francis, has asked the faithful to reject bottled water. We too must follow this lead!


Close to five million litres of water are taken from Wellington County daily for a water bottling plant. This extraction of large amounts of water adversely effects the ecological balance of nature over a large area while depriving those who rely on wells of their right to water. Close to seventy-five percent of plastic bottles end up in land fill sites, thus contributing to contamination of the soil for thousands of years. All parishes of the Diocese of Hamilton are encouraged to refrain from using bottled water in church facilities effective January 1, 2017. As stewards of Creation may we be leaders in the responsible use of our sacred mandate.”

Read the Canadian Catholic Bishops’ Conference document: “CCCB_Drinking_Water_2018

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On Catholic-Orthodox unity

His Beatitude Sviatoslav:

Unity of Catholics and Orthodox is not utopian thinking

Today the ecumenical movement is alive globally. It is unstoppable. Thus it is important for our sister church, the newly-born Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine, to take part, and avoid isolation. The search for universal unity between Catholic and Orthodox Churches is vibrant in Ukraine. No wonder St. Pope John Paul II once called Ukraine a “laboratory of ecumenism.” Therefore, cooperation with the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church is essential.


We have agreed with His Beatitude Epiphanius, to work out a “road map” in order to see in which parts of our church life we could indeed do things together. Every effort must be made not only to overcome the division within Ukrainian Orthodoxy, but also to seriously theologize, pray, and work in order to restore the original unity of the Church of Kyiv in its Orthodox and Catholic branches. The UGCC carries the mystical ecclesiastical memory of the undivided Christianity of the first millennium and, although we live in full communion with the successor of the Apostle Peter, we recognize that our Mother Church is the Church of ancient Constantinople.

“Every effort must be made to restore the original unity of the Church of Kyiv in its Orthodox and Catholic branches”                                                                                                                                                               Patriarch Sviatoslav