Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Transfiguration


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Theophany: a celebration of all Life

Before our celebration of Christ’s nativity, we bid each other “smachnoi kuti”, in effect saying “enjoy your delicious kutia!” This mention of kutia also can be a metonym for the Sviata Vechera or Holy Supper: may our 12 dish ritual meal, in honour of the sacred event of the Incarnation, be blessed and good. Each Holy Supper, on each Christmas Eve, begins with a spoonful of kutia; each person at the table obliged to have at least a taste in order to take part in the great mystery of Christmas (Heaven and Earth as One).

On the eve of the feast of Jordan—the Theophany—when through Christ’s baptism we recognize God as three, our Ukrainian tradition is to repeat the “Sviata Vechera”. This meal called spil’na (communal) Kutia, significantly, is eaten with the parish community. Rather than on the Eve of Theophany, our parish family will share this meal on the closest Sunday—this Sunday, Jan. 20th.

Have you wondered why these momentous occasions are associated so integrally with this one dish, that we rarely see, except during this cycle of religious feasts?

Kutia, despite its endless variations in Ukrainian kitchens, is essentially comprised of 3 ingredients: cooked grain, poppyseeds, and honey. The recipe predates Christianity, yet we know that even in ancient pagan traditions, it was used as a ritual food, carrying deep symbolic significance that today is reinforced when we see that the miracle of Christ’s birth reaches all creation and all time: past as well as present and future.

So, let’s reflect on this delicious, meaningful dish that we make each year and (in our home) fling to the ceiling with delight.

  1. Whole grain (wheat). Wheat is a symbol of life. It grows from a tiny seed and eventually becomes the “daily bread” that nourishes and sustains us. Without food we die. Even one spoonful of kutia consists of multiple grains. In life we cannot exist in isolation. We need each other to live. Wheat harvests not only provide food, but also the seeds for future sustenance. Wheat is also a metaphor for all humanity, generations past and still to come. The meaning of grain, on reflection, is not finite—we could think of ever more and deeper ways it reflects our being.
  2. But what about poppyseeds? 3. Honey? Mixed with the significant grain, the dark, bitter seeds symbolize the dark, bitter elements of existence that become palatable with the goodness and sweetness of life—symbolized, of course, by the honey.

Together this dish of kutia, consumed during the times we especially celebrate God becoming human, becomes sacred in itself. God with us (Emmanuel) is life itself. God gives us life and grace. We, as a family, as a community of faith, share life itself. We share God in each other. We nurture, sustain, and enrich each other.

Smachnoi Kuti!

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2019 Year of the priest-martyr Klymentiy Sheptytsky (1869-1951)

klymentiy sh

The Sheptysky brothers (Roman and Casimir) were born into the aristocratic and polonised family of the Earl Jan and Sophia (née Fredriv) Sheptysky. Roman, at a very young age entered the monastic life, accepting the name Andriy. Soon after he became the great metropolitan of our Church. His brother Casimir chose a secular career, completing a doctorate in Law in 1892. However, his success as a lawyer, politician, and social activist did not satisfy him and in 1912 he too became a monk and accepted the name Klymentiy. As a priest-monk he was a key leader in the growth of Studite monasticism in Ukraine, as the main editor of the order’s statute and, from 1926, as the superior of the Lavra in Univ. During WWII he became a very important assistant for his brother, Metropolitan Andriy. He was secretly named the Exarch for Russia and Siberia and he organized a secret system for saving Jews from Nazi persecution in Galicia. In 1944 he headed the official Church delegation to Moscow for negotiations with the occupying Soviet authorities. He was arrested in 1947 and sentenced to a Siberian camp, but due to poor health he remained in the special prison in Vladimir where he died on May 1, 1951. Klymentiy was buried (without a marker) in a hole dug under the prison walls.

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The Nativity of Our Lord


nativity yaroslav

Our tradition of iconography gives us a window into the miracle of Christmas in a way that extends beyond words. In contrast to the sentimental depictions of a cherubic baby sleeping in a manger seen in Western art, images in the Nativity icon appear austere, dark. However, when we recognize the symbolism in this icon, it offers an inexhaustible meditation on our humanity and the mystery of life, death, suffering, and joy.

Central to the scene is Christ, newborn, yet his swaddling clothes are like the wrapping of a corpse; he lies in a coffin; his face is adult. The heavenly star points to Him—our God—born as a person, dying as a person. We see time as eternal: past, present, future, focused on the incarnation of God in Jesus. As if in a concentric circle, radiating from the center, the Godbearer, Bohorodytsia, lies near her son, turned away, exhausted, embodying the pain intrinsic in giving, living, and ending life here on earth. The mother and son are encircled by the natural world: earth, stone, mountains, trees. Within this universe are angels, shepherds, wise men; on the lower left is Joseph being tempted to disbelieve his wife’s innocence; on the right are midwives, bathing the infant. Note these women, tending to the basic human process of birthing; but they pour water into what might seem to be a baptismal font, or even a chalice. . . Who are these women? Ordinary working women? Neighbours? Do they represent ordinary folks like you or me? Might that mean that you or I have something to do with God bearing? Or baptizing? Or . . . ? Just one small corner of this icon leads us into contemplation of our role in bringing the presence of God to the world. What else does the icon reveal? The nativity icon invites us always into deeper, broader, richer knowledge of Christ in me, in you, in others, and in us.


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Peace and Joy!

Our parish follows the ancient Julian calendar and as such we celebrate the Incarnation (Christmas) on January 7th (see the Christmas Ordo 2019 for services). However, we unite in best wishes to all those who are celebrating Christmas on December 25th. May the Lord’s coming remind us all of the great gift of Love that we have been granted and are called to share with all around us, especially those who are marginalized in our society and around the world. Let us glorify Him in word and in deed!

Blessings to all!

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Parish children welcome St. Nicholas

On Sunday, Dec. 16 the parish children along with the entire community welcomed St. Nicholas. The UCWLC hosted a wonderful potluck lunch and then we were blessed to welcome St. Nicholas. With him present the parish children performed a wonderful concert written and directed by Olga Gryshchenko. St. Nicholas was also very happy to watch the Rozmaj dancers perform. Of course, St. Nicholas was very generous with gifts for all our children.

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Orthodox in Ukraine unite

On Saturday, December 14, 2018 Orthodox Christians in Ukraine united to re-create the autocephalous Kyivan metropolitanate under the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. This historic step brings together factions which had since Ukraine’s independence in 1989 maintained their separateness, but now have come together in one Church. Alas, a significant number of Orthodox bishops remain faithful to the Russian Patriarchate. It is still unclear whether their priests and parishes will support them or choose to join the Kyivan Church. For a perspective on the current situation see Fr. Tataryn’s contribution to a discussion on the Forum of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs:


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Diaconal ordination

December 2, 2018 was a historic day for our parish of the Holy Transfiguration. His Grace, Bishop Stephen ordained to the diaconate, Jaroslav (Jerry) Polischuk. Fr. Dn. Polischuk has spent his whole life in the parish. It was here that he and wife, Rosalie, raised their four children. After much prayer and discernment our new Deacon entered on the road towards ordination three years ago. In September, 2016 he was raised to the sub-deaconate and this past year he completed his final steps of preparation. The wonderful Divine Liturgy was a joyous day for all who gathered in prayer with our bishop, former pastor Fr. V. Yanishevsky and Fr. Myroslaw.

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Service and the Presentation of the Mother of God in the Temple

This week (on Tuesday) we celebrate the feast of the Presentation of the Mother of God as well as today, the diaconal ordination of our fellow parishioner! Both these events bring light to the current darkness of our society where self-interest seems to reign supreme. Both these events assure us that no matter who we are, how old or young, what gender, occupation, or historical time we live in, we are called to bring Christ to each other. The rites of Presentation for Mary, Ordination for Jerry, are overt signs of dedication to a life of loving service that we each undertake as Christians. By living love in any way we can, we bear Christ (reflecting the Mother of God) and we serve our community (reflecting ordination). What joy to celebrate our brother in Christ who responds to our community’s love by accepting this mantle of service to us, to our Church. Axios!

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Remembering the Holodomor

In the midst of a busy Saturday morning (Nov. 24) of food preparation, the women of Holy Transfiguration parish paused to join in prayer with Ukrainians around the world to remember those who died during the Holodomor of 1932-33. At 9 a.m. (EDT) Ukrainians worldwide prayed for the millions who died as a result of the Soviet created artificial famine, effectively Josyf Stalin’s attempt to destroy the Ukrainian people.  Sadly a story which continues to this day with the aggressive policies of Vladimir Putin aimed at the destruction of Ukraine’s sovereignty.