This week, Ascension Thursday marks the end of the Paschal Cycle for the year. It is odd, because we’ve not sung “Chrystos Voskres” in church together this year, yet from Thursday we return to the greeting “Glory to Jesus Christ.”
Time does not stop for pandemics!
During the month of May, we’ve been highlighting icons of the Mother of God for our prayer and meditation. Iconography has been established as a form of visual theology in our Orthodox Tradition, in order to emphasize the sacredness of created matter; because of Christ’s humanity, God could be evoked through the representations of life and sacred history on materials of the earth (wood, natural paints, etc.) The style is symbolic to speak to us simultaneously of the combined reality of human and divine in Christ. For some periods in history, icons argued, as it were, for Christ’s genuine humanity, when many doubted that Christ could have been an ordinary person.
But it may be that, for the disciples, the most difficult notion would be that their friend, who discussed issues of the day, ate, drank wine, attended weddings, was God.
Extraordinary as He was, how could He be God?
When reflecting on the ascension, we can imagine how this event might have helped the followers of the man Jesus, to fully recognize His unity with God—God—the one God of all creation; the God of Abraham, David and all the Hebrew texts.
Paradoxically, Christ’s ascension—that physical departure—marked the understanding of God’s presence in us and in all creation. The teachings of the man could become the life force of His followers, including us. Every being has God within them, but we decide to acknowledge this presence or not. When we open ourselves to love in the generosity of Christ, we take part in the Trinity: the community of Love.
That’s why our church communities are so important. We come together to celebrate God in us and among us. Yet God is present in all caring and loving actions, thoughts, and prayers. Through Christ and the scriptures we know that ‘God with us’ does not give us control over life, nor does it mean that we will not suffer or die. God did not create the pandemic and God does not make it disappear. Embracing God in us means that we are never alone in these times of strife. With God we can find strength and peace in any circumstances.
And so, as our economy restarts, despite the continuing dangers of the pandemic, let’s remember that every person’s “care”, whether they isolate, respect social distancing, or work on the front lines, every action of caring is an embrace of Christ. Keeping our places of worship closed is how we demonstrate our care for our human community. At this time, opening our churches would endanger our people and our society. Our parish family can stay together apart and in prayer join the tide of love that reaches out to all people and the environment we inhabit.
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Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
To our sisters in UCWLC, to all our mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, and Godmothers too. A Mother’s Day Thank you. Thank you for your example of compassion, courage, caring. Thank you for daring to don the role of caring, even when our modern world praises economic success and wealth above all; even when a feminine role is still questioned as somehow subordinate, equated with domesticity.
Mother’s day is promoted commercially as the day to thank mothers with gifts, flowers, brunch. But I want Mother’s day to be everyday—but not for the brunch (although that might be nice too)! What if every day, every individual recognized the mother’s love he or she carries inside? What if every one of us honoured the Mother of God as an example for us to give birth to the incarnation of love?
My mother died 27 years ago and yet not a day goes by for me without her.
Every human being, including Christ, has been nurtured and loved by a mother. Every human being has a mother in their being. Let’s show it. Let’s acknowledge mothers as those whose gentleness and tears are the powerhouses that drive resistance to oppression, that lay foundations of peace, that oppose the despair of poverty. Let’s remember the movements for justice driven by mothers, by women, in countries all over the planet. Women have banded together to resist tyranny through protest, prayer, through providing food and sustenance. I think of Ukraine, Mexico, South Africa, Argentina. . . the list is endless. Mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, godmothers too; women continue to nurture the world with a leadership that does not turn to violence as the first option. I want to celebrate mothers as examples of strength and courage; because, it takes profound strength and courage to love unconditionally, to love generously, to care for others.
Let’s thank the women of our community for their generous nurturing, leadership, and support of our Church and our parish, for their presence, for their organizing, for the coffee and praznyky and the beauty of our prayers.
Let’s thank our own mothers inside each one of us—by ourselves determining to give birth to more love in the world.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Considering the serious concerns of many medical professionals and government authorities regarding the safety and wellbeing of our faithful due to COVID-19 pandemic, by the order of His Excellency Bishop Bryan Bayda CSsR, Apostolic Administrator of Eparchy of Toronto & Easter Canada, all public Divine Worship in our Eparchy is being suspended, effective immediately and until further notice.
Most Holy Theotokos save us!
Враховуючи серьозні побоювання медичних та урядових служб відносно безпеки та добробуття наших вірних в час пандемії COVID-19, інструкцією Преосвященного Владики Кир Брияна Байди, Апостольського Адміністратора Єпархіі Торонта і Східньої Канади, всі публичні Богослужби в нашій Єпархії є негайно відкликані аж до окремого повідомлення.
Пресвятая Богородице спаси нас!
Since the coronavirus has been declared a pandemic by the WHO, we know that potentially all people the world over can contract the illness. While for most it may feel like a cold or flu, for some it can be deadly. The increasing closures of public venues may seem alarming, but in fact the measures our health authorities are taking are designed to slow down the spread. Fr. Myroslaw is in regular contact with our local medical community and our Bishop in order to keep us updated on any necessary changes to routine.
Here is the website to check for information on symptoms and what to do if you feel unwell: www.regionofwaterloo.ca/COVID19
Please remember that social media sites are often the source of misinformation and lead to unnecessary fear, anxiety, panic—even hysteria.
While the fear a global pandemic holds has potential to incite racism, violence, and thoughtless actions, it also illuminates our common humanity, that knows no borders or differences. Today we can respond to the call of unity, compassion and love towards all humanity. We can be proud of, and grateful for, our leaders who are providing careful guidance and protocols to make changes to our lives less damaging. How fortunate that our already taxed health care system has mobilized to deal with this emergency efficiently.
We too are reminded that each of us can make a difference. How? Follow legitimate updates and protocols. Don’t panic. Self-isolate if you are ill. Self-quarantine if you have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19. Check the website to know the difference.
Check in on or call vulnerable people you know. Loneliness lowers our immune systems. Share. Be kind. Wash your hands. You are loved more than you can ever know.
On this Sunday of Orthodoxy, we can happily reflect on our bountiful and profound heritage of iconography. Although globally icons have become popular as religious art, in our Tradition, they are far more than this. Icons are an integral element of our liturgy and our Christian worldview. The very writing of an icon is considered a form of prayer. In the symbolic language of our iconography we see all material existence transformed by Christ’s incarnation: our environment, our humanness, our bodies, transfigured by Divine Light. But, ever so radically, as the icon speaks of Christ, so too we—each one of us—are called to be living icons. As Byzantine Christians we have received this marvelous understanding to help us recognize God in us and in others. As we commemorate the acceptance of iconography in history, let’s honour and share the sacred light shining in each of us.
In preparing for Great Lent, Patriarch Svyatoslav has reminded us of our Christian obligation to care for our neighbour, our community, and our environment. He recently wrote: “The Lord created us as the crown of His creation. In His creation we are called to be icons of the Creator, the governor of the created world and ensure its balanced development. It is not humanity’s existence and the number of people on the planet, but the way of life and the predatory character of modern civilization which makes us the cause and, simultaneously, the victim of our current ecological crisis, which is taking on global implications.” Recalling the life and work of Patriarch Josyf, of blessed memory, our Church’s head recalled: “Patriarch Josyf understood that the Ukrainian people will survive only if we care for one another. For this reason the parish, where we find acts of service and concern for the destitute, is the spark of renewal for the entire Church.”