Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Transfiguration


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“Hope is bold; … and it can open us up to grand ideals that make life more beautiful and worthwhile.”

       Fratelli Tutti (52)

Pope Francis recognizes how dissonant his exhortation to change the world sounds to our ears, so accustomed to the normalized noise of individualism and insatiable consumerism. Nevertheless, he grounds his argument in current brutal reality and persistently offers hope.

Through turning our own lives around—away from the shallowness of self-indulgent digital networks—towards authentic encounter, shared wisdom with others, we can indeed stop the destruction of the planet and humanity itself.  Francis discusses many “paths of hope” that when taken by each of us, ultimately will save the world. “Hope is bold; it can look beyond personal convenience, the petty securities and compensations which limit our horizon, and it can open us up to grand ideals that make life more beautiful and worthwhile”.[52] Francis’s insistence on reawakening our awareness of human interconnection echoes much current knowledge in science, medicine, and social sciences. But the pope demonstrates that living responsibly is described by Christ and is already outlined in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).

The command to “love your neighbour as yourself” (Lev 19:18) is repeated in many parts of the OT: “In the first century before Christ, Rabbi Hillel stated: ‘This is the entire Torah. Everything else is commentary’”.[55]  With Christ, the imperative to love stipulates love for otherness, beyond one’s own community: “Saint Paul, recognizing the temptation of the earliest Christian communities to form closed and isolated groups, urged his disciples to abound in love ‘for one another and for all’ (1 Thess 3:12)”. 

Thus, the parable of the Good Samaritan is central to Christian life: “The parable clearly does not indulge in abstract moralizing, nor is its message merely social and ethical. It speaks to us of an essential and often forgotten aspect of our common humanity: we were created for a fulfilment that can only be found in love. We cannot be indifferent to suffering; we cannot allow anyone to go through life as an outcast. Instead, we should feel indignant, challenged to emerge from our comfortable isolation and to be changed by our contact with human suffering. That is the meaning of dignity.”

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Truly, “whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 Jn 4:8)

Last Sunday, Pope Francis published his latest encyclical (authoritative Church teaching) called Fratelli Tutti.

This document has received criticism, understandably, for its gendered language. However, after reading the entire work, it becomes clear that, for Francis, the word “fraternity” which simply translates as brotherhood in English, does not have this simplistic meaning. Fraternity for this pope is a concept that some have described as “social friendship” but in fact is far more expansive.

  It refers to a relatedness amongst all humanity, extending to the natural environment. In Fratelli Tutti, Francis describes how today’s world could revive from its present state of toxic injustice and corruption to reflect a universal fraternity that acknowledges the interdependence of nations and seeks a common respect. Fraternity recognizes human dignity, difference, history, and seeks genuine dialogue, collective wisdom, peace.

  Much like his namesake, the 13th c. St Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis is responding to Christ’s call to “rebuild my church”.  We must dare to return to the faith and practice of the Early Church that brought Christ’s radical vision of relationship to the world: not through self righteousness and entitlement, but through solidarity with the most vulnerable, impoverished, excluded and oppressed. Fratelli Tutti has not only religious but also social, political, and economic, ramifications.

  The encyclical speaks to each of us as members of the Catholic community, but it addresses all human beings as members of the family of God—whether atheist, pagan, or members of other religions. This is a call to action. How will we respond?

Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti: “In some countries, a concept of popular and national unity influenced by various ideologies is creating new forms of selfishness and a loss of the social sense under the guise of defending national interests. Once more we are being reminded that “each new generation must take up the struggles and attainments of past generations, while setting its sights even higher. This is the path. Goodness, together with love, justice and solidarity, are not achieved once and for all; they have to be realized each day. It is not possible to settle for what was achieved in the past and complacently enjoy it, as if we could somehow disregard the fact that many of our brothers and sisters still endure situations that cry out for our attention”.[8]

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This week we continue our focus on Post COVID change:

Let’s encourage ourselves to dream, seeking these ideals,”

“Let’s not try to rebuild the past, especially the past that was already unjust and already sick.”

“We must cure a great virus, that of social injustice, inequality of opportunity, marginalization and lack of protection for the vulnerable.”

Pope Francis

During the weeks of strictest restrictions beginning last March, the churches closed, and we adjusted as best we could to home prayer: isolated, yet collective. From our home, we shared icons, prayers, and methods of contemplative prayer (meditation).   From media we’ve learned that many people, the world over, discovered spiritual connection and renewed prayer during lockdowns. Many for the first time recognized interconnectedness and interdependence among human beings and our equally fundamental interrelation with the environment.

  As this realization grows, historically suppressed voices are speaking with renewed strength against their oppression. At the same time, those who have denied the “body” of Christ, benefitting from exclusion, vociferously oppose the change equality would bring.

  But this connection and unity of creation is the Spirit of God—the light we see through Christ’s love—the sacredness of the earth that we celebrate on the Feast of the Transfiguration.

  Whether expressed by researchers in scientific terms or artists in poetic forms, our faith tells us that we are a family of God.

  Now, as we imagine a post COVID world, we must become the change we wish to see!

  Every year at praznyk, we speak of being a “transfigured” community through which others around us can feel the joy and peace of Christ. Possibly we might have felt these were nice sentiments, but less than realistic? Can we be a transfigured people while slogging through work, writing exams, paying parking fines?

  Yes. Yes. Yes.

  Can I? Can You? We can.

  Can we believe the words of a pope of Rome? A leader of a Church that has made so many mistakes throughout history?


  We know because we see that throughout history, corruption and greed could not destroy the Holy Spirit that shines through those who live in love.

  One working class young guy, a long time ago, opposed the status quo and listened to everyone, talked to unpopular folks and didn’t care how people looked or if they were rich. He was killed. A couple of millenia later, people continue to follow His example. It is always changing the world. . .  

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We must act all together, in the hope of generating something different and better!

“In the midst of crises, a solidarity guided by faith enables us to translate the love of God in our globalized culture, not by building towers or walls — and how many walls are being built today! — that divide, but then collapse, but by interweaving communities and sustaining processes of growth that are truly human and solid. And to do this, solidarity helps. I would like to ask a question: do I think of the needs of others? Everyone, answer in your heart.”

(Pope Francis: General Audience September 2, 2020)

  While our thoughts might waft towards imagining the “post-Covid” world, our world, in fact, is plunging into another critical surge of coronavirus infections. Sadly, the reason is clear: too many of us do not allow the good of others to get in the way of what we want for ourselves. Whether it’s attending parties or believing voices inciting disregard for public health authorities, we risk not only our own well-being, but also the health of our society and the well-being of future generations. 

  It might be difficult to discern what to believe in today’s climate of social media distortions and false information. However, we, in our Faith Tradition are particularly blessed with the current prophetic leadership of our Patriarch Sviatoslav, and Pope Francis in Rome. While any leader may invoke God and religion to promote his own agenda, both Sviatoslav and Francis fearlessly point to Christ’s example of love, mercy, and openness in all situations, even though this does not promise riches and popularity.

  Remember when we spoke of the African concept of “Ubuntu” where there could be no “me” without “we”? The pandemic illuminates this reality. We, as humans, have only to recognise and acknowledge its meaning, its repercussions. In short, there would be no pandemic as such, if humanity did not succumb to greed. Overconsumption, exploitation, and arrogance underlie the inequities, suffering, and degradation of the environment and humanity.

“When the obsession to possess and dominate excludes millions of persons from having primary goods; when economic and technological inequality are such that the social fabric is torn; and when dependence on unlimited material progress threatens our common home, then we cannot stand by and watch. No, this is distressing. We cannot stand by and watch! With our gaze fixed on Jesus (cf. Heb 12:2) and with the certainty that His love is operative through the community of His disciples, we must act all together, in the hope of generating something different and better. Christian hope, rooted in God, is our anchor. It moves the will to share, strengthening our mission as disciples of Christ, who shared everything with us.”

(Pope Francis: General Audience, August 26, 2020)

So, while we refocus on mitigating the spread of covid-19, it is especially important to begin planning the post-covid reality. Let’s do all we can to “transfigure” this time of public emergency into a consciousness of caring, an acknowledgment of belonging to each other regardless of race, religion, gender, ability, or sexuality. And we, sisters and brothers all, are part of God’s universe. Just as I am inextricably linked to the rest of humanity, so too am I linked to the natural environment. (Without air and water, there can be no I.) 

“In the midst of crises and tempests, the Lord calls to us and invites us to reawaken and activate this solidarity capable of giving solidity, support and meaning to these hours in which everything seems to be wrecked. May the creativity of the Holy Spirit encourage us to generate new forms of familiar hospitality, fruitful fraternity and universal solidarity.”

(Pope Francis: General Audience September 2, 2020)

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  This new liturgical year of 2020 begins as we here in KW, and everyone the world over, are experiencing a new surge in Covid cases. Territories are being devastated by climate crises and populist governments such as those in Belarus and the US incite division and hatred among their own citizens. In our faith community we support each other to remain grounded in a spirit of caring, kindness, and hope. The Church throughout the ages has been supported by prophets to keep us focussed on Christ in the context of our time, so that we do not succumb to the allures of fear and greed, and indeed, false prophets. Currently, the pope of Rome is such a prophet. Through example he tirelessly redirects the Church (and humanity) away from valuing status, riches, and exclusivity, towards Christ’s example of love, inclusion, and social action.

  On October 3rd, Pope Francis will sign his new encyclical Fratelli Tutti, in Assisi Italy. The title is taken from the 13th century St Francis’s teaching to his fellow friars. In Fratelli Tutti, the pope is to examine inequality, fragmentation and offer ways for all human beings to restore relationship with one another. This official document will call us to a new era—post-Covid—that would acknowledge, value, and act on our interrelatedness with all human beings and the natural environment.


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May we help one another grow in wisdom

September is often seen as the real “new year”: new beginnings for schools, jobs, travel—and of course—it is the new Liturgical year. Every September 14th, we begin afresh the annual cycle of community prayer and celebration.

This year of pandemic, however, the September new year carries a dissonance that is hard to describe: the air of change and adventure for many is fraught with frustrated expectations, uncertainly, disappointment, as well as anxiety and fear. We don’t know what winter brings when a novel virus lurks about. . .

Thankfully, we can know with certainty what the Liturgical year brings, especially in times of crisis; in it we have an anchor to keep us steady throughout life’s storms. The scriptural readings provide guidance, speaking newly to each situation, year after year. Through Church, whether we attend physically or online, we join in communal prayer, so that we feel we belong and indeed comprise Christ’s body. We are reminded of Christ’s teaching so that we gain energy and inspiration to love and be loved, to have compassion, generosity, kindness, to others as well as ourselves. Especially in this time of pandemic, our Faith Tradition is not only the anchor, but a lighthouse too—a beacon illuminating our journey of peace. With all the questions and fears provoked by Covid, we have only to pay heed to the church cycle to know the answers to the issues around us. In all things, what would Christ do? Always—love, forgive, listen, care, share, be patient, be kind.

In this new year may our children, our teachers, our families remain safe; may we help one another to grow in wisdom, as well as knowledge; may we begin a post pandemic year that normalizes environmental consciousness and respect for all humanity.       

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Today we have an opportunity to build something different.

Pope Francis

The world is constantly changing. Not a day passes without hearing of a new invention. People live in an insane routine of consumption and pleasure which appears to have no limits.

But that is just the impression . . .

A small virus has brought vital corrections to our turbulent lives. People have been given an opportunity to pause and think anew about life’s worth. The entire planet has cowered before such a microscopic, yet global threat. For nearly a year now, eminent scholars of the most advanced nations of the world are striving to find a solution to this virus, but unfortunately there is still no effective remedy.

Could it be that the answer is actually much simpler? Yes, it is necessary and extremely important to find a cure for COVID-19, but, possibly, this is precisely the moment for us to look at the root of the problem . . .

Pope Francis suggests that the problem lies in that “We have broken the ties that bind us to the Creator, other people and all creation.” Pope Francis bitterly observes: “We deplete the resources of the planet, squeezing it as if it were an orange.” Already five years ago, in the encyclical “Laudato Si”, he implored humanity to protect our common home. His prescription for saving the person and the world is simple and effective: renew the lost connections to our Creator and praise God through your life in your treatment of your neighbour and all creation. Living in the spirit of “Laudato Si” will help to free us from many modern-day problems and prevent them in the future.

Bureau of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church for Ecology

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The first among the saints: the Most Holy Mother of God

Our cultural church traditions are replete with symbolic significance that reinforce profound theological truths. Sometimes we may feel the meaning of a ritual without being able to express why or how. When we can take time to reflect on a given tradition, it can speak to us in fresh ways. Although there is no biblical account of the Dormition, this feast day dates back to the earliest church communities in the first century.  The Eastern Church Fathers recount several stories describing the death of Mary as it is depicted in the icon. We say her death is a “falling asleep” to this world, only to wake in God’s embrace. There is a story of her body vanishing from the tomb, replaced by fragrant flowers.  By blessing flowers and herbs on this day, we, in our tradition, honour the mystery of cycles of death and life. We honour the sacred beauty of nature, it’s power to bring healing. When we recognize God in creation, our Tradition demands a deep respect for nature, that expects us to care for the environment and for humanity—because it is sacred.

  Sometimes our church practices, may, on the surface, appear quaint, or antiquated; however, when we seriously think about them, they carry great responsibility. The pandemic has raised awareness of so much divisiveness amongst people, so much fear of otherness. It has uncovered our society’s gross neglect of those who need care: the elderly, impoverished, disabled. It has illustrated the acceleration of the climate crisis. We who celebrate Christ among us, and recognize the fruits of the earth as blessed, are called to experience a dying and rising to new life. We die to our greed, our fear of being different, our impulse to hate, in order to be reborn in love and generosity. This is not easy; it requires effort and commitment. We need each other’s support to care for others. Just as the apostles surround the body of Mary as Christ holds her soul, so too we surround each other so that our souls will live in Christ.