Catechetical Homily at the Opening of Holy and Great Lent

+ BARTHOLOMEW

By God’s mercy Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch

To the Plenitude of the Church

May the Grace and Peace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with you together with our Prayer, Blessing and Forgiveness

With the grace of God, the giver of all gifts, we have once again arrived at Holy and Great Lent, the arena of ascetical struggle, in order to purify ourselves with the Lord’s assistance through prayer, fasting and humility, as well as to prepare ourselves for a spiritual experience of the venerable Passion and the celebration of the splendid Resurrection of Christ the Savior.

In a world of manifold confusion, the ascetic experience of Orthodoxy constitutes an invaluable spiritual asset, an inexhaustible source of divine knowledge and human wisdom. The blessed phenomenon of ascesis, whose spirit pervades our entire way of life – for “asceticism is Christianity in its entirety” – is not the privilege of the few or chosen, but an “ecclesial event,” a communal good, a shared blessing and the common vocation for all faithful without exception. The ascetical struggles, of course, are not an end in themselves; the principle that “ascesis exists for the sake of ascesis” is not valid. The purpose of ascesis is the transcendence of one’s own will and the “mind of the flesh,” the transferal of the center of life from individual desire and the “right,” toward love that “does not seek its own,” in accordance with the scriptural passage: “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of the other.” (1 Cor. 10.24)

Such is the spirit that prevails throughout the long historical journey of Orthodoxy. In the New Miterikon, we encounter an excellent description of this ethos to renounce “our own” in the name of love: “Some hermits from Scetis once approached Amma Sarah, who offered them a container with basic provisions. The elders set aside the good food and consumed the bad. The righteous Sarah said to them: ‘You are truly monks from Scetis’”[1]This sensitivity and sacrificial use of freedom is foreign to the spirit of our age, which identifies freedom with individual assertions and claims for rights. Contemporary “autonomous” man would never have consumed the bad food, but only the good, convinced that in this way he expresses – while authentically and responsibly employing – individual freedom.

This is where the supreme value of the Orthodox concept of human freedom lies. It is a freedom that does not demand but shares, does not insist but sacrifices. The Orthodox believer knows that autonomy and self-sufficiency do not liberate humanity from the shackles of the ego, of self-realization and self-justification. The freedom “for which Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5.1) mobilizes our creative capacity and is fulfilled as rejection of self-enclosure, as unconditional love and communion of life.

The Orthodox ascetical ethos does not know division and dualism; it does not reject life, but rather transforms it. The dualistic vision and denial of the world is not a Christian concept. Genuine asceticism is luminous and charitable. It is a characteristic of Orthodox self-conscience that the period of fasting is permeated by the joy of the Cross and the Resurrection. Moreover, the ascetic struggle of Orthodox Christians – much like our spirituality and liturgical life in general – communicates the fragrance and radiance of the Resurrection. The Cross is found at the heart of Orthodox piety, but it is not the final point of reference in the life of the Church. Instead, the essence of Orthodox spiritual life is the ineffable joy of the Resurrection, toward which the Cross constitutes the way. Accordingly, during the period of Great Lent, the quintessence of experience for Orthodox Christians is always the yearning for the “common resurrection.”

Pray, then, precious brothers and sisters in the Lord, that we may be deemed worthy, with the grace and support from above, through the intercessions of the Theotokos, as first among the saints, and of all the saints, that we may run the race of Holy and Great Lent in a way that is fitting and joyous before Christ, joyfully exercising, in obedience to the rule of church tradition, the “common struggle” of fasting that extinguishes the passions, constantly praying, helping the suffering and needful, forgiving one another and “giving thanks for all things” (Thess. 5.18), in order that we might venerate with a devout heart the “Holy, Saving and Awesome Passion” as well as the life-giving Resurrection of our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory, power and thanksgiving to the endless ages. Amen.

Holy and Great Lent 2019

✠ Bartholomew of Constantinople

Fervent supplicant for all before God

[1]P.V. Paschos (ed.), New Miterikon (Athens: Akritas Publications, 1990), 31.

The 2019 Great Lent Epistle of the Permanent Conference of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops Beyond the Borders of Ukraine

Epistle - Послання

Beloved in the Lord: CHRIST IS AMONG US!

To the God-beloved Pastors, Monastics, and all Faithful Children of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Diaspora and Ukraine,

The Holy and Sacred Season of Great Lent is upon us! Each year, the Church offers us the Lenten season as a time of repentance and renewal. As for us, Orthodox Christians, the contemplation on this beautiful season of the Church year is a cause for much of spiritual joy!

There is real confusion in today’s world about the meaning of joy. Like happiness, joy is often seen as something that we can physically buy. We may be able to buy something that brings temporary pleasure: but we cannot buy joy. They must not be confused. Joy is a free gift from God.

This surreal and joyful season of Great Lent is an opportunity to be graced afresh by contemplating the presence of Christ in our lives. All our efforts to evangelize in our new millennium here in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in North America, Western Europe, Australia, South America and throughout Diaspora would be fruitless unless we ourselves have first contemplated on the presence of Christ in our relationship with the world around us. It is the presence of the One who has suffered, died and risen from the dead out of love for us. To be so loved by the God of love in the midst of all our sinfulness and human limitations, indeed, is a joyful experience. This is surely the starting point for the Lenten season and the key point in our reflection upon our path to salvation. It is all summarized in one word: conversion.

It resonates with a deep yearning and recognition within us. As we make our first prostrations, we are reminded of our own sinfulness.  Throughout the next 40 days we are called to repent and believe the Good News: God loves us. He sent His Beloved Son to suffer and die for us. He has risen from the dead and shares his new life with us. This is the heart of the Gospel. Lent refocuses our attention on this message of salvation, this good news through our ability to recognize and consider our identity as children of God.

Searching for our identity is part of life. We identify our “self” as a family member, spouse, sibling, clergyman, carpenter, farmer, doctor, entertainer or clerk. We also identify ourselves as Orthodox Christians, or as members of a parish. Identity involves discovering who we are as persons and what our role is by answering these questions: who am I, and why am I here? Growth in the awareness of our Christian identity is a lifelong process that shifts as we change. It is rooted in our Baptism, where we are transformed into our true identity as sons and daughters of the God. Holy Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians (“You should put away the old self of your former way of life . . . and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Eph 4:22, 24), challenges us to put away our former life and put on a new self. In other words, he tells us to turn from sinful ways and take on our new life in Christ. In so doing, we become one with Christ, where we find our true identity. We accept this challenge during the Great Lent, as we journey with Christ through life’s difficulties to eternal life.

In the Church’s Tradition the season of Great and Holy Lent has always been accompanied by the Lenten efforts of prayer, fasting and acts of charity. We know that parishes will be providing many extra opportunities for prayer over the days of Lenten journey. We call upon you to greater attendance at liturgical services of the season. We hope that the participation in the Holy Mystery of Repentance over this time will be a real priority in your lives and in all parishes. We hope that the prayers of the Church will offer people an invitation to be touched, healed, forgiven, comforted and strengthened by our Lord. Also, at home we recommend a closer attention to times of prayer and fasting and moments of genuine devotion in family life.  

Secondly, our journey through Lent and preparation to more fitting celebration of Pascha – the Resurrection of our Lord – includes “willing service to our neighbor”. All Christian true conversion starts in the heart but never stays there. True spiritual conversion always seeks out acts of charity to give practical help to our neighbor in need. This is a vital aspect of who we are as children of God. 

We also encourage practical gestures of prayerful compassion to children. In this Lenten period, we must remember that our children are so often victims of human selfishness in today’s world and deserve special attention.During this Lent, perhaps we could find ways in our neighborhoods to share something of the importance of Christ Jesus to those who do not believe in Him. Such efforts can start so simply: with a kind word and gentle smile in His Name.

As we embark upon this Lenten journey, it is the time to renew ourselves as Orthodox Christians. Upon baptism we assumed the obligation of sharing the Good News of Christ with others, of defending the Holy Orthodox faith from persecution and of living a Christ-centered life of love for others. This six-week journey entails striving for humility and contrition before God in our repentance, seeking mutual forgiveness from others and contemplating our renewal in our prayers. Let us open our hearts to let in that, which is eternal, that which is Truth and not be blinded by the temporal world around us. Where there is light there is hope. Through His life and suffering for our salvation, we gain renewed hope in the light of Christ’s glorious victory over death and in eternal life. 

May our All-Merciful and Almighty Lord assist us on our journey through this Great Fast with humility and reverence so that we may be worthy to greet the glorious Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

With Hierarchical Blessings,

† YURIJ, Metropolitan, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

† ANTONY, Metropolitan, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and in the Diaspora

† JEREMIAH, Archbishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Brazil and South America

† DANIEL, Archbishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Western Europe

† ILARION, Bishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

†ANDRIY, Bishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

Message By His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew On the 85th Anniversary of the Holodomor

 

(UOCUSA) Beloved children in the Lord: May God’s grace and peace be with you.

As every year, we are communicating with all of you with a heavy heart from the historic and martyric Mother Church of Constantinople while prayerfully commemorating the Holodomor of the Ukrainian People, the tragic and inhumane events of the years 1932-1933, when countless human beings lost their lives through deliberate and brutal famine.  This tragedy inscribes itself among other atrocities against humanity and God’s creation committed over the twentieth century, the most violent in history thus far.

As we pray for the repose of the victims’ souls and for the healing of this painful wound in the conscience of your blessed Nation, we remind all people of goodwill that the Church does not tolerate injustice or any type of force that undermines social cohesion.  Rather, it underscores the social teaching of the Christian Gospel and promotes diakonia and philanthropy. Orthodoxy’s responsibility is to serve as a positive challenge for contemporary humankind, a God-inspired perspective of life and an expression of authentic freedom.

When remembering the past and learning from its tragedies, we ought to move ahead into the future with compassion and forgiveness.  For, it is in the Church, the mystical Body of Christ, that we are spared from sorrow and suffering, while at the same time we find strength to forgive and love all people.  Our Ecumenical Patriarchate is strong because it has a sacrificial love and acts through humility and the Cross.  His story is filled with martyrdom and sacrifice for the world, for all peoples and for all nations.  The Church of Constantinople, as the Mother Church, is the incarnation of the free love of Christ, who does not crucify but is crucified, who sacrifices His soul for His friends – for all men.

For this reason, it is inconceivable that the Ecumenical Throne – which according to the Holy Canons is responsible for the unity and stability of Orthodoxy – would remain indifferent when an Orthodox people, such as the Ukrainian people, suffer and seek a solution to the ecclesiastical problems that have tormented them for centuries.  Therefore, we intervene by obligation – always on the basis of authentically ecclesiastical, truly universal and purely supra – national criteria – for the truth and tradition of the Church, the defense of canonical order and the identity of Orthodoxy, all for the purpose of building up the body of Christ, not for ourselves and not for demonstrating worldly strength and power.  By remaining indifferent, we would be left with no excuse before God and history.

This great responsibility of the Mother Church, the Holy and Great Church of Christ, certainly has no limits.  That is why, just as we have granted autocephaly to all local Churches, the Holy and Sacred Synod has similarly decided to grant autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, which is tormented in many ways, so that she, too, may join the plentitude of Orthodoxy in unity and internal peace.  Only the First Throne of Orthodoxy, the Church of Constantinople, holds this high responsibility according to the Holy and Sacred Canons.

May God grant rest to the souls of all the victims of the Holodomor, and may He grant all of you, dear children, patience in trials, as well as love and forgiveness for one another.  May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  Amen.

At the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the 24thof November, 2018

The fervent supplicant befoe God,

+BARTHOLOMEW

Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch

Remembering Chornobyl Nuclear Disaster

Statement of the Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA: 

Beloved brethren in the Lord: CHRIST IS RISEN!

For 32 years, the catastrophe in Chornobyl remains the largest and most devastating nuclear accident in history and has rightly been described as the technological disaster of the 20th century.

img_6636Recalling and reflecting upon these sobering and saddening facts on the 32nd anniversary of the Chornobyl catastrophe, we can only lift up our hearts in prayer to the Almighty God and beg for His continued mercy and compassion as we remember those who suffered indescribable pain and loss.

We recall firstly, on this solemn anniversary, the many innocent men, women and children who perished in this tragedy and we pray for the repose of their souls.  We remember in particular the brave and selfless firefighters, who, in the hours and days following the explosion, knowingly and willingly exposed themselves to mortal danger and almost certain death in order to extinguish the flames and construct and place the sarcophagus on the smoldering ruins of the reactor.  Of such men Christ speaks eloquently when He declares: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (Jn. 15:13)  We pray that God grant them eternal rest in a place of everlasting light where there is no pain, sorrow or mourning.

We also remember and pray for those whose health was irrevocably damaged by the radiation that was released that day, those who were taken ill and are living with sickness to this day, and for their families, and for those whose lives were cut short by premature death.  We especially remember the children, most of whom who were born after the catastrophe itself, who suffer physical and psychological disabilities today because of Chornobyl.  We also remember and pray for the many thousands of people who were forced, by the noxious cloud of radiation, to flee their homes and leave behind forever, everything that was familiar and loved by them: the villages, houses, fields and farms where they and generations before them were born, lived, laboured and died.  May God grant all who suffer His peace, hope and consolation.

And, in a special way, we also remember and pray for our beloved ancestral homeland of Ukraine: so rich, generous and abundant, yet so often neglected, plundered, and abused over the centuries by the men who ruled over her.

With prayers in the Risen Lord,

+Antony, Metropolitan of the UOC of the USA and Diaspora

+Daniel, Archbishop of the UOC of the USA and Western Europe

 Source: UOC

Statement of the Permanent Conference of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops Beyond the Borders of Ukraine

Source: (UOC-USA)

To the Venerable Clergy, Clergy, Monastics and Faithful of our Holy Ukrainian Orthodox  Church in Diaspora:

CHRIST IS RISEN! INDEED HE IS RISEN!

We write to you all having been informed about recent events in Ukraine surrounding the life of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  If you have not yet heard or read anything about these events, which are filling the social websites and media in and beyond Ukraine, we hereby inform you that the President of Ukraine met in a day-long audience with His All-Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, on Bright Monday – 9 April 2018.  The result of this meeting was the beginning of the Patriarchate’s long-awaited consideration of Autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Upon his return to Ukraine, President Poroshenko immediately began the process of rallying the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox jurisdictions in Ukraine and the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament).  All the hierarchs of two of the three jurisdictions and the vast majority of the Rada responded to the President’s emotional appeal to support the process of asking His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew and the Holy Synod of Constantinople to move forward with the process of granting a Tomos of Autocephaly to the Church in Ukraine, which has for 1030 years been the canonical territory of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, since 988 when our nation was baptized and confirmed into the Holy Orthodox Faith.

Not even under 332 years of non-canonical and often tortuous subjugation to a foreign Orthodox patriarchate could the faithful of Ukraine be convinced that they did not belong to the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  This is simple history, as documented by generations of Patriarchs and Synods of Constantinople, which never abandoned its canonical rights and privileges in Ukraine.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate, through releases on its own website and through the media has confirmed that the process of considering the Autocephalous status of the Church of Ukraine has begun, which will continue through the next meeting of the Holy Synod to be held in May.

President Poroshenko in all his public appearances and statements about these current events has been incredibly enthusiastic about the possibility of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Ukraine being granted even by the 1030thanniversary in July 2018 of the Baptism of Ukraine into the Orthodox Faith in 988 by Equal-to-the-Apostles, Great Prince Volodymyr.

The Permanent Conference of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops Beyond the Borders of Ukraine has written a strong letter of support for the actions being taken by His All-Holiness and the Holy Synod of Constantinople regarding the possible granting of a Tomos of Autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church.  We have assured His All-Holiness of the unceasing prayers of not only the hierarchs, but also the millions of Ukrainian Orthodox clergy and faithful in and beyond the borders of Ukraine, for him personally during this process.

We invite our faithful to join us in this prayer: 

Prayer for the Unification of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church

O Lord our God, You can see, as the invisible and visible enemies divided the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and with it all Ukrainian people. Help us to promote the unification of Ukrainian Orthodoxy into a single Church, putting the cornerstone of apostolic rule that orders us to know that every nation, and among them the Ukrainian people, must have its first hierarch.

O Lord, inspire our separated brethren, so that they will unite around the Throne of Kyiv into a single Church and that Christian love would prevail among all of us, because You said: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”.

Look upon us, Lord the Lover of all mankind, and do not punish us for our iniquities, voluntary and involuntary, committed in knowledge and in ignorance. Let us have a true love amongst us, forgive us our trespasses and do not remember our transgressions.

Great Merciful Master, protect and preserve Ukraine from those who encroach on its independence and wants to divide it, as you have always protect the Christian countries. Let a single Ukrainian Orthodox Church be a strong spiritual foundation for the indivisible Ukraine and the unity of our people, let it enemies be scattered and let peace, harmony and unity prevail in us.

O Lord, You said: “For without me you can do nothing.” Hear, o God, prayer of your faithful and bless the begun matter of the unity of the Orthodox in a single Church of Ukraine to lead to a successful conclusion. To His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, the Ukrainian Orthodox Hierarchs, the President, the Verkhovna Rada, and all those who work for this, send wisdom and inspiration of Your Holy Spirit, and in the good cause of the recognition of the Ukrainian Church to bring everyone to close conclusion. For Yours it is to have mercy on and save us, our God and we glorify You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

With Archpastoral Blessings,

+YURIJ, Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

+ANTONY, Metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Diaspora

+JEREMIAH, Archbishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Eparchies of Brasil and South America

+DANIEL, Archbishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Western Europe

+ILARION, Bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

+ANDRIY, Bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada