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

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

Archpastoral Paschal Letter 2018

To the Beloved-of-God Pastors, Venerable Monastics,
and all the Faithful Children of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Diaspora and in Ukraine
 
“It is the day of Resurrection, let us be illumined O people! Pascha, the Lord’s Pascha; for Christ God has led us from death unto life, and from earth to heaven, as we sing a song of victory.” (Paschal Canon)
 
Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers!  Dear Brothers and Sisters!
 
Christ is Risen!
 
Today the visible and invisible worlds rejoice, today human voices unite themselves with the voices of the Holy Angels who glorify the Saviour of the world, Christ, risen from the dead.  BHis Resurrection, Christ opened to us the path to eternal and blessed life.  He, as the Sun of Righteousness, shines His Divine Radiance upon the entire universe, pouring out the rays of His salvific light on all who with faith and love approach Him.
 
St. Gregory the Theologian, in his paschal sermon, declares: “Pascha – this is the feast of feasts and the festival of festivals, which outshines all other solemnities as much as the sun outshines the stars.” 
 
The entire Orthodox world has just recently experienced the events of Passion week.  All we Orthodox Christians have spiritually experienced the derision and suffering which Christ experienced during the final days of His earthly life.  One of His disciples betrayed Him; though innocent, He was condemned, scourged, spat upon, mocked, and crucified upon the Cross.  It seemed that death, hatred, and evil had triumphed.  Some believed that the Saviour would have no followers, for He was no longer among the living.
 
But we see that Christ, through His Resurrection, was victorious over the enemy of the human race, He destroyed the gates of hell, “by death He trampled down death,” and opened to us the doors of the Heavenly Kingdom.  
 
By His Resurrection, Christ showed forth His Divinity and offered us the promise of our own future resurrection.
 
The Resurrection of Christ is the foundation of our faith, and faith is that which is most important and necessary in the life of every person.  The faith of the apostles was strengthened by the Resurrection of Christ, which was renewed in them by the Holy Spirit and gave them the strength and inspiration to preach the word of God and to establish the Church of Christ on earth.
 
The holy apostles speak of the Resurrection of Christ not only as an event in the earthly life of the Saviour but as an event in the life of each of us who receive the good news of Pascha: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you” (Rm. 8:11).
 
Through His death on the Cross, Christ accomplished the cleansing of the sins of the entire human race.  The Resurrection of the Saviour has granted eternal life to each of us.  But faith in the suffering and resurrection of Jesus Christ is, by itself, insufficient.  A deep unity with God in all aspects of our life is absolutely necessary.  The Holy Apostle Paul teaches us: “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin” (Rm. 6: 5-6).
 
Our earthly life, and our attitude towards God and neighbour, should bear the seal of an unbreakable unity with the Lord God.  St. John the Theologian says: “If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him” (Jn. 12:26).
 
Observing the actual state of things in the world we see the spiritual and moral decay of humanity.  Hatred and wickedness rule in the world, which leads to murder and war.  The contemporary person runs after material values, ignoring the spiritual. So let us not forget about our youth and children – let us call them to their natal Church and to God.  For they are our future.  May the Risen Christ help all of us to conquer sin and enter onto the path of salvation.
 
During this year we will mark the 100th anniversary of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada and in the USA.  Let us prayerfully remember all the founders, benefactors, and builders of our temples and strive to continue their work for the benefit of the Holy Church.
 
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
 
The Holy Evangelist John the Theologian writes that the first words of Christ the Saviour to His disciples after His Resurrection from the dead were “Peace be to you” (Jn. 20:19). We should receive these words with special feeling today because it is exactly peace and concord which the contemporary world needs.  “When we lose peace, we then become enemies of those who heard from Christ ‘Peace be to you,” says St. John Chrysostom.
 
And so let us strive to protect this peace, and in our prayers to ask the Risen Christ that He would rule in Ukraine, in our communities, families, and most importantly in the souls of each one of us.  During this magnificent feast of the Holy Pascha of the Lord, we prayerfully beseech the Christ the Risen Saviour and our God, that He would bless our Ukrainian nation and grant it unity, peace, spiritual and economic growth.
 
May the Risen Christ strengthen our faith, fill our hearts with spiritual joy, and increase love, that we would be able to enjoy the joy of the bright Paschal days in complete fullness.  
 
May the Blessing of the Risen Christ be with all of you!
 
Truly, Christ is Risen!
 

Great Lent (2018) Epistle

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The Great Lent (2018) Epistle of the Permanent Conference

of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops Beyond the Borders of Ukraine

To: The Reverend Presbyters, The Honourable Diaconate in Christ, Venerable Monastics, and Pious Faithful of our Ukrainian Orthodox communities Beyond the borders of our ancestral homeland, Ukraine

Beloved-in-Christ!

We, Orthodox Christian faithful, cry out to our heavenly Father with the heartfelt plea, “My compassionate Lord, call me back to Eden!” at Vespers on the eve of the Sunday commemorating Adam’s expulsion from Paradise. We stand together on the threshold of the Holy & Great Fast, preparing to depart on our forty-day sojourn; our collective gaze is trained on the horizon and on the dawn of the New Day, illumined by the brilliant light of the empty tomb of the New Adam; the light which signifies a promise kept through the act of great sacrificial love, which affords us the possibility of our return to Eden!

In these present days, we find ourselves amid a world saturated with the temptation of pride and conscious, deliberate overconsumption for self-satisfaction and the acquisition of material excess. It is becoming – at a frighteningly rapid rate – ever more devoid of acknowledgement of both God’s law, on the one hand, and the reality of sin, on the other. The deception of the godless idea which attempts to convince us that we can embrace all things that bring us pleasure and satisfaction “so long as no one gets hurt,” is nothing other than a dangerous restating of the serpent’s temptation of Adam and Eve to break their covenant with God by partaking of fruit not created to nourish them, and to acquire knowledge not meant for their comprehension. The result of this initial betrayal of God’s commandments did not limit the “hurt” to Adam and Eve only, but tainted all of humanity with the corruption of sin; for all of us – the fatal consequence of a personal act of betrayal, based on belief in the lie of the evil one that, “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4).

We, God’s faithful, need to be vigilant in our daily lives, lest we, too, be tempted to fall for aggressive, secular, atheistic “enlightenment” which is not enlightenment at all! It is, rather, only a symptom of the growing distance between the Lord and His creation and the dangerous comfort with this distance humanity appears to display. Today, arguably, more than ever in the history of our world, the warning of the Psalm to “put not your trust in princes, in the sons of men, in whom there is no salvation,” rings loud and clear.

And so, once again, our precious Mother, the Holy Church, gathers her children, the faithful members of the Body of Christ, into the protective embrace of the Holy and Great Fast. We will enter the spiritual springtime of renewal, refreshing the image of Christ in us by hearing and declaring the unshakeable truths of the Orthodox Christian Faith (1st Sunday). We shall be reminded that this life and its temporary, corruptible pleasures are not our goal, rather it is eternal, joyous communion with God in His Divine Energy (2nd Sunday). We will be witnesses to the victory of sacrificial, selfless love which brings light, life and hope, conquering darkness, death, and despair (3rd Sunday). We will be encouraged to struggle and battle in spiritual warfare, to ascend the ladder of virtues which reaches up to the Heavenly Kingdom (4th Sunday). Finally, we will be comforted by God’s offer to forgive all our sins – as small or as great as they may be – and we will be inspired to repent, reject the temptations of the world, overcome the passions of the flesh, and flee to our desert where there is peace and where we can hear the call to return to communion with Christ and to Paradise (5th Sunday)!

And so, our dear ones, as we prepare to embark on our Lenten sojourn, let us be of good courage and turn our efforts away from satisfying the wants of the flesh and toward good deeds, to recognizing Christ in one-another – especially in those who are in need of our compassion – and let us commit our spiritual efforts toward receiving God’s grace. Let us not be distracted by the cynicism and empty promises of the godless, but let us stand together confidently as members of the Body of Christ, the New Israel; let us liken ourselves to Old Israel as they took their first steps in freedom from bondage, and begin our Lenten journey with the joy-filled words of the Holy Church:

Let us begin the all-holy season of fasting with joy; let us shine with the bright radiance of the holy commandments of Christ our God: with the brightness of love and the splendor of prayer, the strength of good courage and the purity of holiness! So, clothed in garments of light, let us hasten to the holy resurrection on the third day, that shines on the world with the glory of eternal life!

We, your spiritual fathers, hierarchs, and constant intercessors, bid each one of you a blessed Lenten sojourn, to the glory of God and for our salvation and eternal life!

With love in Christ, the Lord,

+Yurij, Metropolitan – Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

+Antony, Metropolitan – Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Diaspora

+Jeremiah – Archbishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Diocese of Brazil and Church South America

+Daniel  Archbishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Western Europe Eparchy

+Ilarion – Bishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

+Andriy – Bishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada

The Great and Holy Fast – The year of our Lord 2018

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