2019 Easter Pastoral Letter of His Beatitude Sviatoslav

Most Reverend Archbishops and Bishops,
Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers,
Venerable Brothers and Sisters in Monastic and Religious Life,
Dearly Beloved Laity in Christ of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church

Christ is Risen!

Let us rise at early dawn
And bring to our Master a hymn instead of myrrh,
And we shall see Christ, the Sun of righteousness
Who enlightens the life of all
.
Ode 5, Paschal Canon

Beloved in Christ!

Today heaven and earth, angels and men proclaim to the whole universe the most profound of all truths: Christ is risen! The power of this salutation is felt by all of us, from the youngest to the oldest, as we respond: Truly, really, indeed Christ is risen! In all languages, we solemnly proclaim this truth using the words of the Gospel for Pascha: “and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn 1:14). We are all lifted up with unspeakable joy and are given new life through Christ’s Resurrection—for He rises and lives in order that we too might live and rise in Him and with Him.

Let us rise at early dawn and bring to our Master a hymn instead of myrrh…

The radiance of the resurrection of the Sun of righteousness was first seen by the myrrh-bearing women in the darkness of a night filled with disappointment, despair, and fear. With tears in their eyes, they carry myrrh for the deceased, worrying about whether someone will be there to roll aside the great stone at the entrance to the tomb. Each one of us, having experienced the death and funeral of someone close to us, can understand the pain in the hearts of the myrrh-bearing women as they go to bid a final farewell to their Teacher. But lo, they come upon a different, unexpected reality. An angel in a white garment proclaims to them: “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him” (Mk 16:6).

Our Paschal Matins calls on us to “rise up,” that is, to awaken from sleep and be open to the Divine unexpected. To rise up means tо look out for that which is true, genuine, and authentic: look to recognize the Truth, look to not be fooled by that which is false and deceitful; look to encounter the Risen One. His radiance reveals to us the truth about Himself, about that which is worthy of our efforts, labours, and suffering, which is worthy of our action as Church, as a community and as an entire people. The truth that Christ is risen is as real and certain as the fact that the sun will rise and the day will take the place of the night. The Resurrection of Christ as the Sun of righteousness “enlightens life” for us. It shows us not only the true meaning of what the myrrh-bearing women were seeking but also the meaning of every person’s life, suffering, and even death: we are created for resurrection in Christ and our life on earth is an awakening to the expectation of this resurrection. Let the words of the Psalmist be our song in light of the Resurrection: “Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day” (Ps 96:1-2).

And we shall see Christ, the Sun of righteousness…

We live in a cultural world of fakery and untruth, of false commodities and deceptive ideologies. The age of post-truth is upon us. Truth is, it would seem, manufactured according to an individual’s private interests, “on special order,” with no connection to what is actually happening in regards to entire nations, cultures, and individual persons.

For a person today, truth is ceasing to have value. Therefore, all Christians who believe that Christ is truly risen should ask themselves: is truth still important for me? Is it possible that sometimes I neglect the truth because it is more comfortable for me to live without it, to not be bothered by searching for it? Am I able to be truthful with myself about my own life and my shortcomings, or do I attribute them to others and blame others for my own sins?

The environment we live in today, in the midst of “fakery and deceit,” is a veritable night for humanity and, essentially, the death and burial of the human spirit. Without truth, humanity dies like a flower without the sun. The prophet Isaiah cautions against such evil, saying: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!” (Is 5:20-21).
To celebrate Pascha, the Resurrection of our Lord, in the midst of such a night is to be a servant of Truth, a torch for the Sun of righteousness—Christ, who enlightens our life. The example of the myrrh-bearing women is a call to us to search for the Risen Saviour. The myrrh which they carry to anoint the body of Jesus, laid in the tomb, is a symbol of our personal duty to search for truth and move toward it, serve it, bear witness to it before the powerful of the world, even at the risk of our own life. Bearing witness to the truth—this is the paschal calling of every Christian.

The Truth has its own power. It overcomes falsehood as triumphantly as Christ conquered death, as light dispels darkness, or the sun drives out the remnants of the night. With the courage to live in truth, we can become witnesses to the power of Christ’s Resurrection. It is a truth that must be shown with our very lives rather than defended merely with words, following the example of the myrrh-bearing women, who persisted in their witness before the Apostles, even when these would not believe.

Who enlightens the life of all.

As a people, we often have experienced the murderous power of falsehood. We have been robbed and are still being robbed of the truth about our past. False ideologies have been forced and are being forced upon us in order to destroy our present. In times of pre-election campaigns, we have been the target of deception and are still being fooled, so as to rob us of our future. The war which our nation is waging is, in reality, nothing less than a war against falsehood, lies, and all that they bring about in the lives of individuals and society, in international relations, and in the very existence of the global community.

This is why the good news of Pascha-day is so important for us: Christ is truly risen! The teaching of our Lord and Saviour is for us a beacon and a signpost. Indeed, the struggle against falsehood begins in the depth of the human heart. The chief Apostle Peter wrote this appeal: “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pt 1:22-23).

Let us, therefore, live in the light of the Risen One, before whom no darkness or falsehood can stand. Let us believe in the truth that is Christ and serve the truth in all spheres of human life—and Ukraine with its people will be invincible. Every initiative built on lies will collapse, as it was with the Communist empire of evil. Let us build our nation on truth and justice, no matter how bitter and difficult that may seem. The Risen Christ has the power to enlighten our life and raise us up to a new future.
Indeed today, in light of the authentic Truth that is Christ we must examine our past and, with trust in the Risen Saviour, we must order our present. Precisely now, by the power of his victory against falsehood, we must build our future—one that is not illusionary, dark, and sorrowful, but brilliant and joyful, in the fullness of life, which we have in the Lord.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ! In this bright, joyful day I wish to greet you all with the Pascha of our Lord. May the light of Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, enlighten all of you to responsible service of the truth and grant you courage and perseverance in the face of dark and evil falsehood. To all of you, in Ukraine and throughout the world, I send you my heartfelt greeting together with sincere prayers. To all the soldiers at the front lines and their families, to all refugees and to those who are on the occupied territories, to all captives and prisoners for the sake of their conscience, to the young and old, to those in good and in poor health—I wish all of you the joy of life that is grounded in the truth of God’s infinite love for us. I embrace you with fatherly love and send you my sincere wishes for a blessed Easter feast, a tasty sharing of our traditional blessed egg, and a Paschal joy that is full of light.

The grace of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Christ is risen! – Truly, He is risen!

SVIATOSLAV

Given in Kyiv
at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ,
on the Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel,
April 8, 2019 A.D.

PASTORAL LETTER OF HIS BEATITUDE SVIATOSLAV TO YOUTH ON PALM SUNDAY

Beloved in Christ Youth in Ukraine and abroad!

With great joy, as every year, on the occasion of Palm Sunday commemorating Jesus’ triumphal entry in Jerusalem, I wish to address you with this pastoral message. For indeed youth, in the words of Pope Francis, is the divine “now” of our Church and people to whom God wants to reveal His presence, His mercy, and His salvation. As Christ did then, when He entered into His royal city and inaugurated the triumphant coming of His Kingdom in humble service, so also in His eternal “now” through you He wishes to carry His light and His hope into the world. The future depends on your openness to Christ, your sensitivity to the living reality of your Church and people, and your ability to take on responsibility for yourselves and the world.

According to recent sociological surveys, the majority of young Ukrainians see freedom as the most important value in their life. It should be pointed out that this is also the position of a great part of the adult population. For post-Soviet Ukrainian society, such a shifting of values can be seen as a real breakthrough. Indeed, after decades of captivity and bloody communist terror, the freedom-loving spirit of our ancestors has awoken, a spirit which until now no enemy could break or extinguish. This is not surprising, for true freedom gives us the possibility to express our dignity, to fulfil our noble aspirations and goals. It enables us to feel free from all kinds of enslavement so that we might live in truth and create what is beautiful and good. As my predecessor, His Beatitude Lubomyr, aptly stated: “freedom is the possibility to create the good.”

As the year 2013 drew to a close, they sought to deprive us of the possibility to fulfil our national dream—the dream for a free, united, European Ukraine. And it is not by chance that opposing forces chose as their target none other than the youth. Church bells awoke our conscience, and on the Maidan, with great cost, we defended our right to do good in freedom, to live in liberty on our God-given land. Among the heroes of the Heavenly Hundred were our colleagues—students, sportsmen, volunteers, young parents. From the divine eternal “now,” they look down on us today in order to once again by the bells of our conscience awaken us to sensitivity and responsibility. Today our freedom is being preserved before the Russian aggressor by those fighting in the Eastern part of Ukraine at great cost and personal sacrifice. We have no right to stab them in the back.

Beloved in Christ! Freedom is not merely a human value, of which no one has the right to deprive us. True freedom is a gift from God which we received in Jesus Christ. St. Paul reminds us: “for freedom Christ has set us free,” and he immediately cautions us, “stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1). Entering into the capital city of Jerusalem, the Lord brings the good news of salvation, the good news of freedom. This freedom he proposes not as one who enslaves and oppresses. Throughout our national history, especially in the last century, we were visited many times by “liberators” who, hiding behind deceptive slogans about equality and freedom, brought with them terror, destruction, and death. Christ, on the other hand, in humble service by which He gave His life on the cross for our liberation and freedom, becomes the source and foundation of authentic divine freedom, which brings peace, gives hope, calls to growth. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh…” (Gal 5:13). This call to growth in freedom is at the same time a call to mature responsibility. For today the enemy of our salvation—personal and national—once again seeks to lull our sensitivity. He wants us to see freedom as a right without personal effort, for us to “go with the flow,” while setting aside high aspirations and ideals.

True freedom is not possible without responsibility. Freedom without responsibility, in fact, becomes a blind and destructive force, а recklessness that closes its eyes to that which has been achieved thus far, destroys the present good—personal and common—and places in doubt the personal and national “tomorrow.” During the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, it was the youth that joined the ranks of Christ’s disciples and revealed their openness of heart and responsibility in the face of epochal changes and upheavals.

Dear youth! Today’s Gospel event teaches us to choose with maturity and responsibility—to stand on the side of truth, goodness, and justice, to stand against manipulations, cunning propaganda, and empty promises of an easy and carefree future. The history of salvation shows all of us that the path from slavery to freedom is difficult and long, and it must be travelled from day to day, steadily and patiently. There may be mistakes made on this path, but it would be awful for us to fall into an ill-conceived indifference and thoughtlessness by which we, often even unawares, cross over to the side of our enemy, having freely submitted once again to his tyranny.

Today in Ukraine we are demonstrating our national and Christian maturity through our participation in the elections for President of Ukraine. For some of you, this is, possibly, the first election in your life. This same day may become decisive for the fate of the county for decades, and even for its very existence. Therefore, I call upon you to mature responsibility. Only a mature person is capable of foreseeing the consequences of one’s choices and take personal responsibility for them. Let us not let anyone take Ukraine for a fool, scoff at the blood and suffering of our people, who fight for true freedom at the cost of their own life.

In order for you to be able to better and more conscientiously make a personal decision with responsibility, I would like to recall the criteria which at one time His Beatitude Lubomyr of blessed memory proposed, and according to which, in his opinion, it is imperative to evaluate candidates to positions of authority in government: professionalism, integrity, patriotism. Only one who has all three traits can be worthy of our trust. Today our entire Church calls upon the Holy Spirit to send down His grace on our youth, trusting that its choice, as well as the choice of our entire people, will bring good news to Ukraine and the world, just as the choice of the youth of Jerusalem became a famous part of the Gospel of Christ Himself!

The young faithful of our Church, who reside outside Ukraine and are not participating in the elections today, I wish to also call to responsibility in our communities—ecclesial and social. Take responsibility for the future of the country where you reside, do not be afraid to achieve success and perform service at the highest levels of society and thus to be a source of pride for your native people and your Church. Become active members of your parish and the Ukrainian community. And so will you, as the divine “now” will create a better future for yourselves, your descendants, the Church and all of humanity.

My dear youth! I greet you with this special youth day! Thank you for your active, mature, and responsible Christian life position. Be assured: who follows Christ and their life walks in the ways of God, such a person will always achieve a blessed goal—true freedom and happiness, which do not pass away.

The blessing of the Lord be upon you!

+ SVIATOSLAV

Given in Kyiv

at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ,

on the Day of the Venerable Mark, Bishop of Arethusa, and Deacon Cyril, and others martyred by the persecutor Julian, April 11, 2019 A.D.

Nativity Pastoral Letter of his Beatitude Sviatoslav

Most Reverend Archbishops and Metropolitans,
God-loving Bishops, Very Reverend Clergy, Venerable Monastics,
Dearly Beloved Brothers and Sisters,
in Ukraine and throughout the world


For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:5)


Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Beloved in Christ!

Today heaven and earth is filled with the light of joy and peace. Angels and men, all creation welcomes Christ the Saviour born in human flesh. All of us together with the shepherds and wise men hasten to the poor stable-cave to join Mary and Joseph in venerating the incarnate God, who rests on hay in a manger. We hasten to receive the love and peace that the Lord brings into a world of hate and violence.

The Gospel narrative of the Nativity conveys to us the Good News proclaimed by the angel: “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12). In the Christmas carols and services of this mystical night we hear of a mighty heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14). All of humanity, in awaiting the birth of the Saviour, had hoped for the beginning of a new era in human history—a new time when the Messiah as Prince of Peace would restore harmony to human relations, would abolish all forms of violence of men against men; not as a victor in war, like his ancestor David, but as the Son of God, conquering the very reason for wars and hostility—human sin, that evil which is the greatest disfigurement of paradisiacal happiness.

Human beings are created by God for peace which is a sign of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23). In spite of our nature, fallen through sin, human beings invariably seek this peace, even though we may not always know how to achieve it. For this very reason our Divine Liturgy, after calling for the establishment and strengthening of the blessed Kingdom of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, immediately invites us to pray for peace from on high for the entire world and the well-being of God’s holy churches. Indeed, today’s feast proclaims to us that Christ is the Prince of Peace and that the might of God is revealed in peace.

When we hear the word “prince,” we immediately think of a person who has authority and power. We encounter many “princes,” good and bad, in various spheres of human life: politics, employment, family, and even church life. However, from the Gospel perspective and in light of the example of Christ as Prince of Peace, it becomes evident that divine authority is expressed through service, and divine power is found in the infinite and unconditional, faithful, and sacrificial love of the Lord for His creation.

A human being can live in peace and become a servant of peace only when he or she receives the Prince of Peace, newly-born today, into their hearts, into their internal spiritual world, into their personal and social life. Saint Paul writes in his epistle to the Ephesians: “He is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). Therefore, the greatest expression of God’s universal might, the manner in which the Prince of Peace manifests His power and authority, is not in the humiliation of others through injustice and violence, but in serving others out of unconditional love for the sake of peace!
At times in our daily lives it may seem to us that the one who is powerful is the one who is able to humiliate another. However, in reality such an expression of power is violence. Therefore, standing before the manger of the Prince of Peace, we begin to understand that violence is always the argument of a weakling, of one who wishes to appear powerful. It is the behaviour of a coward, who simply fears the other, no matter how weak.

Christ endured violence from the very moment of His birth. King Herod, whom history calls great, in reality was a little coward: he feared for his authority, he perceived himself a failure in the face of God as a powerless Child. In order the retain authority and the riches entailed in it, he resorted to violence: commanding the death of the little ones of Bethlehem, the children of his own people! The peace of God, on the other hand, is always mightier than human violence, and that is why He is always victorious.

Only the powerless and weak in spirit adopt a strategy of insidious attack, aggression, or blind violence as a method of ensuring one’s authority, being incapable of convincing or leading others any other way. In contrast, human frailty, vested in Divine power, often becomes the pledge of true victory and a lasting peace. Let us recall what the Lord revealed to the Apostle of the nations: “My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The weakness of God is mightier that the appearance of human power. Herod was buried not long after the birth of our Lord Jesus, while Christ, the Prince of Peace, is alive—yesterday, today and forever! (see Hebrews 13:8).

Beloved in Christ! To celebrate Christmas is to be filled with peace from heaven and to say “no” to violence. Let us receive the newly-born Saviour as Prince of Peace in our families and become, following the example of St. Joseph and Mary the Theotokos, bearers and custodians of peace. Let us avoid all forms of violence—in word and deed—especially in our family circle, in relations between husband and wife or parents and children. Let us reject the culture of death which allows for the killing of the innocent unborn and, as we see in some countries of the world, encourages the gravely ill or elderly to shorten their life under the guise of a so-called “sweet death,” which is nothing more than an offense against God and a crime against the sanctity and inviolability of human life.

Let our ancient Christmas carols resound in our schools and educational institutions, safeguarding our children from events of violence. In societies where we live, let us not permit the presence of blind physical or moral violence on the political battleground. Representatives of political forces who encourage violence and foment conflicts are in reality spiritual weaklings, and they will never be capable of serving the common good of our people. Wherever we live, whether in Ukraine, which in the near future will be electing a president and parliament, or in the countries where our people have settled, let us support those who aspire elected office not in order to rule others, but in order to serve. Let us support those who resist violence and seek to establish the peace of God, a peace that is just and lasting.

Let us celebrate Christ’s Nativity today and bring forth the joy and peace that comes from heaven. Let us conquer violence and fear, both in our personal lives, and on all the fronts of this war, whose consequences profoundly affect each and every one of us. Let us counter foreign aggression, as do those who defend our native land in Ukraine’s East, with the sacrifice of our love, in active solidarity with the victims of aggression. Let us be persistent in prayer, calling for the peace of God upon our land, in our families and hearts! May the words of the prophet Isaiah be fulfilled for us: “Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders; you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise” (Isaiah 60:18).

Beloved Brothers and Sisters! With this Christmas letter I greet all of you who today, as domestic Church, receive the new-born Christ into your families—parents and children, the elderly and youth. I hasten to share the good news of joy and peace with those, who labour abroad—far away from their home and loved-ones. I embrace those brothers and sisters who have been forced to migrate, who miss their native lands, and all, who today carry on their bodies and in their hearts the wounds of war and violence.

With the Nativity of Christ, I especially greet our soldiers, the defenders of peace and victors of war. My thoughts and prayers go to the cold prisons, where our prisoners of war and of conscience continue to suffer; to the hospitals, where our wounded in battle for our nation regain their health; to the homes, where Ukrainians afflicted with grief mourn the loss of their loved-ones because of the war. The Lord of peace is with us! May the Christmas star shine upon us with its light, and in every home the words of our carol-song resound clearly:

Ангели співають: (The Angels sing:)
«Слава» восклицають, (Exclaiming“Glory!”)
На небесах і на землі (Inheaven and on earth)
Мир проповідають.(Proclaiming peace.)

I wish all of you the authentic joy that is given to the children of God,a cheerful celebration of Christ’s Nativity, and a happy, peaceful and blessed New Year!
Christ is born! Glorify Him!

† SVIATOSLAV

Given in Kyiv
at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ,
on the day of our father St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia,
the 19th (6th)of December in the 2018th Year of our Lord

Christmas Pastoral of the Ukrainian Catholic Hierarchy of the U.S.A.

To Our Clergy, Hieromonks, and Brothers, Religious Sisters,
Seminarians and Beloved Faithful

“Today Christ is Born of the Virgin in Bethlehem. Today, the eternal One has a beginning, today the Word becomes incarnated. All the heavenly powers rejoice, and all who dwell on earth are happy. The magi offer the gift to the Master, the shepherds proclaim the marvel; and we cry aloud unceasingly: Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace and good will to all.”
STICHERA AT THE PRAISES, MATINS OF THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD.

The liturgical texts of the Nativity of Our Lord often repeat a word “Today” and call everyone to respond to God’s invitation. Emmanuel—God with Us—came to the world over two thousand years ago and was greeted with marvel by shepherds and magi offering him homage and gifts. If we want that joy of Christmas to invade our lives, we must do what the shepherds did so long ago. We must come to our parish churches and bow before the newborn King. Hope is available but only to those who will humble themselves and bow in faith before the Lord Jesus Christ. We often think about Jesus Christ each year in the Christmas season. We are deeply touched by the beauty of the nativity scene, and resolve to know Christ personally, follow Jesus in our daily lives and be with Him. But, then the Christmas season passes and the pressures of a new year lead us away from the manger. There is great danger in coming near to Christ but never making a commitment. Sooner or later, we must make a personal commitment that Jesus Christ will be our Lord and Savior. Every time we put it off, it becomes harder the next time. May God give us, the grace to make room in our hearts for Jesus Christ! The angel said, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior.” “Unto you.” “For you.” He came for us! This is where Christmas becomes intensely personal. It’s not enough to say abstractly that we believe Christ came. Many people say that and are still lost in their search for the living God. It’s not enough to say that Christ came for someone else. We can never be saved until we say, “Christ came for me. He died for me. He rose from the dead for me.” Two thousand years ago God sent a gift wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Jesus is God’s Christmas gift to us. But we will never experience Christmas joy until we personally receive God’s gift—the Lord Jesus Christ. There is left to each of us a choice. What will we do with the Christ-child this Christmas? Will we run to meet him and make him welcome in our hearts? Will we sing with the angels or will we be too busy to go to see the babe in the manger? Will we open our hearts and our homes to Jesus? Today, let us come and welcome Emmanuel—God with Us. Let us with joy welcome Christ among us! The beauty of this personal encounter with the living God will call us to share this “Good News” with others. This is the same message the shepherds received from the angels. If we want to experience the real joy that Jesus wants for us, then we must learn to share! By sharing what God has so generously given to us, we will receive an even greater gift—the gift of joy. This is the true joy. It is found in a Person—in Jesus Christ our Savior. This joy flows out of a relationship with the One who never changes, the One who never lets us down, the one who never leaves us or forsakes us—the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior. On this Christmas day, let us come to our churches and personally encounter this great joy. Let us experience the life-giving Christ. Then, with the deep personal conviction we will be able to share this “Good News” with those whom we encounter in our daily lives, and say to one another “God is among us”!

+PAUL (Chomnycky, OSBM) Eparch of Stamford +

ANDRIY (Rabiy) Apostolic Administrator of the Archeparchy of Philadelphia

+BENEDICT (Aleksiychuk) Eparch of St. Nicholas in Chicago

+ BOHDAN J. (Danylo) Eparch of St. Josaphat in Parma

+JOHN (Bura) Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia

PYLYPIVKA (ADVENT) PASTORAL OF THE UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHY OF THE U.S.A.

TO OUR CLERGY, HIEROMONKS AND BROTHERS, RELIGIOUS SISTERS, SEMINARIANS AND BELOVED FAITHFUL,

Glory to Jesus Christ!

One day, during the pre-Nativity liturgical service celebrated at the Basilica of St. Sofia-Wisdom of God in Constantinople, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, the Theologian, overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit, exclaimed: “Christ is Born! Go out to meet Him!” This short phrase expresses the innate meaning of the forty days of the Nativity Fast, popularly known as the Philippian Fast. This period isn’t filled with grief, but rather with joy, because Christ is coming to transform the world and grant us salvation not only through His suffering and resurrection, but also through His incarnation.

True God from true God, begotten, not made descends from heaven to us, in order to be with us in our mundane earthy life often filled with difficulties. The Lord comes because He dearly loves us and desires to make the first step toward reconciliation and lift up our human nature broken and damaged by sin. Thus, the Nativity Fast is not a mere expectation or an effort to recall the important historical event of Christ’s birth that occurred more than 2000 years ago, but primarily, it is a time of our soul’s preparation for the encounter with the incarnated Christ. How should we prepare ourselves for this salvific event of Christ’s Nativity?

The secular world proposes its own version of such preparation by using festal illumination of our streets, bright and ornamented windows of our shops and richly decorated evergreen trees. The entertainment industry employs various sales tactics which entice us to make more purchases. While in the whirl of preparatory activities, we might forget to prepare ourselves to meet with the newly born child, who is God eternal. It is important to know that the festive atmosphere would only be filled with adequate internal meaning when we repent and open our hearts in order to make it ready for the Birth of Christ.

Our liturgical texts pertaining to the Nativity Fast period often proclaim: “Bethlehem, Get Ready” or “the Cave of the Nativity Be Ready,” although, in reality, poor Bethlehem and the meager cave is our destitute human existence which is in need of God’s nurturing. The Lord did not enter this world in the royal palace, thus, if we want God to live with us and be born in us, we have to cast aside any kind of pride and luxury of self-indulgence and chose a path of humility and quiet joy from the fact that “God is with us.” Therefore, if we would like to prepare “a modest cave in our soul” for the birth of the child Jesus, then it would be imperative to get rid of the imaginary illusion of our self-worth and gladly accept the modest circumstances of our present lives as given to us by God for our benefit and salvation.

During the Nativity Fast, the Holy Mother Church puts in front of us the images of our forefathers, fathers and prophets, who foretold the coming of the Savior. Although, they were not soothsayers, or using the modern term “futurists,” but having been inspired by the Holy Spirit, they spoke on behalf of God about essential things concerning our present life with God. After all, it is crucial to maintain our relationship with God “here and now” rather than “somewhere and sometime.” Apostles Andrew and Phillip, whom we commemorate during the Nativity Fast, understood this well, since they sought intimacy with Christ and unconditionally followed Him in search of “light that enlightens every person.” Similarly, amid these dark late autumn days we strive for sunshine and warmth that can only be given to us by the “authentic Sun of Truth”- Christ, the Savior. Therefore, the aim of fasting is to strive to be filled and sifted through by the uncreated light of God’s presence in our souls granted to us by the newborn Lord.

God’s Son leaves behind His Heavenly dwelling in order to become one of us. So, what should we leave behind during fasting? Traditionally, the Church calls to refrain temporarily from festive celebrations and some foods, but even more importantly – to abandon pride, laziness and all that alienates us from God, from all that is superfluous in our lives and interferes with the joy of celebrating the incarnation of Christ.

“The Lord is coming,” – exclaim our liturgical chants. He comes again and again to all of us together and to everyone in particular. So, let’s prepare a road for Him to our heart. We will light the lamps of our faith, open the caves of our souls and become prepared for the gift of the new life incarnated wants to grant us.

+Paul Chomnycky, OSBM
Eparch of Stamford

+Andriy Rabiy
Apostolic Administrator of the
Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia

+Benedict Aleksiychuk (author)
Eparch of St. Nicholas in Chicago

+ Bohdan J. Danylo
Eparch of St. Josaphat in Parma

+John Bura
Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia

Pylypivka 2018

2018 — EASTER PASTORAL LETTER OF HIS BEATITUDE SVIATOSLAV

Most Reverend Archbishops and Bishops,
Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers,
Venerable Brothers and Sisters in Monastic and Religious Life,
Dearly Beloved Laity in Christ of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church

Christ is Risen!

David, ancestor of the Lord, danced and made music before the Ark, which was only a symbol.
As God’s holy people let us witness the symbol fulfilled,
And rejoice in spirit, for Christ, being almighty, is risen.

From Ode 4, Paschal Canon

Beloved in Christ!

 Today in all of Ukraine and in our settlements abroad Christians are filled with an inexpressible joy. From the moment we first hear our traditional Easter greeting “Christ is risen!” in each one of us, from the youngest to the oldest, our soul undergoes a profound change. We feel how all life’s problems and challenges disappear, how all cares and sorrows are washed away “as wax melts before the fire.” This joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and a true sign, that the risen Lord is present in our hearts.

David, ancestor of the Lord, danced and made music before the Ark, which was only a symbol.

In the sixth chapter of the second book of Samuel, we read how King David at the beginning of his reign arranged for the transfer of the Ark of the Covenant to his capital, Jerusalem. In this relic were contained the tablets of Divine Law, received by Moses: they were the most precious possession of Israel. The Ark was a guaranty of invincibility for the people of the Old Testament, of strength for the king. For this reason, David greets it with great joy, with dance. This presence of God in the midst of His people and their sense of duty to live according to the Lord’s commandments will later allow the Psalmist to say: “Light dawns for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to His holy name!” (Ps. 97:11-12).

Our Paschal Matins see in the behavior of the king an image of our paschal joy today. And while the Ark-symbol was lost in the time of the Babylonian onslaught in the VI century B.C., the risen Lord is eternally present in our midst: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). This is no symbol or prediction of some unsure or unreachable future. Christ Himself, who rose from the dead, comes to us, His disciples, as a source of our strength and victory over evil. In the Resurrection, in the news of His victory over death is found the summit of our joy and the fulfillment of all prophecies and human aspirations.

To rejoice in God is to allow the victory of the risen Lord to penetrate my heart, to be fulfilled in my personal life. This is not merely some temporary feeling, but real participation and communion in Christ’s Resurrection. Saint Paul wrote: “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” (Rom 6:5). To celebrate Pascha is to rise together with Christ, to triumph in Him and with Him. Thus, our joy in Him and with Him is no passing emotion, but the permanent state of one who lives in the faith of the risen Lord.

As God’s holy people let us witness the symbol fulfilled…

In today’s world people do not know how to rejoice—they find happiness in possessions, but largely cry over that which they would like to have but do not possess. Today there in an entire amusement industry that “sells joy,” suggests that you “buy happiness” in the form of empty and short-term distractions, compulsions, or narcotics, promises quick satisfaction without responsibility, seeks to entice through an escape into virtual realities or the acquisition of temporal riches.

A person seeks happiness but cannot find it in those things. For joy is not possible without God. Happiness without God is an illusion which quickly dissipates. It is a dependency that simultaneously enslaves and saps one of strength.

How often in today’s society we find irresponsible politicians, newfound messiahs, in the role of “purveyors of joy.” With empty slogans they appeal to the lowest of human desires. At the price of the blood and tears of innocent victims, or even entire nations, they promise happiness “for the chosen” who belong to their “world” which they artificially designed, and count on the fact that in the face of their lawlessness, “in all tongues”—here we paraphrase our great Kobzar- Shevchenko, all will be silent. But such joy is built on the sand of idols, falsehood, and violence, and thus, sooner or later, it will collapse under its own weight.

We, on the other hand, are called to build our happiness and our joy as a community of children of God. It isn’t easy to live in the joy of the Lord, especially in today’s circumstances. We often ask ourselves: How can be rejoice today? Why are we suffering? Why is this happening to us? Is there any sense to our struggles, the blood and suffering, the deaths and devastation? Without the mystery of Christ’s Pascha, these questions remain unanswered. For the risen Christ Himself opens up for us the meaning of human suffering—transforming it in our paschal journey into joy in the Lord. St. Maximus the Confessor wrote: “If God suffers in the flesh when He is made man, should we not rejoice when we suffer, for we have God to share our sufferings? This shared suffering confers the kingdom on us. For he spoke truly who said, ‘If we suffer with Him, then we shall also be glorified with Him’ (Rom. 8:17).” The suffering and risen Lord is present in each person who undergoes suffering till the end of the world—in each human hurt, in each spilt tear and drop of blood—and He draws us into His Resurrection, grant us joy therein. The one who suffers in the name of love of God and neighbor, that person knows how to be glad in God, how to rejoice with the authentic and eternal joy of the Risen One.

And rejoice in spirit, for Christ, being almighty, is risen.

Therefore, let us view our personal, family, community, and national sufferings in light of our paschal journey led by the risen Christ, in light of our transformation into joy, our movement towards hope on this lightsome day, made by the Almighty. The Lord’s Pascha opens up for our people the truth that through our struggle we enter into His joy. Our love for the Fatherland, which calls us to self-sacrifice in the name of its freedom and independence is, indeed, a path to Resurrection. Our invincible spirit bears witness before the world that one need not be fearful before deadly falsehood and violence, for “Christ is risen, being almighty!”

Today the Lord Himself gladdens us, changing our sorrow into joy, as it was for the myrrh-bearing women. They went to the Lord’s tomb crying and returned filled with authentic joy in God. They went in the darkness of hopelessness and received the light of the Risen One and proclaimed to the Apostles and the entire world that Christ was truly risen. May we be transformed by this “miracle above all miracles,” and through us—our society and land, wherever we may live.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ! May the victory of Jesus Christ over death and evil dispel our doubts and renew hope and joy in our hearts. To all of you, in Ukraine and throughout the world, I send you my heartfelt greeting together with sincere prayers. To all the soldiers and their families, to all refugees, all who lament on the occupied territories and in the Crimea, all captives and prisoners for the sake of their conscience and love for Ukraine, to all the sick and suffering, to those who labor abroad, I wish all of you divine joy above all! I send you my sincere wishes for a blessed Easter feast, a tasty sharing of our traditional blessed egg, and a Paschal joy that is full of light.

The grace of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Christ is risen! – Truly, He is risen!

+ SVIATOSLAV

Given in Kyiv
at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ,
on the Fifth Sunday of Lent

March 25, 2018 A.D.

Major Feasts and Fasts 2018

Pascha and the 12 Great Feasts are in bold.
Includes Major Civil Holidays
January 1
Circumcision of Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ
Feast of St. Basil the Great
Sunday Before Theophany
New Year’s Day (Civil)
January 6
Theophany of Our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ
January 7
Sunday After Theophany
January 14 Sunday of Zacchaeus
January 15 Martin Luther King Day (USA)
January 21 Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee
January 28 Sunday of the Prodigal Son
January 30
Synaxis of the Ecumenical Teachers and Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom
February 2 Encounter of Our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ with Simeon and Anna
(Presentation of Our Lord Into the Temple)
February 3 First All-Souls Saturday
February 4 Sunday of the Second Coming of Christ (Meat-Fare)
February 11 Forgiveness Sunday (Cheese-Fare)
February 12 Beginning of the Holy Forty Days Fast
February 18 First Sunday of the Great Fast (Sunday of Orthodoxy)
February 19 Washington’s Birthday (President’s Day) (USA)
February 24 Second All-Souls Saturday
February 25 Second Sunday of the Great Fast (St. Gregory Palamas)
March 3 Third All Souls Saturday
March 4 Third Sunday of the Great Fast (Veneration of the Cross)
March 10 Fourth All-Souls Saturday
March 11 Fourth Sunday of the Great Fast (St. John of the Ladder)
March 14 Canon of St. Andrew of Crete
March 17 Akathistos Saturday
March 18 Fifth Sunday of the Great Fast (St. Mary of Egypt)
March 24-31 Great and Holy Week
March 24 Lazarus Saturday
March 25 Annunciation to the the Mother of God, Palm (Flowery) Sunday – Entrance into Jerusalem
March 26 Great and Holy Monday
March 27 Great and Holy Tuesday
March 28 Great and Holy Wednesday
March 29 Great and Holy Thursday
March 30 Great and Holy Friday
March 31 Great and Holy Saturday
April 1
Pascha – Feast of the Resurrection of Christ (Easter Sunday)
April 1-8 Bright Week
April 8 Second Sunday of Pascha (Apostle Thomas)
April 30 Third Sunday of Pascha (Myrrh-Bearing Women)
April 22 Fourth Sunday of Pascha (Healing of the Paralytic) Feast of Saints Cyril & Methodius
April 25 Mid-Pentecost
April 29 Fifth Sunday of Pascha (Samaritan Women at the Well)
May 6 Sixth Sunday of Pascha (Man Born Blind)
May 10
Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ
May 13 Seventh Sunday of Pascha (Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council)
May 19 Fifth All-Souls Saturday
May 20
Pentecost – Descent of the Holy Spirit
May 21 Feast of the Holy Trinity, Victoria Day (Canada)
May 27 All Saints Sunday
May 28 – June 28 The Apostles’ Fast
May 28 Memorial Day (USA)
June 24 Nativity of the Holy Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John
June 29 The Holy Glorious and All-Praised Leaders of the Apostles, Peter & Paul
July 1 Canada Day (Canada)
July 4 Independence Day (USA)
July 15 Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Six Ecumenical Councils
July 20 Holy, Glorious Prophet Elijah
August 1-14
Dormition Fast
August 6 Transfiguration of Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ
August 15 The Dormition of our Most Holy Lady, the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary
August 29 The Beheading of the Holy Glorious Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptist John
September 1 Liturgical New Year (7526)
September 4 Labor Day (USA), Labour Day (Canada)
September 8 The Nativity of our Most Holy Lady, the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary
September 14 The Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross
October 1 The Protection of our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary
October 8 Columbus Day (USA), Thanksgiving Day (Canada)
October 15 Sunday of the Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council
November 8 Synaxis of the Archangel Michael and the Other Bodiless Powers
November 11 Veterans’ Day (USA), Remembrance Day (Canada)
November 15 Nativity Fast (Philip’s Fast also known as Advent)
November 21 The Entry of the Most Holy Mother of God into the Temple
November 22 Thanksgiving Day (USA)
December 6 St Nicholas the Wonderworker and Archbishop of Myra in Lycia
December 9 The Conception of the Most Holy Mother of God by the Righteous Anna
December 17 Second Sunday Before Christmas (Holy Forefathers)
December 23 Sunday Before Christmas (Holy Fathers)
December 24 Christmas Eve
December 25 The Nativity of our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ
December 26
Synaxis of the Most Holy Mother of God
December 27 First-Martyr and Archdeacon Stephen
December 28 20,000 Martyrs of Nicomedia
December 29 14,000 Infants (the Holy Innocents) Slain by Herod at Bethlehem
December 30 Sunday after Christmas: Commemoration of the Holy Righteous David the King, Joseph the Betrothed, and James the Brother of the Lord

Note: The Byzantine liturgical year starts on September 1 and ends on August 31. The movable feasts are determined by the date of Pascha (the feast of the Resurrection). There are two systems currently in use to calculate Pascha – Gregorian (Western) and Julian (Eastern). Roman Catholics, most Byzantine Catholics in America and some Orthodox (notably those in Finland) follow the Gregorian date. Some Byzantines in America and most Byzantines and Orthodox in Canada and elsewhere follow the Julian date. In the year AD 2018 the Gregorian date is April 1 and the Julian date is April 8..

Christ IS Born! Glorify Him! Nativity 2017

My Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we come together again to celebrate the great feast of our God’s incarnation as a human being, we realize that our faith is unique in the history of humankind. We believe that our God loved His creation so much that He decided that He would make us unto His image and grant us the potential to grow in His likeness. Because we are made in His image, we have free will, we share in His most important powers and we have the ability to cooperate with His Spirit to become the best possible version of ourselves that is possible during this lifetime on earth. Indeed He spared nothing to help us achieve the status as His children. He decided from all eternity that He would be with us, helping us to understand how to live this earthly life so that we might become all that we can possibly be. We actually believe that He came to show us how to live this life so that we might truly benefit from the experiences of life and spiritually grow. He could have created us with many different powers. He decided that we must have free will so that we, like Him, might be able to freely and voluntarily return His love. His intent was not to create robots or slaves, but rather free men and women who could freely choose to return His love. He voluntarily created us as we are so that we might share in His life in an intimate way. He unconditionally loves us and allows us to freely respond to His love. As we celebrate this great feast, we must ask ourselves if we truly are trying to understand this great mystery OR are simply just going through life without a clue about the meaning and purpose of their lives. So today I ask you to pause and ask yourself this serious question: Why would God become a human being? How did this action bring about the completion of His creation? It is truly my hope and prayer that all who celebrate this feast with me might come to know they are loved by God and also by me. Thanks to all who have supported me all these years.

Father Wayne

РІЗДВЯНЕ ПОСЛАННЯ БЛАЖЕННІШОГО СВЯТОСЛАВА

 

Високопреосвященним і Преосвященним Архиєпископам та Митрополитам,
боголюбивим єпископам, всечесному духовенству,
преподобному монашеству, возлюбленим братам і сестрам,
в Україні та на поселеннях у світі сущим

 

Ви ж знаєте ласку Господа нашого Ісуса Христа,
що задля вас став бідним, бувши багатим, щоб ви його вбожеством розбагатіли.
2 Кор. 8, 9

 

Христос рождається! Славімо Його!

Дорогі в Христі!

Сьогодні ми знову ділимося невимовною радістю святого Різдва, яка наповнює серце кожного віруючого. Божий Син став одним із нас, взявши собі за матір Діву з Назарета. Син предвічного і всемогутнього Бога, Творця всього видимого і невидимого, народився в бідному вертепі та особисто зазнав всієї людської нужди. Це не тільки історичний факт, подія давно минулих років, а й наша дійсність. У цій події, що сталася у Вифлеємі Юдейському понад дві тисячі років тому, ми пізнаємо безмежну Божу любов до всього роду людського на всі часи: «Бог бо так полюбив світ, що Сина свого Єдинородного дав, щоб кожен, хто вірує в Нього, не загинув, а жив життям вічним» (Ів. 3, 16).

Споглядаючи новонародженого Спасителя в бідному вертепі, у яслах на сіні, ми відчуваємо, наскільки Божа мудрість перевершує мудрість людську. У світлі різдвяної зорі сила, слава і багатство, що походять від людини, виглядають порожніми, минущими та малозначущими. Христос, Син Божий, задля нас став убогим і немічним, відмовився від небесної слави, щоб народитися як останній серед людей – нужденним, що немає де голови приклонити, як співає наша колядка: «…не в царськім палаті, а поміж бидляти…» Він задля нас «стає бідним, бувши багатим, щоб ми Його вбожеством розбагатіли» (пор. 2 Кор. 8, 9). Приймаючи людську нужду і неміч на себе, Син Божий підносить убогу людину до Господньої величі. Примітно, що саме вбогі пастушки в околицях Вифлеєма стали першими адресатами цієї спасенної благовісті, яку і нам сьогодні сповіщає ангел Господній: «”І ось вам знак: Ви знайдете дитя сповите, що лежатиме в яслах”. І вмить пристала до ангела велика сила небесного війська, що хвалила Бога й промовляла: “Слава на висотах Богу й на землі мир людям його вподобання”» (Лк. 2, 12-13). У Різдві немов відбувається обмін дарами: Бог сходить із неба на землю, щоб людина вийшла на небо; Син Божий стає вбогим, щоб збагатити людину.

Коли нині живемо у світі, де жадоба матеріального збагачення нерідко переростає, за словами Святішого Отця Франциска, у «нове ідолопоклонство грошам», а в «економіці проявляється великий брак уваги до людини, що зводить людську істоту лише до однієї з її потреб – споживання» (Радість Євангелія, 55), ангел Різдва скеровує своє послання саме до вбогих і закликає їх, а заразом і нас прославити Бога, в якому вміщене справжнє і вічне багатство людини. Будучи з’єднаними з Христом, «в якому сховані усі скарби мудрості і знання» (Кол. 2, 3), християни постають перед світом «як бідні, які багатьох збагачують; як ті, що нічого не мають, а все посідають!» (пор. 2 Кор. 6, 10). І ось у Різдві те багатство – життя з Богом і в Бозі – приходить до нас і стає джерелом нашої радості і надії, якими ми обдаровуємо одне одного.

Попри злидні і випробування сьогодення, маємо визнати, що насправді існують різні види бідності – духовна, культурна, освітня, цивілізаційна і аж тоді – матеріальна. Убозтво сучасного світу частіше має не матеріальний, а духовний характер. Нинішні «скоробагатьки» в Україні переважно є бідніші – і духовно, і культурно – за жебраків. І ця духовна убогість, тобто віддаленість сильних цього світу від Бога, нерідко спричиняє соціальну несправедливість, згубне використання влади, корупцію та зловживання ресурсами, даними для загального блага.

У такій ситуації не достатньо, щоб багачі призначили частину крихт зі свого стола як певну допомогу убогим. Потрібна переміна людського серця, яке допустило б до себе Боже світло і Божу благодать. Бо хто вважає себе рятівником бідних, а не несе Бога ‑ той пропонує порожні ідеології, які лише використовують злидні людини з політичною метою і, насправді, не здатні їх усунути. За таких обставин бідні ставатимуть ще біднішими, а багаті далі наживатимуться. Лише той, хто стане багатим Богом, зможе преобразити власне життя та сприяти побудові справедливого суспільства, у центрі якого стоятиме людина, а не прибуток; загальне добро, а не егоїстичні інтереси окремих груп чи кланів.

У Різдві Христос нас усіх робить багатими, насичує і підносить з усіх видів бідності, бо Він народжується у Вифлеємі для того, щоб кожну людину зробити своїм братом чи своєю сестрою – дитиною Божою, учасником вічних Божих благ. Ось чому Різдво – свято загальнолюдської солідарності, коли особа не багата, позбавлена «золота-дарів» цього світу, збагачує багатьох своїх ближніх «ціннішим даром» – «вірою серця і щирою любов’ю», як про це співаємо в наших колядках.

Дорогі в Христі! Щоб гідно святкувати Різдво, ділімося з убогими –  всякого виду бідності –  тим багатством, яке ми, віруючі люди, посідаємо, насамперед духовними дарами, а відтак і матеріальними благами. Нехай прадідівська коляда, яка вітає Царя в бідному вертепі, буде для нас Божим заповітом наближатися до вбогих і збагачувати їх скарбами нашої святої віри. Похиляймося над Христом, присутнім у наших нужденних братах і сестрах, даючи їм відчути близькість Бога, який огортає кожного своїм безмежним милосердям і своєю безумовною любов’ю. Завітаймо з колядою до наших воїнів у місцях їхнього перебування – чи то в домівках, до яких вони повернулися після виконали святого обов’язку захисту Батьківщини, чи у військових частинах, чи на фронті. Навідаймося до постраждалих від бойових дій, приймімо до свого серця біль убогого та потребуючого – так ми приймемо Христа із Пресвятою родиною, збагатимо наш дім, родину та суспільство невичерпними Божими скарбами, «яких ані міль не точить, ані злодії не викрадають» (Мт. 6, 19-20). До цього кличе нас свята Церква, коли співає: «Приготуймося нині духом і поспішімось зустрінути чистими очима і добрими ділами Того, хто своїм чудесним народженням схотів прийти до своїх. Він народжується у Вифлеємі, щоб нас, позбавлених райського життя, зі свого милосердя, знову до нього ввести» (Стихира з Вечірні Неділі перед Різдвом).

Дорогі браття і сестри, зі щирого серця бажаю кожному з вас, від наймолодшого до найстаршого, від найбагатшого на Божі дари до найбіднішого, в Україні і на поселеннях, справжньої радості дітей Божих, смачної куті, веселих свят Різдва Христового та щасливого, мирного і благословенного нового року!

Христос рождається! Славімо Його!

† СВЯТОСЛАВ

Дано в Києві,
при Патріаршому соборі Воскресіння Христового,
в день Святих преподобномученика Стефана Нового та мученика Іринарха,
11 грудня 2017 року Божого

CHRISTMAS PASTORAL LETTER OF HIS BEATITUDE SVIATOSLAV

Most Reverend Archbishops and Metropolitans, God-loving Bishops,
Very Reverend Clergy, Venerable Monastics, Dearly Beloved Brothers and Sisters, in Ukraine and throughout the world

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich,
yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
2 Cor. 8:9

 

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Beloved in Christ!

Today once again we share the unspeakable joy of the Holy Nativity, which fills the heart of each believer. The Son of God became one of us, having taken as His mother a Virgin from Nazareth. The Son of the Pre-eternal and Almighty God, the Creator of all that is visible and invisible, was born in a poor stable cave and personally experienced all human misery. This is not merely some historical event from long ago, this is our reality as well. In this event that took place in Bethlehem more than two thousand years ago we recognize God’s infinite love for the human race, for all time: “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).

Gazing upon the newborn Saviour, lying in a simple stable cave, on hay in a manger, we sense how Divine wisdom exceeds human wisdom. In the light of the Christmas star, human power, glory, and wealth seem empty, fleeting, and insignificant. Christ, the Son of God, became poor and helpless for us. He abandoned heavenly glory in order to be born among humans—deprived, having no place to lay His head, as we sing in our traditional carol: “not in a royal palace, but among cattle….” For us He becomes poor, having been rich, so that we might become rich in his poverty (see 2 Cor 8:9). Taking human misery and frailty upon Himself, the Son of God raises us poor humans to our Lord’s grandeur. Indeed, the poor shepherds of the Bethlehem and its surroundings are the first to receive this good news of salvation, proclaimed to us today by the Angel of the Lord: “’And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!’” (Lk 2:12-14). Christmas, it would seem, brings about an exchange of gifts: God descends from heaven to earth, so that mankind might ascend into heaven; the Son of God becomes poor, so that we might all be enriched.

Today we live in a world where, in the words of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, the pursuit of material enrichment frequently grows into a “new idolatry of money,” and “the economy lays bare… a lack of real concern for human beings; man being reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption” (Evangelii gaudium, 55). And yet, the angel of the Nativity directs his message to the poor and calls upon them, and us as well, to praise God, in Whom we find hidden the true and eternal wealth of humankind. In being united with Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3). Christians appear before the world “as poor, yet making many rich, as having nothing, yet possessing everything” (2 Cor 6:10)! And thus, in the Nativity, this wealth—a life with God and in God—comes to us and becomes a source of our joy and hope, which we exchange with one another..

In the midst of the misery and challenges of the present day, we should recognize that there are many forms of poverty—spiritual, cultural, educational, civilizational, and only then—material. The poverty of the present world is frequently not material, but spiritual. Thus, in a certain sense, today’s “new rich” in Ukraine may, in fact, be spiritually and culturally poorer than beggars. On the other hand, this spiritual poverty, that is, this distance of the powerful of this world from God, frequently creates social injustice, disastrous abuse of authority, corruption and misuse of resources, given for the common good.

In this situation it is not enough for the rich to share a portion of the crumbs from their table as a form of help for the poor. What is needed is a change of the human heart, an opening which will allow Divine light and grace to enter. For the one who claims to be a saviour of the poor, but does not have God in his or her heart—such a person carries empty ideologies which only exploit human suffering for political gain, but in reality, are unable to end it. In such circumstances the poor become poorer while the rich continue to prosper. Only those who have become rich in God can transform their own lives and contribute to the creation of a just society, having the human being at its centre rather than profit, the common good rather than egotistical interests of particular groups or clans.

In His Nativity Christ makes us all rich, fills us and raises us out of all forms of poverty, for Christ is born in Bethlehem in order to make every person His brother, His sister—a child of God and sharer of eternal divine blessings. That is why Christmas is the feast of solidarity for all humankind, even for those who cannot bear the gifts of gold of this world, for it enriches all with “a gift more precious than myrrh: the faith of the heart and sincere love,” as we sing in our Ukrainian carol.

Beloved in Christ! In order that we may worthily celebrate Christmas, with those who suffer from all forms of poverty let us share of the riches that are ours—our spiritual gifts above all, and then material gifts. May our ancient carol-koliada, which greets the king in a poor stable cave, be a Divine covenant for us, to approach the poor and share with them the riches of our holy faith. Let us lean down before Christ, present in our impoverished brothers and sisters, allowing them to experience the closeness of God, Who embraces all with His endless mercy and unconditional love. Let us greet with carols our soldiers, wherever they may be—in their homes, having fulfilled their sacred duty to defend their country, in their military units, at the front. Let us visit those who were wounded in battle, let us receive into our hearts the pain of the poor and the needy, for in doing so we will receive Christ with the Most Holy Family, enriching our own homes, our families, and the society we live in with endless divine treasures, “where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Mt 6:20). This is what the Holy Church encourages us to do in singing: “Let us meet Him with pure hearts and with good works. Let us prepare ourselves now through the Holy Spirit to greet Him who is coming to His own people as He himself had willed. He is being born in Bethlehem, so that through His compassion He might bring back all of those who were exiled from life in Paradise” (Sunday before the Nativity, Stikhera from Vespers).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, with a sincere heart I wish each of you, from the youngest to the oldest, from the richest in Divine gifts to the poorest, in Ukraine and abroad—the true joy of children of God, a tasty kutia, a Christmas full of cheer, and a happy, peaceful, and blessed New Year!

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

† SVIATOSLAV

 

Given in Kyiv
at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ,
on the day of the Venerable Martyr Stephen the Younger and the Holy Martyr Irenarchus,
the 11th of December (28th of November) in the 2017th Year of our Lord