St. Michael Parish is an Eastern Catholic Church, part of St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Chicago of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church. Our Bishop is the Eparch of Chicago. We are in full and visible communion with Rome.
One need not be ethnically Ukrainian to join our parish. The Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church (also known in North America simply as the Ukrainian Catholic Church) is a church that comes from the Ukrainian people, but is for the entire human race.
To reach Fr. Andriy Chirovsky
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Posters comparing Roman Rite with Byzantine Rite
Full Text of the 1596 Union of Brest-Litovsk
The Union of Brest was the conciliar 1595-1596 decision of the Orthodox bishops in the Metropolia of Kyiv [the region of what is modern Ukraine, Poland, and Belarus and what was then known as "Rus'") ] to re-establish full and visible communion with the Pope of Rome.
At the time, the church in the area included most Ukrainians and Belarusians, under the rule of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The hierarchs of the Kyivan Church gathered in synod in the city of Brest to compose the union's 33 articles, which were guarantees required from Rome in order to make sure that this union would be of a beneficial nature to the Church of Kyiv. Later the promulgation of the Union was officially celebrated in that same city of Brest. At first successful, within several decades it lost much of its initial support. In that part of Ukrainian which found itself under Austrian rule from the 18th century to the early 20th, the Church fared well and remains strong to this day, most notably in the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church.
We require prior guarantees of these articles from the Romans before we enter into union with the Roman Church.
1. Since there is a quarrel between the Romans and Greeks about the procession of the Holy Spirit, which greatly impedes unity really for no other reason than that we do not wish to understand one another - we ask that we should not be compelled to any other creed but that we should remain with that which was handed down to us in the Holy Scriptures, in the Gospel, and in the writings of the holy Greek Doctors, that is, that the Holy Spirit proceeds, not from two sources and not by a double procession, but from one origin, from the Father through the Son.
2. That the divine worship and all prayers and services of Orthros, Vespers, and the night services shall remain intact (without any change at all) for us according to the ancient custom of the Eastern Church, namely: the Holy Liturgies of which there are three, that of Saint Basil, that of Saint Chrysostom, and that of Epiphanius which is served during the Great Lent with Presanctified Gifts, and all other ceremonies and services of our Church, as we have had them until now, for in Rome these same services are kept within the obedience of the Supreme Pontiff, and that these services should be in our own language.
3. That the Mysteries of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ should be retained entirely as we have been accustomed until now, under the species of bread and wine; that this should remain among us eternally the same and unchangeable.
4. That the Mystery of Holy Baptism and its form should remain among us unchanged as we have served it until now, without any addition.
5. We shall not debate about purgatory, but we entrust ourselves to the teaching of the Holy Church.
6. We will accept the new calendar, if the old one cannot be, but without any violation of the Paschalia [the Easter cycle] and our other feasts as they were in the time of unity, because we have some special feasts which the Romans do not have; on the sixth of January we celebrate the memory of the Baptism of the Lord Christ and the first revelation of the One God in Trinity. We call this feast Theophany, and on this day we have a special service of the Blessing of Waters.
7. That we should not be compelled to take part in processions on the day of Corpus Christi - that we should not have to make such processions with our Mysteries inasmuch as our use of the Mysteries is different.
8. Likewise that we should not be compelled to have the blessing of fire, the use of wooden clappers, and similar ceremonies before Easter, for we have not had such ceremonies in our Church until now, but that we should maintain our ceremonies according to the rubrics and the Typicon of our Church.
9. That the marriages of priests remain intact, except for bigamists.
10. That the metropolitanate, the episcopate, and other ecclesiastical dignities shall be conferred on no one except the Rus' people or Greeks, who must be of our religion. And since our Canons require that the Metropolitan, the Bishops, and so on, first elected by the clergy, must be worthy people, we ask His Grace the King that the election be free, leaving intact the authority of His Grace the King to appoint the one whom he pleases. This means that as soon as someone has died we should elect four candidates, and His Grace the King will freely chose whom he wishes from among the four. This is necessary, especially so that the persons named to such positions will be worthy and educated, for His Grace the King, who is not of the same religion, cannot know who is worthy of this, and thus it has happened that such uninstructed people were appointed that they were scarcely literate. If His Grace the King should wish to appoint a layman to these spiritual posts, the appointee must receive Holy Orders within no more than three months under pain of losing appointment, according to the Constitution of the Parliament of Grodno and the Articles of King Sigmund Augustus of blessed memory, approved by His Grace the present King, for at the moment there are some who hold certain spiritual appointments in their hands but do not receive Holy Orders even for years, justifying themselves with some sort of royal "exemptions". We ask that in future this should not be.
11. That our Bishops should not send to Rome for the sacrae (permission to consecrate), but, if His Grace the King names someone to a bishopric, that according to the old custom the Archbishop-Metropolitan should have the duty and the right to ordain him. The Metropolitan himself, before entering upon the office of metropolitain, should send the sacrae to the Pope. Then, after he has received the sacrae from Rome, let the bishops ordain him, at least two of them, according to their custom. If a bishop is elected Metropolitan, let him not send for the sacrae, because he already has the episcopal cheirotonia; he may take an oath of obedience to the Supreme Pontiff in the presence of the Archbishop of Gniezno (who on that occasion will not be functioning as Archbishop, but as Primate of Poland).
12. So that our authority would be greater and we should govern our faithful with greater respect, we ask seats in the Senate of the King's Grace for the Metropolitan and the bishops. We ask this for many reasons, for we have the same office and hierarchical dignity as the Roman Bishops.
13. And if in time the Lord shall grant that the rest of the brethren of our people and of the Greek Religion shall come to this same holy unity, it shall not be held against us or begrudged to us that we have preceded them in this unity, for we have to do this for definite, serious reasons for harmony in the Christian republic [Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth] to avoid further confusion and discord.
14. Most important of all, it is necessary that if in our dioceses presbyters - Archimandrites, Hegumenoi, presbyters, and other clergy, but especially foreigners, even bishops and monks who might come from Greece - of our Religion should not wish to be under our obedience they should never dare to perform any divine service. For if that were allowed then there would never be any order.
15. If in the future someone of our Religion should want to join the Roman Church, denying his own Religion and Ceremonies, let him not be accepted, since he is degrading the Ceremonies of the one Church of God, since, being already in one Church, we shall have one Pope.
16. That marriages may freely take place between the Roman faithful and the Rus' faithful, without any compulsion as to Religion, for both are already one Church.
17. Inasmuch as we have lost the possession of many ecclesiastical properties, some of which our predecessors alienated by rights other than the free administration of these goods during their personal lives, so that we find ourselves in such want and poverty that we cannot provide satisfactorily for the needs of the churches, and indeed we ourselves scarcely have the means of subsistence, we require that these properties be returned to our churches. If anyone has legitimately acquired the lifetime usufruct of any ecclesiastical benefice, let him be obliged to pay an annual rent to the Church, and upon his death let the benefice revert to the Church. Such a benefice shall not be granted to anyone without the consent of the bishop and his chapter. Every benefice to which the Church presently has title is to be recorded in the Gospel Books, even if the Church does not exercise any control over some benefices. In that way they will at least belong indisputably to the Church. With this accomplished, the Church can then undertake to regain those benefices which have been alienated at an earlier time.
18. Upon the death of the Metropolitan or of a bishop, the wardens and state treasurer shall not interfere in the ecclesiastical properties. As is the custom and tradition of the Roman Church, these properties shall be administered by the chapter until a new Metropolitan or bishop is elected. While this is already guaranteed to us by our privilege, we ask that it be incorporated into the constitution of the kingdom.
19. That Archimandrites, Hegumens, monks and their monasteries, according to the old custom shall be under the obedience of the bishops of their dioceses, for among us there is only one monastic Rule, which even the bishops use, and we do not have "Provincials".
20. That at the tribunal among the Roman Clergy we also should have two of our [clergy] to look after the affairs of our Church.
21. That the archimandrites, hegumens, priests, archdeacons, and our other clergy be held in the same esteem as the Roman clergy, and should enjoy and make use of the same liberties and privileges which were granted by King Ladislaus; they should be exempt from all taxation, both personal and concerning ecclesiastical property, in contrast to the unjust practice which has hitherto obtained - if they possess some private properties then they should pay taxes on them, whatever is just, as other proprietors do. Any priest and other clergy who possesses ecclesiastical properties within the territories of the senators and nobility are subject to them and must obey them: they should not appeal to the courts or enter into quarrels with the landlords, but must acknowledge the right of patronage. But accusations regarding the person of the clergy and their spiritual functions, are subject only to the bishop, and the misdemeanors of the clergy shall be punished exclusively by the bishop on the complaints of the landlord. Thus everyone, clergy and laity, will have their rights preserved whole and inviolate.
22. That the Romans should not forbid us to ring bells in our churches on Good Friday, both in the cities and everywhere else.
23. That we should not be forbidden to visit the sick with the Most Holy Mysteries, publicly, with lights and vestments, according to our rubrics.
24. That without any interference we might be free to hold processions, as many as are required, on holy days, according to our custom.
25. That our Rus' monasteries and churches should not be changed into Roman Catholic churches. And if any Roman Catholic has damaged or destroyed one of our churches or monasteries, in his territory, he shall be obliged to repair it or build a new one for the exclusive use of the Rus' people.
26. The spiritual Church Brotherhoods which have recently been erected by the patriarchs and confirmed by His Grace the King - for example, those in L'viv, in Brest, in Vilnius, and elsewhere - in which we see great benefit for the Church of God and the cultivation of divine worship, if they wish to abide in this unity, shall be main-tained in all their integrity under the obedience of their Metropolitan and of the bishops in whose dioceses they function and to whom each of them is properly ascribed.
27. That we shall be free to have schools and seminaries in the Greek and Church-Slavonic languages in the localities where it is most convenient, and that our printing-presses shall be free (of course under the supervision of the Metropolitan and bishops, so that no heresies be propagated and nothing be printed without the knowledge and consent of the Metropolitain and bishops).
28. Since there have been great abuses and disobedience on the part of some priests in the dominions of His Grace the King, as well as in the lands of the lords and magnates, so that these priests have obtained the protection of the landlords and magnates for their abuses, dissolving marriages, so that the wardens and other officials profit to some extent by the fees from these divorces and therefore shield these priests, not permitting the bishops and the synod to summon such wayward clerics, abusing and even beating our visitators, we request that such abuses should cease, and that we would be free to correct the wayward and keep order, and if someone should be excommunicated because of his disobedience or for an abuse, let the government and the lords, once they have been informed by the bishops or the visitator, not permit such excommunicated clergy to perform clerical functions or serve in the churches until they have been absolved by their pastors from their faults. This shall also be understood for archimandrites and hegumens and other ecclesiastics who are subject to the bishops and to their authority.
29. That the Cathedrals in the main cities and all the parish churches everywhere in the dominions of His Grace the King, of every place and jurisdiction, whether founded by the King, or by the city, or by a local lord, shall be subject to the bishop and under his authority, and that lay people shall not administer them under any pretext, for there are those who meddle against the obedience of the bishop, arranging matters as they wish and who do not want to obey their bishops. Let this not occur in the future.
30. And if someone has been excommunicated by his bishops for any offense, let him not be received into the Roman Church but, on the contrary, let his excommunication be proclaimed there also. And we shall do the same with regard to those excommunicated from the Roman Church, for this is a joint concern.
31. And when the Lord God by His will and holy grace shall permit the rest of our brothers of the Eastern Church of the Greek tradition to come to the holy unity with the Western Church, and later in this common union and by the permission of the Universal Church there should be any change in the ceremonies and Typicon of the Greek Church, we shall share all this as people of the same religion.
32. We have heard that some have departed for Greece to procure ecclesiastical powers and return here to advise and influence the clergy and extend their jurisdiction over us. We, therefore, request His Grace the King to order precautions to be taken on the state borders so that anyone bearing such jurisdictions and excommunications be barred from entering the kingdom. Otherwise, grave misunderstandings could arise between the pastors and the flocks of the Church.
33. All these things we the undersigned, desiring holy concord for the praise of God's Name and for the peace of the Holy Church of Christ, we have given these articles which we consider necessary for our Church and for which we require agreement in advance and guarantees from the Holy Father the Pope and from , our merciful lord His Grace the King, for greater security, we have committed our Instructions to our Reverend brothers in God, father Hypatius Potij, the Protothronos, Bishop Volodymyr of Brest, and Father Cyril Terletsky, Exarch and Bishop of Lutsk and Ostrih, so that in our name and in their own name they should ask the Most Holy Father the Pope, and also His Grace the King, our merciful lord, to confirm and guarantee beforehand all the articles which we have here given in writing, so that assured as to the faith, the Mysteries, and our ceremonies, we might come to this holy accord with the Roman Church without any violation of our conscience and the flock of Christ committed unto us and likewise that others who are still hesitating, seeing that we retain everything inviolate, might more quickly come after us to this holy union.
Given in the Year of God 1595, the month of June, the first day according to the Old Calendar.
MICHAEL, Metropolitain of Kiev and Halych and all Rus' Hypatius, Bishop of Volodymyr and Brest
Cyril Terletsky, by the grace of God Exarch and Bishop of Lutsk and Ostrih
Leontius Pelchytsky, by the grace of God Bishop of Pinsk and Turov
[the seals of eight bishops are added, including Gedeon Balaban of L'viv and Dionysius Zbirujski of Kholm.]
Copyright 2016-19. St. Michael Ukrainian Catholic Church. All rights reserved.
A rainbow over our little church
Prayer rope used in the recitation of the Jesus Prayer. This is the forerunner of the later Marian Rosary common in the Western Church.
For more information, about this form of prayer and the spirituality behind it, see www.chotki.com
St. Michael’s Parish was established to bring us together as a faith community of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the Tucson area. We are Orthodox Christians who are in full and visible communion with the Pope of Rome and the worldwide Catholic Church, living out the more than thousand-year-old tradition of Kyivan Christianity in the America of our own day. We will provide support for all our members through:
The pursuit of charity and justice are important concerns to us.
We will be witnesses to our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ who has touched our lives. We will proclaim His Gospel and be His Church. We also recognize and support a responsibility to the broader community of the Southern Arizona area, to our Eparchy of St. Nicholas in Chicago, to the Philadelphia Metropolia, to our brothers and sisters in Ukraine and the Ukrainian Diaspora, the Synod and Patriarch of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church, and to the whole human race which our Lord has endowed with His own image and likeness and redeemed through His Most Holy Death and Resurrection.
Our parish life will center on our life in the Liturgy, during which we will celebrate among us the presence of the Risen Lord who sends His Holy Spirit to fill our hearts. We seek to love one another so that we may be of one mind in confessing the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Trinity one in being and undivided.
As a parish we:
April 15, 2011
Reflections On Who We Are and The Faith We Hold
St. Michael Ukrainian Catholic Parish is an Eastern Catholic church. We are part of the the St. Nicholas Eparchy of Chicago, which is part of the Philadelphia Metropolia for Ukrainian Catholics in the United States. The Philadelphia Metropolia is part of the worldwide Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church (UGCC), headed by the Synod of Bishops, under the leadership of Patriarch Sviatoslav (Shevchuk), who was elected and enthroned on March 27, 2011.
His Beatitude Sviatoslav (Shevchuk), Patriarch of Kyiv-Halych and all Rus’-Ukraine.
Father and Head of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church worldwide
Metropolitan Borys (Gudziak) of Philadelphia, proto-hierarch of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church in the USA
Bishop Benedict (Aleksiychuk), Fifth Eparch of St. Nicholas in Chicago, our Bishop
The Eastern Catholic Churches
The Catholic Church is a communion of churches, the Roman (Latin) church and various self-governing (sui-juris) Eastern Catholic Churches, all of which are equal in stature. The UGCC is in full and visible communion with the Holy See of Rome, under the leadership of the Pope of Rome. Eastern Catholics are Orthodox Christians of the East who live in full and visible communion with the See of Rome. The Eastern Catholic Churches have their own theology, liturgical-sacramental systems, spirituality and canonical traditions. This diversity is not a weakness, but a gift from God, discernible from the earliest ministry of the Apostles, preaching in a multitude of tongues to the many present on Pentecost. The one Gospel message was incarnate very early in a wide array of cultures, but the various local Churches remained united in communion with each other, looking to certain apostolically founded sees for guidance and leadership.
Vatican II and The Eastern Catholic Churches
Council Fathers of the Second Vatican Council
The Second Vatican Council, held in the 1960’s, had many things to say about the Eastern Churches. Here are a few passages from the teachings of the Council:
“The Catholic Church holds in high esteem the institutions, liturgical rites, ecclesiastical traditions and the established standards of the Christian life of the Eastern Churches, for in them, distinguished as they are for their venerable antiquity, there remains conspicuous the tradition that has been handed down from the Apostles through the Fathers and that forms part of the divinely revealed and undivided heritage of the universal Church.” (Orientalium Ecclesiarum, Decree on the Eastern Churches,#1 Vatican II)
“Between these [Eastern and Western Catholic Churches] there exists an admirable bond of union, such that the variety within the Church in no way harms its unity; rather it manifests it, for it is the mind of the Catholic Church that each individual Church or Rite should retain its traditions whole and entire and likewise that it should adapt its way of life to the different needs of time and place.” (Ibid. #2)
“These individual Churches, whether of the East or the West, although they differ somewhat among themselves in rite (to use the current phrase), that is, in liturgy, ecclesiastical discipline, and spiritual heritage, are, nevertheless … of equal dignity, so that none of them is superior to the others as regards rite and they enjoy the same rights and are under the same obligations, also in respect of preaching the Gospel to the whole world (cf. Mark 16, 15) …” (Ibid.#3)
“Means should be taken therefore in every part of the world for the protection and advancement of all the individual Churches… “(Ibid. #4)
“The Sacred Council, therefore, not only accords to this ecclesiastical and spiritual heritage the high regard which is its due and rightful praise, but also unhesitatingly looks on it as the heritage of the universal Church. For this reason it solemnly declares that the Churches of the East, as much as those of the West, have a full right and are in duty bound to rule themselves, each in accordance with its own established disciplines, … “(Ibid. # 5)
Pope John XXIII and Patriarch Josyf Cardinal Slipyj, 1963
“All members of the Eastern Rite should know and be convinced that they can and should always preserve their legitimate liturgical rite and their established way of life, and that these may not be altered except to obtain for themselves an organic improvement. All these, then, must be observed by the members of the Eastern rites themselves. Besides, they should attain to on ever greater knowledge and a more exact use of them, and, if in their regard they have fallen short owing to contingencies of times and persons, they should take steps to return to their ancestral traditions. “( Ibid. #6)
“Eastern Churches in communion with the Apostolic See of Rome have a special duty of promoting the unity of all Christians, especially Eastern Christians … by prayer in the first place, and by the example of their lives, by religious fidelity to the ancient Eastern traditions, by a greater knowledge of each other, by collaboration and a brotherly regard for objects and feelings.“(Ibid. #24)
In 1991, the Codex Canonum Ecclesiarum Orientalium [CCEO] was promulgated by Pope John Paul II for all of the Eastern Catholic Churches. This Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches was a step towards the concrete working out of the canonical implications of the Second Vatican Council. There are three parts to Eastern Catholic Canon Law: the General Law (common to all of the Eastern Catholic Churches), the Particular Law of each Eastern Catholic Church, and the Ius Speciale ad tempus (which governs the relationship between members of an Eastern Catholic Church outside its traditional territory with its synod and patriarch). Much of the second and third parts of Eastern Catholic canon law is still being worked out.
In 1996, the Holy See’s Sacred Congregation for the Eastern Churches published a set of Instructions for the implementation of those aspects of the canons that had to do with liturgical-sacramental questions. It is worthwhile to read at least a brief quotation from that document.
“In every effort of liturgical renewal, therefore, the practice of the Orthodox brethren should be taken into account, knowing it, respecting it and distancing from it as little as possible so as not to increase the existing separation, but rather intensifying efforts in view of eventual adaptations, maturing and working together. Thus will be manifested the unity that already subsists in daily receiving the same spiritual nourishment from practicing the same common heritage.” (Sacred Congregation for the Eastern Churches: 1996 Instructions for the Liturgical Implementation of the Canon Law of the Eastern Churches, III)
Divine Providence has placed the Eastern Catholic Churches in a unique and often precarious position, as a catalyst between the two realities of worldwide Orthodoxy and Catholicism. The Eastern Catholic Churches have a special role to play in helping the Catholic world to know the Orthodox Tradition of the East and simultaneously in assisting the Orthodox world to come to know the Catholic Communion. At the same time, the Eastern Catholic Churches know that their existence in each individual case is a contingent reality, since the division between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches is a sinful condition that is contrary to the will of God. Once this great division is healed, each of the Eastern Catholic Churches will need to re-examine its place in the worldwide communion. Many will doubtless choose a kenotic route of voluntary integration with newly re-united Churches. The key here is the word “voluntary,” since several Eastern Catholic Churches, among them the Greco-Catholic Church of Ukraine, have experienced (over the centuries, but as recently as during the 20th century) severe and bloody attempts at integration of their structures with other Churches by force. The second Vatican Council hints at this contingency of everything it says about the Eastern Catholic Churches when it states:
“The Sacred Council feels great joy in the fruitful zealous collaboration of the Eastern and the Western Catholic Churches and at the same time declares: All these directives of law are laid down in view of the present situation till such time as the Catholic Church and the separated Eastern Churches come together into complete unity.” (Orientalium Ecclesiarum, Decree on the Eastern Churches,#30 Vatican II)
Theologically, Eastern Christians tend to think in terms that are more synthetic and intuitive rather than analytical. We usually prefer paradox (antinomy) to the “precision” of some philosophically-based thought, but that does not mean that our theology is fuzzy. It is experientially focused, anchored in the living Tradition of the Church.
We pay great attention to all of the elements of Holy Tradition:
Scripture, Church Councils, Fathers of the Church, Liturgy, Hagiography, Iconography, etc.
As Eastern Catholics we often face the question of how we reconcile our Orthodox and Catholic loyalties. This is an area that is still being worked out in light of the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the fact that the Eastern Catholic Churches have their own theology. Some of us would express it thus: we hold Orthodox positions on all theological matters, except when they are in conflict with the expressed teachings of the Holy Roman See. In that case, by virtue of the full and visible communion that exists between our Church and Rome, we cannot ignore the Roman teaching on a given subject, but must find a way to reconcile positions.
The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches
is the General law that governs all of the Eastern Catholic Churches.
Each also has its own Particular Law.
It is in the very structure of our Church as a self-governing Church within the Catholic Communion that we first see the seeds of Church particularity. The various Eastern Catholic Churches are to govern themselves in a way that allows for the gospel message to be preached more effectively and the Kingdom of God to be established more solidly in the lives of the faithful. In the case of the Church of Kyiv that means a Church governed by the Synod of Bishops drawn from both Ukraine and the diaspora, and chaired by its Father and Head, the Patriarch of Kyiv-Halych and All Rus’-Ukraine.
There are many more issues in which the distinctive canonical tradition of the Kyivan Church comes through. One of these is the ordination of married men to the priesthood. While priests never marry, most of the Eastern Churches have preserved the ancient divinely instituted apostolic tradition of married clergy. Jesus chose married men as his apostles. Our Lord cured Peter’s mother-in-law (and there is only one way to get a mother-in-law!)
The Roman Church also practiced the ordination of married men to the priesthood until the eleventh century, but ceased at that time for various reasons, and instituted universal enforced celibacy. The Eastern Catholic Churches decided not to follow this Western innovation. In the Ukrainian Catholic Church there has always been a great respect between the monastic clergy who are celibate and the parochial clergy who are by vast majority married.
Our liturgical tradition is based on the experience of the beauty and glory of God’s plan for us. Our ancestors in the faith long ago decided that it was through worship and beauty that the True God was found. The Story of the Conversion of Rus’, as related in the Kyivan Primary Chronicle, focuses on this reality.
Volodymyr, the ruler of Kievan Rus’, sent out emissaries to find true religion. They went throughout the world and tested various faiths, but reported to their ruler that they had found no glory, … until they arrived in Constantinople. When they returned to Kyiv the emissaries reported to the Prince what had happened there in the great Cathedral of Holy Wisdom — the Haghia Sophia.
“They took us where they worshiped their God, and we did not know whether we were in heaven or upon earth, for there is not upon earth such sight or beauty. This much we do know, that there, God lives among men, and we can never forget that beauty…”
St. Volodymyr accepted Christianity in its Orthodox or Byzantine (Constantinopolitan) form for himself, his boyars (courtiers) and his people, who were baptized in 988. It is through beauty and the glory of God that we still primarily relate to the Lord. Our services are sung and they are never rushed. Even in a tiny parish such as ours, great care is taken to try to preserve and promote beauty and depth in our liturgical life. However, it is really God who acts in liturgy. At a certain point we simply need to get out of His way.
The Spirituality of the Kyivan Church has been characterized as particularly kenotic. Kenosis is a Greek term that refers to the self-emptying of Christ, who “did not think equality with the Father something to be grasped at” but rather humbled Himself, becoming one of us (see Philippians 2:5-8).
The first saints to be canonized in Kyivan Rus’ were two sons of Prince Volodymyr, Borys and Hlib. They were murdered by their brother, who apparently saw them as potential rivals for the throne of Kyiv (Kiev). The two princes had an opportunity to defend themselves, but sent their military retainers away, preferring not to raise weapons against their brother, and accepting an unjust death. The newly Christian populace saw in these victims a clear echo of the self-sacrifice of Christ.
Sts Borys and Hlib
Throughout the tragic history of the next ten centuries many opportunities would present themselves for self-sacrifice and non-violence amid a people who had heard the Gospel message of the meek inheriting the earth. In the twentieth century, this same church went through its bloodiest and most woeful persecution at the hands of the Bolshevik regime of the USSR, only to rise again in unprecedented glory as that government rotted away. When this Church was decriminalized in the Soviet Union on December 1, 1989, it had some three hundred clergy left, with an average age of about 75. Three decades years later, this Church has 3000 priests in Ukraine, with an average age of 36.
Living in the midst of a post-modern secularism in North America, there should be nothing triumphalistic about the approach of our Church to the questions of the day. We are sinners in a world of sinners. The only difference between us and those who do not bother with the things of God is that we know that we are sinners… and that for some reason God loves us.
Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.
Andriy Chirovsky, sinner-priest