An Appeal of the Ukrainian Catholic Bishops of the United States: “Pray for peace and justice for Ukraine. Be informed. Support the suffering.”
“Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him” (Mt 2,13)
In our Eastern Christian Christmas traditions, we rejoice and celebrate that “God is with us,” singing the praises of the Prince of Peace in hymns and carols. Yet as we reread the Nativity account, we encounter the homelessness of the Mother of God, the anguish of Joseph, and the refugee status of the newborn Jesus. Herod appears, a homicidal tyrant craving hegemony, who massacres innocent children in Bethlehem in order to kill the Messiah— a vivid image of the lust for power. Herod’s determination to dominate was so overpowering that he even murdered three of his own sons. The Holy Infant bringing salvation to all was a menace to a tyrant pathetically clinging to his self-importance. During the Christmas season, some 100,000 Russian troops have been positioned on three sides of Ukraine: a nascent democracy, a country on a pilgrimage to freedom and dignity from the fear of a totalitarian past in which 15 million people were killed on Ukrainian territory.
1. Bible reading is for Catholics. The Church encourages Catholics to make reading the Bible part of their daily prayer lives. Reading these inspired words, people grow deeper in their relationship with God and come to understand their place in the community God has called them to in himself.
"That is the proper role of our diaspora: not to live for Ukraine, but to live: to be a strong and lively link between the country that is your home and the country of your ancestry, whether that ancestry is ethnic or spiritual, because, as I have emphasized, there are many non-Ukrainians who are members of the Church of Kyiv and that spiritual ancestry is even more important than ethnic ancestry. For us, the ancestry of Baptism is deeper than the ancestry of blood." --Patriarch Sviatoslav
Eastern Christianity took a firm root in Ukraine in 989 when Vladimir, Prince of Kiev, embraced the Christian Faith and was baptized. Soon afterwards many missionaries from the Byzantine Empire arrived, having been sent by the Patriarch of Constantinople to preach the Gospel.
When the Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople severed ties with one another in the 11th century, the Church in Ukraine gradually followed suit and finally gave up the bonds of unity with Rome. When Ukrainian Orthodox bishops met at a council in Brest-Litovsk in 1595, seven bishops decided to re-establish communion with Rome. Guaranteed that their Byzantine tradition and Liturgy would be respected and recognized by Rome, they and many priests and lay faithful were re-united with the See of Rome, while others continued to remain Orthodox.
In the 19th century many Ukrainian Catholics began to emigrate to North America, bringing their pastors, traditions and liturgy to Canada and the United States. Under Communist rule, Catholics in Ukraine were persecuted, with many being imprisoned and murdered; in 1945 all the Ukrainian Catholic bishops were arrested or killed.
Today the Ukrainian Catholic Church is the largest Eastern Catholic Church, with about 5 million faithful. It is led by His Beatitude Sviatoslav (Shevchuk), Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Galicia. His election was confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI on 25 March 2011.
Liturgy: The Second Vatican Council initiated great changes in the liturgy of the Latin Church. When Latin Catholics attend liturgy in the Eastern Church, they find the celebrations different from their own.
The below chart shows the various Catholic liturgical families (rites) and their ancestry. Jerusalem, the place of the founding of the Catholic church, came first in time. Then three major branches eventually formed within the Church: Roman, Antiochian, and Alexandrian. The Ukrainian Catholic Church is part of the Antiochian branch, specifically coming under the Byzantine rite. The Catechism, quoting from Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatical Council's Constitution of Divine Liturgy, states: "The liturgical traditions or rites presently in use in the church are the Latin...and the Byzantine, Alexandrian or Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Maronite and Chaldean rites. In 'faithful obedience to tradition, the sacred Council declares that Holy Mother church holds all lawfully recognized rites to be of equal right and dignity, and that she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way." (CC 1203).
The Iconostasis: The Iconostasis is an altar screen or wall which, in our church, separates the Sanctuary from the nave. The Sanctuary is where the Eucharist is celebrated, which symbolizes the Divine world. It is separated from the nave which is the part reserved for the believers and symbolizes the human world. The iconostasis is the most distinctive feature of Eastern Catholic Church. It has three openings: the royal doors in the center and two smaller doors called deacon doors. The royal doors are flanked by the icons of Christ (on the right) and the Mother of God (with Christ) on the viewer's left. On the far right is the patronal icon of the parish, Holy Family, and in the far left, is the icon of St. Nicholas.
What We Believe: We worship God in the Holy Trinity, glorifying equally the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God, begotten before all ages, and that He is of one essence with the Father. We believe that Christ incarnate is truly man, like us in all respects except sin. We worship the Holy Spirit as Lord and Life-giver who proceeds from the Father. We also believe that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin. Jesus Christ was without sin, but He was crucified for the sins of the whole world. Jesus Christ rose bodily from the grave to give eternal life to all those who believe in His Resurrection.
Saint Demetrios was born in Thesaloniki, Greece in 270 AD. He came from a wealthy family and because he was athletic in appearance and heroic in spirit, he became a high-ranking officer in the Roman Army at a very young age. (This is why he is depicted in Byzantine icons in military dress, either standing or riding a horse.) He considered himself a soldier of Christ first, and a military soldier second.