“Here I Am Among You as One Who Serves”: His Beatitude Sviatoslav Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Priesthood

June 26, 2024, 07:00 158

Thirty years ago, on June 26, 1994, His Beatitude Sviatoslav, the Father and Head of the UGCC, was ordained a priest by Myroslav Cardinal Ivan Lubachivsky at St. George’s Cathedral in Lviv. To mark the anniversary of His Beatitude’s priesthood, we invite you to reflect on his testimony about his vocation and preparation for ordination, and to consider ten thoughts from His Beatitude Sviatoslav on the priesthood.

“Here I Am Among You as One Who Serves”: His Beatitude Sviatoslav Celebrates 30th Anniversary of Priesthood

The first Liturgy celebrated by Fr. Sviatoslav

About the Vocation to the Priesthood

His Beatitude Sviatoslav owes his vocation primarily to the persecuted, scorned, and then reborn Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The decision to become a priest was deeply influenced by the strong religiosity of his parents and immediate family. However, he attributes a decisive influence to his acquaintance with Fr. Mykhailo Kosyl, a priest of the underground Church who served as rector of the underground seminary of the Ivano-Frankivsk Eparchy, located in the village of Dora near Yaremche, for many years.

“For me, Father Mykhailo Kosyl was a teacher of priestly selflessness, zeal, and purity. His charismatic, in the good sense of the word, influence was pivotal in my decision to follow this path, even in my unmarried state. He served two terms in prison for his priestly activities and was later appointed rector of an underground seminary. The power of his personality and the impact of meeting such a person was the final impetus,” said His Beatitude Sviatoslav.

Prayer in Stryi at the monument to Stepan Bandera

About Preparation for the Priesthood

In 1991–1992, His Beatitude studied at the Don Bosco Center for Philosophical and Theological Studies in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“When I returned from the army and wanted to continue my preparation for the priesthood, the circumstances were completely different. It was no longer an underground seminary. I joined a group formed to study in Argentina at the request of Bishop Andriy Sapeliak. I studied there until 1993, graduating with a degree in philosophy. This two-year course was part of the curriculum for preparation for the priesthood.”

“When I received visas for myself and my friends at the embassy in Moscow, I walked down the street chanting with joy. Initially, I did not understand a word of Spanish, but during the first session, I passed my philosophy exams in that language. You just need to sit down and study,” the archbishop shared his straightforward method for mastering languages, of which he speaks up to a dozen. “In 1992–1994, I returned to Ukraine to study at the Lviv Theological Seminary of the Holy Spirit.”

His Beatitude Sviatoslav never dreamed of becoming a patriarch, but always wanted to be a priest

10 powerful thoughts of His Beatitude Sviatoslav about the priesthood

The priesthood is a privilege to serve as Jesus Christ did. The great distinctive privilege, or special dignity, of those whom Christ calls to the priesthood is the privilege of service. It is not the privilege of some special honor or exceptional rights; it is the privilege of serving as Christ served.

Jesus Christ Himself, through the person of His priest, wishes to heal the wounds of man in our time by pouring out the remedies of the Holy Sacraments. Christ Himself, through the person of the priest, wants to speak to the heart of contemporary man. Through the apostolic ministry of His bishops, Christ desires that the word of the Gospel be spread to the ends of the earth.

Blessed is the priest who never loses his sense of fear and awe in the face of the mysterious and wondrous presence of the Savior! Every time you receive the Eucharistic Body of Christ in your hands, remember that you are contemplating humility and obedience even to the death of God Himself!

Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit would have been distant to us without the ministry of priests. We might have heard that someone gave His life for us, for our sins, but who would give it to each of us personally? The meaning of the New Testament priesthood of Christ is that what He gave to His disciples at the Last Supper was made accessible to all people, not just to a small circle of the chosen ones, so that the reality of His paschal sacrifice was not only for people but to people.

The ordained priesthood is a gift of the Holy Spirit and a separate sacrament. The ordained priesthood is a special type of priestly ministry in the Church of Christ to which males are called to represent Christ Himself, our highest Chief Priest, who continues to serve man of all times and nations in a special way. This ordained priesthood is transmitted in Christ’s Church through the Sacrament of Ordination.

To be a priest of Christ means to give oneself to people. A true priest gives to the faithful not only what he has, knows, and can do, but also what he is—he administers the priesthood of Christ, by which he is marked, who he is for Christ and in Christ. Such a priest has a share with Christ.

Christ’s priest is called to commiserate. Christ in His priesthood and His priest participate in the suffering of humanity in the period in which the priest lives. Another feature is that no one can become a priest who participates in the divine ministry by his own whim or desire, but only by the calling of the Lord.

We witness the very essence of the priesthood on Maundy Thursday during the rite of foot washing. Can you tell me in which religion of the world can we see God kneeling before a human? In all the religions of the world, a person kneels before the deity whom he or she fears and is frightened of. And here everything is vice versa… We saw God on His knees washing His feet. And the Lord describes this kind of kneeling before human wounds as an honor that no one can take for themselves, only those called by God.

Here I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27). What does it mean to be a priest of Christ in times of war? I think we cannot provide an exhaustive answer to this question. Everyone should look for the answer where the Church of Christ calls him to serve. We see in the context of current events, even this service, that the task of a priest is to see Christ on His knees before His people.

Jesus, thank You for being among us as the One who serves. Thank You for each of Your priests whom You send to the places where it hurts the most. Thank You, Jesus, that You made our wounds Yours. Even our death has become Yours, and Your glorious, triumphant three-day Resurrection will be ours as well.

The UGCC Department for Information

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