His Beatitude Sviatoslav’s Sermon on Third Sunday Of Lent in Washington, DC

March 4, 2024, 01:27 138

From now on, for each of us, the Cross of the Lord becomes our personal key to understanding the meaning of our own suffering, pain, wounds, and exhaustion. From now on the Cross heals and does not oppress, it protects and does not frighten, it is no longer an instrument that causes death but is a tree that revives. That is why our Tradition calls it the Glorious and Life-giving Cross!

His Beatitude Sviatoslav’s Sermon on Third Sunday Of Lent in Washington, DC

Your Eminences,
Most Reverend Archbishops and Bishops,
Your Excellency the Ambassador from Ukraine to the United States
Distinguished Representatives of the Ukrainian Community,
Most honored guests, dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Today, according to the liturgical cycle of the Gregorian Paschal calendar, the Church of Christ centers our spiritual focus on the Glorious and Lifegiving Cross of Our Lord! According to our spiritual tradition, we are called to discover the Mystery of the Cross of our Lord from a new, and for some, an entirely unexpected perspective. We understand the Great Fast as a period of spiritual pilgrimage to the Resurrection. The path goes through a desert full of invisible spiritual struggles. In this kind of struggle (those who truly fast know it) at the midpoint of this journey, we feel tiredness, often even exhaustion and thirst, as it was during the forty-year journey of Israel in the Old Testament. We feel “burnt out” when we really fight against evil — whether in our personal spiritual life or even during the current war in Ukraine. Fatigue grows, and this is natural. And so when despair and fatigue, exhaustion and thirst come — the Church leads us to the shadow of the Life-Giving Tree as a wise caravan guide in the desert knows a place where you can rest in the time of the greatest deadly heat, he knows the way to an oasis where you can find a source of water, a place of coolness and rest, that is, the place of life in the midst of the death of a desert! This oasis for a Christian is the Life-Giving Tree from which the Living Water of the Holy Spirit flows. It flows from the open and pierced side of the crucified Savior. This place of spiritual renewal, replenishment of strength for further struggle is the True and Lifegiving Cross of the Lord!

The crucified Savior, whom we worship today, is the Source of our renewal and healing. Pointing to Him, the prophet Isaiah tells us: “He was wounded for our sins, crushed for our iniquities. The punishment, that saves us, was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Is 53:5). Worshiping the Crucified One, we sometimes experience a spiritual shock. We suddenly realize that Someone took our pains and sufferings, our torments, and disappointments and transferred them from a purely horizontal, human dimension to a vertical dimension. The Savior took them upon Himself, gave them a new, eternal meaning, took them to the height of God — the height of the Lord’s Cross!

Many people in Ukraine told me: the wound itself does not hurt so much as the fact that I do not understand its meaning. That is why Ukraine today needs so much to find the meaning of personal struggle, its crying, its suffering. And it is the true and life-giving Cross of the Lord that gives us these meanings that make us an indomitable and invincible, albeit crucified, people.

From now on, for each of us, the Cross of the Lord becomes our personal key to understanding the meaning of our own suffering, pain, wounds, and exhaustion. From now on the Cross heals and does not oppress, it protects and does not frighten, it is no longer an instrument that causes death but is a tree that revives. That is why our Tradition calls it the Glorious and Life-giving Cross! We worship the true and life-giving Cross of the Lord, which turns into a true Tree of Life, which is the secret of Christian resilience and a symbol of our faith in the resurrection. That is why the Book of Revelation gives us a description of the very special role of this Tree of Life in the Heavenly Jerusalem: “In the middle of the street… the tree of life, which bears twelve fruits, gives its fruit every month, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:2).

Last week, remembering February 24, the sad anniversary of the beginning of the full-scale invasion in Ukraine, we experienced a unique event. Near Kyiv is the ancient princely city of Vyshhorod. The city of Princess Olha and the martyrs Borys and Hlib, the city of the venerable icon of the Virgin of Vyshhorod. When the war began, the outskirts of this city became the line where the Russian troops approaching Kyiv from the north were stopped. It was there, next to the dam of the Kyiv reservoir, at the crowded intersection, there, where the invisible border between the zone of occupation and death and the zone of life and freedom was. In that place, we opened a unique memorial dedicated to thousands of fallen defenders of Ukraine called “Cross of Heroes”. The impetus for its construction was the spiritual longings of one of the soldiers who defended Vyshhorod. He often came to our church, stood in prayer for a long time in front of the Lord’s Cross. And then one day he told me: “the cross is the only place where I can bring all my pain!” When I go to visit the graves of my comrades in arms and see their wives and children crying, my pain increases. But here I can bring it, leave it and return with new energy to fight. And then we decided together: let’s do it, let’s establish a powerful healing Cross of the Lord for everyone! And so, this memorial was not hidden inside the church, but placed in the middle of the street! And today, we, the bishops of the Permanent Synod who have come to you, want to testify here in Washington that on our Ukrainian land, this Tree of Life bears its fruit every day, and worshiping and touching it in fact serves as the genuine leaves of the heavenly Tree of Life that heal the wounds of Ukraine! This memorial is built so that one can enter inside the Cross, not just stand outside and watch. And from the inside it shines with stars that symbolize the souls of our fallen Heroes. The cross, as a life-giving, healing tree of God, heals the wounds of Ukraine.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!

It is truly a great grace of God’s providence, a small miracle, that we can be here today with you, praying together for our Church and our people here in the National Shrine of the Holy Family in Washington. With this Divine Liturgy, we commence the meeting of the regular Session of the Permanent Synod of our Bishops. A few years ago, when the Synod visited with the Holy Father Francis, he said that it is not enough to have a Synod, but to be a Synod. This means that we must first pray together, be together with our one God in Three Persons. Only when we are with God, we can truly be ourselves and be together as a Church and as a people.

But to be a Synod, to act as a Synod, means first of all to pray together, to be together with our Triune God. Only then, when we “are with God” can we really “be ourselves and be together”: together as the Church and as a people. In addition to our internal session meetings, we will hold a number of meetings with the representatives of various US government agencies. We will meet with the leaders of the US Catholic bishops and of our communities. In addition to Washington, we will visit Philadelphia and New York. In every place, we will be the voice of the hurt and wounded, but unbroken people of Ukraine!

I would like to take this special moment to thank our brothers, the Catholic bishops in the United States. We are very honored to welcome Cardinals Wilton Gregory and Donald Wuerl among us. We also welcome Archbishop Timothy Broglio, president of the US Episcopal Conference, who when he was just newly elected, visited Ukraine. Today I have the honor and duty to return the favor of your visit. As a bishop for the American armed forces, you gave us a special testimony of the solidarity of Catholics in America with the suffering people of Ukraine.

During those two years of war, we were able to overcome a special challenge — no one in Ukraine died of hunger, thirst or other humanitarian problems. Russia wanted to starve us, as it was during the Holodomor, and freeze us in winter. She did not succeed, because international solidarity saves human lives. Thank you, dear bishops in the United States!

I would like to thank you, dear Ukrainians in the USA, for everything you do for our mother Ukraine. I know how your heart breaks when you watch the news every day about new and new Russian crimes in the Motherland. Tonight we all pray and support our wounded Odessa, where the bodies of women and small children are still being pulled out from under the rubble of the destroyed building. The number of victims is increasing every minute. On behalf of those who are the weakest and most vulnerable in Ukraine today and whom our Church was able to serve for two years thanks to your sacrifice and generosity, I express my heartfelt gratitude.

Thank you to Bishop Boris and all our Ukrainian bishops in the USA, who not only created the Metropolitan Fund to help Ukraine, but also personally visited us. They are doing everything so that we can not only survive this difficult period, but also serve the Lord God and the Ukrainian people with dignity, as our great predecessor, the servant of God Lubomyr, taught us.

We would like to have the opportunity to share our wounds and sufferings, but at the same time to share our strengths, our dreams, and our gifts. I am grateful to all of you for your tireless prayer and work for the good of Ukraine and our victory over the Russian invaders. We will win if we are together: together with God, together with one another regardless of where we live, and together with Ukraine! Amen.



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