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Sermon of His Beatitude Sviatoslav during the Prayer for Victory and Just Peace in Ukraine

February 24, 2023, 17:00 96

Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are essentially one spiritual reality. He said that fasting is the soul of prayer, and good deeds are the life of true fasting. That for which we knock on heaven’s door in prayer, we can ask for in fasting, and through acts of mercy and love, we receive from God that for which we pray.

Sermon of His Beatitude Sviatoslav during the Prayer for Victory and Just Peace in Ukraine

Most Reverend Bishop Andriy!
Venerable fathers!
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ!

Today, our Ukraine, our people, and the world community are remembering a tragic anniversary. This day, 24 February, entered our history, especially here in Kyiv, as the beginning of full-scale Russian aggression, the attack of the new, modern Russian occupier on our peaceful land. We remember because, as our Christian conscience says, we have no right to forget.

We remember that the war started not a year ago. We remember the sad and tragic beginning of 2014. We remember Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, which were the beginning of our nation’s way of the cross. We remember the Russian occupation of Crimea, the troubles of our brothers and sisters on that special patch of Ukrainian land, the tragedy of the entire Crimean Tatar people. We remember Savur-Mohyla. We remember Ilovaysk. We remember Debaltseve. To this rosary, marked with the blood of the sons and daughters of Ukraine, 24 February of last year was added the story of our capital, golden-domed Kyiv, which our princes built as a new Jerusalem, a city where God dwells with His people.

Perhaps everyone present here experienced this day in their own way. But everyone, without exception, was shaken by the terrible word “war.” This Patriarchal Cathedral of ours immediately miraculously turned into a New Testament Noah’s Ark on the banks of the great Dnipro River and from the first minutes of this latest tragedy it began to be filled with people. Its crypts served as a life-saving space when rockets and bombs fell on Kyiv and enemy helicopters circled above our heads. Today we remember this and want to spend this sad anniversary day in prayer, fasting, and good deeds.

One of the saints of the Church, Peter Chrysologus, stated that prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are essentially one spiritual reality. He said that fasting is the soul of prayer, and good deeds are the life of true fasting. That for which we knock on heaven’s door in prayer, we can ask for in fasting, and through acts of mercy and love, we receive from God that for which we pray.

In this prayer, we must first of all thank the Lord God that He did not abandon us in the most terrible, most dramatic moments of our history, but was and is with us. Moreover, in those dramatic moments, He was incarnated once more in the body of our suffering people. And every time we saw death, wounds, and blood, we contemplated the wounds of the crucified Christ in the body of our people. And it was thanks to the fact that He was with us and among us that we were able to endure. When someone today asks what is the secret of our nation’s stability, we can say with confidence: “God is in the midst of her, she shall not be shaken; God shall help her right early in the morning” (Psalm 45:6 LXX). When the Lord God is in the midst of the city, it will not be shaken. These are the words written on the Oranta in the apse of the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv. And this biblical dawn, when Kyiv was not shaken, is exactly what we remember today.

We commemorate those who defended the Motherland and gave their lives, starting with the defenders of Hostomel and continuing with the heroes of all other battlefields on land and at sea. We thank God for the Ukrainian army, for our defenders, who gave us life. We now live, work, and pray because in these moments there, near Bakhmut and Avdiivka, near Kupyansk and Vuhledar, someone is giving their life. Today, let us remember in prayer all the innocently killed in Ukraine during this tragic year—children, women, the elderly, our youth. Let us remember those who were tortured by Russian criminals in Bucha and Borodyanka and in all other torture centres in those territories that the enemy trampled under his rough boot. Let us mention, in particular, the people from Borodyanka, who were burried in basements under high-rise buildings and who were not able to see liberation. I would truly wish to remember by name all those who gave their lives for the Motherland, who were innocently killed in Ukraine during the last year! Unfortunately, this is impossible, because we are talking about tens or even hundreds of thousands of people. However, we believe that their names are written in heaven. We ask that the angels before God’s throne, together with us, might read the name of each of them at this moment.

We also fast on this day. In this way, we show solidarity with those who today have nothing to eat and drink, who are in the occupied territories, who are held in Russian captivity, and who cry out to heaven, waiting for liberation. While the world is thinking about how to trade Ukrainian territories, we say: No, we cannot trade the souls and lives of our brothers and sisters in occupied Donbas, in occupied Zaporizhzhia, and in the occupied left-bank Kherson region. We cannot but pray for occupied Crimea.

Let this prayer and the current fast become a support for all those who are fighting: our heroic soldiers, volunteers, rescuers, medics, and all who fight for the victory of Ukraine every day.

Observing the fast, we want to be in solidarity with all those who have lost relatives, homes, and property. Millions of Ukrainians were forced to leave their homes. Millions found themselves outside the borders of the Motherland. Through this fast we unite together with all of them.

We want to do good deeds on this day. Only he who gives can receive, he who shares with the last will never lack anything, for it is the Lord who multiplies our resources, strength, and opportunities. At the same time, we thank all those who stood in solidarity with Ukraine during this terrible year, who rushed to our aid, who tried to feed the hungry, to give water to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to welcome travellers into their homes, and those who relentlessly performed acts of mercy even for the bodies of our dead and the reposed. Thanks to universal solidarity, today we can say: despite the fact that this war caused a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented scale in the third millennium, in those territories that the Ukrainian Army was able to defend or liberate, thanks to the hand of the donor, no one died of hunger, thirst, or cold. Thanks to world solidarity, we are making it through this most terrible winter in the history of Ukraine, which we cannot say about the occupied territories. There many people died of hunger, thirst, and cold (their number still probably remains to be written by history).

On this day of remembrance, we pray, fast, and do good deeds. And we feel that the Lord God gives us victory, for which we knock at heaven’s door in prayer and which we ask for through fasting, and which we can receive through works of mercy. We bring victory closer every day through our work and prayer.

We can say today that Russia has already lost, but we have not won yet. Therefore, we ask the Lord God with these words of the ancient troparion, with which we glorify the Lord’s Cross: “Save Your people, O Lord, and bless Your inheritance. Grant victory to Your faithful people against enemies, and protect Your community by Your cross.” Amen.

† SVIATOSLAV

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