Reverend Bishops, Reverend Fathers, Dear Brothers and Sisters!
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Today we have gathered for a common prayer in order to first thank God for the many manifestations of His mercy to our Local Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
Three years have passed since the day the Unification Council was held by the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch, as well as the Local Councils of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate in St. Sophia of Kyiv. Then, inspired by the grace of the Holy Spirit, we overcame past divisions by uniting Ukrainian Orthodoxy around the throne of Kyiv, paving the way for receiving from the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and our Mother Church that he leads the tomos of autocephaly.
In historical terms, three years seems a short and seemingly insignificant period. At the same time, the experience of the past shows what extraordinary changes can happen within such a term.
In the summer we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the restoration of Ukraine’s independence. Then, at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s, epoch-making changes took place in the same short period of time: the Kremlin’s evil empire collapsed, the enslaved nations embarked on the path to freedom, and in Ukraine, after decades of atheistic government persecution, church life started reviving based on principles of autocephaly. At the same time, none of this happened suddenly, accidentally, or by itself – it was all a result of decades and even centuries-long struggle and efforts of many generations.
The same applies to convening a Unification Council, overcoming past divisions, establishing the Local Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and receiving a tomos of autocephaly – all of which we have as a result of many centuries of work, prayer, and struggle.
The place where we now give thanks to God reminds us of this all. After all, according to legend, the first Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Russia, St. Michael, founded a monastery at the time of the baptism of the Princely State. The St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery, four centuries ago, in the most difficult times for Ukrainian Orthodoxy, was the spiritual center of the revived Kyiv Metropolis, headed by St. Job (Boretsky). This church was blown up in the dark years of Bolshevik terror and seemed to perish forever – but it rose from oblivion, becoming a symbol of the resurrection of the Ukrainian Church and Ukrainian statehood, a symbol of the invincibility of God’s truth, a symbol of success of our nation’s struggle for dignity and freedom.
Realizing that the third anniversary of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine is only a continuation of its more than a millennium-long history, whose roots go back to the Gospel preaching in our lands by the Apostle Andrew the First-Called, imposes a special responsibility on each of us. That is why we must carefully preserve the fruits of the labor of many generations of our predecessors, multiply them, and pass them on to our successors with dignity. We need to learn the lessons of the past, stay aware of the challenges and threats, avoid mistakes, be inspired by feats, and not be afraid of difficulties. After all, in many examples, we see how, with God’s help, having firm faith, uniting efforts, working selflessly, faithful workers in the Lord’s field make the impossible possible.
The Orthodox Church of Ukraine has become precisely such a reality, which until recently many said was impossible. Remember the voices that claimed that the Ecumenical Patriarchate would never give the Ukrainian Church a tomos of autocephaly, that claimed that Ukrainians are unable to unite, unable to leave past misunderstandings and arguments for a common good goal, who claimed that we have no experience and are unable to build our own Local Church?
Through the joint efforts of the faithful, the clergy, and the episcopate over the past three years, these voices have been proven to be wrong. We have succeeded in tackling many external and internal challenges, in preventing the destruction of the good fruits of the Unification Council, in strengthening church unity, and in asserting ourselves as a recognized Local Church.
The visible sign of our achievements was the visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and our common prayer of thanksgiving here, within these walls, as well as in St. Sophia of Kyiv. For the first time in history, the Primate of our Mother Church came to the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine, and the success of this visit, despite all the efforts of all opponents, proved that the decisions passed at the Unification Council and the granting of the Patriarchal tomos were all the right moves.
Undoubtedly, our achievements and successes must not give us grounds to sit back and suggest that all work’s been done. Church-building is a continuous process that faces new challenges every day. Therefore, thanking God from the bottom of our hearts for all His blessings, we at the same time offer fervent prayers, asking Him for help, inspiration, wisdom, and empowerment, so that we may continue to work efficiently and reap new good fruits.
We ask the Lord for victory and a just peace for Ukraine, for the release of our enslaved brothers and sisters who remain in captivity and under occupation. We ask for protection for our courageous soldiers, who are now protecting Ukraine from enemies, and for those who sacrificed their lives for this sake to rest in peace. We ask for overcoming the malign plague. We ask the Savior, His Immaculate Mother, and all the saints who shone in Ukraine with their feats, to soften the hearts of our Orthodox brothers and sisters who are still hostile to us, so that they too may follow the decision of the Unification Council and the tomos on autocephaly, and build a single Local Church, together with us.
Dear bishops, fathers, brothers and sisters!
Heartfelt thanks to the fullness of our Local Ukrainian Orthodox Church, to all of you who gathered today for this prayer of thanksgiving, to all who offer the same prayers in all corners of Ukraine. Personally, I’d like to thank all of you for the support, help, cooperation that I see and feel coming from you, as Primate, for your prayers voiced together with me. Without all this, the cross of the Primate would become an unbearable burden, but each of you makes things easier.
May the words of the Apostle Paul conclude these reflections: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. […]The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.” (Phil. 4:19-20,23).