Wednesday, August 17, 2022

    Blood of martyrs has become seed of faith, sprouting restoration of freedom for people and Church – Epifaniy

    Last Sunday, we honored the memory of all the saints. Today we especially glorify those of them who by their birth, life, and service are connected with our land, with Ukraine-Rus.

    The head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan Epifaniy, spoke about this in a sermon during the Divine Liturgy in St. George’s Monastery at the Cossack graves.

    In this way, not only are their exploits and their work for God and the Church mentioned, but it is also proved once again that our people are no less and no worse than other nations. Rus-Ukraine is truly capable of conceiving saints, its land is drenched in the blood of martyrs, sanctified by the ascetic deeds and incessant prayers of the monks, enlightened by the words of the Gospel preached by the Apostle Andrew the First Called and a host of saints.

    From the time when the feet of Andrew, the first of those called to the apostleship, set foot on the land of our Crimea, our gospel of salvation has been continuously proclaimed among the people. Due to this, both in favorable circumstances and in times of oppression and persecution, the Church of Christ in the lands of Rus-Ukraine has continued its gracious mission to lead the faithful to the Kingdom of Heaven.

    As you know, theologians see the only spiritual, mysterious body of the Church in two aspects – the belligerent Church, which operates in earthly conditions and performs an invisible spiritual battle with evil and its leader – the devil; and the victorious Church, which is made up of angels and saints who have departed from the life of this age into eternity. But it should be emphasized that we, who live here, and the saints who live in God, form a single Church.

    And just as today, according to the established custom, we have gathered here, in this place drenched in the blood of our ancestors, the blood of those who sacrificed their lives for the Orthodox faith and for the will of Ukraine – just as mysteriously, but quite realistically the belligerent and victorious churches unite.

    Here we came from different parts of our region, from afar and from the surrounding areas. Lay people and clergy, monks, hierarchs have gathered – but we all have spiritual unity. We pray together, we are united in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. That is, being different, because each of us is a unique person – at the same time we make up a single gathering of disciples called upon by Christ.

    And as we see here, we pray for our Homeland, for our soldiers-defenders, that the Lord may strengthen them in the fight against the Russian aggressor, we pray for the captives and their release, we pray for the civilians who suffer from the invasion of foreigners – so it is in prayer for this that the holy lands of Ukraine unite! We are gathered on earth and they are in heaven, but we pray together and believe that, according to the Scriptures, this prayer has great power.

    Today we also honor the new martyrs and confessors of the faith of Christ who suffered from the ungodly deeds during the persecutions of the last century. We have not forgotten how hundreds and thousands of laity and priests, monks and hierarchs were tortured, deported to distant lands for hard labor, and repressed. Thousands of temples and monasteries were turned into ruins or looted to become clubs or utility buildings. At the hands of persecutors and torturers, the blood of martyrs flowed in rivers, having permeated the Ukrainian land. However, as in the ancient times of pagan persecution, this blood of the martyrs became the seed of faith, which sprouted a religious revival, the restoration of freedom for the people and the Church. Like grain, these confessors of faith fell to the ground, but their feat, like an ear of corn sprouting from the grain, bore great fruit. This fruit is our church independence and our state independence, freedom for the Church and freedom for the people.

    Thanks to the exploits of the best sons and daughters of our people, we have the opportunity to pray in our native Church in our native language, we have the opportunity to build our state, not to live in the slave yoke of the “Russian world.” And we gathered at this site, sacred for all Ukrainians, to thank them all – those who fought for the truth, for the Orthodox faith, for the native land on the Brest field and on all other battlefields, and all those who fought not with an iron sword but with a spiritual one – through prayer and the word of the Lord – in the lands of Ukraine-Rus, against evil and sin.

    Our gratitude, our unity, our awareness of responsibility for the priceless gifts that previous generations of the Ukrainian people have passed on to us and that we must multiply and pass on to our successors – oblige us to gather here every year on this day. And we do it with special feelings now, when again the rivers of blood of the Ukrainian alien-enemy spill on our land. When the northern horde invaded prosperous Ukraine to re-impose its yoke and destroy the dissenters. Our soldiers took up weapons to defend their Motherland from this invasion, and we have gathered here to raise the sword of God’s truth, the spiritual sword – the word of the Lord and prayer – to direct this sword against the devil and all who do his evil will.

    And let this prayer, the prayer of many voices, in which the living here and the living in heaven are united, ascend day and night to the Throne of God. And we believe that the Lord who brought us out of the newest Babylonian captivity of the “Russian world” to the promised land of dignity and freedom – He, our Bishop and King, will protect Ukraine-Rus. Let the righteous God strike the armies of strangers with His wrath, just as the fierce Egyptian Pharaoh and the proud Assyrian Sennacherib were struck. May He send angels led by the patron saint of our capital, the Golden-Domed Kyiv, Archangel Michael, to help the Ukrainian Army.

    Russia is an ear of corn, its head shining like gold, but its feet are of clay. Therefore, it swells from imaginary greatness, but fails to stand firmly on its feet, swaying and falling. And our Ukraine, like little David before the giant Goliath, stands strong, having true faith in God and being inspired by love of neighbor.

    The enemy is still raging, still launching its missiles, bombs, and shells at our cities and villages. But every such missile, bomb, and shell, every drop of innocent blood shed by the Russian aggressor multiplies the measure of their curse. Just as Cain was cursed for the murder of his brother Abel out of envy, so all those who used their weapons against a peaceful Ukraine imitate Cain’s curse. Let them know that if not human punishment, then God’s punishment will surely be done to them for all the evil they do. And if they want to avoid torment in the flames of hell, let them repent and stop their murderous work and get out of our land.

    And we, standing on our native land, which is soaked in the blood of heroes and martyrs, will offer today our strong prayers that the Lord will bring victory for Ukraine and a just peace. May He bless our soldiers, may He help the wounded to be healed, may He free the prisoners from captivity, may He take care of all those who have suffered from the invasion of foreigners. We ask our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we ask the Immaculate Virgin Mary, we ask all the angelic army, all the saints of the Ukrainian land and all the saints of God to gove mercifully all that the suffering Ukrainian people need today!