Proclamation of the Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the United States for Great and Holy Lent
Patriarch of Constantinople, BARTHOLMEW deeply expressed in his message to the world for the Holy and Great Lent 2022:
“Experientially and theologically, it is impossible for us to understand the spirit of the Holy and Great Lent if we do not perceive it as a journey towards Easter. The whole period of fasting preserves the “Paschal perception” of life. Dark asceticism is a perversion of the Christian experience; it is ignorance of imminent grace and the future Kingdom; it is living ‘as if Christ had never come’, without expectation of the ‘resurrection of the dead’ and ‘life in the age to come’.
For too many of us, Great Lent has indeed become that “dark asceticism,” which prohibits so many from understanding PASCHA as the culmination of our whole lives. If we fast “because we are supposed to” or “because Babusya did” by accepting a burdensome tradition with no paschal expectation in life, then it is truly a perversion of the Christian experience. Can we afford to live our lives as if Christ never came, never offered himself for our salvation, never rose from the dead and there was no hope for a century to come? to come ? It would really be darkness followed by death and nothing more.
Great Lent should be seen as a positive opportunity to place our lives within the reality of Easter. It must be a time of serious reflection on the ways we fail to reflect the Light and Power of Resurrection through our own lives around us. We must determine not only the need to reposition ourselves in order to reflect well, but to take the necessary steps to achieve it. It is a challenge and when we begin to feel the great benefits resulting from our acceptance of this challenge, the gloom we may experience suddenly begins to fade.
Among the first of these steps is the need for a real increase in our prayer and fasting efforts. Here there is no better way to begin than with the prayer of Saint Ephraim the Syrian, which, if we recite it at some time each day and during the liturgical services of Great Lent, contemplating every word we utter when the prayer is over, open the way to true personal spiritual depth during the Lenten season:
“O Lord and Master of my life, take away my mind
of laziness, lust for power, chatter and despair.
Give me instead the spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love.
Yes, Lord and King, grant me to see my own sins and not to judge my brother,
for you are blessed forever and ever. Amen.
We pray for all of you every day and especially throughout the pandemic that has so horribly affected so many of our lives. We will continue to do so during this Great Lent and throughout our lives. We currently have, as you all know, another obligation in our prayers and fasting – the invasion of our beloved Ukraine by the Russian Federation.
It is almost impossible to believe that after 30 years of independence recognized by all the nations of the world, we return in our prayers to using the words “our long-suffering Ukraine” in imploring God’s intercession to end the carnage. Please, please, beloveds, offer additional prayer and fasting for the safety, protection and healing of our brothers and sisters under attack and those who have been forced to flee the assault .
Additionally, we will pray in gratitude for the global response of support for the Ukrainian people and the nation. We do not speak or express “thoughts and prayers”. On the contrary, the world is diligently reaching out to extend physical, financial and above all medical support to Ukraine beyond all expectation. European nations welcome refugees from all over Ukraine without any restrictions and provide for all their needs. It’s God’s will, and we thank everyone who stepped forward.
As we have prayed earnestly for weeks in all our parishes, we implore our Heavenly Father to send his legions of angels, commanded by the patron of the city of Kiev, Archangel Michael, to crush the aggression of those who would like to destroy Ukraine and its people.
May the Grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Love of God the Father and the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all.
In the universal love of our Lord,
By the grace of God, Metropolitan
By the grace of God, Archbishop
By the grace of God, Archbishop