Sunday, July 27, 2008
ON 1020 YEARS OF CHRISTIANITY IN UKRAINE
Most of you are aware that this weekend has been a very active time in Kyiv, the capitol city of the nation and the patriarchal see of our church. It was there, over a millennium ago, that our ancestors were baptized and the culture of Kyivan Rus blended with that of Christian Byzantium. A beautiful synthesis of the two has developed into what we today call our Ukrainian heritage.
As Christianity came to Kyiv from Constantinople, at the request of Kyivan Grand Prince Volodymyr, so this week came, at the invitation of Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko, from the former imperial city, now known as Istanbul, the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I.
In words prepared by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and echoed by Bartholomew at the Boryspil Airport, the Church of Kyiv, is a daughter of Constantinople which “has never done anything that has harmed the Universal Orthodox community." The statement continues, "Even in today’s difficult times, when Ukrainian Orthodoxy is divided into three branches, the Churches which gave birth to and protect the Ukrainian tradition do not demonstrate unwise intolerance and aggression . . .” According to the EP, “Tolerance and faith will in its time be rewarded, and in Ukraine there will be one national Church, for which the true Christians and patriots of their land hunger.”
One must admit that it is odd to celebrate 1020 years with such great solemnity. Every 25, 50, 75 years — that’s quite common. We can only hope that the words and acts so dramatically being staged in our beloved Kyiv, in these present few days, are sincere and set in motion, real, concrete changes. Kyiv, as a daughter of Constantinople is the mother of much of Slavic Christianity. Only much later did the presumptuous concept of “holy Russia” materialize. Holiness comes from truthfulness. It is time for Russia to be concerned about its own “holiness” and repent for the active and passive harm it has inflicted on others over time. The Church of Kyiv, for its part, must once again and in its own right, focus on the sanctification of its own inheritance, both in Ukraine and throughout the Ukrainian Diaspora.