UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH IN AMERICA
Slava Isusu Khrystu! All Praise Be to Jesus Christ!
PASTORAL LETTER - GREAT LENT 2005
My dearest brothers and sisters,
Western society has never been more advanced in the spheres of science and technology, but never have individuals been less aware of the presence of God. Never before has afluence permeated the lives of more people, and yet we witness the tragedies befalling societies: war, death, terrorism, economic injustice, sexual abuse, abortion -- tragedies which so often level everything for which we have worked and all we have accumulated.
You and I enjoy remarkable freedoms and choices but often without the responsibility that previously accompanied our Christ-centered view of reality. Culture today is in great danger of losing its experience of the Holy and the transcendence at the heart of life that has accompanied and underpinned all the great civilisations of history. We have pushed God into obscurity and divinized our egos.
As a result, many people today are lost and confused, and they seek inappropriate comfort in drugs, promiscuity, or consumerism, which merely re-enforces their sense of alienation and loss.
Sadly enough, generations are growing up now for whom the word 'God' is merely a pious curiosity of the past, with very little relevance to the present, and Christianity has lost its delicate balance of prayer and action manifest in the life of Christ himself, and repeated in the life of the Church. Even a superficial reading of the Gospels indicates that Christ gave fundamental importance to the presence and will of God, from which logically flowed all his Kingdom-driven action, as he reached out with promises of justice, peace and freedom for all.
Today's Church culture seems to have embraced the latter and forgotten the former. We cannot claim to believe in the God of Jesus Christ without becoming people of prayer and action, as he was.
On almost every page of the Gospels, we find Jesus calling us to the conversion of our hearts and repentance for our sins.
Like John the Baptizer, the season of Lent, calls each of us to repentance.
This Lent I would hope that all parishes in the diocese will reach out to all their people, not only those who worship regularly, but also all those who have been baptised into the Church and are still searching for answers, as well as that multitude of people who have never yet heard the Good News.
I would also hope that all parishes might focus as well on the material needs of people, especially the poorest in our communities and those in need in countries crushed by poverty, natural disasters and war.
Finally, in this season let us make sure that, at least in our own lives, we will heighten our awareness of God's presence by linking our lives to God through prayer, fasting and appropriate action for the Kingdom.
Within that context I cannot recommend “retreating into our own hermitages” too highly. It is my hope and prayer that each of us will break away from the noise and chatter in our lives, retreat to a quiet place and dialogue with our beloved Christ personally on a daily basis if even for fifteen or twenty minutes. Moreover if we are able this Lent to open up the possibility of faith for even one other person, then our diocese will be richer indeed, and the Kingdom of God in our midst will be recognised just a little bit more widely.
May God bless you all this Lent as you participate in the mission of the Church and begin your individual Lenten journeys, and may John the Baptizer, the archetype of the one who forsook all in his quest for God, be our model and guide as we seek to live out in our time the vision of the Kingdom that he lived so convincingly in his own.
Given at Milwaukee, WI, at the Skete of Solus Christi Brothers, this 14th day of March, 2005, in the first year of Our Episcopate and the first year of Our election as Bishop of Milwaukee and the Midwest.
Bishop of Milwaukee and the Midwest
FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
My dearest Brothers and Sisters,
May the peace and joy of the first Christmas come upon you and overshadow you and your loved ones in the depths of your minds, hearts and souls.
On Christmas Eve, a sudden tranquility fills people around the world. Even when one takes a casual walk or drive, the streets are bare, there is a silence which is overwhelming, and the lights along the streets and in people’s homes gives a feeling of calmness to everyone. One cannot help but feel that there is an aura of tranquil anticipation.
Jesus Christ was born 2000 years ago, and we, as Christians, celebrate the event of God becoming man, thanking our heavenly Father for His great gift to us. However, this event cannot be repeated historically. Jesus “emptied himself” only once.
Exegetes agree that in his Gospel, the Evangelist Mark tries to proclaim to the early Christian community, that each Christian, by virtue of his/her baptism, becomes so intimately united with Jesus Christ that he/she becomes the presence of Jesus Christ at a particular moment in history. Jesus becomes reborn in each of us. Furthermore, whatever one does to a Christian, Mark proclaims, one does to Jesus Christ. To persecute a Christian is to persecute Jesus Christ. To give food to or to clothe a poor Christian is to give food or to clothe Christ Himself.
My point? In baptism, we have each become the Flesh and Blood of Jesus; people will only recognize and proclaim our Lord to the extent that we allow His loving kindness, simplicity and and mercy to be enfleshed by us and radiate throughout each concrete interaction we have with others.
My prayer? That in this New Year, our goal will be to become more intimately united with the Incarnate Son of God through prayer and contemplation and that the result of this union will change each of us so completely, so radically, as to make us different, so that every action, every deed we perform may be, in reality, a work of Jesus Christ for the good of mankind.
May the Lord bless you and keep you; may He let His face shine upon you and give you His peace.
Given at Milwaukee, WI, at the Skete of Solus Christi Brothers, this 7th day of January in the year of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ 2005.
Bishop of Milwaukee and the Midwest