of the Permanent Conference of Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops Beyond the Borders of Ukraine On the occasion of the 1025th Anniversary of the Baptism of Kyivan Rus’-Ukraine
To the God-beloved Pastors, Venerable Monastics, and all of the Faithful Children of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Diaspora and Ukraine,
“We magnify You Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Great-prince Volodymyr, and we venerate your holy memory, for you destroyed the idols and enlightened our whole land through Holy Baptism.”
Rt. Reverend, Very Reverend, and Reverend Fathers! Dearest Brothers and Sisters!
By the Grace of God, this year we solemnly commemorate a majestic event in the life of the Ukrainian people, which bears within itself a deep spiritual and historic meaning for future generations. This historic event is the celebration of the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Kyivan Rus’-Ukraine.
A comprehensive study of history demonstrates that the Christian Faith was not something new or foreign for our Ukrainian people. For already, during the first century of the Christian era, our Lord’s Gospel was preached in our land by the Holy Apostle Andrew, the First-called. The Apostle prophesied on the hills of Kyiv, “Upon these hills the Grace of God will shine forth, here will be a great city, and the Lord will raise up many Churches.” Not coincidentally, Kyiv later became the centre of Christianity for the Eastern Slavs.
From the banks of the Dnipro River, the Orthodox Faith spread throughout all of Kyivan Rus’. We know from historical sources that, already during the time of the Great-prince Ihor, the Orthodox Faith had spread to the various territories of our homeland and, by that time, Christians had built the Church of the Holy Prophet Elias in Kyiv.
The Holy, Equal-to-the-Apostles, Great-princess Olha played a great role in spreading Christianity. She was the first Christian on the Great-princely throne of Kyiv, and the first enlightener and teacher of the Christian Faith in Kyivan Rus’-Ukraine. Her baptism in Constantinople opened the door for the Christianization of Kyivan-Rus’. Without doubt, Great-princess Olha, having become a Christian, desired that her people receive the Christian Faith, but, in any case, did not proceed with the general baptism of her subjects. By her personal example of Christian life, her great moral authority and her wisdom, St. Olha contributed to the spread of Christianity throughout the lands of Holy Rus’. This greatly influenced the people of Kyivan Rus’ and her grandson, the Great-prince Volodymyr.
Having become the ruler of the Kyivan state, St. Volodymyr the Great showed himself to be a terrifying military leader. Being intrigued, however, by the development of other Christian states, he gradually exchanged his pagan views for Christian ones. The Holy Orthodox Church equates Prince Volodymyr with the Apostle Paul “…in order to learn the Orthodox Faith, he found the priceless pearl – Christ, Who chose him as a second Paul and cleansed in the Holy Font both his spiritual and physical blindness.” It was the Grace of God Himself, and nothing else, that motivated Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Great-prince Volodymyr to lead his people to the True God. The chronicler, in his discussion of what faith to receive, wrote, “That our forefathers were especially impressed by the beauty and majesty of the Orthodox Faith.” The ambassadors of St. Volodymyr were so impressed by the majesty of the Holy Services at the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Constantinople, “That they did not know if they were in heaven, or on earth, but felt that there God dwelt with men.”
The day of the baptism of Volodymyr the Great drew near. When the Great-prince went into the font and Bishop Mikhail baptized him, darkness fell from the eyes of Volodymyr, he gained his sight and joyously exclaimed, “Today, I have come to know the True God! Truly, the Christian God is Great!” Having been baptized in the Orthodox Faith, he then took a diligent interest in spreading Christianity throughout his kingdom. Likewise, after the example of Great-prince Volodymyr in 988 A.D., all the inhabitants of Kyiv were baptized. Metropolitan Ilarion of Kyiv witnesses to this: “He ordered that all in his land be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, that all would become Christians, and not one man opposed his will.”
The Orthodox Church calls the Holy Prince Volodymyr “Equal-to-the-Apostles.” This means that he was like the Holy Apostles in his zealous dissemination of the Christian Gospel.
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
Let us also treasure the Holy Orthodox Faith which has been passed down to us by St. Volodymyr the Great. “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow.” (Heb 13:7) May our All-merciful Lord, through the prayers of our Enlightener, the Holy Great-prince Volodymyr the Great, strengthen us in the Holy Orthodox Faith, help us overcome all the trials of life so that we would be worthy and faithful children of our native Ukrainian Orthodox Church and our ancestral homeland of Ukraine. Thanks to God’s providence, Ukraine has maintained its Christian Faith through the centuries. With this Faith, Ukraine will overcome all obstacles and remain unvanquished and faithful, according to the example of its great Apostle and Baptizer, the Holy Great-prince Volodymyr, “For he is our Apostle, he is our baptist, he is our glorious and Godly renewer.”
Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Great-prince Volodymyr, Baptizer of Rus’-Ukraine! Pray to God for us sinners, and for the entire Ukrainian nation on native soil and throughout the Diaspora!
With Archpastoral Blessings,
† YURIJ, Metropolitan, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
† ANTONY, Metropolitan, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA
Locum Tenens Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Diaspora
† IOAN, Archbishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Diaspora
† JEREMIAH, Archbishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Eparchy of Brazil and South America
† ILARION, Bishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
† ANDRIY, Bishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
† DANIEL, Bishop, Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA