Вшанування Пам'яті полеглих воїнів УПА в Духовному Осередку УПЦ США
The 19th Sunday after Pentecost saw the early Autumn sun joyfully rising to illuminate the brightly colored trees of the Metropolia Center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA. The faithful began to arrive, their faces covered in masks due to the pandemic, to participate in the Divine Liturgy.
Serving the Divine Liturgy was His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, accompanied by St. Andrew Memorial Church pastor, V. Rev. Yurij Siwko. The day’s reading was from the Gospel of Luke 6:31-36, with Christ instructing us to be kind and good, to love our enemies, and to lend hoping for nothing in return.
In his sermon Archbishop Daniel expanded on the theme of humanity, and what it means to be human. He told a story of monk who was sitting near a river and watching a scorpion cling for its life to branch of low hanging tree, as the waters rose. Eventually, the scorpion could no longer hang on and he fell into the rushing waters below. By instinct and without thinking, the monk extended his hand to catch the scorpion and save its life, but, the scorpion attempted to sting the outstretched hand. The monk jumped back, but, again extended his hand to save the creature. But, the scorpion, fighting for its life, again made to sting the hand that was trying to save it. This action was repeated numerous times with the same result. Eventually, a passerby saw what was happening and told the monk to give up because the reaction of the scorpion will not change, stinging is a scorpion’s nature. The monk nodded, but wisely replied, that saving life is a human’s nature.
Vladyka continued by telling us to be merciful in all aspects of our lives. To do good, and not wait for an official “thank you”… for while we await gratitude we spin all kinds of negative connotations in our heads why the recipient of our kind deed is not replying, blind to the fact that they may be busy, may be facing a crisis, or simply forgot. In the meantime, we are making ourselves suffer and feel offended by something that is not meant to offend us. Therefore, we must be careful not to be easily offended, to turn the other cheek, to live in love, and nurture peace.
His Eminence retold a story of Martin of Tours, a 4th century saint of France, who seeing a beggar sitting in the rain near a gate, cut his cape in half with his military sword, and used the garment to cover the poor man, and keep him warm in the bad weather. Later he had a dream in which the Mother-of-God appeared to him, and to his amazement, she was wearing the half-cloak with which he had covered the beggar.
This episode is an example to us, that we do not know the true nature of those around us… and that we ought to treat everyone with kindness and mercy. Find ways to help each other.
Vladyka told another heart wrenching story about a boy who quarreled with his friend in the streets and in the heat of the moment he pulled out a knife and stabbed his friend, killing him. Scared of what he had done and realizing the police would arrest him he ran and looked for a place to hide, knocking on the door of the first house he ran to. A woman opened the door and let him in, and he explained to her that he had accidentally killed his friend, and was afraid that because of his momentary lapse of judgement his life would be over if the police found him. The woman took pity upon him and hid him in her home. A few hours later the police knocked on her door, and when she opened it, they informed her that this evening her son had gotten into and argument with a friend, and this friend had killed him.
The mother was now faced with a dilemma. The boy who killed her only child was hiding upstairs. Should she seek revenge and turn him in, or should she show mercy and forgive him? Her eyes wondered over to the icon of the Mother-of-God and she saw in the icon a mother who had lost her only son as well, and she had somehow managed to forgive those who had crucified Him, so how could she do any less than forgive this boy?
Once the police left, she called the boy down and informed him that she was the mother of the boy he had murdered, and that she forgives him of this violent act. However, she asked one thing of him, that he repent before God, and promise to never ever harm another being for the rest of his life.
Before concluding his sermon, Archbishop Daniel implored each of us to not lose our humanity, that innate instinct to reach out and help someone. That is our true nature and our purpose in this life.
The Divine Liturgy continued, the voices of the choir (under the leadership of Dr. Michanel Andrec) mingling with the joyful sound of young infants cuing at their mothers’ feet. Having partaken of the Holy Eucharist, everyone rejoiced and even though their lips were covered by their masks, their eyes shone with an internal joy.
At the conclusion of the service, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel spoke to both those physically present, and those joining via their mobile devices, asking that if they have the time, to remain with them for a bit more as he would lead a procession to the St. Andrew Cemetery. Today was the first Sunday after the celebration of the Protection of the Mother-of-God (Pokrova). The Virgin Mary has for centuries been the patron saint of Ukrainian, specifically those who go into battle to safeguard their families and homeland from invasion. Before going into battle, the kozaky would pray before an icon of the Protection of the Mother-of-God, and historically she would often intercede on their behalf before her Son.
On the first Sunday after the Feast Day commemorating the Protection of the Mother-of-God traditionally a Litia (memorial service) is served on the graves of soldiers and defenders of Ukraine who have fallen asleep in the Lord.
The St. Andrew Cemetery has many graves of the men and women who served in the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, who served and died protecting the borders of Ukraine. On this day we are to remember them and pray for their souls. Therefore, His Eminence asked that if possible, the people walk with them, and then in order to not only honor social distancing regulations due to COVID-19, but, in order to honor those who are buried, that each person stand at a grave, paying homage to the individual buried there.
As the St. Andrew Memorial Church bells began to toll solemnly the procession, led by seminarians carrying the Cross, and the Holy Fans (Seraphim), followed by the clergy and His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, and then the laity, made its way slowly, with respect to the graves of the fallen heroes. As Vladyka had instructed, the people spread out across the cemetery, each standing at a grave and praying for the peaceful repose of that individual.
The birds that had been joyfully chirping in the colorful trees became silent as His Eminence’s voice rang out across the cemetery, winding between the sullen gray headstones of the fallen warriors.
“Give rest, O God, to Your servants, and place them in Paradise where the choirs of the Saints and the righteous, O Lord, will shine as the stars of heaven. To Your departed servants give rest, O Lord, overlooking all their offenses…”
“With the Saints give rest, O Christ, to the souls of Your servants where there is no pain, no sorrow, no sighing, but life everlasting.”
At the conclusion of the Litia, His Eminence took a blue/yellow holy water brush (kropylo) representative of the Ukrainian flag, and dipping it into Holy Water made his way through the cemetery, stopping at each grave, proclaiming “Memory Eternal… Ivan, Mykola, Andrij…” naming each person individually as he sprinkled their graves with the holy water.
The seminarians repeatedly sang “Vichnaya Pamyat” (Memory Eternal), and His Eminence, his white vestments almost glowing in the sunshine, peacefully walked among the dead, and prayed for their peaceful repose.
Having concluded the service, and having stopped at each grave the service concluded, and still singing Memory Eternal, the people once again got in line and joined the slow moving procession as it wound its way back to the church.
The bells tolled sadly, as a calm breeze ruffled the orange and gold leaves in the trees, sprinkling yellow gems upon the solemn procession. As their voices faded, the bells continued to toll, slowly, quietly, bouncing off the headstones, and reaching the souls of those who were buried there. They were not forgotten, and they had not died in vain.
May their memories be eternal! Вічна пам'ять!