Munich, the capital of Bavaria, located in southern Germany is Bavaria’s largest city and the third largest city in Germany (after Berlin and Hamburg). Munich lies about 30 miles north of the edge of the Alps and along the Isar River, which flows through the middle of the city.
Nestled in this picturesque vista, is the Birth-Giver-of-God Ukrainian Orthodox parish, located in a chapel dating back to the 16th century. The area is blessed to be the location of a well-known historic miracle performed by the Mother of God. In 1489 a young boy had drowned, and his mother, full of faith, brought his body and laid it at the feet of the image of the Mother of God, seeking a miracle. She was not disappointed, as her son was restored to live before many witnesses. After this miracle numerous churches were erected over the years in honor of the Virgin Mary.
Having served an All-Night Vigil on Saturday, March 25th, 2022, at Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Parish in Munich and having met with the refugee clergy from Ukraine afterwards, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Diaspora arrived on the Third Sunday of Great Lent at the Birth-Giver-of-God Ukrainian Orthodox Parish to celebrate the Divine Liturgy.
Concelebrating with His Eminence were a number of clergy from neighboring Ukrainian Orthodox parishes in Germany, along with newly arrived clergy from Mariupol and Dnipro, which was currently under attack by invading Russian forces.
The little chapel overflowed as over 400 faithful, many of whom were refugees from Ukraine, including five new clergy, had arrived to pray on this Sunday. They came to pray for fortitude upon their Lenten journeys; they came to pray for their families; they came to pray for Ukraine; they came to pray for the Lord’s Mercy upon the world.
The rays of the sun shone brightly through the windows illuminating the faces of the people praying along with their hierarch. The clergy, dressed in Lenten purple vestments flanked His Eminence as the Divine Liturgy commenced. The angelic voices of the choir added to the ethereal atmosphere, their melodies weaving themselves among the faithful.
The day’s Gospel Reading was from the Gospel of Mark 8:34-9:1. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” On these words hinged His Eminence’s moving sermon.
Stepping out to stand in the Nave, His Eminence looked about him at the faces of the faithful who eagerly awaited to hear bits of wisdom which they could use in their lives. “Take up your Cross and follow Me”instructed the Lord. We, as people of Ukrainian descent, are now carrying that Cross along with the Lord. In these difficult times, when we struggle to acquire the peace of spirit that we ought during this Lenten period; when we start and end our days with news reels from Ukraine; when we plan fundraisers, rallies, charity events, to help Ukraine; we do so step-in-step with the Lord, for we do each of these with prayers in our hearts.
It is difficult at these times to “love our enemies”, but we must challenge ourselves. The Lord suffered greatly at the hands of mankind. He was falsely accused and unfairly judged. Lies were told about Him. His reputation was questioned, His motives were questioned, even His miracles were questioned. Today, Ukraine, and all of us find ourselves in a similar situation. Propaganda is rampant and lies are told about Ukraine in order to justify the unprovoked invasion of her borders. As we see images of destruction and death, we hover at the verge of hatred. Yet, as Christians we need to behave as Christ, who suffering upon the Cross, and near death, looked down upon the very faces who had caused Him such pain through their falsehoods and hatred of Him, and He asked God the Father to forgive them. He could have just as easily asked for vengeance, but instead He asked for mercy.
We are to follow His example and not become that which we dislike. We are to pray for mercy. While we pray for the liberation and victory of Ukraine over her enemies, we also pray that the enemies’ hearts soften, that they realize the error of their ways and repent, that they turn and leave the sovereign nation of Ukraine and return to their own homeland of Russia.
In doing thus, the Lord hears our pleas, and we do not lose ourselves to anger and hatred. We do not lower ourselves, our standards, or our morals to those who do not emulate Christ, instead we remain pure and shine our light illuminating the darkness, as the Lord instructed us.
Therefore, pray every day, every minute, for Ukraine. Pray unceasingly for her victory, for her independence, for the safety of her people, but do without harboring hatred, but do so with love in your heart.
His Eminence reminded everyone that on this Third Sunday of Great Lent, the Cross is brought out and laid before us for a good reason. Over the previous three weeks we have fasted, we have suffered, we may have started to flounder, to lose our way, our vision, but seeing the Cross we are reminded of the reason behind our journey. Seeing the Cross, we are bolstered, we are strengthened, we are empowered to continue our journeys towards the brightness we know awaits us at Pascha. Therefore, Archbishop Daniel concluded that we, empowered by our faith in Christ, know and await victory in Ukraine. We have faith that good will prevail over evil, and that Ukraine will rise in victory, having defeated the darkness that threatened to overtake her.
Before concluding, Archbishop Daniel gestured to the Cross, and told those gathered to take a quiet today to kneel before the Cross of the Lord, and to speak to Him from their hearts, leaving all their worries and woes at His feet, allowing Him to help them carry their burdens, as they carry their own Crosses, as they follow Him.
Contemplating the depth of their hierarch’s words, the faithful let out a communal sigh, realizing they do not have to carry the burden of the last four weeks alone. In unison they bowed and prayed and petitioned the Lord for His mercy upon them, their loved ones, and all the world.
The remainder of the Divine Liturgy seemed to flow an angels’ wings, and soon the faithful crowded forward to partake of the Eucharist. As young an old communed of the Lord, the felt revitalized and strengthened.
As the dismissal prayer was read, once again everyone gathered before the cross. Falling to his knees, His Eminence’s deep voice loudly sang,
Before Thy Cross we bow down in worship, O Master, and Thy holy Resurrection we glorify. (Thrice)
As everyone was on their knees Archbishop Daniel humbly and earnestly prayed for Ukraine.
МОЛИТВА ЗА УКРАЇНУ
Господи, боже наш, Великий і Всесильний, ми грішні діти Твої, звертаємося до Тебе у покорі сердець наших і низько схиляємо голови наші перед Тобою. Благаємо Тебе за безмежне милосердя та щедрі благословення для народу – людей – України, у ці дні великої небезпеки для їх мирного життя і добробуту.
О Господи, нашим братам і сестрам, знову загрожують агресори, які бачать у них лише просту перешкоду, що перегороджує шлях до повного панування над дорогоцінною землею та ресурсами України. Зміцни людей, у часі цієї великої небезпеки, які звертаються до Тебе у безмірно глибокій вірі, довірі та любові, які вони плекали до Тебе усе своє життя. Зішли Господи, своїх небесних ангелів, якими керує покровитель міста києва Архістратиг Михаїл, щоб викорінити бажання агресора знищити наш народ.
Даруй Господи, єдність розуму, серця і душі всім державним лідерам і тим, кому вони служать. Об’єднай їх усіх в одну велику Християнську родину, щоб вони разом, як брати і сестри, прославляли Твоє Величне Ім’я – Бога в Святій Тройці – Отця, Сина і Святого Духа, нині і повсякчас, і на віки вічні. Амінь.
PRAYER FOR UKRAINE
Lord our God, Great and Almighty, we Your sinful children turn to You with humility in our hearts and bow our heads low before You. We beseech Your loving kindness and abundant blessings upon the nation – the people – of Ukraine during these days of great danger to their safety and well-being.
Our brothers and sisters, Lord, are once again threatened by aggressors who see them only as simple obstacles blocking the path to the complete domination of the precious land and resources of the country of Ukraine. Strengthen the people as they face this great danger, turning to You in the immeasurably deep faith, trust and love they have placed in You all their lives. Send Your Heavenly Legions, O Lord, commanded by the patron of Kyiv, Archangel Michael, to crush the desires of the aggressor whose desire is to eradicate Your people.
Grant unity of mind, heart and soul, O Lord to all leaders in public service with those they serve. Unite them all into one, great Christian family, so that together, as brothers and sisters, they may glorify Your Majestic Name – God in the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Rising to his feet, His Eminence bowed low before the Cross before returning to the Altar. The faithful filed up, one by one, to have their moment before the Cross of the Lord, as Archbishop Daniel had advised. Dropping to their knees, tears streaming down their cheeks, the faithful poured out their hearts to God, begging not only for peace in Ukraine, but for an easing of the burden of anger they felt in their hearts. With each prostration, their hearts grew lighter, and as they rose to their feet and kissed the feet of the Lord, hanging upon the Cross, they were enveloped in His compassion and mercy. Bowing low before exiting the chapel, the faithful felt renewed, the anger and resentment harbored in their hearts having been released. With hope renewed, and resolve strengthened, they returned to the world in hopes of sharing Christ’s love with all in it. Realizing that the path to peace will be difficult and arduous, nonetheless, they were once again strengthened in the knowledge that by following Christ, by taking up their Cross, as Ukraine was currently carrying hers, they knew that a radiant Pascha awaited them, and that good would prevail, for the Lord has already conquered this world.
May the Lord bless Ukraine, grant her victory and independence, safeguard her people, and grant peace in all the world.