Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Eis polla eti, Despota!

Regular readers who are interested in such things may already be aware of the election late last week of 40-year-old Ukrainian Catholic bishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk as Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyč. The youngest hierarch chosen to lead the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church since Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky - who was enthroned in 1901 at the age of 35 and served until his death in 1944 - the new Major Archbishop could potentially serve for as many years and have as significant a long-term influence as his legendary predecessor did in the last century.

As we reach the midway point of Lent, I pray that we may take some inspiration from some words from a sermon preached by the new Major Archbishop at his enthronement on Sunday, available in an English translation posted by Rocco Palmo on Whispers in the Loggia:
Beloved in Christ, brothers and sisters!

Glory to Jesus Christ!

"We praise your Cross, Lord, and glorify Your holy resurrection!”

With these words today, the Church of Christ focuses on the Honest and True Cross. Today, as we pass the halfway point of our Lenten journey, the Life-Giving Tree is given to us, that we might find in it a source of strength and courage to go on to the Resurrection, to put the Sign of the Cross at the center of our lives.

In his Epistle to the Philippians, St Paul has left us a unique early Christian hymn that a young Church, newly enlivened by the Holy Spirit, solemnly sang in its Liturgy.

The Apostle calls to us this way:

"Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God, something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (2:6-11)."

In these words, the word of the Cross is central. Here, on the one hand, we see an icon of the earthly life of Jesus Christ -- his everyday humanity en route to his death on the cross. But the Cross is the greatest moment of his humiliation, extreme humility and divine self-giving. In the second part of this hymn, however, we see Christ, who glorifies the Father. That from the death of the Cross begins the Resurrection -- the praise and triumphant discovery of his divine glory, which is the glory of the Father.

As a disciple of Christ, every Christian who follows his Lord must witness in their personal lives to the effectiveness of his paschal mystery. Only in the celestial glory of the Resurrection can one enter through its only door, through His honest and True Cross. Our vocation is to follow the Savior to the end, even until the death of the Cross. His True Cross is the lowest degree of humility and obedient disgrace, but it is exactly the place from which the Father proceeds to raise him, that we might praise the divine glory which lay before the knee that bends in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.
Please join me in praying for Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk as he begins his mandate. May the Holy Spirit inspire him to lead the Church with great courage and wisdom for a long time to come. May God grant him many blessed years! AMDG.


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