At the Foot of the Cross: Lessons From Ukraine, a Review

At the Foot of the Cross: Lessons From Ukraine, a Review

The world abounds in complicated conditions confounding our restricted human skills to see, suppose, analyze, and discern. In our hubris, we might imagine we have now the genuine perception right into a given state of affairs, and that those that don’t share our conclusions have to be our adversaries. But to all concerned God says, as He did when setting Job straight: “Where wast thou once I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me if thou hast understanding” (Job 38:4).

A chief instance in our occasions of clashing narratives and analyses is the war in Ukraine. The numerous media platforms abound with indignant exchanges, even amongst trustworthy Catholics. In the absence of an unmistakable intervention from God, we should depend on guidance from the Church. And for deeper perception into the religious realities of the warfare set within the context of historic info and tragedies, we have now a dependable Catholic witness and shepherd, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC). An accessible introduction to His Beatitude’s life and work is At the Foot of the Cross, Lessons From Ukraine: An Interview with Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk by John Burger. Burger started interviewing the Archbishop earlier than the warfare started, however the venture was not completed in February 2022 when Russia invaded its neighbor. Hence Archbishop Shevchuk gives his on-the-ground and historically-informed reflections on the warfare, in addition to scenes from his life, developments within the UGCC, and life after the Soviet Union.

“According to our understanding and direct expertise of the state of affairs in Ukraine and Russia, in these post-Soviet nations, every nation has its personal religious and social sicknesses, sicknesses. Ukraine as effectively. Russia has its personal” (210). Crucial to an understanding of Ukraine and its challenges is the struggling of its folks underneath Soviet rule. And central to that story is the suppression of the UGCC in 1945 and its re-emergence starting in 1988-89. Unlike the Russian Orthodox Church, the UGCC, in line with Shevchuk, “by no means was a church of the state. It was at all times a church of the straightforward folks” (181).

But as a lot as this can be a story of Ukraine in latest many years and previous centuries, additionally it is the story of a outstanding churchman. Sviatoslav Shevchuk was born in 1970 in Soviet Western Ukraine, and for a few years he had little or no direct contact with the church of his household. Despite the absence of the UGCC from open ministry, younger Sviatoslav witnessed perception in God, together with at residence, the place he noticed his mom and father and different relations pray. “And perhaps a small child doesn’t perceive what they’re doing,” he stated, “however he understands very effectively if they’re doing one thing necessary or not” (45).

The UGCC had been pressured underground and lots of of its monks and bishops imprisoned, exiled, or killed. This was on high of the pre-WWII famine created by Bolshevik cruelty and stupidity and which particularly affected Ukraine and its folks. The future archbishop grew up listening surreptitiously to liturgies on unlawful radio units. As a teen he started to consider he had a vocation to the priesthood, and commenced seminary research by way of clandestine impartial examine from priest-teachers. As the Soviet Union imploded and Ukraine asserted its independence, Shevchuk wound up in Argentina, the place he attained fluency in Spanish and took courses in philosophy and theology not out there again residence. In the next years he was ordained to the priesthood and earned a doctorate in Moral Theology in Rome. He was despatched again to Argentina to minister to the Ukrainian diaspora there. It was there he met Cardinal Bergoglio. In 2011, to his shock, Bishop Shevchuk was elected to be the primate of the UGCC.

Since then he was striven to pastor his flock at residence and overseas as a result of the UGCC is “a Ukrainian Church, however not a Church just for Ukrainians” (11). To learn this e-book is to know that historical past, which is rooted in particular locations and occasions, in the end solely comprehensible with a religious interpretation. The Archbishop glimpsed this fact with the election of Pope John Paul II, when his household realized that “one thing can be altering on the earth” (62). The ethical authority of Rome as articulated by the Pope foreshadowed the downfall of the USSR.

The subsequent turning level was the 1988 celebration of the millennium of Prince Volodomyr’s conversion at Kyiv (69). It was the eve of the collapse of Communist management in Eastern Europe and through Gorbachev’s perestroika, and the Russian Orthodox Church—nonetheless managed by the Soviets—hijacked the millennial celebrations. And but, it was additionally the start of a resurgent UGCC, and that Church started to emerge from underground. The UGCC has been blessed with many holy monks and bishops, some canonized or beatified, others not, however all united in struggling for the confession of Christ (90). Leaders similar to Metropolitan Sheptytsky and Patriarch Yosyf Slipy have to be included in any account of heroic and trustworthy Catholicism within the twentieth century. Archbishop Shevchuk discovered from earlier generations—similar to his mentor Cardinal Lubomyr Huzar—that give up will not be an possibility. 

But Burger’s interviews present how the Archbishop applies these classes to this time in historical past. The Eastern Catholic Churches have often been inclined to 2 very totally different impulses. One is that of “latinization,” which implies uncritically accepting Roman-Western practices as superior to their very own custom. The second is to provide approach to an Orthodox tendency to stay previously and to outline themselves by ethnicity. Archbishop Shevchuk, due to stints in Argentina and Italy, has gained an understanding of Eastern and Western approaches to theology. His graduate work on the theology of Orthodox lay theologian Paul Evdokimov is proof of that (94-97). So is his insistence on implementing the Church’s social doctrine. The Eastern Churches, whether or not in communion with Rome or not, haven’t traditionally grappled with social instructing in a theological means. The subjugation of Eastern Christianity by Islam and Communism has meant the Churches have misplaced their main position in offering for the poor and needy, and that position is barely slowly being rediscovered within the twenty-first century. Archbishop Shevchuk ties collectively social instructing in motion with evangelization (176-179).

This is an accessible e-book written in a conversational fashion. It can be of curiosity to a normal viewers. It is kind of merely an inspirational e-book that can provide the reader some measure of hope after we are confronted with so many tales of failure. Importantly, Archbishop Shevchuk defies straightforward categorization in a time of polarization. He is authentically Byzantine in theology (142-143), however is a bridge-builder. He is neither conventionally conservative nor progressive, and whereas he’s considerably near Pope Francis, he stays exterior the criticisms some have manufactured from the Supreme Pontiff. There are points I want His Beatitude had addressed as a result of they arrive up so typically in reference to Ukraine and the warfare: the notoriety round that nation’s orphanages, the prevalence of surrogate motherhood, and the corrosive impact of long-standing corruption. Perhaps they are going to be answered in one other e-book.

In the meantime there are this e-book and the Archbishop’s daily homiletical messages on video. May God grant him a few years.

Photo by AAB71 on Shutterstock.



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