OUR ROOTS

For the 1988 celebration of the Millennium of Christianity in Ukraine, Msgr. V.J. Bozyk published a pamphlet entitled "Who Am I?   Why? "  The contents are reproduced here.  (Other publications by the same author: "The Eternal Truths I Believe and Why " and "Divine Liturgy - Why Mass? I Can Pray at Home ")

WHERE WE COME FROM

Ever since the movie "Roots" was shown on television, it sparked an interest in everyone: "Where did I come from? " "Where are my roots? "  People searching for their roots began traveling to the "Old Country" to see where their families came from.  It is also interesting to know where our religion came from.  Why do we believe the way we do?  Why Christianity at all?  Why Catholics?  Let us go back in time and see what happened and where.

GOD - CREATION

Let us go way, way back to before the creation of the world.  There was this Eternal, Infinite, Almighty, Majestic BEING in existence God, who is "EXISTENCE ITSELF, LOVE ITSELF, TRUTH ITSELF."   LOVE by its nature tends, no, more than that, it demands to be shared it is not selfish.  GOD, who is Love itself, shares with what He is.  Existence.  He shared His Existence with others.  He gave existence to the universe.  He created life both irrational (animals) and rational (intelligent beings).  Irrational creatures (animals) must do all that God put into their nature to do.  Rational creatures (like humans) were created by God in His own Image and Likeness.  God gave them an intelligence and a free will.  He gave them the right to choose.  Even God cannot force intelligent beings, not even into heaven.  They must choose, otherwise they would not be free.  They wouldn't be as God created them.

We know that besides our world, God created another world, a world of intelligent beings pure spirits.  We know how their history ended.  God revealed to us that two-thirds of these angelic spirits chose God, who is Love and this is Heaven itself.  One-third turned away from God, from Love itself, eternally . . .  and this is Hell.  Now that is frightening.   One out of three chose to be separated from God, throughout eternity.

ADAM - CHRIST

Each Angelic Spirit had to make a choice for himself, because each of them was created separately by God.  With man, it was different.  We all come from common parents Adam and Eve.  Adam, as father of the whole human race, was given the privilege to choose for them all.  Adam, under the prompting of the rebellious fallen angels, chose not to accept God as His Master and Ruler.  He wanted, like God Himself, to decide what is right and wrong.  Through pride, Lucifer, the leader of the evil spirits, influenced the intelligent human being Adam.  Prompted by Lucifer, Adam says, "I will not serve! "  Turning from "Life with God," he goes to serve the fallen angels.

God, who is LOVE ITSELF, loved His creation, MAN.  He promised Adam, in the Garden of Eden right after the fall, to send a REDEEMER, A SAVIOR to redeem man who would repair the damage done by the sin of Adam; and save man from the terrible eternal loss.  No one was able to repair the damage but someone equal to God, someone as powerful as God God the Son, because the damage done was of infinite proportions and was an offence against Infinite God.  And God the Son did repair the harm.  He came on earth, was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary; proved by miracles that He was God, especially by His greatest miracle, His rising from the dead after being three days in the tomb.  He proved He had power over nature over life and death.

CHURCH

Now the problem of who was to continue His work of Redemption amongst the people on earth.   It must be someone, or something, that never dies, for there will always be people on earth.  If He Himself remained upon earth, the evil men would crucify Him again and again.  What lives on and never dies?  A society.  A president may die but another is always elected in his place.  Jesus left a society to continue His work THE CHURCH, making St. Peter, and his successors, head of that church.  Peter was a name given to him by Jesus.  Peter's real name was Simon.  We see Jesus changing his name saying "Simon, son of John, amen, amen I say to you, that you are PETER, (which means rock) and upon this rock I will build my church into churches and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, (it will be strong) " . . . "Behold I am with you all days even to the end of the world. "   Then we see in Galilee, He gives His flock over to the care of Peter, the Head of His Church, saying "Feed my lambs, feed my sheep. "  Peter and his successors become the Supreme Pastors of Our Lord's Flock.  Peter was the first Pope.

If you wish a movement, a society to grow, where do you go to preach?  To the country places?  No.  You preach in the big cities.  St. Peter, from Antioch, went to Rome, the Capital of the world, and became the first Bishop of Rome, and head of the little church of Christ.  All his successors, Bishops of Rome, to this day, take over his position as head of Christ's Church.  (Pope John Paul II is 164th successor and head of the Church.)

From the main cities of the world, Christianity spread to the outlying districts.  The main centers of Christianity were called Partiarchates.  THE OLDEST CANON LAW admitted only three bishops having what later ages call Patriarchal rights - Bishops of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch.  The successors of St. Peter held the highest place of Pope, Bishop of Rome.

Much later, the Council of Calcedon 45, established the Patriarchate of Jerusalem and also Constantinople as a Patriarchate with jurisdiction over Asia Minor and Thrace.  And since the Emperors had moved from Rome to Constantinople, it was called the "New Rome," and because it was the seat of the Empire, it was given precedence over the other eastern patriarchates and second place after Rome.  Canon 3 of the Council of Constantinople says "The Bishop of Constantinople shall have the primacy of honor after the Bishop of Rome, because it is New Rome."  From each of these centers, missionaries were sent to the surrounding countries, taking with them the language, the customs and the Liturgy (the way of saying Mass of the Parent City.)  The missionaries from Rome used Latin, the missionaries from Constantinople used Greek, etc., etc.  The Patriarchs were independent of one another and equal in authority, but the Patriarch of Rome exercised the primacy of honor and of jurisdiction.

UKRAINE

Map of Europe Look at a map of Europe.  See the Black Sea?  Just North of it is our Ukraine.   There live forty-million of our  people.  Ten million of us live in countries around the world.  Follow the river DNIPRO, then cross over to the rivers Dvina or Vistula and you will see that it leads you to the Baltic Sea.  "The Sea of the Vikings!"  The Vikings were a seafaring nation.  They sailed wherever the ocean, lakes and rivers would take them: plundering, looting, conquering.   Following the rivers Dvina, Vistula and Dnipro, they came to our Ukraine in 862, under the leadership of Rurik, the Varangian.  Here they found no form of centralized government, but local tribes.  Polyany, Siveriany, Ulychi, Derevlany, Duliby and others.  They liked the country.  Who wouldn't?  It was, and is a beautiful land.  They settled with their followers, and united the different tribes, forming a government.  This was the beginning of "Our Ukraine."

Look at the map again.  See how close we are to Constantinople, present day Istanbul.   Our forefathers traded with the Greeks.  There was a colony of Greeks on the shores of the BLACK SEA, so naturally we would receive missionaries from the Greek Patriarch of Constantinople.  The Church in the world was then ONE.  There was no break between Catholic and Orthodox.  There were no Protestants in the world as yet (they came about 500 years later).

Around the year 860, two blood brothers, Cyril and Methodius, left the monastery in Greece to preach Christianity among the Slavic people.  These brothers created for us an alphabet called the CYRILLIC alphabet, after the name of one of the brothers, St. Cyril, which we use to this day.  They also translated the Bible and the Holy Mass into Slavonic, as the language was called.  They set out to Rome, to obtain permission from Pope Adrian II to say the Mass in the language they had translated.  This was necessary, as the Pope was head of the Church.  Pope Adrian II approved it and our Slavonic Mass or Ukrainian Liturgy was celebrated in Rome.  Cyril remained in Rome, in a monastery, where he died and was buried in 855.  Methodius returned to continue his work amongst the Slavic people.  When Volodymyr the Great became ruler of Ukraine, he decided to make Christianity the State Religion.  His grandmother, Olga, was already a Christian as were many of his followers, since they traded with the Greeks, but as yet it was not the official religion of Ukraine.  He decreed that the citizens of his capital city should be publicly baptized in the river Dnipro in his presence, his family and the Greek Clergy.  Remember, as yet, there was only "One Church."  The religious break between east and west, between the Catholics and Orthodox had not taken place.

     There was always political rivalry between the East and West, between Constantinople and Rome.   This naturally seeped into the church, whose rulers were Romans in the West and Greeks in the East.  Politics always did create problems for the Church.  The early heresies (heresy is the twisting of the Word of God and the teaching of doctrines, not as taught by the Church) almost all originated in the East Arianism, Macedonianism, Monophysites, Monothelites, Iconoclasts to name some of the important ones.  They all originated in finding support with the Imperial government.  This all prepared the way for the break that was to take place between East and West in 1054.  It was inevitable.  The Church called all the Bishops of the world to General Ecumenical Councils to condemn the heresies.  The councils were called in the East, because this is where all the heresies arose, and so they could be condemned on the spot.  The Holy Father always presided through his delegate.

THE BREAK

Now came the great quarrel, that would separate the East from the West, the Catholics from the Orthodox.  True to form, politically motivated, the quarrel arose in the East.   The full break finally came in 1054.  The disputes over the Procession of the Holy Spirit, the Supremacy of the Pope and many insignificant reasons were excuses for the break, so the East could be completely independent of Rome.  When the break did take effect, the Greeks did not throw out any of the teachings of the Church as did the Protestants some 500 years later.  The Orthodox have all the Sacraments, the Sacred Liturgy (the Mass), and Holy Orders.  Their priests and bishops are true priests and true bishops, only not in union with Rome.  When Pope Paul VI met the Patriarch of Constantinople Athenagoras in the Holy Land on January 5, 1964, they embraced and called each other "brothers," which led to the lifting of the excommunications imposed upon each other a thousand years before.  The division brought great hurt and bitterness, both to the Christians of that time and to the followers of Christ in the years after, right up to our day.  They realized that the break was more political than religious.  That is why Pope John XXIII at the Vatican II Council calls out "We do not intend to conduct a trial of the past.  We do not want to prove who was right or who was wrong.  All we want is to say 'Let us come together.   Let us make an end to our Divisions.' "

UKRAINE AT THE BREAK

This Schism had little effect on Ukrainians at first, but since we were so close to Greece and so far from Rome, it is only natural that the Greeks would pull us over to their side, but the break did not take place for some time.  It was not until 1169, when the Prince of Moscow, Andrew Boholubskey, conquered and destroyed the City of Kiev, that Ukrainians were slowly compelled to accept the jurisdiction (authority) of the Byzantine Patriarchs.   What shall I compare all this to?  For example, when our Ukrainian Catholic Church was banned in the Soviet Union, all our priests were put out of their churches and replaced with Orthodox Clergy, by Russia.  Contact between Ukrainian people and Rome was impossible . . . The people attended the Orthodox services as there were no Catholic services permissible.  Slowly the pressure was on to withdraw them from their Catholic faith into Orthodoxy . . . so was it then.

WE HAVE A KING

PRINCE DANYLO ruled Ukraine during the great Tartar Invasion.  The Mongols were victorious at the battle at the Kalka River in 1224 and now they were ready to advance on central Europe.  Ukraine was in their path.  Pope Innocent IV, to strengthen Prince Danylo's hand amongst the Western rulers in the year 1253, crowned him KING.  This was the first King we had.  So we see that our ties were still with Rome.  But with the conquering Turks, came the full break with the West.

OUR RETURN TO THE CATHOLIC FOLD

To restore the church as it was before the break, in the year 1439, in Florence, Italy, the General Ecumenical Council of all bishops was called.  At this council, even the Greek Patriarch, Joseph was in attendance.  The Ukrainians were represented by our Metropolitan, Isadore of Kiev.  This union did not last long, for the Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453, and the break was renewed.  It was not until 1596, at a Council Meeting at Brest-Litovsk, that the Union, the Return of Ukrainians to the Catholic Church, was realized.  The Bishops of Ukraine met in session.  Michael Rahoza, Metropolitan of Kiev; Ipatij Potij, Bishop of Volodymyr; Cyril Terletsky, Bishop of Lutsk; Dionisius Zbirujsky, Bishop of Cholm; Leonti Pelchynsky, Bishop of Pinsk; Gideon Balaban, Bishop of L'viv; concluded the return to the union with Rome and it was ratified by Pope Clement VIII.  This act confirmed all the rights the Ukrainian Church had enjoyed until that time, with full autonomy in the governing of their churches as they see fit under the jurisdiction of Rome.  Very often we are called Uniates, meaning reuniting, returning to the fold of St. Peter.

MARTYR FOR THE FAITH

At this Synod of Reunion, virtually all the Bishops of Ukraine and Byelorussia, made a profession of faith and became Catholic Bishops.  This left the Orthodox in Ukraine without Bishops.  The Orthodox Patriarch then consecrated several Bishops for the Orthodox Church placing them in the same cities as those held by the Ukrainian Catholic Bishops.

There is an old saying amongst the early Christians ". . . the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians."  A great leader at this reunion with Rome was a priest, Josephat Kuncevych, of the order of St. Basil.  One of the newly consecrated Orthodox Bishops was Meletyj Smotrycky.  He was a gifted speaker and a good writer.   He began a campaign of propaganda and agitation against the Ukrainian Catholic Bishop, Josephat.  Meletyj Smotrycky managed to arouse and incite people against Josephat to the point that on November 12, 1623, a frenzied and mindless mob broke into the archbishop's residence in Vitebsk.  The mob pounced on Josephat with sticks and clubs.  One of the attackers struck him on the head with an axe.  The Holy Bishop fell to the ground.  They heightened their sacrilege by dragging the blood covered body through the streets of the town, and finally they threw the body into the River Dvina.  Many miracles were made through his intercession.  His body lies in the great Basilica of St. Peter, in Rome, very close to the Main Altar, under which lies the body of St. Peter, the Apostle, who also laid down his life for the flock, left in his charge by Our Blessed Lord.

Meletyj Smotrycky was never at peace with himself . . . as St. Paul the apostle, who first persecuted the Christians with the greatest of hate, holding the coats of those that stoned St. Stephen and became one of the greatest missionaries for Christ, so Meletyj Smotrycky, first an ardent fighter against the Union, converts after the death of Josephat, and through his prayers, became one of the greatest protagonists of the Union of the Ukrainian Church with the See of Peter.

Again politics enters the picture.  Western Ukraine, Halychyna, where our ancestors come from, by returning to the Catholic church was true to the Church of their forefathers.   Eastern Ukraine, under the influence of Russia, remained separate from Rome.

Let us recall the words of Pope Benedict XV on May 1, 1917, by his "Motu Proprio Dei Providentis."  He wrote "The Church of Jesus Christ, since she is neither Latin nor Greek nor Slav but Catholic, makes no distinction between her children, and these, whether they are Greeks, Latins, Slavs or members of other national groups, all occupy the same rank in the eyes of the Apostolic See."

THESE ARE YOUR ROOTS UKRAINIANS - CATHOLICS

At the end of the 19th-century and the beginning of the 20th-century, our forefathers came to the United States and Canada.   There was poverty in Ukraine.  They came in search of a better life, not so much for themselves, as for their children.  They were hard workers.  Their faith gave them hope.  God smiled upon them, and blessed them, and turned hard times and evil into good.  Their children soon took over very important positions in every facet of life in the new world.  We have from our race, Governors and Lieutenant Governors, Senators, Judges, Lawyers, Doctors, successful businessmen, etc.  Did you ever think what would have awaited you if your ancestors had not emigrated to the new world?  What would have been your fate?  Where would you have been under Soviet domination?  In the new world we have Bishops and Priests and Sisters . . . all dedicated to to the spreading of Christ's Kingdom of Heaven.

Our Holy Father Pope John Paul II, in the message to Ukrainian Catholics on October 4, 1979, given in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania said, "I welcome the occasion to assure you, as universal pastor of the Church that all who have inherited the Ukrainian tradition have an important and distinguished part to fulfill in the Catholic Church."  Let each and every one of us apply these words to ourselves.  We have so much to be grateful for: just to be alive, a living intellectual being; to be an adopted child of God; to belong to the Kingdom of God, which has its beginnings in His Church on earth; to be Americans living in this great land of freedom.  We have so much to be thankful for.  We still can and must play an important roll in the history of our Church, which has produced many martyrs.

A SPECIAL APPEAL TO OUR YOUTH

What have you done for our people?   Ever think of becoming a Priest or a Nun and work for the eternal good of our Ukrainian People?  I am sure God is calling many of you - do not turn a deaf ear to His call.  As a priest or nun it is just a wonderful, satisfying feeling to see hundreds of young people coming to you for guidance, for comfort.  It is just grand to see their beautiful smiles and the thankful souls you have helped by bringing them the Good News of the Lord.  God may be calling you.  If so, hear His Call.  You will never find anything more rewarding, or a happier life, even in this world, than working for Our Lord, amongst your people, the "Ukrainian Children of God."

Msgr. V. J. Bozyk
489 Winterton Ave.
Winnepeg, Manitoba
R2K 1K5


THE POPE SPEAKS TO UKRAINIANS

On September 16, 1984, Pope John Paul II met with the Ukrainian Catholic community in Saints Vladimir and Olga Cathedral, and delivered this address:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I greet you as a fellow Slav, sharing to a large degree in your spirit and heritage.  I am especially happy to be with you as we draw near to the celebration of the First Millennium of Christianity in Ukraine.  In you I embrace in the charity of Christ all the people of your homeland, together with their history, culture, and the heroism with which they have lived their faith.

As Ukrainian Byzantine Catholics, you have inherited a great spiritual tradition, extending back a thousand years to the time of Saint Olga and her grandson Saint Vladimir.  Who could have known then, how that faith would grow so organically with your culture, and how it would have such a major impact on your history as it brought the grace of the Redemption into the lives of your ancestors?

Events of every time and place are directed by the loving plan of God, for God is the Lord of history.  In a special way God's Providence has guided your development in Canada.  When Ukrainian immigrants first came to this land, they brought with them a strong Catholic faith and a firm attachment to their religious and cultural traditions.  They placed a high priority on the construction of their churches and schools, desiring to preserve this precious heritage and pass it on to their children.  They sank deep roots into Canadian soil and quickly became productive and loyal citizens.

Our meeting today, taking place as it does on the threshold of the solemn celebration of the Millennium of Christianity in Kiev and the entire Ukraine, carries our minds and hearts back through the centuries of your glorious history of faith.   We feel deep gratitude to God, in a special way, for the grace of fidelity to the Catholic Church and loyalty to the Successor of Saint Peter which was bestowed on your forebears.

I join you in thanking God for the many institutions and traditions which aid and strengthen the bonds of your families, which are the foundation of the Church and society.  May you always preserve with fitting pride the heritage of faith and culture which is yours.  I place this intention, together with all your prayers, before the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Queen of Ukraine, asking her to protect you with her motherly love and lead you ever closer to her divine Son, Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world.

SLAVA ISUSU CHRYSTU!