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Camp St. Volodymyr will be celebrating its 30th anniversary. We have been enriching campers in their Ukrainian Catholic Faith and Culture since 1983. Located in Kelowna campers spend a week participat...
Would you like to have your business card in our parish bulletin? One business card size advertisement $20.00 per month or prepaid for one year for $220.00. See Fr. Yuriy for details....
His Beatitude our Patriarch Sviatoslav has invited the faithful of the Ukrainian Catholic Church to make a pilgrimage to Kyiv in 2013 to celebrate the 1,025th anniversary of the baptism of Kyivian-Rus...
In the year 2010, the number of Catholics increased by 15 million. The total number is more than 1.9 billion people. The increase was seen on every continent but especially in Africa, which saw the mo...
A Ukrainian Heritage Program that creates a social community for both children and parents with an established: Catechism Program Ukrainian School Singing Classes are held at Eucharist Ukrainian Cathe...
On February 8-9, 2012, in Lviv-Briukhovychi, the 56тг session of the Synod of Bishops of the Kyiv-Halych Supreme Archbishopric of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was held. The Synod was preceded...
“Christian iconography, and foremost the possibility to represent Christ, is based on the fact of the Incarnation. Just like the theologian expresses the living Truth in words by means of his thought process, the iconographer expresses the living Truth, the Revelation of the Tradition of the Church by means of his art. Consequently, the sacred art of icons cannot be some arbitrary creation of artists. Better than any other sacred image, the icon of Christ ” not made by the hand of man” expresses the dogmatic principle of iconography. That’s why the 7th Synod (787) gives it very special attention. And to commemorate the definitive triumph of the holy images, this icon of Christ is venerated the day of “Orthodoxy”. (Daniel Rousseau, L’Icône, Splendeur de Ton Visage, Desclée de Brouwer, Paris, 1982, pp. 232-233.)
In the city of Nazareth, there lived an elderly, God-fearing couple, Joachim, from the house of David, and Anna. They grieved greatly because they were childless, but they never lost hope and prayed continually that God may grant them a child. They promised God that they would dedicate that child to the service of God. For their patience, their faith and love of God, their prayers were heard and a daughter was born to them in their old age. An angel directed them to name the child Mary, which in Hebrew means “lady and hope.” The one who was to be the Mother of God was born into a righteous family, known more throughout the generations for its goodness than for its royal blood. The importance of this feast, the first in the Church calendar year is that is was the first step in preparing mankind for its promised salvation.
The icon shows St. Anna half lying on the bed, surrounded by servants getting ready to wash the newly born infant. The Holy Virgin is generally in swaddling clothes with a midwife nearby. St Joachim is shown standing.
The Feast of the Exaltation is in honor of the Cross of Christ. In remembrance of the suffering and death of Christ on the Cross, the day is one of strict fasting. The origin of this feast is found in the reign of Constantine the Great (fourth century), who erected the Church of the Resurrection on the sites where the Tomb and Golgotha were. However, in the beginning of the second century, Emperor Hadrian, who was against both Judaism and Christianity, decided to destroy traces of both religions by leveling Golgotha, filling in the Tomb and building a temple to Venus in its place. When the Emperor Constantine proclaimed Christianity as a free religion, he, at the urging of his mother, St. Helen, ordered the pagan temple to be destroyed and excavation on this holy site to be begun. Layer after layer were removed and then the excavators came across three crosses. Only after miracles occurred at one cross, such as the healing of a sick woman and the resurrection of one who was dead, did it become known which of the three was the True Cross. Then crowds of people flocked to the place wishing to bow before the Life-giving Cross and started begging the Patriarch to raise it so all could see. The Patriarch stood on an elevated place and raised the Cross, and from this action comes the name for the feast.
St. Macarius of Jerusalem is shown standing on an ambo holding the true Cross of Christ. He is supported on either side by sub-deacons. St. Helen is shown near a cave at the foot of Golgotha before the three crosses that she had just discovered.
Joachim and Anna did not forget their promise to dedicate their child to the service of God. When Mary was three years old they brought her to the Temple. Young girls, friends and relatives with lighted tapers formed a procession and conducted her to the steps of the Temple. There the child Mary all by herself walked up to the very top of the stairs where she was met by the High Priest Zacharias, as he had met other children dedicated to the service of God. Moved by the Holy Spirit, the High Priest led Mary into the Holy of Holies of the Temple, where he himself was allowed to enter but once a year. Thus, the child Mary was dedicated to a higher service and a higher calling than any other child. After her dedication she remained in the Temple for twelve years, praying and fasting. This holy day serves to remind parents that children are given to us by God, and that we as parents must remember that it is our duty to bring them up according to God’s commandments – that is to love and obey Him.
Behind the Holy Virgin in the center, St Joachim and St. Anna advance towards the priest Zacharias, present their Daughter to him.
The story of the birth of our Savior according to St. Luke begins thus: “It came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, who was great with child” (Luke 2:1-15).
And though the Christ child was born in a manger in humble circumstance, the joyful tidings of His birth became known to the poor shepherds in a nearby field and to eastern wise men in far off lands. To the shepherds the angel said: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord . . . And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men’” (Luke 2: 10-11,13-14).
In the icon, the Mother of God is shown lying down showing in her posture as being tired which should remind those who pray of the undoubtedly human nature of the Babe. Around the central group – the Divine Child and His Mother – are grouped all the details which testify to the Incarnation itself and to its effect upon the whole world. The angels perform a two-fold service. They glorify and they bring good tidings. The man playing the reed-pipe is listening to the angel’s message, thus adding human art – music – to the angel’s choir. In the bottom corner of the icon, two women – midwives – are washing the Child. This shows that the Child is like any other new-born babe and is subject to the natural requirements of human nature. In the opposite corner is Joseph, who is not part of the central group of the Child and His Mother; he is not the father and is thus emphatically separated from this group. Before him under the guise of an old and bent shepherd is the devil tempting him. On the left side of the icon and in the upper corner are the wise men led by a star with gifts. The ray of the star points directly to the cave. This connects the star with part of the sphere, which goes beyond the limits of the icon – a symbolic representation of the heavenly world.
When Christ attained the age of thirty, His time to preach had come, and He appeared to the people for the first time at the Jordan, where John the Forerunner had been heralding the coming of the Messiah. He preached baptism and repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Crowds of people came to John from everywhere, and many began to wonder if he was the promised Messiah, but he told them; “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” “Then came Jesus from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by You, and are you coming to me?’ And Jesus answered said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he allowed it. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water. And behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly, a voice came from Heaven, saying, “THIS IS MY BELOVED SON, IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED’” (Matt. 3:11-16)
In accordance with the Gospel text, in the upper part of the icon, there is a segment of a circle symbolizing the opening heavens. This segment of a circle signifies the presence of God. Above the Savior are rays of light with the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove. The choirs of angels take part in the holy ritual. St. John the Forerunner officiates the baptism, placing his right hand on the head of the Savior.
According to the Law of Moses, every firstborn male was to be brought to the temple to be dedicated to God on the fortieth day after birth. At that time a sacrifice of thanksgiving was also to be brought. The Holy Mother of God followed this law, even though she knew that the Child was the Son of God. Thus Joseph and Mary brought the Child Jesus into the temple on the fortieth day along with a humble sacrifice of two young pigeons. Led by the Holy Spirit into the temple on the day that the holy family brought the Child Jesus to fulfill the law, Simeon, a just and devout man who had once been promised by an angel of the Lord that he would not see death before seeing the Messiah born of the Virgin, took the Child into his arms and blessed God by saying: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to lighten the gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32). Anna, the prophetess was also there. She is the one holding the open scroll that signifies her as a prophetess.
When Mary became of age, according to Hebrew custom of the time, she could no longer stay at the Temple, but had to either return to her parents or marry. Since Joachim and Anna had died, and Mary had proclaimed her vow of celibacy to the High Priest, it was decided to betroth her to an elderly distant relative who would protect and care for her. She, therefore, went to live in Nazareth with the elderly Joseph, who was a carpenter. Here, according to tradition, while Mary was reading from the prophet Isaiah about the birth of a Messiah to a virgin, the angel Gabriel appeared to her. “And the angel came in unto her and said, ‘Hail, thou who art highly favored, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.’ And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying and cast about in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said to her, ‘fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a Son, and shalt call His name JESUS. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and his Kingdom there shall be no end.’ Then said Mary to the angel, ‘How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?’ And the angel answered and said unto her, ‘The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. Therefore also that Holy Being who shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.’ … And Mary said, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it unto me according to thy word.” And the angel departed from her” (Luke 1: 28-38).
The descending ray from Heaven symbolizes the action of the Holy Spirit. The Mother of God is consenting, shown by the bowing of her head. She presses her right palm against her breast as a gesture of acceptance, which has decided the fate of the world.
Many in Jerusalem found out that Jesus, the one who had resurrected Lazarus – who had been dead four days – was nearing. “And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way, and others cut down branches from the trees and strewed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and followed, cried out, saying ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’ And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the multitude said, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.’ And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all those who sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers and seats of those who sold doves, and said unto them, ‘It is written, “My house shall be called the house of prayer,” but ye have made it into a den for thieves’.
In the next days Jesus Christ taught in the temple. He spent the nights outside the city. The chief priests, the teachers of the Law, and the elders of the people looked for an opportunity to kill Him, but they could not because all the people were around Him listening to His teachings.
The icon of the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem is usually distinguished by a triumphal and festive quality. The group of Apostles and welcoming crowd each welded into one collective figure, with the majestic Savior between them, give the composition a strict equilibrium. Children are welcoming the Savior with palm branches in their hands and the spreading of their garments before Him. For it is the children who welcomed Him with no ulterior motive, with no thought or gain or earthly power.
The Feasts of feasts, the Triumphs of triumphs, Pascha (“Passover”) is the essence of our faith and the center of the liturgical year; for Christ rose from the dead, as we will rise from the dead. Pascha is expressed in the victorious hymn: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.”
The guards had sealed the tomb and had posted a watch. Suddenly the earth shook and our Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead by the power of His own divinity. Early in the morning, Mary Magdalene and other pious women hurried to the tomb to anoint the body of Christ. When they arrived there, they found the stone had been moved away and the tomb was empty. They ran to get the Apostles Peter and John. The rest of the myrrh-bearing women came to the grave and went inside. Instead of the Lord, they found two men in bright shining clothes who said to them: “Why seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.”
In the icon, Christ is depicted with a radiant halo. The darkness of Hell is filled by the light of the Divine rays. The Savior tramples under foot the two crossed leaves of Hell’s doors that He pulled down. Below the doors in the black abyss is seen the cast down figure of Satan. Christ is shown freeing Adam and Eve’s souls. To the right and left are the Old Testament saints with the prophets at their head. Seeing the Savior descending into hell, they at once recognize Him and are pointing out to others Him of Whom they had prophesied and Whose coming they foretold. The spiritual raising of Adam is a symbol of the coming resurrection of the body, the first fruit of which was the Resurrection of Christ. The scattered keys and nails in the abyss represent the power of hell that has been destroyed.
This great event, with which Jesus’ life on earth concludes, is briefly mentioned in the Gospels of Mark and Luke. But in the Acts of the Apostles there is a fuller account. Gathering His disciples, Jesus commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to await what had been promised by the Father, that is the descent of the Holy Spirit. John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now … You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” Acts 1:5, 8).
Saying this He went with His disciples to Bethany and stopped on the Mount of Olives. “Now when he had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who is taken up from you into Heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into Heaven’” (Acts 1:9-11).
According to the Holy Scriptures (Acts 1, 12), the Ascension of our Lord took place on the Mount of Olives. Therefore, in the icon, the action takes place either at the summit of the mountain or in a hilly landscape. Some olive trees are depicted to designate the Mount of Olives. The Savior Himself is represented as ascending in glory. His Glory is represented as a mandorla, or oval or round composed of several concentric circles, the symbol of the high heavens. In the foreground, with the Mother of God in the center, there are two groups of apostles and two angels who are messengers of Divine Providence.
The beginning of the history of the Church is the feast of Pentecost of 30 AD. On the tenth day after the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ, His disciples, His Mother, some other holy women and some of those Jews who came to believe in Him were gathered in a home on mount Zion. As was usual, they were spending their time in prayer and in awaiting the promised Holy Spirit, when all of a sudden there was a noise from heaven as of rushing wind that filled the whole house where they were. And there appeared tongues of fire that spread out and rested on each person. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to converse in other languages. There were many in Jerusalem from different lands because of the Jewish feast that commemorated the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. They were all amazed as they heard the disciples preach the word of God in their own tongues. On that day about three thousand people were baptized in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Such was the beginning of the spreading of the Gospel, that through the apostles and their disciples it first spread throughout Judea, and then throughout the world.
The twelve Apostles, together forming a definite figure – a semicircle – are a beautiful expression of the unity of the body of the Church. Some (the Evangelists) hold books in their hands, others scrolls, as a sign of their having received the gift of teaching. Out of the segment of the circle, the goes beyond the edge of the panel, symbolizes heaven, there descend upon them twelve rays or tongues of fire, as a sign of baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire and a sign too of their sanctification. The multitude, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, is represented at the bottom of the composition. This is a symbolical figure of a King, personifying the people.
To strengthen their faith for the time when they would see Him suffering and to take their minds off earthly thoughts, Jesus Christ showed His disciples His Divine glory. Not long before His suffering, Jesus took three of His disciples – Peter, James, and John – and led them up a high mountain, Tabor, to pray. Walking a little distance from them, He began to pray while the exhausted disciples fell asleep. When they awoke, they saw their Teacher transfigured; His face shone like the sun, and His clothing was white as snow and glittering like light. And standing with Jesus were two prophets – Moses and Elijah – who appeared in their heavenly glory to talk with Jesus about how He would soon fulfill God’s purpose by suffering and dying in Jerusalem. And behold a voice out of a bright cloud said, “THIS IS MY BELOVED SON IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED. HEAR YE HIM! The disciples fell to the ground in fear. Jesus came near them, touched them and said: “Arise, do not be afraid.” The disciples arose and saw Jesus as He always was. When they were descending form the mountain, Jesus commanded them not to speak of what they had seen until He had risen from the dead.
Christ transfigured is represented standing on the summit of the mountain, speaking with Moses and Elijah. His raiment is shining white. The geometrical figure inscribed in the circle of the mandorla must represent the “bright cloud” which revealed the transcendent source of the Divine energies. St. Peter is always shown as kneeling, supported on his left hand, and raising his right hand to protect himself from the light. St. John (always in the center) falls, turning his back to the light. St. James flees before the light or falls backwards.
The feast of the Dormition is the last great feast in the Church calendar year. It is preceded by a two week fast. The glorious lot of the Ever Blessed Virgin in the role of God’s salvation of the world made all her life wonderful and exemplary.
After the Crucifixion of Christ, the Mother of God was taken to live in the house of her adopted son, the Apostle John. Tradition notes that even after the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles, the Mother of God remained in Jerusalem, visiting those places where the Savior of the world preached, suffered and died. She did not want to leave the country that was dear and holy to her. When Caesar Herod Agrippa began to persecute the Church, both the pagans and the Jews, indignant at the respect the Mother of God was receiving from the Christians, wanted to kill her. It was during this time that she traveled with Apostle John to Ephesus. Church tradition has this as the time of her visit to Cyprus to Bishop Lazarus, who had been raised from the dead after four days, and to the Mount Athos. When the persecution ended, the Mother of God returned to Apostle John’s house at Zion in Jerusalem.
Once when she went to the Mount of Olives to pray, Archangel Gabriel appeared and spoke of her approaching death. Upon returning home, she told Apostle John all that the Archangel spoke of and started preparing herself for her final day on earth. Friends and relatives gathered, and eleven of the apostles were miraculously transported from various parts of the world to her deathbed. They were all amazed seeing each other there. When the Apostle John explained that the Mother of God would soon be departing this world they understood why God had brought them together, and they became sad. But she comforted them saying: “Do not cry and darken my happiness with your sadness. I am going to my Son and your God, and you will bury my body and return each to your work.” As the time of her death neared the room shone with a divine light, the roof disappeared, and a wondrous sight appeared before all. The Lord Jesus Christ descended from heaven surrounded by many angels. All looked upon this wondrous sight with awe and reverence, and when they approached her bed, the holy body of the Mother of God was radiant and a smell of incense pervaded the room.
The apostles carried the body of the Mother of God through the city to Gethsemane to be buried at her request in the tomb of her family and Joseph. They buried her body, closed the tomb with a stone and remained there at the site in prayer for three days. On the third day Apostle Thomas arrived and was very saddened he had been unable to take his leave of her when she had been alive. To make him feel better, the other apostles rolled away the stone to let him pay his respects to the body. But on entering the tomb, they found that the body was not there – only the winding sheet remained. They returned home to partake of a communal meal at which they always left a place for the Resurrected Lord. After the meal, they raised the bread left for Christ aloft and exclaimed “Lord, Jesus Christ, help us.” And they heard a choir of angels, and when they looked up they saw the holy Ever-Virgin surrounded by angels. She hailed them, saying: “Rejoice, for I am always with you.” Then the apostles were filled with joy, and instead of using the usual words, they exclaimed “Most holy Theotokos, help us.” And now they understood and believed that upon the third day after her Dormition, the Mother of God had been resurrected.
Thus, the Dormition of the Mother of God is not a sad event, but a joyous one. Her death is but a short sleep, after which follows her resurrection and ascension to heaven.
From the very beginning, the Church saw in the Mother of God one who would pray for all of humankind. She is the haven of the mothers of the world. She teaches how to live in total faithfulness to the will of God. She, who kept in her heart the divine words, is an example of faithfulness, love and service.
The Vyshhorod Mother of God
The amazing history of this icon begins in Constantinople (now Istanbul), capital of the Byzantine Empire, which reached its apogee under Emperor Justinian I (527-565).
Maintaining contacts and friendly relations with various countries and cities in order to extend their influence and the Christian religion, the Byzantine emperors sent Greek metropolitans, bishops, clerks, architects, painters, and craftsmen. It was from that empire that Kyiv Rus received a religious art developed over the preceding centuries and brought to perfection according to the standards of those days. In Kyiv, Byzantine architects and painters set up workshops and studios. Aided by Ukrainian pupils, they decorated several churches with mosaics and frescoes.
Icon painting quickly developed on a par with mosaics and frescoes. The Tithe Church, embellished with frescoes and icons brought from the Byzantine Empire was the first monumental religious structure in Kyivan Rus. Before long Kyiv craftsmen created their own system of artistic values, which would for many years outline the road of Ukrainian art, fostering the development of Ukrainian schools of art. One of their excellent icons, known as The Great Panagea, is attributed by researchers to the Kyiv school which is another evidence that in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Kyiv was the venue of icon painting in Rus. While we can still see some of the frescoes and mosaic fragments dating from that period (e.g., at St. Sophia’s Cathedral in Kyiv), very few early twelfth century icons made have survived the ravages of time.
In this sense the one portraying the Mother of God of Vyshhorod is lucky. Considered the most sacred icon of Kyiv Rus, having united thousands in one fraternal creed and love, it has reached our day, although losing its original appearance. The Orthodox Church dates it to the first century, claiming it was painted by the Apostle Luke, an unmatched painter of Her images.
In 1136, the icon was sent from Constantinople to Kyiv as a gift. Kyiv Prince Yuri Dolgoruky had it installed in Vyshhorod near Kyiv. Hence the icon’s current title.
At the time Vyshhorod was a favorite princely retreat as the rulers of Kyiv Rus could not but appreciate the scenery, and they could feel safe there. In addition, Vyshhorod was sought by pilgrims after the first Rus princes Borys and Hlib, treacherously killed by Sviatopolk the Accursed and later canonized, were buried there. However, the icon did not remain there long. Rus princes continued to fighting for the Kyiv throne. Sometimes several princes would rule the city within a single year, each claiming precedence in the Rurik dynasty. In 1156, Vladimir Suzdal Prince Andrei Bogoliubsky, son of Yuri Dolgoruky, raided Kyiv and destroyed part of the city, stealing the icon and taking it to his capital of Vladimir on Kliazma. Alas, this icon, like so many cultural values taken away from Ukraine by that prince’s descendants, will never return home.
In 1237, Suzdal, Vladimir, and Riazan were laid waste by Khan Batu Khan. The Mongols took with them the icon’s frame. 150 years later, the icon was again vandalized by Khan Toktamysh. In 1395, it was transferred to the Dormition Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin and later returned to Vladimir where it would stay for almost a century. In 1480, it was again taken to Moscow. In 1930, it turned up at the State History Museum, later at the Tretiakov Gallery. The icon is still there, called The Mother of God of Vladimir. In 1998, thousands of adherents could admire it and pray before it at the Dormition Cathedral on the day commemorating the Mother of God of Vladimir, a holiday instituted in 1480.
Painted on a lime board, the Vyshhorod Mother of God from Vyshhorod was originally sized 78 x 55 cm. Restoration records from 1918 testify that it was painted over several times, leaving intact only St. Mary’s and the Infant’s faces. Experts date the latter to the early twelfth century. One theory has it that Volyn-born Andrei Rubliov (creator of the famous Holy Trinity), was among the painters entrusted with restoration in the early fifteenth century. By Mykola NEKYHA, art critic.