Glory to Jesus Christ!
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!
Today is Tuesday 19 April 2022 and the Ukrainian people are already experiencing 55 days of nationwide resistance to the deadly Russian aggression against the Ukrainian state.
Last night, in particular, this day, we saw a sharp increase in the aggressive actions of the occupiers. The President of Ukraine and the military leadership are talking about the beginning of a new offensive by Russian troops, particularly in eastern Ukraine. Fighting has intensified. The number of weapons used these days is simply unmatched in the last decades since World War II. Missile attacks on the cities and villages of our homeland continue, which the world has already called “missile terrorism.” Russian rockets fell on Mykolayiv, Kharkiv, on other cities and villages of Ukraine. But the city of Lviv was also hit by rockets yesterday, killing at least seven people and injuring many, including a small child, a refugee and a boy from Kharkiv.
But Ukraine is fighting! Ukraine is standing! We are able to talk to you today, thanks to the heroic efforts of the Ukrainian army. It is to our Armed Forces that we owe our ability to see this morning from God. And we can send up our morning prayers to Our Lord and Saviour.
Ukraine has entered Holy Week. Today is Holy Tuesday and the Liturgy of the Church, in accordance with the Byzantine Rite, directs our attention to the theme of “vigilance”. These days we sing an ancient hymn that says, “Behold, the Bridegroom comes at midnight, and blessed is the servant whom He shall find watching.” This means that the Church calls us to be vigilant.
And what does it mean to be vigilant, to keep watch? To watch means to be like a watchman or a military guard who stands guard. He who keeps vigil does so in order that the enemy will not suddenly catch us asleep. In its spiritual sense, to keep vigil means to expect an encounter, to be ready to meet, in particular, our Saviour, Who is going to His voluntarily Passion. These days we need to check how ready we are for the Feast of Pascha. To what extent our attention, our mind, our heart, our will, and even our soul and body are ready to meet the Risen Christ.
To be keep watch these days is to be vigilant in prayer. It means being vigilant in our relationship with the Lord God. And also, to watch over our relationships with our neighbours, in whose person the Lord and Saviour Himself comes to us today.
These days of vigil, days of prayer, days of waiting, reflect the early Christian understanding of Pascha as the moment when the first Christians awaited the Second and Glorious Coming of Jesus Christ and the end of world history. Who knows—maybe this Pascha, we will sing “Christ is risen!” with you for the last time. And so, if we are preparing for the Feast of Pascha as if for the last time, let us be vigilant and vigilant. To watch means to be vigilant regarding the purity of your heart. Whoever has not yet approached Holy Confession or received Communion, hurry to the Holy Sacraments. For blessed is the servant, whom the Lord will find watchful. But unworthy is the one he will find sleeping.
So, in this tragic and heroic moment of Ukraine, let us not sleep, let us not give up, let us keep watch! In the days when the war is escalating, when the enemy has intensified its offensive on Ukraine, I call on everyone to attentive and unceasing prayer, to prayers for the Ukrainian army, because today the future is being decided—the fate of Ukraine and the fate of the world.
I call on this nationwide vigil and prayer of all those who hear me today in Ukraine and abroad. I thank all those who will keep vigil together with Ukraine today in different parts of the world, from different churches, from different nations.
O God, save our Ukrainian people! O God, come Yourself and save us! Support those who suffer for Your truth and believe in Your glorious Resurrection on the third day.
May the blessing of the Lord be upon you through His grace and love of humankind, always, now and ever, and for ages of ages. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ!