Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!
Today is the fifty-seventh day of this nationwide resistance to Russian military aggression in Ukraine. And you and I are celebrating a special day today, a special feast. Today, 21 April 2022, Ukraine is experiencing Holy Thursday. This is the day when our Lord God, Jesus Christ, sat down before His Passover for the Paschal Mystical Supper with His disciples and apostles. And this day of the Last Supper, the Mystical Supper, we consider a holy day, the day when the Lord revealed to man the depths of the Sacrament of His Divinity. He made us partakers of His divine life. And that participation in the divine life is given to the human person through the Holy Sacraments of the Church.
Today, on Holy Thursday, we commemorate the institution of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The Mystery of the Body and Blood of our Saviour, which He feeds man. The Eucharist, which is the antidote against death, gives us the opportunity to be partakers of His Body and Blood, for the remission of sins, and for eternal life.
Today, too, we celebrate the day of the institution of the Holy Sacrament of the New Testament priesthood. Jesus Christ shares the priesthood not of man, but of God Himself, the second person of God, with man. He bestows that great grace of the priestly ministry of the Son of God Himself to His apostles, and thus to their successors, the bishops, and thus this priesthood, this service of God to man, affects man in all times and all nations.
Today, the Divine Liturgy of this Holy Thursday is very special. Today, in the Patriarchal Sobor, we will consecrate antimensia, that is, altars on which the Sacrament of the Eucharist will be celebrated. Today, we will consecrate the holy and great Myron (chrism), which will travel from here, from Kyiv, from the heart of our Church, to all corners of Ukraine and the whole world, to bring with it the grace of the Holy Spirit, the sanctifying spiritual power that enlivens the Church every day, from year to year.
Today we will see a special church service performed only by the bishop on Holy Thursday, the washing only the feet of priests, according to our tradition. This is a special moment, the experience of this Mystical Supper, when Christ girded Himself with a towel and washed the feet of His disciples. And so, He showed perhaps the meaning, the way of priestly service of God in relation to man. God, who kneels before the human person as a servant. And he washes the person’s feet, he washes away their sins, heals their wounds.
On this Holy Thursday, I would like to thank our bishops, priests, monks, deacons, and seminarians who are preparing to become priests, especially today, for your service, for your zealous response to the vocation to the priesthood.
We see the special value of the priestly ministry, especially in times of war, where the priest of Christ is the first to save human life. He is the first to bows down to the wounds of modern man, over the wounds of Ukraine, over the wounds of our people during the war. It was our clergy who took on the greatest burden of this war, serving where there is the greatest need.
Today I especially want to thank the priests in the occupied territories. Priests who are with their people in the most active spots of hostilities. In particular, I thank our military chaplains for your service, who today, day by day, preach the Word of God beside our army where the drama of war unfolds.
Today I want to ask all our faithful, all our laity, our monastics. Thank your priests for their service. Say a good word to them today, greet them on this day, because they need to feel that their people love their priests. They are ready to give their lives for their sheep and they do it with hard work from day to day.
O God, bless Ukraine! O God, bless our Ukrainian army! O God, save our cities and villages that burned this night, from burning Kharkiv, Donbass, Mariupol, Kherson, Mykolayiv, and all those towns and villages where Your presence is waiting! O God, send priests, those workers for Your great harvest, which You have prepared today in this difficult time! O God, bless Ukraine!
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!