Christ is Risen!
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!
Today is 1 June 2022 and the Ukrainian people are already experiencing 98 days of the great and bloody war that Russia is waging against the Ukrainian state. And we thank the Lord God, we thank our Armed Forces of Ukraine, for surviving this morning and so that we can see this light of day.
Ukraine is burning. Ukraine is on fire. The heaviest fighting is taking place in the Luhansk region, but bloody clashes are taking place along the entire front line. According to the military, the war in the east is entering a stage of greatest intensity.
But Ukraine is standing. Ukraine is fighting.
Today, when the whole world is commemorating International Children’s Day, we must state with sadness that almost 700 Ukrainian children, according to official statistics alone, became victims of this war. They were either killed or wounded. But I don’t think anyone knows how many children are victims of Russian aggression today. Because it is the children who are the first vulnerable victims of any war. They are the first refugees, the first wounded, those who, instead of going to school, have to share the fate of refugees and the first to suffer mentally and physically from war.
But we pray. We pray and therefore feel that the Lord God is with us. He saves His children, it is He to Whom we entrust this care of the children of Ukraine.
Today I would like to reflect with you on the third of the theological virtues. A virtue which is inherently the pinnacle of all human perfection. The virtue that makes the human person the most similar to God and is this spark of divinity in the human being. And this virtue is the virtue of love. “God is love and he who abides in love abides in God” (1 John 4:16), says Saint John the Theologian.
Although today the word “love” is so devalued, the real meaning of this word has been so destroyed, that we sometimes do not understand what it means to love. Therefore, the virtue of love should be distinguished from the feeling of liking some wish of ours, a desire, something that we like, something that is dear to us, something that is the subject of our longing. Love, divine love, is complete self-sacrifice, complete self-giving for the sake of the one I love. This is the divine love with which God loves us all, and the fullest manifestation of the content of this divine love that leads to sacrifice are the words, once again of the Saviour Himself: “ For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Therefore, the revelation, the full revelation of our God in Whom we believe, is the God of sacrificial love we have on the Cross. When our Saviour dies, He gives His spirit into the hands of the Father and says, “It is finished!”
A person who has received the gift of divine love from God is living eternal life. It is love that is the pinnacle of all human perfection. The Apostle Paul says, “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1). Love is that divine power which is given to us by the Holy Spirit, the spirit of God’s love, and helps us not only to carry out but also to fulfill the whole law of God. Because God wants us to love Him, not fear Him. That is why the Lord God says to all of us: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength, with all your mind, … and your neighbour as yourself. In those two commandments of love we have the fulfillment of all the law and all the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40). It seems so strange to us that true love leads to self-sacrifice and self-giving.
It seems to us that when we sacrifice ourselves for another, we die. But the truth is that love is a life-giving force, a force that gives life. When we give ourselves, then we truly live, we live eternal life. As the very same Apostle Paul says, “Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8).
Our people, spontaneously looking into the sacrificial love of their sons and daughters who give their lives for the homeland, say: “Heroes do not die!” And this is true. For he who gives himself in love for the homeland, for his relatives and friends, fulfills the words of Christ, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
And today we ask the Lord God in the midst of a sea of hatred, a sea of evil that the enemy is pouring out on our land in this war, we ask the Lord God for the power of His divine love, which can endure everything. For only he who loves can be truly wise, courageous, just, and restrained. We ask the Lord God to teach us to love. Because love gives birth to heroes, and hatred gives birth to criminals.
O God, give us Your Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Your Divine Love, Whose descent we await! O God, by the power of Your divine love, give us the power of victory, victory over evil, over the enemy, because You said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13; Hosea 6:6). O God, You who gave Yourself for us, teach us to love as You love! And bless Ukraine with Your divine peace full of love.
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.
Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!