Press office UGCC – Rome
His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk – Major Archbishop of Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church
Glory to Jesus Christ!
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!
Today is Saturday 23 April 2022 and Ukraine and the Ukrainian people are experiencing 59 days of nationwide resistance against Russia’s military invasion of our native Ukrainian land, of this war of Russia against the Ukrainian people and our state.
The last day and last night were very brutal in Ukraine. The enemy is attacking along the entire front line. All of eastern and southern Ukraine is on fire. They are relentlessly launching missile and bomb strikes on our cities and our villages. It seems that the enemy is hunting people. When it comes to the occupied territories, women and children are forcibly caught and taken to Russia. And men are forcibly mobilized into the Russian army and forced to fight against their homeland. Rivers of blood and a sea of tears! Ukraine’s suffering probably reaches heaven.
But today Ukraine is experiencing a special holy day, the day of the Great and Holy Saturday. In the spiritual and liturgical life, this day is a day of silence, when the King, our Lord and Saviour, rests in a grave. And in such a strange way He fulfills the law of Moses with regard to the Sabbath rest.
The tomb is sealed and a military guard stands beside it. Everything is quiet—in the sky, on the ground, and below the ground. The cry of the crowd, the clatter of weapons, the cries of the rulers, the lament of those who were crucified and killed. The Lord rests in the grave with His body. But His holy soul descended into the depths of the underworld, to the land of the dead, to Hades, in order to fill everything with Himself. Although the life-giving body rests in the grave, it has not parted with His divinity. Just like the soul of Christ, the bearer of God’s Light, the divine life today breaks the gates of Hades and conquers death. Christ descended to the land of the dead to fill everything with Himself, to give life to those in the tombs. Therefore, today’s icon is that of Christ’s descent into Hades. The moment of encounter with Christ, when Christ meets the dead, He takes the hand of our ancestors, our forefather Adam and our foremother Eve. He takes them out of the grave and brings them back to life.
On this holy day, today we especially think of and care for those who are really in hell, but here on earth. Today we especially think and pray for the Ukrainian cities and villages blocked by the occupiers. Today we ask: O Lord, there where we cannot come with our body to bring life-saving aid to our Ukrainian brothers and sisters, come Yourself, descend to the Azovstal underground in Mariupol. Save those women and children who are really in hell. They are waiting for Your liberating, life-giving hand.
Today we pray for the Ukrainian army, who see with their own eyes this deadly fire of Russian weapons, but cover Ukraine with their bodies. And thanks to them, our defenders, girls and boys, we see the morning of today. And at least for a moment, we can feel the mysterious silence of Holy Saturday in other parts of Ukraine.
O God, You Who voluntarily laid Yourself in the grave, arise with us! Bless Ukraine! Bless the Ukrainian land! Take all of us by the hand and lead our people and our homeland into Your victory, into Your resurrection!
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!