During Sunday rites, worshipers of the Orthodox Church in America are led through a tour of the music of faith, featuring hymns from Russia, Romania, Georgia, Bulgaria and beyond.
Devotees know many by heart, including the ancient Trisagion anthem – “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us” – in a haunting setting that for centuries was simply called “Kievan Chant” .
As Great Lent approaches, Archbishop Alexander Golitzin of the Diocese of Dallas and the South has asked parishes (including mine in East Tennessee) to add prayers for Ukraine to every divine liturgy:
“Once again we ask Your great mercy for our brothers and sisters who are currently involved in a conflict. Remove from them all enmity, confusion and hatred. Lead everyone on the path of reconciliation and peace.
OCA Metropolitan Tikhon, head of a church that began with Russian missionary work in 1794, urged that “hostilities cease immediately and that President Putin put an end to military operations. As Orthodox Christians, we condemn violence and aggression.
In Slavic Orthodox history, all roads lead to Kiev, now called Kiev in the West.
Orthodox leaders linked to the European Union and highly European Western Ukraine issued fierce statements after the Russian invasion. Metropolitan Epiphanius I of the Independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, launched in 2018 by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Istanbul, said “the spirit of the Antichrist operates in the head of Russia”.
However, it is significant that the leaders of many Orthodox churches with roots in Russian Orthodoxy also condemned the invasion and called for a ceasefire. The head of Ukraine’s oldest Orthodox body – one with centuries of ecclesiastical ties to Moscow – condemned the invasion in a statement addressed directly to Vladimir Putin.
“Defending the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine, we appeal to the President of Russia and ask him to immediately stop the fratricidal war,” said Metropolitan Onuphry, Primate of Kyiv and All Ukraine. “The Ukrainian and Russian peoples came out of the baptismal font of the Dnieper, and the war between these peoples is a repetition of the sin of Cain, who killed his own brother out of envy. Such a war has no justification either from God or from men.
Metropolitan Onuphry, from western Ukraine, added: “I call you, above all, to an intense penitential prayer for Ukraine, for our army and our people, and I beg you to put aside conflicts and mutual misunderstandings and to unite in the love of God. and our homeland.
The Synod of Bishops went further, urging Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia to personally seek “an end to fratricidal bloodshed on Ukrainian land, and to call on the leadership of the Russian Federation to immediately stop military actions that are already threatening to turn into a world war.
The synod added: “Bringing nuclear weapons to a state of high combat readiness in general strongly challenges the prospects for the future existence of humanity. Praising those defending Ukraine, the bishops said their sacrifice is a powerful testimony to “how it is possible to fulfill the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: greater love has no man here, let a man lay down his life for his friends”.
Meanwhile, inside Russia, scores of Orthodox priests and abbots – more than 200 at the start of this week, speaking “each in his own name” – have begun signing an online petition calling for “the end to the fratricidal war in Ukraine” and calling for negotiations. “We respect God-given human freedom, and we believe that the Ukrainian people should make their choice independently, not at gunpoint, without pressure from the West or the East,” the text reads. .
Noting that this was written after Judgment Sunday on the Orthodox calendar, they added:
“The Last Judgment awaits each person. No earthly authority, no doctor, no guard will protect from this judgment. Concerned for the salvation of anyone who considers himself a child of the Russian Orthodox Church, we do not want him to come to this judgment bearing the heavy burden of the curses of mothers.
“We remind you that the Blood of Christ, shed by the Savior for the life of the world, will be received in the Sacrament of Communion by those who give murderous orders not in life, but in eternal torment.”
The petition ended with: “Stop the war”.
Terry Mattingly runs GetReligion.org and lives in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is a principal investigator at the Overby Center at the University of Mississippi.