Our visible and invisible battle
The person who opposes evil does not have the fear of death, the instinct of self-preservation. Their selfish desires disappear and something extraordinary, human, and at the same time, supernatural appears. The people, as a single body, are recast in the furnace of faith, hope, and sacrifice and move to another level - the level of a “greater love”, when everyone feels ready to “lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). Everyone becomes a Warrior of God, a “centurion”, with the greatest faith that Christ could find (Matt. 8:10). At this Human and Divine level, the “I” recedes far into the background. Our life transforms into a total “We”. Faith, prayer, and life form a more condensed unity. Every fighter of this visible and invisible battle is internally aware of not only being a citizen of Ukraine, but also, as Justin the Martyr wrote in the second century, feels like an eternal citizen of the “heavenly country” who can not be killed by any weapon because the Commander-in-Chief is Jesus Christ the Victor.
Students of the Faculty of Philosophy and Theology of the Ukrainian Catholic University are fighting on two fronts: the visible and invisible. They believe, pray, and work for victory!
SPIRITUAL WAR IS DECISIVE
According to God’s plan, every one of us has been created and meant for love, joy, and unity between Him and oneself. Unfortunately, being stricken by the incurable spiritual disease of sin has left a devastating and too noticeable impact not only on spiritual but also on our material reality. Just as with humans, the world itself in its essence is holistic. The war that we are now faced with, in one way or another infringes upon all spheres of our existence, but fundamentally, it is rooted in the spiritual struggle.
I am certain that events of this magnitude cannot leave anyone who has been blessed with consciousness, a healthy mind, and freedom indifferent. We are encouraged to ponder further. Obviously, one would have to be naïve to expect quick and simple answers, but it would be even more detrimental and destructive to hide behind the armor of skepticism or agnosticism. God indeed is next to those who are suffering. He does not scatter around the answers to numerous “why”s and “for what”s, but He is the “Meta-Answer” Himself. Perhaps, only such a powerful impetus might help some to awaken from such complacent indifference…
We are still free though. All of us are faced with a choice: hide or act, build or ruin, believe or despair, and so on. Even a small decision or step can prove to be decisive. Therefore, when embracing challenges and trials that we encounter with God’s consent, we can use them as opportunities for spiritual growth: for fostering a sincere dialogue with God, for truly getting to know oneself, for serving our neighbors, and loving our enemies.
ONE NEEDS TO TAKE A CLEARCUT STANCE: “EVIL, YOU ARE EVIL, NOT GOOD!”
Today is another day of the heroic fight of the entire Ukrainian nation with the Russian aggressor. During these seven days, all of us have been trying not to succumb to destructive panic, to think critically, and in some way try to assess the reality to which God’s Providence has assigned to us. How will I, a young person, remember this dynamic stage of Russian and Ukrainian conflict in the years to come? Also, what is the lesson that the world community should learn while observing the course of an intense military conflict on the territory of the sovereign Ukrainian state?
On numerous occasions, I have heard the testimony of active participants of the Revolution of Dignity in the winter of 2013-2014 telling about the fact that Ukraine has fundamentally changed: the nation has learned anew the concepts of “unity”, “solidarity”, “freedom”, “self-sacrifice” and so on. Ukrainians are truly united in order to protect their values and rights, and they manage to perform their shared duty: to withstand the assault of Evil and defeat it. I understand these testimonies much better now, when observing how every Ukrainian man and woman throws him or herself into the fight for their country today. Some people volunteer actively, some transport humanitarian assistance, some fight on an information front against multiple fake news sources generated by the Russian occupiers. We hear of long lines to donate blood for the Ukrainian soldiers who are wounded, long lines to join the army and take up arms to protect what is most precious to the heart from the offense of the impudent enemy. Many people rush to Churches, participate in the Divine Liturgy or various other liturgical services, and contribute a shared passionate prayer to the whirlpool of spiritual resistance. This entire large-scale picture of fighting can be depicted through the categories of national unity, love for one’s neighbor, trust in God’s mercy and justice, and so on. In this way the wartime reality has shown that we are capable of uniting for the sake of the common good and that together we are a victorious force that is additionally equipped by the Lord with His abundant blessings. Such a manifestation of performative unity of Ukrainians (and in parallel other various kinds of support from the Ukrainian diaspora and peoples of different countries) will be a lifelong memory for me.
In this week of an intensive phase of the Russian war against Ukraine, I have been made aware of the fact that our planet, on its various corners, has experienced and will experience tragedies of a different caliber. For example, humanity has suffered (and continues to suffer) significant losses as a result of the Covid 19 Pandemic. Not so long ago the global community was compassionate with the people of Belarus who tried to stand up to impudent usurpation of power on the part of the “long-lasting” political “father” of the country. We were concerned about the news of military conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Afghanistan under the control of Taliban was the center of attention. Now, my Ukrainian nation is undergoing difficult times. In the future, a different ethnic community will undergo a crisis. Unfortunately, that is the reality of our earthly world.
Still, humanity has no right to despair. Firstly, our earthly present-day existence is temporary and fleeting - we are looking at the prospect of eternal life with the Holy Trinity. Secondly, we have no right to be indifferent to injustice and to keep silent about various manifestations of evil. We must have no appeasement policy! One needs to take a clear-cut stance: “Evil, you are Evil, not Good!” And in this spirit, one should support all kinds of people who have been hurt, do something useful for one’s own community, and believe in one’s own future. I am convinced that in this way we can preserve humanity at the backdrop of the harsh war, preserve the feeling of love for others, and also keep wishing for greater things while we put this into practice.
THIS WAR IS UNITING NOT ONLY THE COUNTRY, BUT ALSO MY FAMILY IN PRAYER
My name is Natalia and I am a third-year student of theology. Today is the 9th day we are living in a full-scale war. It’s the same war that has been ongoing for 8 years. My family is having quite a hard time because a significant number of our close friends and relatives are in the war’s hot spots (Bila Tserkva, Donbas, etc.). We are also having a hard time because our worries prevent us from sleeping peacefully or eating properly. Our worries stop us from living fully.
However, at the same time this war has brought us together more than ever before. It has united us in prayer. Every member of our family is a Christian; a practicing Christian. But, unfortunately, we were only used to practicing common prayer during the Liturgy. During this hard time, the evening rosary became a life-saving ritual for each of us. Even our youngest, who may not have a complete understanding of the full power of prayer, asks questions and looks for ways to pray. They have expressed a desire to pray the rosary by holding it in their hands. Perhaps the most important thing is that this prayer gives us all some inner calm. It is awe-inspiring to see our relatives, military people, and civilians demonstrating the power of prayer. Can we consider this as evidence for proof of a living God, a God who does not desert his beloved children and is always with them, even during the toughest times, or in a bomb shelter?
He is the one who never leaves!
CHRIST DIDN’T GIVE UP ...
“Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” These words come from the Epistle of James (2:17), and could be taken as one of the central axioms of Christianity. Unfortunately, in our sinful world such axioms are often clouded by conflicting interpretations, while simple facts about the physical world are accepted easily. Nevertheless, this doesn’t make these axioms any less true. In peacetime there is time and space for extended discussion and deep contemplation about such topics, but now we have been deprived of this luxury. We can no longer speak without acting. Time and our faith itself require us to act. Christianity means following Christ, but you can't follow Him halfway down the path. You have to go all the way; we are with Him or without Him. What does it mean to be with Him? It's simple, you have to do as He did. But what did He do?
When Jesus saw a person who needed help, He helped, instead of just praying for them. When Jesus saw injustice, He did not wait for it to be punished in the afterlife, but He responded to that injustice. When Jesus saw someone who did not know what to do and where to go, He showed them the right way and led. If you look at the Gospel, you will see a sequence of actions ending in the final act of crucifixion. The most impressive thing is the fact that Jesus still acts when He speaks! We should be taught about a faith that encourages us to do acts of kindness, a faith that pulls us out of our passivity. One might say that there are certain situations in which our faith contradicts itself, and therefore it is better to avoid these situations. For example, we might not know how to love our neighbor and to avoid killing this person at the same time. Is our faith so ridiculous that it objects to itself? I don’t think so. In my opinion, acting as a hostage to your beliefs is a weakness. Human beings are not slaves to faith. Christ ordered us to love our enemies, but He did not say that we would be without enemies. In fact, Christians were enemies of the whole world from the very beginning of their existence, since the world is desecrated by sin. Our goal was never to hide ourselves from the world, but to be brave enough to meet it. Christ did not run away and give up; He did His best to save the world. That’s why we too shouldn’t have the right to hide from a world in which we are the light of Christ.
Translators Kateryna Turianska, Oksana Mykytka
Correctors Nick Koeppel, Johnny Skilling