I was very moved when I read of the conversation that the newly enthroned Metropolitan Borys (Gudziak) in this Kyivan Church of ours in the United States had with his priests, with Patriarch Sviatoslav in attendance. At first, some of it felt like old hat to us who are in this church, especially the re-litigation once again of the question of whether we who are not Ukrainian belong.
There is a story of a high-ranking bishop in our church, who will go unnamed, who said in a public gathering that those of us who are not ethnic Ukrainian are ‘guests,’ that we have to know our place around the family. This statement infuriated one of our theologians, though I do not know if he ever made his anger public; knowing how colonized churches are always trying to repress such things in order to keep the peace until the pent-up anger explodes, I’ll wager that he did not. The answer to the question of whether we are guests or what our place in this church, of course, is simple. It is not difficult. I was received by chrismation into this church. This is my home. I am family. Those who cannot find themselves to accept this reality will need to revisit what it means to have a Christian ecclesiology, which is not assembled by the racist fiction of blood but by Jesus Christ, who is risen and who is enthroned as king amidst our praises.
But there is something new here, and that is that the Patriarch is not speaking in platitudes and proverbs. He is invoking the prayers and presence of the Holy New-Hieromartyr Omelyan Kovch, whom we also venerate in Richmond because his son-in-law painted our icons. His ministry was among the people; locked up by the Nazis in the camps where he died, he said that that was where he finally learned to be a priest. If he prays for us, then I feel assured that our church will emerge from the neoliberal ethnonationalist stupor that has turned our temples into liturgical wastelands empty of young people to become known as a people of diakonia and economia effecting a Revolution of Dignity in our very own Maidan, the public squares of our own cities and neighbourhoods where the poor and oppressed cry out for justice.
Holy New-Hieromartyr Omelyan, pray to G-d for us! Most Holy Theotokos, save us! Axios to our new metropolitan, Borys Gudziak, εἰς πολλὰ ἔτη, Δέσποτα! You are enthroned among the New-Martyrs who died as witnesses that the fictions of ideology are genocidal. Under your omophor, we encounter the living Christ in the life of our temples which spill out into our public lives.