Monday, 17 March 2014

We pray for our Ukrainian brothers and sisters


The largest sui iuris (i.e., self-governing) Eastern Catholic Church in Canada is the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. This Catholic Church is in full communion with Rome and traces its origins and traditions to Crimea which is so much in the news today.

 Like the Ordinariate, Ukrainian Catholics have their own liturgical rites, married priests, musical and liturgical customs particular to its culture.
Catholic Mass according to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Rite
According to tradition, Saint Andrew brought Christianity to the territory of modern Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. The Apostle of Jesus Christ traveled over the Black Sea to the Greek colony of Chersonesus Taurica in Crimea, where he brought several thousand to the faith. 

Tradition also holds that Saint Andrew traveled north along the Dnieper River, where Kiev would be founded around the 5th century, and as far north as the future location of Veliky Novgorod in what is today Russia. 

The Russian Primary Chronicle records that Saint Andrew was amused by the Nordic/Slavic customs of washing in hot steam baths, banya.
The statue of St. Andrew, the Apostle, beside St. Vladimir Cathedral at the site of Chersonesos Taurica, an ancient city near Sevastopol, Crimea.

It has long been thought that Rus was originally a foundation of the Vikings and there is increasing evidence that its first rulers, described as tall blonde men, were in fact Scandinavians. 

Novgorod (in red) between Scandinavia and Ukraine was a refuge for early 
Christian Kings of Norway.

Previous to A.D. 1025 four Christian Viking kings—Olaf I of Norway, Olaf II of Norway, Magnus I of Norway, and Harald Hardrada—sought refuge in Novgorod, Russia from enemies at home. A few decades after the death and canonization of Olaf II of Norway, in 1028, the city's community erected a church in his memory, Saint Olaf's Church in Novgorod.

Kievan Rus was converted to Christianity in the time of St. Prince Vladimir around 980 (the year is disputed), when Vladimir the Great was baptized at Chersonesos. The bishop proceeded to baptize his family and people in Kiev. St. Vladimir’s Cathedral in Kiev today marks the place of Vladimir’s baptism.

Prince Vladimir discusses the Christian faith with an Eastern Orthodox priest with a Latin Catholic bishop looking on. 

An early Western Catholic connection is noted in the fact that the details of the baptism of St. Olga are unclear. The authors of the Primary Chronicle were aware that a sizable portion of the Kievan population was Christian by 944. In the text of the chronicle, the Christian part of the Rus' was reported to swear oaths according to their Christian faith.

Olga of Kiev visited Constantinople with the priest, Gregory. Her reception at the imperial court is described in De Ceremoniis.  Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII is thought to have fallen in love with Olga.  Although it is usually presumed that Olga was baptized in Constantinople rather than Kiev, there is no explicit mention of the sacrament. St. Olga is known to have requested a bishop and priests from Rome.
St. Olga
Late medieval sources claim that later kings of the region exchanged ambassadors with the Pope. The Chronicon of Adémar de Chabannes and The Life of St. Romuald by Pietro Damiani document the mission of the Western Catholic, St. Bruno of Querfurt to the land of Rus', where he succeeded in converting to Christianity a local king.

 It is claimed that the later Eastern Orthodox chroniclers, zealous to keep St. Vladimir’s and his successors free from Western Latin Catholic influence, suppressed information on this baptism which was according to the Latin rite.
Divine Liturgy at St. Elias' Ukrainian Catholic Church in Toronto

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