Christ is Risen!
Dear Fathers, Brothers and Sisters. Dear Mothers!
For the thirteenth year in a row, the Sobor of Hagia Sophia in Rome gathers us together to pray for our mothers, for whom and with whom we pray today, on the occasion of this great Mothers Day in May. This year we decided to celebrate in the form of a National Pilgrimage of Ukrainian Mothers in Italy, under the Patronage of Blessed Josaphata Hordashevska, whose relics will be exposed for veneration at the Sobor for the duration of the entire day.
Why have we again chosen our Ukrainian Blessed Josaphata Hordashevska?
Probably most of us, Ukrainian Christians, are aware that the Blessed Josaphata, with the help of Fr. Jeremiah Lomnytsky and Fr. Cyril Seletski, was the founder of the women’s religious congregation of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate. This happened near Kristinopil, where, in the village of Zhuzhel, Fr. Jeremiah Lomnytsky led a mission. Then, a few girls, under the guidance of Josaphata Hordashevska offered to devote themselves to God and his people. Hence began the interesting and fully challenging history of the Congregation of the Sisters Servants, about which we can all learn from books and leaflets.
It happened on August 28, 1892, when Blessed Josaphata decided to devote her life to the education of children and youth and to direct her activities to the “moral elevation of the villages of Galicia.” It is her strong desire, both then and now, especially now that she is so close to our Lord, to educate children and young people; it makes a lot of sense for us to offer our children, from whom we are separated by thousands of kilometers, under the patronage of our Blessed Josaphata.
I would like to present a picture from the life of Blessed Josaphata, actually very painful, during which she demonstrated truly heroic virtue, very much similar to the great physical suffering, due to the disease of tuberculosis of the bone. It deals with moral suffering. Blessed Josaphata was the co-foundress and leader of the new Congregation, but when on September 8, 1907, the first thirty-two new Sisters of the Congregation pronounced Perpetual Vows, Sister Josaphata was not included. The foundress, but here, excluded. This was a great blow for the Blessed. Only those can understand her great pain, who have experienced a similar trial. Blessed Josaphata led these Sisters, cared for them, but now she has no right to make perpetual vows with them. Father Athanasius Velykyj wrote in the history of the congregation that Blessed Josaphata suffered greatly, because of this rejection and humiliation. However, she does not complain, does not leave the congregation, but quietly endures this very painful trial. Thus writes Fr. Athanasius: “If Sister Josaphata did not have a deep faith, hope and love in heroic proportions, she would not have accepted so this suffering so peacefully.” And Sister Josaphata herself writed to Metropolitan Andryj Sheptytskyj: “when I see that not one of the Sisters, who were permitted to make their vows, did not carry, nor carries, such great responsibilities as had been placed on me ... I suffer, but comfort myself with the thought that the Cross, which has fallen on me through the denial of permission to pronounce perpetual vows, came as the will of God, and I accept it with all my heart.” And this denial of permission was repeated once more, when the following year, another 30 Sisters were permitted, but in their list, again, Sister Josaphata was not named. Sister Olha Lukach, in her memoires, writes: “ I see the suffering Jesus in the person of Sister Josaphata; she, like Jesus, was rejected, and suffered alone.”
Why do I single out this particular page of her biography, from among many other heroic pictures of the life of Sr. Josaphata? Because this picture can help you, dear mothers, to bear similar experiences in your life. You are working hard, here, in a foreign land, to earn a penny to give an education to your children, to buy them an apartment, and sometimes it happens that when you return to Ukraine to be among your own, you will not find any more space, you will feel alien among your own. There is no place for Mom among her children! They consider you a provider, who has a duty to supply them only with money. How, then, a mother’s heart aches because of this, or similar, ingratitude of their children! This pain in the heart hurts more than any physical ailment. What, then, should such a mother to do? How does one accept such ingratitude of children? Sister Josaphata is an example for us, as she confessed to Metropolitan Andrey: "I comfort myself with the idea that the cross, which fell on me ... came as the will of God, and I accept it with my whole heart." Sister Josaphata would not have become Blessed today, if she did not accept such a trial of life.
Therefore, this example helps us to realize that the time will come when children will recognize the heroism of their mother, as the Sisters recognized the heroism of Blessed Josaphata. Maybe this will happen after their mother’s death, but it does happen. A mother’s love is always resurrects. Similarly, Jesus experienced the deep betrayal of Judas, Peter’s denial, the rage of the leaders of the people, the death sentence. But Jesus Christ has won, He is risen! And the sacrifice of a mother will rise. A good work, even the smallest, will never be unrewarded.
Blessed Josaphata teaches us how to deal with ingratitude. She writes, "I comfort myself with the idea that the cross, which fell on me ... came as the will of God." And thus, she accepted this trial very peacefully. A typical person, when he senses bitter ingratitude, becomes nervous, cries, panics, sometimes quits work, and eventually begins to be physically and mentally ill. And this often happens in our “working world”. Giving yourself to God’s will promotes spiritual peace, and this peace is not the same as apathy, passivity, throwing up one’ hands, neglecting work. No, this is something totally different! Relying on God’s will guards our strength and ability to work on, to choose disinterested maternal love. And here is exhibited heroism and the holiness of Christian sacrificial, disinterested love. And such a heroine was Blessed Josaphata, and such are, and can become mothers, who travel around the world in search of food for their children.
The harmony with God’s will and that spiritual peace can be obtained only from on high, only when we stand before God and open our hearts to Him, and say to Him and to our hard realities a big “Yes!”. “Yes! Father! Let your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” And then we will continue to do all that we did before, we will continue to love and support our children, and even increase our love for them.
What would happen to the Congregation of Sisters, if Josaphata fought against this ingratitude? ... No, she did not do this, and thanks to her harmony with the will of God, the Congregation grew, continued to care for poor children and young people, not only in Ukraine, but two or three years later, having a relatively small number of Sisters, Sister Josaphata was not afraid to send nuns on mission to the forests of Brazil and to the endless prairies of Canada, and other countries. And so, today, the Congregation of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate is the largest in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
Today’s liturgical readings invite us to not wallow in the feelings of our misfortune and paralysis, but to rise and go on: “Jesus said to the paralyzed man, who for thirty eight years lay near the pool at Bethesda: ‘Stand up, take up your bed and walk!’ ” (Jn 5:8) We have today two such similar invitations in the readings of the book of the Acts of the Apostles. First, when the Apostle Peter encounters in the town of Lydda a paralyzed man by the name of Aeneas, who lay for eight years. He says to him: “Aeneas, Jesus heals you. Stand up and make your bed!” (Acts 9:34), And in Jaffa, when the Apostle Peter goes to the home of the deceased Tabitha, and having prayed over her, says: “Tabitha, get up!” (Acts 9:40). Christian faith does not allow us to lie in our poverty. All that life has to give us we must receive, in accordance with God’s will, and so, not lie down, but rise up and go on, until the Lord calls us to Himself. We have the examples of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Peter, and our Blessed Josaphata.
Thus, Dear Mothers, your pilgrimage today, to the Sobor of Hagia Sophia, your veneration of the relics of Blessed Josaphata, this Divine Liturgy and Akafist are an opportunity to enliven and strengthen your motherly love. Motherly love is a reflection of the love of God the Trinity. God is for us also a mother, as Andrij Sheptytskyj said on the Feast of the Presentation of our Lord in 1922, and in agreement, Pope John Paul I and Blessed Pope John Paul II repeated. Thus, not heeding all the problems with children and their ingratitude, it is worth going beyond our weaknesses and renewing before God our love, which will make us capable of even the greatest heroism. The Church in Ukraine, and especially our children, badly need mother-heroines!
For all of you mothers, we offer our prayers! and we also very much need your prayers!
We lift up our hearts, for Christ is Risen! His is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever!
Christ is Risen!