22 May 2023
Today, Orthodox Christians honour the memory of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia.

Every spring, we remember the event associated with the translation of his Holy Relics to the Italian town of Bari, where they have been exuding a fragrant and healing myrrh for centuries.

As it often happened, the intertwining of faith and political ambition was the centrepiece of this historic event. Byzantium, which had lost its unity and was mired in corruption, weakened by the indifference of those in power to the fate of their fellow citizens, and which had almost lost its age-old foundation, that is, the Orthodox faith, was then going through severe trials: devastation from the crusaders from the West, and constant attacks by non-Christians from the East. This led to scorched lands and destroyed cities, defiled or desecrated churches and shrines. The invaders also attempted to steal the Holy Relics of Saint Nicholas, who even then was already revered by the entire Orthodox world.

As a result, the inhabitants of the Italian town of Bari – mostly Orthodox Greek settlers – decided to act and travelled overseas to Myra of Lycia. Thanks to their perseverance and determination, verging on piracy, the shrine was saved, and for several hundred years now, it has been open for prayerful veneration to millions of believers from all over the world.

This story actually shows what happens if you neglect or defy your high title of an Orthodox people, and an Orthodox state. Orthodoxy is not only a graceful gift, but also a challenge. This is a continuous journey through “thorns” to God under the saving guardianship of the true canonical Church of Christ, in accord with the Gospel. This means living not according to the changing lusts of this world, but according to the eternal commandments of Christ.

Where is Byzantium now? Where are its former greatness and glory? Where are its people? It remained only in memory, in the Lives of the Saints, in ruins – in the past.

This story is also a reminder to all of us that the holiness of the Saints of God does not disappear anywhere and ever, does not cease, and does not dry out. That it belongs not only to this world and not only to one people or place, but rather shines with the eternal light of God’s grace for everyone who truly needs it, without any racial, national, geographical and, even more so, political restrictions.

Today, our country is also suffering from external aggression and internal schisms. Today, our Orthodox churches and our shrines are also being destroyed and defiled. Today, we also risk losing our original choice, our historical path, our future, ourselves, if we fail to remember that the main thing is to preserve the true Orthodox faith of Christ, not to betray our graceful canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, our fathers and our children.

Today, when we honour the memory of the great saint of God, Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, we remember his deeds, time and again, we learn from him the main Christian virtues, such as faith, fidelity, love, humility, meekness, and mercy.

Saint Nicholas was a man of fervent prayer for his people and for his flock. He was a loving father, always ready to show mercy where there was a need. He lived not for himself, but for his neighbours, and through living for other people, he lived for the Lord. He is surprisingly close to us today and is always ready to help.

Let us ask him today in our prayers so that God does not leave our people, and the people do not leave their God, so that we learn to understand each other and forgive, endure and love, so that we are firm and faithful to Christ, to our Motherland, the Church, and each other.

I sincerely congratulate you on this feast, dear brothers and sisters!
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