Thursday, April 16, 2009

Христос Воскрес! - Воістину Воскрес!

Which means: Christ is risen! - He is truly risen!

My Triduum and Easter was shared between Latin and Ukrainian rites. Thursday and Friday I was at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Minneapolis, and Sunday I was at St. Stephan Ukrainian Catholic Church in St. Paul. The Thursday and Friday liturgies were done reverently and tastefully. The Sunday liturgy was in a mix of Ukrainian and English. (I suspect but don't know that Father does that for the benefit of the children and grandchildren who gave "gone Latin," just as I have "gone Ukrainian.")

The Epistle was read in Ukrainian and English; the Gospel (John 1:1-18) was read in Ukrainian, Ancient Greek (as far as I could tell), and English. Father's sermon was really good. He talked about the Easter customs of the secular world -- bunnies, eggs, and chicks -- and remarked that the secular world just doesn't get it. They have the symbols without knowing why. Bunnies are symbols of fertility and teeming life, eggs are the symbols of unborn life, and chicks are symbols of new life. Life, more abundant life, eternal life, is what Jesus Christ came to Earth to give us, and He did it through horrible suffering . . . and then His Resurrection.

There is life after life. Death is not the end. We Christians know it and the secular world doesn't.

Going back a bit to Lent, I found that saying the Anima Christi prayer every night before bed, and reading the Way of the Cross (the old style) as often as I could, were great devotions. Then Thursday and Friday I reread Jim Bishop's The Day Christ Died and Dr. Pierre Barbet's A Doctor at Calvary. I found that I appreciate the joy of Easter much more after paying a lot more attention to Christ crucified.

A word about the Ukrainian community I know.

At this little church in St. Paul, I'm almost the youngest person there (I'm 65). Most of the folks are postwar DP's (know what a DP is? It's a "displaced person"); there were hundreds of thousands of them in Europe after the War was over, and they sat out a few postwar years in DP camps in western Europe, before being admitted to the US as refugees. Some Ukrainians, sadly, who were in areas controlled by the British, were forcibly repatriated to the Soviet Union, where they were almost certainly shot or sent off to the Gulag.

One couple I know lived in what was politically part of Poland in 1939, but was ethnically Ukrainian. When the Nazis of the Third Reich and the Soviet Communists signed a non-aggression pact in 1939, they partitioned eastern Europe into spheres of influence, and the Soviet Army took over this couple's village. Then in 1941, when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, the German Army came marching in and took many of the able-bodied folks to be (slave) laborers in the Reich, in farms, factories, what-have-you. Some of the good-looking women were forced into brothels for the German soldiers.

I hardly have to say that the Ukrainians were forbidden their Faith by both the Nazis and the Communists. Those who came here were overjoyed to be able to worship again. Back in 1964, I met a young woman who was a high-school senior; she told me that the only family she had that she knew of was her immediate family. All the rest, she said -- well, they had no idea even if they were alive or dead. I was told that after the Soviet collapse, one of the first things the folks in Ukraine did was start building churches. One old lady showed me some pictures of a little wooden church in the village where she grew up. "They're going to have Mass again for the first time in 70 years!" she said through tears.

One old lady who spent about five or six years in a DP camp after the War and came to the US about 1950 or 1951 told me once: "Never trust anyone who wants to take away God, marriage, or the family."

These people have suffered plenty, they became hardworking citizens as soon as they could, and they value highly the freedoms we have here.

(I have to add in closing that I can guess pretty accurately what they think of the present administration.)

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