Dr. Kania. Pentecost Restored – Part II – The Iceberg

Acts 17: 16 – 34 (RSV)

By Dr. Andrew Thomas Kania

When one reflects on the history of Ukraine, it is a sheer miracle that the Ukrainian Catholic Church continues to exist today, or for that matter, the Ukrainian nation. Every possible stumbling block has been placed before both Church and Nation challenging their right to self-determination, self-expression, and in the case of the former, the right to grow by the Power of the Holy Spirit. A weaker people spiritually, would have succumbed long ago. Yet what we are witnessing now at the dawn of the 21st Century is the fresh blossoming of a people and a Church that brings to the world of Faith and Culture such a vivid, virile, richness. I cannot think of another Nation or Church that offers such a collective beauty to our world. The vyshyvanka is a visual delight; the vinok, the epitome of femininity – the flowers rising from the dark soil – crowning Ukrainian womanhood; the dancing spectacularly highlighting the skills, the joys, the social community of both the Ukrainian male and female; our Churches – pointing to the expression of heaven and earth – as well as the manifestation of heaven on earth; our Church chanting and music: deep, soothing, grandiose and rhythmic; our exquisite pysanky, our wood carvings – the soul soothing sound of the bandura, the culinary delights of Ukrainian meals. These aspects of being a Ukrainian cannot be replaced by a Western world – fast-paced, industrial, technological; that promises profit and economic growth – but that does not point toward the greater parts of life and living; a modern world that cannot slow the rush of our lives, and cannot make us think of who we are in the great schema of our limited time on earth and the purpose of our soul’s existence. The Ukrainian culture, and its Tradition, and Faith experience, seem to count the minutes at a slower pace – to beat according to the Seasons of our Church, the Seasons of Nature; to the pace of our collective national and diasporic heartbeat. To be of Ukrainian extraction is truly a great gift; if we have forgotten this – we must learn to re-appreciate this gift. Failure to do so would be exchanging a priceless pearl for ash. ATK

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Dr. Kania: Pentecost Restored – Part I cf. Acts 2: 1 – 4 (RSV)

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) is famous today as being the great synthesizer of the philosophy of the Ancient Greeks with the theology of the Catholic Church. Aquinas was able to see the Truth of God hidden within the writings of the Greeks, and to explain these Truths to the Christian world. His encyclopaedic works: Summa Theologiae and Summa Contra Gentiles, exposed hereto unprecedented ideas to the Western World. However, this great thinker, and promoter of Greek philosophy, spoke no Greek; rather Aquinas read all Greek works via the translations into Latin. Greek philosophy would have been locked away from Aquinas, and thus from the Western Church, by way of his subsequent influence and intellectual perception, had he not been given the gift of understanding the works of the Greeks through access to these translations. Aquinas hungered to know – but he was only surfeited when the food was refined for him to eat. Great wisdom, was locked away, not because what was written was hidden in a physical vault – but because the medium of the message needed to be made comprehensible to Aquinas. Aquinas’ heart was clearly opened to the call of the great Greek message – but his ears were stopped. I believe likewise, great Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox minds in the diaspora have slowly been lost to our Churches for the message not being available in the vernacular of the audience. Let me explain – I am not talking here about the appreciation of the theatre of Church – but the intellectual digestion of the message, via homiletics and Sacred Scripture.

I believe likewise, great Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox minds in the diaspora have slowly been lost to our Churches for the message not being available in the vernacular of the audience.

The term ‘lingua franca’ is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “any language serving as a medium between different nations etc whose own languages are not the same; a system of communication providing mutual understanding.” For Aquinas, as for many in the Scholasticism period, the lingua franca was the Latin language. A person could be a Roman Rite Catholic – and despite being born in Scandinavia, Ireland or Poland, could communicate the Faith via Latin. The same could be said in the European East, with Old Church Slavonic. Latin and Old Church Slavonic were the languages of the educated classes who were in the main, the clergy. The vast majority of peoples spoke the vernacular language of their country. The Church both in the East and the West eventually adopted the vernacular in order to convey the message of the Faith so that the words of Salvation, not solely be comprehended by the most educated, but was given to all people in the community of nations. Ironically, the birth of the Church took place by way of Preachers speaking the Gospel message to the masses – for people to hear in their mother tongues; a message not to be held tight in a consistory.

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has always been a strong proponent of: political independence, national self-determination, and the preservation of Ukrainian cultural integrity – a primary component of which is the Ukrainian language.

Today Ukraine, as a nation, has an official language which, since independence, is Ukrainian. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has always been a strong proponent of: political independence, national self-determination, and the preservation of Ukrainian cultural integrity – a primary component of which is the Ukrainian language. The common language of the pioneers who were displaced from Galicia, Poland or Ukraine, to Australia was near uniformly Ukrainian. They founded the Ukrainian communities in Australia – and spoke the primary language of Australia, and the majority of the Western world, English, but with Ukrainian accents. Their Australian-born descendants, speak English as a first language, and if they do speak Ukrainian today – they speak the Ukrainian language with Australian accents. The important rider of this paragraph is the word, ‘if’. To assume that even 10% of baptized Ukrainian Catholic Australians would have a command of the Ukrainian language equivalent to being able to pass a final year examination in the Ukrainian language in a high school in L’viv, may in fact be a question open for serious debate. Many in my generation, and younger write in English, they then run text through Google Translate in order to give the semblance of writing in Ukrainian.

Please do not misinterpret my meaning. I am very much a supporter of bilingual/multilingual learning, (and speak a number of languages, to various levels of proficiency), but as a Church in Australia we have to consider where the definitive paradigm shift had occurred; where the Ukrainian language was beginning to be used to serve the pioneers in their dwindling numbers, dwindling due to reasons of natural attrition, and at the same time, was beginning to inadvertently ostracize the Ukrainian Australians who wanted to ‘know’, who wanted to believe, but could not understand the Ukrainian language. This change, that began as a trickle, turned into a tide in the 1990’s, and was brought about by a number of factors, one of which was that the pioneers perceived, quite rightly, that the Ukrainian language is tied to national (Ukrainian) aspirations, and to not use the Ukrainian language was perceived as anti-nationalist.  The other factor being that the children of the pioneers and their children, preferred to keep their parents and grandparents happy, and sat in the pews looking at beautiful icons, and listening to exquisite choirs, but all the while did not engage their minds. Church was synonomous with the spiritual and social needs of the Pioneers. However, man being both an intellectual and sensual creature – requires not only to feel, but to understand; as St. John Chrysostom reminds us: the beauty of a woman holds a man’s attention for a short while – for the relationship to grow, their needs to be communication, an engagement of minds. As a Ukrainian people in the diaspora, we probably have lost many of our finest minds and their descendants – as people wanted to know, but were not told in a language they could fathom. We have a stream of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, bearing surnames such as: Hetman, Shevchenko, Hrushevsky, Franko, and such, who cannot drop a single phrase in Ukrainian. It reminds me of a young student that I met in Scandinavia, whose surname was Shakespeare, who could only say ‘Hello’ in English.

We need our Church to not become a ‘transit lounge’ for refugees and migrants, who leave when they become ‘assimilated Australians’.

What was transmitted adequately from the pioneer generation to those that followed was that which did not require a high degree of knowledge in the Ukrainian language. Dancing, embroidery, the writing of pysanky, cooking, carving – all were skills that were passed on from hand to hand – by observation. A person could sing in a choir, by listening, and general musical knowledge, even if that person did not know what they were actually singing – but mature Faith requires understanding; and understanding can only be imparted by way of intellectual comprehension.

What I am not discussing here in this article, is the abandonment of the Ukrainian language; I am perhaps arguing for the complete opposite, if this can be done; a plan to have a mature Church. We need our children to grow into thinking adults who are fully engaged in our Church. To do this – the post-Pioneer generation must have a high degree of literacy in the language of our Church be that in the Australian context, at least, either in, Ukrainian or English, or preferably, if learned well – both. In order to have the language of the Church maintained in Australia as Ukrainian we must educate our children in this language with high quality Ukrainian classes, that give the youth the opportunity to understand the theology of our Church in its fullness; otherwise our children who do attend the Church will grow up without: adequate Scripture, homiletics and the rich particular theological and spiritual perspective that our ancient Church of Kyiv-Rus offers. If they cannot comprehend today, they cannot pass on for tomorrow. We need our Church to not become a ‘transit lounge’ for refugees and migrants, who leave when they become ‘assimilated Australians’.

Similarly, our clergy, being the chief instructors of our story, must not only be of good character, but they must know their Rite, the genesis of this Rite; they must know the history of the people of Kyiv-Rus’, the genesis also of the modern Ukrainian nation – and the character and story of the nation that they find our communities developing within the diaspora. Yes, we should celebrate Ukrainian Independence Day – but equally in Australia, it is a cultural travesty not to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in honour of Australia Day and ANZAC Day.

What I once thought was a Church to belong to, based solely on genetic or patriotic reasons – became an adult commitment to a Spiritual Tradition, enthusiastically following a cultural legacy, awesome in intellectual richness, spiritual profundity, and cultural beauty.

It is insufficient to assume that if one knows the English language, that this in itself adequate reason to believe that the task of Evangelization is as simple as speaking the vernacular. An Australian for instance will listen carefully to a message spoken by a man who they believe has integrity – and authenticity. It reminds me of the story told to me by my father who after asking for donations for the Church, was approached by a man with cash, saying: “I am not sure about Moses and Abraham – but you are a good bloke – so here is my donation.” Australians want to know that God is with them – walking beside them. You lead Australians by winning their trust.

There is very good reason to be a Ukrainian Catholic Christian. I discovered this more and more when I began reading the profound works of our Ukrainian people and Church which were and our being translated into English from institutions such as: the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, as well as the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS), and the Sheptytsky Institute. The more I read of these works – the more I wished to know, and the more I loved my Church and my heritage. What I once thought was a Church to belong to, based solely on genetic or patriotic reasons – became an adult commitment to a Spiritual Tradition, enthusiastically following a cultural legacy, awesome in intellectual richness, spiritual profundity, and cultural beauty. But, and I emphasise – but – none of this would have been possible if I had not first had access to the Ukrainian Church and culture, through my first language, my mother tongue, English. Since my mid-twenties, my hunger to ‘know’ became insatiable, which meant the reading of hundreds of English language texts regarding Ukrainian history, theology and church. These translations opened my heart and mind to my ethnic and Faith heritage.

Our Eastern Church is sensual – walk into our Church, listen and feel our Divine Liturgy; but the Liturgies were written by people of high learning and penetrating intellects.

Realistically, the availability of translations, good translations for our children, is an imperative. The brilliant work of those who produced our Catechism and our liturgical texts in the English language, is our major tool in the hope of the evangelization of Ukrainian Catholic youth in Australia; and evangelization we must do; we need to spread the Gospel to a people we have lost, due to our previous inability to communicate with them.

Our Eastern Church is sensual – walk into our Church, listen and feel our Divine Liturgy; but the Liturgies were written by people of high learning and penetrating intellects. Sit with an English translation – and let our Faith Tradition take you to planes of thought, that exalt Christian Theology. We thus will come to understand our great religious minds of the past, who were among the most highly-educated minds of the Eastern world, and of Kyiv-Rus’. To not to be able to read these texts – to have them be – incomprehensible – robs our youth of a jewel that has been bequeathed to them and their descendants. It is like giving your heirs a jewel box – but not ensuring they have the correct combination to open it.

By studying the Ukrainian language, our children could also be improving their school results with languages offered special credit status in their final ATAR/HSC score here in Australia

So what can we do? It is quite ironical that the children of our Ukrainian Church attend schools in Australia that emphasize foreign languages such as: French, Italian and German, but do not have similar access or academic credit awarded to them for studying Ukrainian. Of course there is no better way to learn a language than by living in the nation of the language you wish to learn. But this is not so easy to do in the diaspora. So we must search for alternatives. In our technologically advanced world – no longer do we need to rely on local language schools to learn the language of our ancestors. Language classes are now accessible online. In this process of our children re-learning and re-discovering their cultural heritage, we could in fact be supporting the educational sector within Ukraine. By studying the Ukrainian language, our children could also be improving their school results with languages offered special credit status in their final ATAR/HSC score here in Australia. This mission of learning Ukrainian could also be one avenue of keeping the language alive in the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Australia. If however, we do not provide, or encourage institutions in Australia to offer our children the Ukrainian language as a school subject option on their timetables to study, we need to ensure that the transference of our Church tradition to the next generation, is not stifled or broken down, by a desire to learn by the magic of osmosis. We can learn dancing or embroidery by observation; perhaps this is why these elements of Ukrainian Tradition easily flourish and transfer. But Faith understanding is vastly different. Sitting in pews, may still occur for the child wishing to make their family happy – but it will certainly not be good enough, especially to the non-Ukrainian parent in a mixed marriage, who themselves wants to ‘know’, who want their children to ‘know’ – and who can quite easily take their child to a different Church walking distance away from their homes, where these children attend primary school with their friends, if there is no access for them to ‘know’. Church is vital – it should not be sacrificed – nor its Gospel message, if we do not or cannot give the parishioner the tools for comprehension.

There was little or no pastoral awareness as to how a child learns – and without children there will be no future of our Church.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church in Australia is in a competitive spiritual marketplace; and hierarchs needs to be aware of this. We need to offer our families the full beauty of our Faith and Cultural Tradition. It has to be fully accessible either in the Ukrainian or English language – and preferably both. The German intellectual giant, Goethe once wrote: “I love you – what business is it of yours?” Goethe was pointing at the irony, that our desires and emotions can oftentimes ignore the desires of others, even those we most love. The most ardent, gifted and poetic orator in Tagalog, will be incomprehensible to me, if I am completely illiterate in this language. We cannot subject our youth to homilies in a language that they do not understand and then claim this as pastoral care and awareness. I recall vividly priests in the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s, priests reading full tomes in Ukrainian from the various Patriarchs of our Church in the Ukrainian language. These mysterious epistles went on for twenty to thirty minutes or more. The Ukrainian speaking reader needs to understand that the vast majority of the children at this time were completely dis-engaged, although the pioneer parents were perhaps rivetted. Later, the delivery of these Patriarchal Letters were spoken in both Ukrainian and English – by which time after the Ukrainian homily had been delivered, the children were mostly bored, and in no mood to be receptive to any sincere pastoral declaration, however talented the author of the epistle. Oftentimes the children were brow-beaten for showing a lack of interest. But what was being asked of them, was similar to me travelling to Kyiv standing up in Independence Square and reading a Cricket commentary in English to a ‘captured’ audience of solely Ukrainian language speakers. There was little or no pastoral awareness as to how a child learns – and without children there will be no future of our Church. CYM and Plast Camps invite the child to an experience in the outdoors for one week, or so, a year – but what occurs inside the Church walls, week by week, each Sunday, will determine whether youth will come back to the Church, when they are old enough to drive to other Churches, or when a ‘Sally Miller’ or a ‘John Richardson’ calls them out on a weekend, and, or when they themselves have children, and must decide which Church community to raise them in. We are losing many of our children to other Catholic Rites in Australia, or to other Churches because of a lack of adequate Faith transmission based on language issues.

Being a minority ethnic group and Church in an ocean of churches – we need to take advantage of our being small; because as Schumacher noted – ‘Small is Beautiful’; small can be very strong – if the plan is put into action to develop our strengths – especially so in an interconnected age as we live in today.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church needs to take up a mature approach – for all is certainly far from lost. Our children and our grandchildren still love us. Love is the basis for Faith and for Cultural transmission. The entire series of Church and Life, that I wrote and which was recently published – was a launch-pad aimed toward the writing of this new series. There exists a context to what was written in the previous series. The reader knows a good deal of my past – but now – the Australian born author with a Ukrainian father wishes to engage with other people of the same background and context. To also pretend that the issues we face in Australia are the same that are faced in: Canada, the United States, and England because we all share a common language, is narrow-minded. All of these nations are as George Bernard Shaw quipped, separated by a common language. Parts of Australia, where the greatest Ukrainian populations settled, have different needs from those with lesser numbers. That is not to say that numbers dictate, passion and verve. But there are distinctions that need addressing. Being a minority ethnic group and Church in an ocean of churches – we need to take advantage of our being small; because as Schumacher noted – ‘Small is Beautiful’; small can be very strong – if the plan is put into action to develop our strengths – especially so in an interconnected age as we live in today.

One of the most beautiful aspects of living in the digital age – is in full view every Sunday when Patriarch Shevchuk celebrates the Divine Liturgy in Kyiv. I sincerely ask the reader to go to the internet and view this for themselves. You will see soon after the Consecration, little children in such eagerness, leave their parents and wait in line for the Holy Eucharist. Some courageously will stand by themselves for ten minutes. It is beautiful to watch. It stirs the heart. Such is the Kingdom of Heaven.

At this point the iceberg can be used as an analogy.

We, in Australia, do not live in tiny Ukrainian villages with the Church at the centre and the priest walking from house to house. But we do live in an age of telecommunications – 5G, NBN, email, Facebook, Zoom, and we have the ability to sit in our lounges and engage with the Parish, and Eparchy in ways that were never envisaged before.

We are told that the proportion of an iceberg that is seen above the water line is approximately 10%. Now this figure of 10% is often also used as the percentage of adult Catholics of the Roman Rite who now attend the Sunday Mass with regularity. Many studies in Australia have produced such similar results. Thus on any given Sunday what we see within the walls of a Roman Rite Church in Australia is a small fraction of the total number who are baptized into this Church. If we consider this as a figure that might be congruent to the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Australia, I would like to suggest that those who attend the Divine Liturgy in our Churches regularly in Australia – (uniformly in my observation), have at least a rudimentary understanding of the Ukrainian language – most likely passed down through the family. A cursory glance at our Baptismal registers would clearly tell us that the majority of those parents who have taken children to be Baptised are not regular Church-attendees, but people who feel, or at least felt, some emotional attachment to our Church, probably based on tribal lines. That is all well and good. Tribalism is a reason to attend Church. But the time has come to dust off our Baptismal Registers to find out where these parents and children are who we Baptised – and attempt to save the 90% below the water line of the iceberg, who for all we know, may just want to be asked, how they are doing – and to give our Church another look. In reality we are not looking for the one lost sheep – now we are probably in Australia, across both Western and Eastern Churches, looking for the ninety nine. We, in Australia, do not live in tiny Ukrainian villages with the Church at the centre and the priest walking from house to house. But we do live in an age of telecommunications – 5G, NBN, email, Facebook, Zoom, and we have the ability to sit in our lounges and engage with the Parish, and Eparchy in ways that were never envisaged before. We could in fact, just risk a rejection of our calls – but perhaps, a parishioner may come back. There was a reason that they came to our Church for Baptism – it is time that we begin to reconnect with these parents and families. We must speak to them as Ukrainian Australians, in whichever language they are most conversant in. But let us speak with them as Australians, in all which that means, then we will be following the mission of St. Paul, who met future Christians in the market place, the Agora, the meal houses – spoke to them as equals, as people to be spoken with, and not spoken at, spoken with as a people desiring to know meaning in their lives and to discover the unseen God.

There are probably thousands of Ukrainian Catholics who do not attend our Parishes, because they feel Australian – but there is no reason for an Australian born child, not to be raised as a Ukrainian Catholic in Australia, if a place is prepared for them at the Parish, where they feel nurtured – and that they belong

The vast majority of Ukrainian Catholic Australians are no longer refugees and new migrants – they may be lost – but it quite possibly is, that we had a part in their being so.

Paul of Tarsus was not a fisherman; he was a Jew but also a Roman Citizen – he was also a Greek-speaker; he was also a City-boy. It is not therefore by chance that Paul was led by God to the great cities of the Holy Lands, to speak with people a City-boy to city people; to capture the Greeks, by speaking their language, using the power of analogy, by knowing their cultural mind-set. If you want to catch Christians in a foreign land – you need to know their story. The basic idea is one of communication – that your listeners believe that you care for them, or are willing to know them; that you, the Preacher are willing to speak to them so that they can understand. There are probably thousands of Ukrainian Catholics who do not attend our Parishes, because they feel Australian – but there is no reason for an Australian born child, not to be raised as a Ukrainian Catholic in Australia, if a place is prepared for them at the Parish, where they feel nurtured – and that they belong; where their roots can be planted – and where they can understand the message of the Gospel and the role that is offered for them to play in that message. They are heirs to an immeasurable treasure and legacy – they need to hear and understand this, otherwise it will be as Goethe claims: “I love you – but what business is this of yours?”

To be continued …

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