Ukrainian Catholics look at life and God in a different manner to others. We experience church from another perspective as well. While we may all be Christians, or even Catholics, our approach to God and the church is unique.
Perhaps this alone explains why our church had to write its’ own catechism, “Christ our Pascha.” Roman Catholics have their own catechism as well, which came out in 1994. The 347 pages of the Ukrainian Catholic Catechism, witnesses to the fact that there really is a significant difference in the way Ukrainian Catholics live the Catholic faith. The difference is seen in the way we experience sacred scripture, theology, morality, law and obviously our history.
- Bishop Peter Christmas Pastoral Letter
- We have The Catechism: What next?
- How to be a Good Ukrainian Catholic
The divergent forms that exist do not make one point of view better or worse than the other. It is really just what you grew up with, or how you were formed. The divergence does, however, add to the richness, uniqueness and beauty of our religious experience. We must learn to love and respect our own spirituality as well as that of those who share our Catholic faith. One supplements to the other. Obviously the strength of both churches is imperative, because in a way we support one another. There are 23 different Catholic Churches in the world. They are all important and beautiful. However, our task is to first of all is to love, respect and fully experience our own Ukrainian Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Faith expresses itself as an act of the intellect whereas our Eastern Ukrainian Catholic faith is a constant act of the heart – is love for God.
The Roman Catholic Faith expresses itself as an act of the intellect whereas our Eastern Ukrainian Catholic faith is a constant act of the heart – is love for God.
Let me explain the way we look at God and life in our church. You can say that our faith calls us to be participants in God’s life on earth. We look at the scripture as if we were bystanders at the events described in the Bible. We are present at Bethlehem, on Calvary, and the Last Supper. For us it is not a journalistic description of an event 2000 years ago. No, we believe and pray and thank God for what he is doing for us in these moments that He interacts with us humans.
Our mysteries (sacraments) are another example of this. At our weddings, for instance, there are three people present, the Bride, the Groom and Jesus Christ. The priest represents the person of Christ. The couple make their vows before God Himself. The same goes for all the mysteries (Sacraments).
Our moral life is measured by our unity or separation from God. Sin takes us from God’s presence, while virtue brings us closer to Him.
We believe and pray and thank God for what he is doing for us in these moments that He interacts with us humans.
I suppose our Eastern Spirituality is best experienced in the greatest prayer that there is, the Divine Liturgy. Sometimes, we do not know why we feel so good just by being at a Divine Liturgy. In a way it’s simple, we are actually in the presence of God Himself, and the supreme act of unity is the Holy Eucharist where we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Himself. Ukrainian Catholics in their total faith experience are on a journey from birth till the entry into eternal life.
This journey is our religious experience. It only has one goal. It is only possible because Christ has Risen from the dead. As a result He gives us the Grace to live forever. I invite you to grow into that experience.
Bishop Peter Stasiuk C.Ss.R. AM
This article was published in The Church and Life Newspaper, January 2018
This post is also available in: Ukrainian