Today's 2nd Reading from the Office of Readings from St. Gaudentius of Brescia put once again before me an image I cannot escape for explaining the centrality of Christ in my life and in human history. The image is that of the Exodus:
"And so, now that you have escaped from the power of Egypt and of Pharaoh, who is the devil, join with us, all of you, in receiving this sacrifice of the saving passover with the eagerness of dedicated hearts. Then in our inmost being we shall be wholly sanctified by the very Lord Jesus Christ whom we believe to be present in his sacraments, and whose boundless power abides for ever."
In terms of our struggle to attain sanctity in this life and everlasting glory in the next with Christ and for all eternity, it remains a daunting task to choose between Egypt's leaks and melons, the devil's passing spread, and Christ's banquet forever. In slavery, to die and be buried amidst the passing splendor of Egypt, seems to have more takers than living in genuine freedom with Christ in the desert and following Him, Risen and Victorious, into the glories of His Everlasting Kingdom.
Would that it were simply a situation of choosing rightly or wrongly, but what renders the scenario so daunting is that, just like for the children of Israel, we find ourselves divided in our own allegiance, with our backs to the Red Sea and with Pharaoh and his chariots and charioteers bearing down upon us, hell-bent on dragging us back into slavery. We seem in our own eyes to be defenseless.
No doubt some will scoff and perhaps even grind their teeth when I say that this is how I carry Ukraine and all the people who dwell here to prayer these days, as conflicted and hard pressed. We know that God Almighty's predilection was reserved for only one people, for His chosen people, Israel. God's chosen people was spared no trial, and even so, they were delivered and saved once they turned to the Lord in obedience. They were in the course of their 40 year sojourn in the desert tried again and again, purified and wedded to their Lord. So it is always for the individual soul and so it is for those who out of many come to form a unity under God. Scoff, then, but apart from seeing the Church as that People of God journeying, I see Ukraine from a similar perspective and in need of my prayer, for unity and deliverance from harm.
I pray on behalf of the people of Ukraine for that parting of the waters and deliverance from destruction, which seems to be only in God's provenance. I pray constantly that the people will forge that unity under God, which will bind them together under His protection for the trek ahead. I do not see this as a nationalist prayer, but rather as a prayer of hope, trusting that it is not God's will that this people be lost and dispersed. I pray that Ukraine's peoples, as divergent of custom and language as they seem to be, might carry each other and together brighten our world.
The Divine favor may seem from our vantage point to be capricious, but let it be so! Let a light go forth from Ukraine to brighten the paths of others, all of us fellow travelers on the path to Christ's Kingdom!
ХРИСТОС ВОСКРЕС! ВОІСТИНУ ВОСКРЕС!