Friday 3 November 2017

Andrey Sheptytsky's Sacred Walking Stick

Жезлъ твой и палица твоѧ, та мя оутѣшиста. 
Thy crook and thy staff have comforted me. (Psalm 22/23)

As I near the end of a research project, my friend and colleague Gloria Romaniuk, Archivist of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Winnipeg, sent me a photo, for which I had been searching for a long time. It came from a collection belonging to the late Bishop Michael Hrynchyshyn, CSsR, longtime postulator of the cause of beatification of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky.  He received the photo from Dr. Pavlo Senytsia, alumnus of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Theological Academy in Lviv, and editor of a multi-volume collection of articles regarding that institution. The second and third volume of this work, entitled "Світильник Істини" (Beacon of Truth) contains a partial reconstruction of the story of this famous cane. I have used these and other sources in my work on Sheptytsky, which includes articles regarding his apprenticeship of two priests, each of which, at one time, he looked upon as his successor. Each one of them was to receive this cane as a symbolic gift, in dramatic and perilous circumstances of the First and later of the Second World War.

Who did Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky look upon as his successor? Above all, he was looking for a someone who understood and was dedicated to his principal cause: promoting the union of the Orthodox Churches with Rome or, as he referred to it, “la Cause de l’Union.” During his long term as Metropolitan of Lviv-Halych, he considered several possibilities, among which was his own brother, Hieromonk Klymenti. However, above all others, two members of his clergy stood out for their moral and intellectual gifts, each of whom, at one time, the Metropolitan looked upon as a successor. Both men bore the same Christian name, Yosyf (Joseph). Both were chosen by Kyr Andrey to educate and form his clergy, as rector of his Major Seminary. Both were gifted academic theologians that had studied in Innsbruck and Vienna (and Rome). These men were Yosyf Botsian (1879–1926) and Yosyf Slipyi (1892–1984).

Father Botsian was the first to receive the cane, during the First World War, when he was accompanying Metropolitan Andrey to Kyiv. Sheptytsky had been arrested by Russian Imperial authorities, when they invaded Austrian Galicia and captured Lemberg (Lviv), in September 1914. He was deported to Kyiv and destined to spend the rest of the war in Russian confinement, at one point in a prison monastery for religious dissidents. The Tsarist authorities allowed three ecclesiastics to accompany him on the first part of his journey. These were Father Yosyf Botsian, the seminary rector, Father Dmytro Yaremko (1879–1915), the vice-rector, and Brother Yosyf Grodsky, the Metropolitan’s valet. They arrived in Kyiv and were confined at the city’s Hotel Continental.

In 1908, Kyr Sheptytsky had received special powers from Pope Pius X, confirming him as administrator of all Uniate eparchies that had been uncanonically suppressed by the Russian State, from 1772 to 1875. Among these powers was the right to ordain bishops for these dormant sees. After arriving in Kyiv, He spent several days in intense reflection and prayer. Fearing for the survival of the Greek-Catholic Church, Sheptytsky decided to make use of the special powers to ordain Botsian and Yaremko to the episcopacy. By virtue of the same faculties, he assigned them the suppressed bishoprics of Lutsk and Ostrih.

On 9/22 September 1914, Metropolitan Andrey told Yosyf Botsian to prepare himself to receive episcopal ordination the following day. The ordination took place in secret, on 10/23 September 1914, at the Hotel Continental. Kyr Andrey did not have all of proper vestments and sacred vessels, Thus, instead of the episcopal crozier, he presented Botsian with his walking staff, upon which he carved the following: “Д. І. Сеп. Р.Б. ≠ЦДІ А.Ш. И.Б” (On 10 day of September in the Year of the Lord 1914 Andrey Sheptytsky to Yosyf Botsian).” The newly consecrated bishops and Grodsky were permitted to return to Lviv, whereas Sheptytsky was deported to Nizhni Novgorod and thence to Kursk, Suzdal, and Jaroslavl, deep within European Russia. Kyr Andrey had the dubious fame of being the only Catholic bishop imprisoned during the First World War. While Petrograd claimed that this was necessary, due to evidence of political intrigue found during a search of the latter's papers, documents from Russian archives show that the decision to eliminate the Uniate leader was taken before the Tsar's armies invaded Austria-Hungary.

Botsian and Yaremko were deported to Siberia the following year. Yaremko did not survive his Siberian confinement, whereas Bostian’s health was ruined by it. Forced by illness to resign as rector in 1919, Botsian was never permitted to take possession of his eparchy. The Second Polish Republic, which had occupied Volyn and its capital Lutsk, imposed an invisible barrier (known as the Sokal Border) prohibiting Greek-Catholics from ministering east of the Lviv-Halych Metropolia. Shortly before Kyr Botsian's untimely death, Father Slipyi, who had been made rector in 1925, invited him to move to the Lviv Seminary, while quarters at the canons’ residence near Saint George’s Archcathedral were being prepared. On 21 November 1926, Slipyi administered the Sacrament of Holy Anointing to Botsian, whom he discovered lifeless, sitting in a chair in the seminary corridor. The following day, Slipyi preached a farewell sermon. The the funeral, which was the largest that Lviv had witnessed in many years. Writing to the Nuncio tweek weeks later, Slipyi commented: “We all regret the death of Bishop Botsian, because it is a great loss for our Church and a weakening of its situation.”

In 1939, Yosyf Slipyi began his own episcopal ministry as a clandestine bishop. Like Botsian, his nomination remained secret for just a little over two years and did not appear in any official church publication. After sending a personal courier to Rome, Metropolitan Andrey received word indicating that that Pope Pius XII had acceded to his request for a successor. In a letter, written in code, Cardinal Eugène Tisserant told the Metropolitan: “you may consider Your beloved disciple to be Your coadjutor and successor. You may proceed to make him such with the necessary function.” In other words, he could go ahead with the episcopal consecration. Describing the ceremony, Slipyi later wrote to a friend in Switzerland:

In place of a bishop’s crozier I received the Metropolitan’s wooden walking staff which, already once in Kyiv, he had given to Bishop Yosyf Botsian, of blessed memory, as a shepherds crozier, and also the same episcopal ring and the same hieratikon [that he had give Botsian]. These items had been rescued, in a very mysterious way, before the Bolsheviks destroyed the Major Seminary. In this, I specifically perceived the hand of Divine Providence.

Metropolitan Andrey intended this deliberate gesture to contain various layers of meaning: it symbolized that Slipyi was following in Botsian’s footsteps as Sheptytsky’s chosen successor; it also signified that, as Botsian had been consecrated secretly in emergency circumstances, so too Slipyi was being called to exercise his episcopal ministry in hardship and peril. This symbolic act was a clear indication that the “torch” had (literally) been passed from Botsian to Slipyi.

In a letter to Pope Benedixt XV in 1917, Sheptytsky had himself observed that it was that very Hand of Divine Providence which had freed him and Bostian from Siberia and brought down the mighty colossus, which had held the Uniate Churches captive for centuries. However, Providence also decreed that Slipyi was destined to share in many aspects of his predecessors’ fates. After having served 8 years in prison, he was exiled to Yenissey and Krasnoyarsk in Siberia where, almost forty years before, Bishop Botsian had been held. Following eighteen years in the Gulag, upon his elevation to the sacra porpora in 1965, Cardinal Yosyf Slipyi paid tribute to the earlier Father Yosyf who, but by the same mysterious Providence, might have taken his place as Metropolitan Andrey’s successor. 

Sunday 27 August 2017

The Coat of Arms of Kyr Andriy (Rabiy)

A Revolution of Quality

            The coat-of-arms of Bishop-elect Andriy Rabiy, by heraldic artist and draftsman Matthew G. Alderman, represents a “revolution of quality,” in the world of Ukrainian ecclesiastical heraldic design. After years of waiting for such an opportunity, it is my pleasure to present this magnificent example, in the creation of which I had the honour to act in a small advisory role.

Arms of Andriy Rabiy

            The arms of Kyr Andriy (Rabiy), newly-elected Auxiliary bishop of the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Philadelphia, represents one of the most refined examples of contemporary Ukrainian ecclesiastical heraldry, and this for three reasons: because it was created by a professional heraldic artist; because it is faithful to the laws of ecclesiastical heraldry; and because of its simplicity. 

            Coats of arms consist of two components: a shield and its external ornaments. The symbols (charges and ordinaries) upon the shield represent the identity of the person who bears the arms, while the external ornaments denote their rank and position. Each arms is described in a heraldic language; an archaic form of English containing Norman-French terminology. In that language, Rabiy’s arms are to be officially described as follows:

Or, in base three hillocks vert, from the central hillock a cross couped azure of three bars, the central bar longer than the upper and lower bars; on a chief enarched of the third, three mullets of five points argent in arc. The whole placed on a mantle purpure, tasselled and corded or, lined argent, ensigned with a Greek mitre, all set over an Eastern crozier and processional cross in saltire.

            In heraldry, the two metalic tones of gold and silver are equivalent to the colours yellow and white. They are described as “or” and “argent.” Other colours are similarly described with archaic terms: green=vert, blue=azure, purple=purpure. A hillock is a small hill; “couped” means that the cross’s arms do not extend to the edge; mullets are stars with straight edges. “Saltire” means the episcopal cross and crozier are arranged in an “x” shape.

            The internal elements (charges and ordinaries) of a new coat of arms can be chosen with a certain degree of freedom, provided they conform to heraldic principles. The external ornaments, however, are determined by heraldic law. A good heraldic artist will select (or help the bearer of the arms select), arrange, and depict elements and colours of the arms tastefully. The internal elements of these arms were carefully selected by Bishop-elect Andriy himself, after a period of reflection and prayer. When doing so, he wisely chose to follow the rule of noble simplicity.

            The “charges” and “ordinaries” on the shield symbolize various aspects of Andriy Rabiy’s life and mission, which began in Ukraine and continue in the United States of America. The upper heraldic “field” (background/zone) is blue and contains three white stars arranged in an arch. These symbols come from the arms and flag of the United States of America and also represent the Archeparchy of Philadelphia, where he serves. The curve of the blue field can be said to recall the curve of the heavens and the protective mantle of the Mother of God.

The lower field is yellow and contains a blue three-barred cross mounted on green hills. Blue and yellow are the colours of Ukraine and a cross with three vertical bars is the symbol of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. The first hill recalls Mount Sinai, where Moses received The Law. The second— Golgotha, where Christ became the New Law in fulfilling the Old Covenant. The third symbolizes two hills in the city of Lviv, Kyr Andriy’s birthplace: the first is the hill on over which the city’s namesake, Prince Lev, built the High Castle (a symbol of the city); and the second, the hill on which Saint George’s Archcathedral stands, where Rabiy served as a young man, and where he will be ordained a bishop.

The form of the shield was chosen to best depict the internal elements, while drawing on a number of typical late medieval/ Renaissance Central European examples.

            The external ornaments of the arms are the episcopal mantle, an Eastern crozier with two serpents entwined around the Cross (recalling Moses’ healing staff), and the processional cross carried before the bishop (In heraldry, only an archbishop has a double bar on this cross). While the internal elements are characterized by the simplicity of their number, colour, and arrangement, the externals are designed to reflect the dignity and solemnity of the episcopal office.

            As an additional decoration, the heraldist trimmed the mantle with a yellow and blue band containing wheat and grapes, symbolizing the priesthood and the Eucharist. The mantle (mandyas) is ornamentally tied with chords to reveal the shield.

            The Greek (Byzantine) mitre is ornamented like a crown with precious stones. This symbolizes the bishop’s authority, while reminding us of the crowns which the just shall received from Christ. Crowns are important in Byzantine sacramental theology and are used for the Mystery of Holy Matrimony (also known as Crowning).

            Episcopal mottos are not mandatory but are very common. Kyr Andriy chose a portion of a verse from the Holy Scriptures that summarizes his high-priestly calling and also alludes to his studies in Church Law. Psalm 118 (119) verse 77 is a prayer for God’s mercy upon those who follow His Law: “Show me your compassion that I may live, for your law is my delight.” (In the original Church Slavonic: “Да прїидутъ мнѣ щедрѡты твоѧ, и живъ бyду, іакw законъ твoй поучeнїє моє єсть.”

Thursday 16 March 2017

Sheptytsky on the February Revolution

Metrpopolitan Andrey Sheptytsky to Pope Benedict XV

In Pace!    
Jaroslavl le 16 mars 1917

Très Saint Père!

Benedictus Deus Israël, quia visitavit plebem Suam!  L’ancien regime toujours persecuteur appui et soutien du schisme a croulé, comme foudrozé par la main du Tout-Puissant, changement providentiel, miraculeux, "mutatio dexterae Altissimi"— une parole de Dieu dans l’histoire de ce bas monde.  La liberté de tous les cultes et de toutes les propagandes promise par le gouvernement semble assurée pour de longues années.  La “porte est donc largement ouverte,” il s'agit de ramener au bercail de l’Église catholique le plus grand nombre d’âmes, peut être l’Eglise russe tout entière— ce qui du reste ne semble pas possible, sans l’intervention de Dieu— humanement parlant.  [...] 

26 Avril 1917 Petersbourg

Cette lettre ecrite a Jaroslawl, avant ma liberté attendait inachevée une occasione de Vous être envoyée Très St. Père.  Le nouveau gouvernement m’a rendu la liberté le 25 mars. On m'a permis de venir à Petersbourg.  Arrivé ici le 31 mars je suis tombé gravement malade. […]

Dès aujourd'hui, avant que les ennemis de l'Eglise, les gens de l’ancien régime réattrappe quelque influence il faut obtenir l'abrogation de toutes les lois contraires à la liberté de l’Eglise— les ordonances de ministère sont sensées d'être abrogées. [...]

Thursday 16 February 2017

Yosyf Slipyi: Metropolitan Sheptytsky's Successor

Among other significant historical commemorations, the year 2017 marks the 125th anniversary of the birth of Yosyf Slipyi: priest, scholar, rector, bishop, metropolitan, cardinal-in-pectore and, following 18-years in the Soviet Gulag, major-archbishop, cardinal, and finally acclaimed patriarch of a Church that had spread across five continents of the globe. It also marks the centenary of his priestly ordination at the hands of his mentor, Metropolitan Andrey Count Sheptytsky.

As this year began, I happened to be working on an article about Slipyi but not out of an interest for him, per se. My interest in him, and for the purpose of which I was given access to still-classified files, is as a member of  Sheptytsky’s inner circle; his closest collaborators that shared his vision and strove to make it reality. My purpose it to examine Slipyi’s early career and describe the qualities, achievements, and circumstances which led to him to become Sheptytsky's successor as head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church.

(to be continued...)