His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine sent an epistle to the flock of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on the occasion of Forgiveness Sunday and the beginning of Great Lent. The text was read in all monasteries and churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on March 14 following the Divine Liturgy on Forgiveness Sunday.
Beloved in Christ, Most Reverend Vladykas, fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters!
I heartily congratulate you all with the beginning of Great Lent, an especially important time in the spiritual life of every believer.
In the days of Holy Lent, we are called to remember the spiritual component of our life, to repent of our sins, and to strengthen our spiritual muscles by the asceticism of abstinence and prayer, that with pure hearts and renewed strength we might greet the feast of feasts—the Bright Resurrection of Christ.
The most important goal of fasting is humility before God. Man, humble before God, ever strives for good. The lack of humility breeds pride, enmity, confrontation, and wars, of which, unfortunately, there are many in our world today. We must always remember that we must all be transfigured through humility and sincere repentance. We fast for something more than just abstinence in food. Limiting excess in the satisfaction of our daily needs and withdrawing from the hustle and bustle of life cleanses the soul, brings us nearer to God, and fills the heart with spiritual joy and the desire to live according to the commandments of God. Great Lent is our effort to change ourselves and the world for the better.
In addition, we are filled with hope that the coming fast will be a time not only of spiritual, but also physical recovery. This is especially true when the coronavirus pandemic continues to worry people around the world. This sickness has forced us all to look at our familiar everyday lives differently. And now, when we’ve been living in quarantine conditions for nearly a year, we must understand that it is precisely fasting, together with sincere repentance, that changes God’s judgments for us from strict to merciful.
We are also concerned that, despite numerous requests and appeals, the laws adopted by the previous authorities that significantly limit the rights of the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church have yet to be repealed in our country. I would like the voice of our faithful to be heard. Therefore, I bless all diocesan centers of our Church on the first Sunday of Great Lent, when the Triumph of Orthodoxy will be celebrated, to hold the cross processions and prayer services that are traditional for this day, taking into account the epidemic situation. With prayer on our lips and sacred treasures in our hands, we should pass through the streets of our hometowns to bear witness to our fidelity to Holy Orthodoxy and to our love for our native Ukrainian land—our earthly homeland. We are citizens of Ukraine, and we have the right, won by the blood of our ancestors, to profess the Orthodox faith as bequeathed to us by the Apostles of Christ and the Holy Fathers.
May we all manage to spiritually focus in the days of Holy Lent that we might worthily receive the Resurrected Christ into our hearts.
The faithful of our Church are also blessed to read one kathisma from the Psalter every day throughout this Great Lent, and to make three prostrations praying the Lord’s Prayer, entreating forgiveness for our sins, and also three prostrations praying “O Theotokos and Virgin, Rejoice …,”1 entreating the blessing of God for our Ukrainian land and its people.
May God’s blessing be with us all! Amen!