This year the Orthodox Church marks the 1000th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Holy Princes Boris and Gleb.
Why are these saints venerated? How did they so obviously and indisputably manifest their love for God and neighbor, as well as for their Homeland? The answer is simple: by their desire to maintain peace and brotherly love in their native land, even at the price of their own lives.
Following the repose of the Great Prince Vladimir, the Equal-to-the-Apostles, Kievan Rus’ could have plunged into prolonged and bloody confusion. For this to have happened, the Holy Princes Boris and Gleb need only have claimed their rights to the throne of the Grand Prince, gathered forces, and begun an armed struggle for power with their other brothers. However, they chose a different path: the blessed path of peacemakers who laid down their souls to save the lives of others and save their Homeland – to save it from ruin, discord, and mutual hatred.
Today trouble has again come to our home in the ongoing confrontation in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. The information war is also ongoing. Propaganda is destroying fraternal relations between peoples and even severing blood kinship. Where do we look for salvation? How do we overcome difficulties and strife, when brothers in the faith have abundantly sowed the seeds of enmity and strife, yielding bloody shoots? The blood shed in the past year on our land cries out to Heaven.
Only the All-Merciful Lord has the power to loose his faithful from any troubles. Only “God is our refuge and strength, a helper in afflictions which mightily befall us” (Psalm 45:1). “Turn ye to Me,” says the Lord, “and ye shall be saved” (Isaiah 45:22).
Leaving behind malice and enmity, let us look upon, hear, and love each of our neighbors. “Wash you, be clean; remove your iniquities from your souls before Mine eyes; cease from your iniquities; learn to do well; diligently seek judgment…” (Isaiah 1:16-17).
In these difficult times, I appeal to all my brethren in the faith always to remember their responsibility before the future of our Holy Church and our Homeland of Ukraine. We must do everything possible to stop the war and establish a long-awaited peace in our State. Any call for military aggression and hostility is unacceptable for the clergy. We have no right in any case to justify the war using religious slogans. I call upon the Orthodox who find themselves today on opposite sides of the armed conflict to see each other as brethren and to set out on the path of reconciliation. Amidst the raging flames of the passions of this world, the Church is called to be a place where peace, mercy, repentance, and forgiveness for all reign.
We shudder with horror and pain when we see the suffering of the people of God. Insolent death erases all differences among the living. In the graves there is no longer either right or left. Today there lie in the graves children of our Church in Eastern, Central, and Western Ukraine. If we do not stop the war in our hearts, it will only flare up outside.
In these days the Lord offers us the opportunity to test our faith and fidelity to Christ’s teaching. I am convinced that it is only in peacemaking service and all-forgiving love that we can find the strength for the speedy revival of our Homeland under the protection of the Holy Orthodox Church.
I call upon all the faithful of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to pray fervently to our Lord Jesus Christ, His All-Holy Mother, the Holy Princes and Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb, and to all the saints who have shown forth in our land. Let us ask God to instruct us and increase the love in our hearts.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all!
Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine,
Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.