To You We Throw the Torch
"The armies of Heavenly Hosts were greatly astounded by the valour of the holy martyrs. Even though they were in the mortal body, by the power of the Holy Cross, they resisted well the incorporeal enemy. And they pray to the Lord or our souls. (Matins of Saturday, Tone 5)
(left: Icon of St. Josaphat, OSBM, Basilian Monastery, Rome, Italy; artist:
Dearly Beloved in Christ,
Each year, on November 11, we celebrate the remembrance of the fallen warriors
of our nation. The very next day, we commemorate one of the greatest martyrs
of our Ukrainian Church, Saint Josaphat Kuncevych, OSBM. Each Saturday, our
Byzantine Church calendar commemorates both the holy
martyrs and the dead in Christ. In the prayers of the Church, the martyrs are compared to the heavenly armies of angels; they suffered for what is right- for truth and justice, paying little heed for their bodies, as if they were angels who are incorporeal or without physical bodies.
The Martyrs have always been an important example for Christians; the cult
of honouring the martyrs goes back to the first days of Christianity. Their
examples teach us that even when our physical life is not on the line, there
are moral issues which are more important and which will make or break us
as individuals, as families, as entire societies- even the whole
human race. In the Gospel of St. Matthew, our Lord warns us: "fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." We must, as good Soldiers of Christ, fight the good fight for what is right. Most often, the triumph of evil, in any given situation, comes about because the good do nothing. Even from a non-religious angle, we cannot remain indifferent to evil after the events of September 11, 2001.
There also exists a thing called religious indifference. Our
forefathers and their fathers before them sacrificed everything, so that we would inherit the precious treasure of the Holy Faith. Part of that treasure is, by the will of Christ, that we be fully united with the Successor of Blessed Peter, our Holy Father the Pope. This value is a spiritual one; one for which Saint Josaphat gave his life.
Like the martyrs, we also remember the dead, and in particular the fallen martyrs of our country and especially of our local community. They fought for civil and ethical values so that we may be free. Today, their memory challenges us to follow their example. One of the fallen Canadian soldiers announced this challenge many years ago: "Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep." Our quarrel is, as the Holy Apostle Paul clarifies in today's epistle: "not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 5).
"Blessed armies of the heavenly King, even though You were earth-bound
yet You suffered willingly, and exerted yourselves to attain heavenly honours.
Not caring for the body but embracing sufferings, You received honours of
the incorporeal angels. Wherefore, through their prayers, O Lord, grant us
great mercy. (Saturday Matins, Tone 5)
May these Holy Martyrs be always our guide, and may the fallen soldiers ever challenge us to be 'sicut miles Christi', like Soldiers of Christ, putting ourselves on the front lines of truth and justice with faith, hope and love.
Lest we forget.
Father Athanasius McVay, OSBM
November 1, 2002
Commemoration of Blessed Bishop-Martyr Theodore Romzha