Pastoral Letter of His Beatitude Sviatoslav to the Youth
“…therefore, like children, we also carry signs of victory
and cry out to You the conqueror of death:
Hosanna in the highest!
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”
(Tropar of Palm Sunday)
Dear Beloved Youth in Christ!
On the Feast of the triumphant entry of our Lord to the capital city of Jerusalem, I address you with my first pastoral letter after my installation as the Father and Head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
A tradition has developed in the Catholic Church that on Palm Sunday special attention is given to youth. On this day in St. Peter’s Square in Rome hundreds of your peers from around the world gather to pray together with the Holy father. I want to take advantage of this opportunity to appeal to you, by means of this letter, to reassure you my personal concern and to invite you to dialogue with the Word of God, which the Holy Church preaches.
Palm Sunday — this is a day that makes us participants of an extraordinary event. Jesus Christ comes to the culmination of his salvific mission. His crucifixion, death and resurrection are drawing near. And here, on the eve of His passion, the God of Israel in human flesh comes to His people. This advent was prefigured by King David, ceremoniously carrying into Jerusalem the Ark of the Covenant adorned with the images of the cherubim that signalled the presence of the One Who is enthroned upon the Cherubim. A visible sign of the presence of the Almighty was for the Israelites an assurance of their invincibility, because God Himself dwelt among them.
Today, Almighty God meets His People, albeit, without the assistance of some inanimate object. Today He, Son of the Heavenly Father, filled with the Holy Spirit, comes personally and in a visible form! Jesus Christ opens to us the possibility of a personal encounter with Him. It is exactly to this meeting that the Church of Christ prepares us and invites us by the words of Saint Andrew of Crete: “Come let us ascend together to the Garden of Olives to meet Christ, Who today … freely approaches His holy and blessed suffering in order to complete the mystery of our salvation (Discourse 9 on Palm Sunday)
Venerable Andrew points out the spontaneity of such a meeting from both sides. From the side of God — this movement of love of the Creator toward His creation… a love that leads Him to suffering, a total sacrifice of the Son of God for each one of us. From the human side — this spontaneous response of young to God’s approach. It is particularly the young people of Jerusalem that felt this movement of love toward them. Their reaction was spur-of-the-moment, unplanned and even unthinkable for the religious and political elite of that day. The Evangelist Luke tells us that, “some of the Pharisees, who were present in the crowd, told Him, ‘Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!”. He answers them, “I tell you that if these were silenced, the very stones would cry out!”(Lk 19:39-40). It was the children and the youth that recognized in Christ the incarnate God of Israel and began to shout, “Hosanna!” – which means “save us!” The desire of a young person to love and to be loved opened them to Divine Love, because to save means to give one’s life in love — life eternal.
Dear Young people! Christ today approaches you too! He enters His city — Jerusalem, which is each one of our communities, each of our groups and the heart of each one of us. Today the Church needs your spontaneity and your intuitive openness to the reality of God Who is present among us. It is you are the voices by which the Church welcomes its King singing: “Blessed is He, Who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Jn 12:13).
In our day, unfortunately, this innate youthful devoutness and the search for that eternal Love, which is God – are both often wounded and purloined. It is difficult for us to allow ourselves to love, because we are afraid of being deceived or used. Moreover, sometimes we are incapable of loving. We give more value to things, virtual amusement and communication in social networks, rather than real living persons who are near to us. These characteristics of today’s culture isolate us, close us into ourselves and render us incapable of meeting others. That is why the contemporary young person often feels deeply lonely even in a noisy and cheerful crowd of friends. Not having encountered the Lord, one cannot encounter oneself.
Nevertheless, today the Lord victoriously approaches Jerusalem. Let us boldly go out to meet Him! The green branches, with which we welcome Him, are a symbol of a person’s victory over isolation and loneliness in relation to God and our neighbour. Oh how much we need in our day this green sign of awakening, this fresh air of spring that shatters stereotypes and prejudices, that overcomes doubts and suspicions and recognizes Him who comes to each of us. On this day, it is to us – the young Church (which the Prophets often referred to as the bride of the Lord) that the words of the Prophet Zachariah are addressed as he calls upon us not to fear, “Rejoice O Daughter of Zion, … lo, your King comes to you, …riding on a colt!” (Zach 9:9)
On this festal day, that brings us closer to Easter, do not be afraid to meet with Christ and do not be embarrassed to identify yourselves as Christians even before those that may want to forbid you from doing this. If you remain silent, then the stones will shout out. Regardless of how strange this may sound in the modern culture of the young, let us not fear to shout to Him, “Hosanna in the highest!” Today we do not simply take into our hands blessed branches with symbols of the springtime renewal of nature — we take into our hands symbols of victory over sin and death, and through them we receive the strength of Him, Who goes to the Resurrection. Let us experience this encounter together today — and let us become inspired with the strength of Love, with which we build our future together.
Blessed is He, who comes in the name of the Lord!”
Issued in Kyiv at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of our Lord, Palm Sunday, 17 April 2011 AD