When I left Chicago, my church family gave me this poster. 'You have to remember where you come from,' they said.
The poster, which now hangs above my desk at home, commemorates the millennium of Christianity in Ukraine. It does indeed help me think through some of the thorny issues of being in the Kyivan Church, especially on a day like this. We hear often, for example, from our Latin sisters and brothers that we Greek-Catholics and Orthodox are trapped in the bind of nationalism, as if nationalism in Roman Catholicism isn't also a problem and as if Orthodoxy was invented at the same time as the modern nation-state.
A colonized church as we are, I've heard attempts to commemorate the saints of Orthodox diasporas that don't have national churches yet. I don't think we've thought through how doing that reinforces the charge that we're a bunch of nationalists.
The theologian Cyril Hovorun reminds us that the geopolitical structures by which we imagine our ecclesial life are just scaffolds. In Orthodoxy, they have been dismantled several times, often clarifying that the church is, at its most basic, the gathering of the people of God upon whose praises the risen Lord is enthroned.
As I think about what my sisters and brothers in Chicago mean by 'where I came from,' I feel an inner consolation that this means that here, in a place that is said to be a frontier in Orthodox and Greek-Catholic diaspora, I am in a church, and a local one too. I am in the local Church of Kyiv in global form. I am an unlikely adopted child into the baptism of the Holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Volodymyr and Olha, where my politics are shaped by the extension of the witness of the Holy Passionbearers Borys and Hlib to the modern events of the Holodomor, Chornobyl, and the Maidan. I share in the Dormition spirituality of Antony and Theodosius of the Kyivan Caves.
Does joining my prayers to this church make me a nationalist? I sure hope not. Here's where it is significant that it is my church in Chicago who gave me this poster. We who understand the politics of the Kyivan Church know that one of the major fault lines of our contemporary history run through the Great Schism of Chicago Avenue. And yet despite that trauma, has not so much of the richness of our spirituality come from that?
There, the Galadzas began the liturgical renewal in which I was formed, and Fr. Andriy Chirovsky started the Sheptytsky Institute. There, Frs. Pavlo Hayda and Myron Panchuk of blessed memory plumbed the depths of psychoanalysis and paved the way for our communities to be places where traumatized people are welcomed. There, we were reminded that the colonial trauma that expresses itself in nationalism is often a prayer of the heart joined to the groans of all creation for the realization of the recapitulation of Theophany in Christ our Pascha. Doesn't that just sound Catholic? No matter how deep the trauma is baked into our bodies, here in this house we sing our liturgies; the universality of our praises is a cry for healing for our universal trauma.
This is my church home, then. My place in the Body of Christ is in the Kyivan Church. May it be here that my heart, which is not lifted up to things too lofty, is quieted like a weaned child on my mother's breast.
This reflection was originally posted on Facebook.