Today’s feast day, the SUNDAY OF ALL SAINTS of RUS’-UKRAINE, raises up before our eyes not just the canonized saints of Rus’-Ukraine, but all those other holy ones, the great cloud of unknown saints of our ancestral lands, known only to God, whose lives were dedicated to God and the establishment of His Kingdom here on earth.
And who are among them? Well, we have such saints in all our own families. They are parents, grandparents, great grandparents, relatives and ancestors who lived holy lives (and their lives revolved around the Church), as well as those members of our families who sacrificed their own comfort and resources to support the Church in its mission to spread the gospel to our people.
They are nuns and teachers who taught us about our Lord, Jesus Christ, about the Sacraments and the life of God we receive at Divine Liturgy in Holy Communion.
They are friends, both Catholic and Orthodox, who supported us in our choices to do what is right, what is good, what is noble and best.
They are also our bishops, priests and religious men and women who inspired us, prayed for us, and prayed with us.
They are our brothers and sisters of our parish communities, who would drop everything to come and help those who were in need, caring for those who were sick or were in trouble.
When we think about holiness many of us tend to think that only extraordinary people are holy people, those “other people,” those in monasteries or convents, or in religious orders, going about in silence, dressed in habits and reading prayer books. But maybe it’s a way of defending ourselves from the idea that God is asking us to be holy too. If only a few extraordinary people are called to be saints, we then think that we don’t need to make the effort, because that’s not really for us.
However, God’s call for holiness is universal. Everyone is called to live in God’s love and make His love real in the lives of those around them. Holiness isn’t something that is distant and far removed for us. Quite the contrary, it is very near and close at hand. For holiness is not some strange way of living.
Holiness is related to the word “wholesomeness,” or “wholeness.” It means living lives that are whole or complete, full of integrity and truth, wholesome and integrated, lives in which we are close to others, while being close with God. It means forgiving others when they injure us. It means not holding grudges against them. To live a life of holiness means that one gives up clinging to prejudices, resentments, and the desire to get even with others.
Holiness means that you are open and exposed to God. It means that you can listen to what God wants to say to you. God has a Word for you. He has something He wants to say to you. Holiness, living holistically with God, means that you give God time in which you worship Him with praise and thanksgiving; time to ask Him for things that you need, but also a time in which He can ask you for what He wants for you. Holiness involves what you’re doing right now, namely joining together in Christ’s family of faith to share His loving Presence in the Mystery of the Eucharist. (Holy Things for the Holy!)
Holiness also means being filled with God’s grace and the Holy Spirit. It means, through private and public prayer together, being filled and inspired with God’s Holy Spirit so that God’s mind might fill our minds, and His heart might fill our hearts.
This is the Sunday of ALL SAINTS OF RUS’-UKRAINE, a special Sunday each year when we place in our vision what God has in mind for our Church, the people of Ukraine, and all those who have ancestral roots in Ukraine and the Kyivan Church. We recognize today that we are called to be part of that vast multitude of holy ones whose numbers are so great they cannot be counted. This is All Saints Sunday of all who trace their roots to the Church of Kyiv, established by St. Volodymyr and Olha – is meant to be your feast day and mine.
What remains for us to do is to break free from some of the ordinary patterns we may have established in our daily lives and try something fresh and new. God has fallen in love with you and me just where we are. All that remains is for us to live lives a little bit closer to each other, as well as a little bit closer to God. Each and every time we do, we grow in holiness and we become a little bit more like what God dreamed we could be when He made us in the first place.
May the love of God fill us with a greater measure of His presence, His power and His Holy Spirit on this SUNDAY, AS WE COMMEMORATE ALL THE SAINTS OF UKRAINE, as well as all the remaining days of our lives.