The sun rose brightly on Sunday August 27th. As the people arrived for Divine Liturgy, they noticed that the main drive to the St. Andrew Memorial Church in South Bound Brook, NJ, was flanked by numerous banners with images of men and women. Smiling faces. Serious faces. Portraits and selfies. Pausing for a quick look before climbing the steps to the church the faithful read the text on the banners identifying the individuals depicted as having given their lives defending Ukraine against the current genocide being perpetrated against their homeland of Ukraine by the Russian Federations.
On this day the faithful at the Metropolia Center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church gathered to celebrate the 32nd anniversary of Ukrainian Independence and pray for her continued freedom and deliverance from her enemies. Viewing the alley of banners from the top of the steps of the church, the people’s smiles faded as they read, “We remember the fallen defenders”. Their eyes spanned over the 432 images from afar, and with tears shining in their eyes they opened the door and entered God’s House, searching for solace for their troubled souls and heavy hearts.
With His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony, Prime Hierarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA and Diaspora, His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, Ruling Hierarch of the West Eparchy and Consistory President served the Divine Liturgy, along with the gathered clergy of the Church, the Seminarians from the Saint Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary, and the faithful who arrived dressed in vibrant traditional Ukrainian attire. More tears were shed as Archbishop Daniel delivered a sermon based on the Gospel of Matthew, emphasizing the importance of opening their hearts and minds in prayer for Ukraine’s victory and freedom. The Lord is with us, and He is with them, and He hears all our supplications. Therefore, we need not sit by and worry, spend hours waiting for news, or sit back and simply await whatever results occur from the war. As Orthodox Christians, we are called to prayer. As one we need to unite our hearts and souls, our very thoughts, and prayers, and humbly before God, beg for his intercession, His intervention, His attention to the current plight of Ukraine and her people.