THE AGE OF MARTYRS
Bob Harvey writes in "Orthodox Way" (February 1999, as cited in Visnyk/The Herald/Le Messager, May 31 1999, p. 3): "The 20th century is the age of martyrs". He says that, since 1900, more than 35 million Christians have died for their faith - at least half of all Christians martyred since the beginning of the Church in about 33 A.D., according to an upcoming edition of the World Christian Encyclopedia.
Last Sunday we celebrated the feast of the fruit of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit which gave birth to the Church. We celebrated the Saints of all times - even those who have not yet been revealed to us. The Church is not limited by passing time. It is eternal. It exists everywhere and always for it is full of the Holy Spirit - God Himself.
The Church is also concrete and specific. It consists of concrete and specific persons who live in specific and particular situations. Today we celebrate the particular Saints who were revealed on the lands of Ukraine (or "Rus'", another name it has been known by since ancient times) as well as those manifested in other lands, but who hail from there.
What an enormous number of such martyrs belong to this century! Bob Harvey gives the number as 15 million - those who were killed because of their adherance to the flock of Christ in the former Soviet Union. What a tragedy that so many innocent people died!
Let us, however, also see this with the eyes of faith. A faith that does not have martyrs is a faith without foundations or convictions. An old saying goes: "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church". Having lamented over this tragedy, denounced the injustice, and exerted all efforts to ensure that justice is done, let us not forget to celebrate the living faith of these martyrs which shows the power and dynamism of Jesus' teachings.
Let us recommit ourselves to manifest these teachings in our lives. Recalling all these martyrs let us not become, in our thirst for justice, like those who martyred them. Let us be ready to forgive. Let us open the doors for others to repent. Let us recall Saul the persecuter who became Paul the Apostle because of the love of Jesus, notwithstanding the fear and anger of those called to imitate their Founder, who at first made it difficult for the penitent to find acceptance in His flock.
Let us be holy just as our Leader, our Friend and fellow-Victim became Holy and perfect, having suffered everything in obedience to the will of His (and our) Father in Heaven.
V. Rev. Ihor Kutash