28 March 2014

Churches in Ukraine: World News Feature

Patriarch Filaret of Kiev

Patrick Comerford looks at the role of the Churches in the current turbulent events in Ukraine, where they have key influence but also reflect the divisions of a nation

The Crimean move for union with Russia has brought a new and more threatening dimension to the crisis in Ukraine and raises the threshold of confrontation between the West and Russia. During the protests in Kiev, colourfully-robed priests were visible on the streets, setting up prayer tents, leading prayers at protests, standing on the frontline between police and protesters and praying over dead protesters.

The most common religion in Ukraine is Orthodox Christianity. But the Orthodox churches are as divided as Ukraine, and the divisions are as complex as the history of Ukraine.

There are at least four Orthodox Churches: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate (38.9 per cent), the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (29.4 per cent), the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (2.9 per cent) and the Old Believers’ Church.

The picture is more complex when one considers the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (14.7 per cent). This Church sounds, looks and smells like an Orthodox Church, but is in full communion with Rome. To compound matters, two others Ukrainian Churches are in full communion with Rome: the Ruthenian Catholic Church, which also has Byzantine rites, and the Latin-rite Roman Catholic dioceses.

When Prince Vladimir the ordered the mass baptism of Kiev in the Dnieper River on 988, he establishing Christianity in what became Ukraine and Russia. After the Great Schism in 1054, most of what is present-day Ukraine aligned with the Eastern Orthodox or Byzantine Church.

The advance of the Mongol hoards pushed the centre of Russian religion and culture north and Kiev was sacked in 1240. Later, most of Ukraine was divided between Poland, Lithuania, Hungary and the Ottoman Empire.

In the late 16th century, the Bishop of Lviv turned to the Pope for protection. Other bishops followed and in 1596, under the Union of Brest-Lviv, part of the Ukrainian Church came under Papal jurisdiction as a Byzantine-rite Catholic or “Uniate” Church, known today as the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

However, the majority of Ukrainians remained within Eastern Orthodoxy under the Metropolitan (Archbishop) of Kiev. In 1686, the Patriarch of Constantinople transferred their Church to the Patriarch of Moscow. When Latin-rite Catholic bishops began trying to convert “Greek Catholics” to their rites, many considered a return to Orthodoxy. At a synod in 1839, the Union of Brest-Lviv was rescinded by bishops, priests and parishes who transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church. But large numbers of “Greek Catholics” survived in Galicia within the Hapsburg Empire, and became an important cultural force in what is now western Ukraine.


During World War I, Ukraine was fought over by Austrians, Germans, Poles, Russians and Bolsheviks ... Kiev was captured by the Bolsheviks on four occasions. Under Soviet rule, the Metropolitan of Kiev was executed, churches were closed and priests were executed. A secret meeting in Kiev proclaimed a new Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) in 1921, and in violation of canon law the priests ordained their own bishops. But mass arrests ended almost in the liquidation of the church in 1930.

When the Red Army attacked Poland in 1939, many Ukrainian-speaking Orthodox priests welcomed the Soviet troops and restored links with the Moscow Patriarchate. When Nazi Germany occupied Ukraine, yet another Orthodox Church emerged, calling itself the Ukrainian Autonomous Orthodox Church.

The maps were redrawn after World War II and the Russian Orthodox Church gained control throughout Soviet Ukraine. The other churches feared persecution, the Greek Catholics were suspected of being Nazi collaborators, a small group of “Uniate” priests turned to Orthodoxy, and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church were forced underground.


The millennium of the baptism of Rus in 1988 was celebrated as the millennium of the Russian Orthodox Church, with Metropolitan Filaret of Kiev co-ordinating events. Soviet attitudes softened with perestroika and glasnost, and the government promised to return all church property. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church re-surfaced, but the Russian Orthodox Church also faced the threat of schism.

Moscow conceded autonomy to its Ukrainian Exarchate or dioceses in 1990. With the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine became independent and an independent Orthodox Church was proposed. Metropolitan Filaret of Kiev, who had unsuccessfully sought to be elected Patriarch of Moscow in 1990, now demanded full independence for his church in Ukraine. He won the support of President Leonid Kravchuk, and entered a secret agreement with the tiny Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC).

However, the Patriarchate of Moscow rejected his proposals. He was suspended and he was replaced by Metropolitan Volodymyr. With the support of only three bishops, Metropolitan Filaret went ahead with his plans and in 1992 formed the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP). Neither his church nor his claims are recognised by other Orthodox Churches, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in communion with Moscow is still the only Church in Ukraine in full communion with other Orthodox Churches.


Church rivalry remains a major factor in the conflict, and has been played out in the streets of Kiev. To generalise, the church loyal to Moscow tended to support President Viktor Yanukovich until he was deposed, while the church of Metroplitan Filaret has supported the protesters and the opposition to Russian interests, and his cathedral, Saint Michael’s, was used to lay out the bodies of many dead protesters. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church survives mainly in West Ukraine and its priests have also been to the forefront of the demonstrations and are strongly anti-Russian.

Protestants are a small minority in Ukraine and include Baptists and German-speaking Lutherans.

Christ Church, the Anglican Church in Kiev, has no priest at present but since 1999 has become a welcoming and thriving church, with an international membership. It uses a Lutheran Church, where the first floor was a First Aid post for both police and protesters. Alla Gedz of Christ Church says the leadership has remained neutral about the political position in Ukraine, and she says: “To understand Ukrainians, people either have to be born with a Ukrainian heart and know the history or to serve this nation.”

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Adjunct Assistant Professor in the University of Dublin and a member of the Chapter of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

This full-page feature was published in the Church of Ireland Gazette, p 9, on Friday 28 March 2014

Praying the Litany in the ‘Book of
Common Prayer’ on Fridays in Lent

The 1549 ‘Book of Common Prayer’ ... Bishop Alan Wilson says ‘The Book of Common Prayer’ is rooted in the Litany (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

In the Church of Ireland, a rubric in the 2004 Book of Common Prayer recommends using the Litany Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, particularly in the seasons of Advent and Lent and on Rogation Days (see The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 175).

There are two versions of the Litany in The Book of Common Prayer, one in traditional language (pp 170-174), with no rubrics or recommendations for its use, but ending with the Lord’s Prayer, the so-called Prayer of Saint Chrysostom and the Grace, and a second form in contemporary which, when used as a separate service, may be preceded by a psalm, canticle or hymn, and one of the readings of the day, and conclude with the Lord’s Prayer.

In addition, there are other litanies, such as those as the ordination of a bishop (see pp 542-545, 557, 585-590) and the ordination of priests and deacons (see pp 520-522, 528-530, 557, 568, 579, 585).

The term “the Lesser Litany” is sometimes used to refer to the versicles and responses, with the Lord’s Prayer, that follow the Apostles’ Creed at Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer.

The Great Litany, which we are praying this morning in the second, contemporary form, is used at different times and seasons, but is probably most frequently experienced during the season of Lent because of its distinctly penitential nature. In the Church of Ireland, The Book of Common Prayer recommends its use in Lent, and on Wednesdays and Fridays.

The Great Litany is a reminder to pray for God’s intervention and involvement in all areas of life. It is said to be the first prayer composed in the English language for use in public worship and that is not an English translation from another language. Bishop Alan Wilson wrote in the Guardian some years ago (4 October 2010) that The Book of Common Prayer is rooted in the Litany.

The Litany is a responsorial form of supplication and is the most comprehensive of all the prayers in The Book of Common Prayer, embracing all sorts and conditions of people. In the Litany, nearly every general area of prayer is addressed, including prayer for different aspects of the Church, the world, the government, and the poor.

These petitions are prefaced by a series of requests asking God to deliver us from all manner of afflictions, including: evil, sin, heresy, schism, natural disasters, political disasters, violence, death, and so on. It also includes an intercessory prayer including various petitions that are said or sung by the leader, with fixed responses by the congregation.

We find a Litany being used in Rome as early as the fifth century, when it was led by a deacon, with the collects led by a bishop or priest. But the Litany as we know it today was the first English language rite prepared by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer.

In 1544, as King Henry VIII was at war with both France and Scotland, he ordered processions throughout England. At the time, it was the practice for litanies to be offered in public processions in the streets. Henry VIII was disappointed that people were not responding and joining in the prayers, but keenly perceived that this was because the people “understode no parte of suche prayers or suffrages as were used to be songe and sayde.”

When Henry VIII commissioned Cranmer to write the Litany, Cranmer took the opportunity to translate the traditional litany, prefacing it with an exhortation, and consolidating certain groups of petitions into single prayers with response. He trimmed the earlier text and, echoing the traditional response people knew, miserere nobis, and the commendation for the sick, called on God to “have mercy upon us miserable sinners.”

Cranmer drew on a variety of sources, chiefly two medieval litanies from the Sarum rite, but also the German Litany of Martin Luther. Cranmer also made a notable change in the style of the service by expanding and grouping together those said by the priest and providing just a single response to the whole group.

Cranmer originally retained the invocations of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the angels and the saints in very shortened forms, referring to the “Holy Virgin Mary, Mother of God our Saviour Jesu Christ ... All holy Angels and Archangels and all holy orders of blessed spirits” and “All holy Patriarchs, and Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, & Virgins, and all the blessed company of heaven.” But these were omitted when the Litany was printed as an appendix to the Eucharist in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer.

In 1552, the Litany was moved to a position in The Book of Common Prayer between the daily offices and the Holy Communion. An anti-papal clause in the 1544 version, praying for deliverance “from the tyranny of the bishop of Rome and all his detestable enormities,” was omitted in 1559, the processional aspect was soon eliminated and the service was no longer used in processions but said or sung kneeling in the church.

The Litany in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is substantially the same as that written by Cranmer in 1544.

In 1926, the rubric in the Church of Ireland Book of Common Prayer said the litany was to be “sung or said upon Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and on such other days as shall be commanded by the Ordinary.”

In the US, The 1928 Book of Common Prayer allowed the Litany to be used after the fixed collects of Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer, or before the Eucharist, or separately. It also included a short Litany for Ordinations as an alternative to the Litany. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer in TEC named the Litany “The Great Litany” to distinguishing it from other litanies in the Book of Common Prayer.

The second, contemporary form of the Litany in the 2004 Book of Common Prayer which we are using this morning is derived from the version that first appeared the Alternative Prayer Book in 1984.


Psalms 26, 32; Genesis 47: 1-31; I Corinthians 9: 16-27.

Collect of the Day (Lent 3):

Merciful Lord, Grant your people grace to withstand the temptations
of the world, the flesh and the devil
and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only God;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Art for Lent (24): ‘The Temptation of
Saint Anthony’ (1946), by Salvador Dalí

‘The Temptation of Saint Anthony’ by Salvador Dalí in the Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels

Patrick Comerford

Over the past few weeks, I have written about Lent as a wilderness experience, and I illustrated this yesterday with ‘Christ in the Desert’ by the Russian artist Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi. Earlier this week, in the module on Patristics, I was speaking about the Desert Fathers, and to illustrate the story of Saint Anthony, I used ‘The Temptation of Saint Anthony’ by Salvador Dalí.

I have chosen this painting as my work of Art for Lent this morning [28 March 2014]. This oil painting on canvas measures 89.7 x 119.5 cm and is in the Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels.

‘The Temptation of Saint Anthony’ was painted by the Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí in 1946. It was finished immediately before his “classical period” or the “Dalí Renaissance.”

Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) was known for the eccentric and striking images in his work. In 1946, Dali was invited to participate in a painting competition organised by a film production company, Loew Lewin, for a painting on the theme of the temptation of Saint Anthony.

Dalí painted this work in a matter of days in a studio in New York. It was the first and only time Dalí took part in a contest, and he was unsuccessful, with Dalí losing out to the German artist Max Ernst, an innovator in the Dada movement.

This is Dalí’s his first painting to depict his interest in the intermediates between heaven and earth. While he was painting this canvas, his contemporaries were concerned with post-war concepts and subjects. But Dalí chose to paint subjects he considered spiritual and to reveal the hidden powers in them.

Dalí believed that all objects possessed this power, and he sought to capture it in his painting. He was inspired too by his fascination with the atomic bomb, which he regarded as mystical and powerful.

This painting depicts the temptations Saint Anthony the Great faced in the Western Desert in Egypt in the third century. His biographer, Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, tells us Saint Anthony renounced his worldly possessions to live alone and to strengthen his faith. In the desert, Saint Anthony prayed repeatedly as Satan tempted repeatedly.

Dalí sets the scene in a desert-like landscape with a low horizon line, a combination of clouds with dark and warm tones, and an azure sky.

It is painted in a classical style, with the images depicted in a refined state. The range of the mid-section to the top of the painting contains the action: a horse leads an advancing parade of elephants, all walking on long spindly legs. On their backs, the elephants carry monumental iconography: a fountain with a statue of a naked woman holding her breasts in her hands, an obelisk, a building complex that holds the torso of a naked woman and that is topped by statues, and a vertical tower.

Below them, Saint Anthony holds a-high a cross in his right hand, and with a human skull at his feet. Saint Anthony is kneeling, a posture of submission. He has shed his clothing and is raising his hand towards the oncoming parade of temptation. And so Dalí contrast the saint’s weakness and the power of the cross with this terrible temptation.

Saint Anthony is dwarfed and confined to the bottom left corner of the painting by the approaching monsters. Behind him, an ambiguous form supports the weight of his body with his left hand. The negative space around him and in the foreground shows the distance from the temptation in front of him.

The animal parade is the focal point of the painting because of its size and its arrangement.

In the foreground, at the front of the line of temptations, is a monstrous white horse. The rearing horse represents the fountain of desire, and the form of the horse represents strength and voluptuousness. The horse is a symbol of strength, yet it seems frightened by the small body of Saint Anthony. Does this imply that the strength of Saint Anthony and his faith are enough to combat temptation?

The position of the horse indicates it may also symbolise something else. The horse is standing on its hind legs exposing its undercarriage. Its mane looks like flames of a fire, representing the fiery passion of sex. The muscular body of the horse can also represent a female’s voluptuousness. This is reinforced by the horse’s gaze at the breasts of the naked woman.

The elephants have long, spindly, fragile legs. As the legs of Dali’s elephants extend higher and higher, they symbolise the human desire to excel. However, as the feet of these gargantuan beasts are planted on the ground so are human dreams planted in reality. While a common symbol in Dali’s work, the elephants were not completely original.

The first elephant behind the horse is carrying a golden cup symbolising fertility and lust on its back, with a naked woman balanced on a golden pedestal. The angle of the naked woman implies her footing is unstable, illustrating the precarious balance between fertility and lust.

The second elephant is carrying an obelisk inspired by Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s obelisk in Rome, the Pulcino della Minerva. This famous elephant sculpture is one of eleven Egyptian obelisks in Rome. Dalí also used a Bernini-inspired elephant two years earlier in the background of his painting ‘Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening’ (1944).

The third and fourth elephants are burdened with Venetian palaces in the style of Palladio. Andrea Palladio was a Venetian architect who, like Bernini, was commissioned for religious art. Dalí associates the work of these two religious artists with the elephants of temptation. Is he commenting on the artists, on religious architecture, or on religion?

A fifth elephant in the background carries a tall tower that displays phallic overtones. What is the meaning of the direct reference to Bernini covered in the background by clouds?

The ground is desert-like. Secondary creatures, a mountain, a dark sky, grey clouds and a palace can be discerned at the horizon line.

In the clouds we catch glimpses of fragments of El Escorial, representing spiritual and temporal disorder. The Royal Palace of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, more commonly called El Escorial, 45 km north-west of Madrid, was the official residence of the King of Spain until 1861. But it is also a well-known Augustinian monastery, so it represents both Church and State. We can only barely make out the building in among the clouds. Is El Escorial being resisting temptation? Are Church and State being consumed by temptation?

Is Dalí’s painting ambiguous or positive about Christianity. He shows Saint Anthony facing all the temptations we face not only in the desert but in the world today, including lust, wealth, power, privilege, idolatry, vanity, and relying on personal strength. The dramatic reaction of the horse to the raised cross tells us Saint Anthony is able to ward off temptation with his faith.

How you respond to this in the middle of Lent? What are your personal temptations? How do you resist them? Do you rely on the power of the Cross?

Tomorrow: The Chapel of Christ in Gethsemane, Coventry Cathedral.