“And Cain said to Abel his brother, “Let us go out to the field. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.”
Brothers and sisters, today the sons of Cain are killing their brother in Ukraine. There is nothing more horrifying than fratricide, than brother killing brother. And indeed, today Abel’s blood is crying to God from the ground once more.
We have sadly become immune to the tragedy of war. When I was a child, I remember the first televised war, Vietnam, and the horrifying images that came right into our living room. Since then, we have had images of violence in the former Yugoslavia, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Ossetia, Iraq, Libya and so many other places broadcast into our homes; and I fear we have become immune to human suffering. But today the senseless violence of brother killing brother has hit home as we see Russians and Ukrainians kill each other. They are our brothers and their conflict threatens the entire world.
One of my favorite poems is St. Silouan’s Adam’s Lament. In it he writes:
Adam knew great grief when he was banished from paradise, but when he saw his son Abel slain by Cain his brother, Adam’s grief was even heavier. His soul was heavy, and he lamented and thought:
Peoples and nations will descend from me, and multiply, and suffering will be their lot, and they will live in enmity and seek to slay one another.
And his sorrow stretched wide as the sea, and only the soul that has come to know the Lord and the magnitude of His love for us can understand.
I, too, have lost grace and call with Adam:
Be merciful unto me, O Lord! Bestow on me the spirit of humility and love.
It has been said young men fight the wars of old men. I cannot imagine how demoralizing it is for soldiers on either side to fight in this conflict. Many come from families with members on either side of the border. War is terrifying and its wounds are not only physical but spiritual as well. Let us pray for their safety and health.
We are here not to condemn any of our brothers, but to call them to repentance, to urge them to cease killing each other and grieving God who cares for every human soul. And let each of us here examine our hearts as we enter the Great Forty Days and repent of the evil we have done. As we heard last Sunday in the Gospel for Meatfare, we will be judged for what we have done or failed to do for our neighbor, for our brother. Let us rise and say: “God be merciful to us sinners. Forgive us the evil WE have done.” And let us pray for our Ukrainian and Russian brothers.
We have an opportunity to reach out and feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked and to give them shelter. Our sister church, the Church of Poland, is being overwhelmed with refugees who are fleeing for their lives. I urge you to join me and the rest of the Orthodox Church in America in donating funds to help them meet the needs of our brothers and sisters who have come to their doorstep for help at this time.
Finally, I would like to say how proud I am to have known Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev and Ukraine. This conflict has placed him and his entire Church in a very awkward and difficult position. Nevertheless, he has shown great leadership and care for his flock. He is a remarkable shepherd and I urge you to pray for him in particular, that God will protect him and give him courage to continue to do and say what is right.
With love in Christ,
Archbishop of San Francisco and the West
(reprinted from dowoca.org)
Prayers for Ukraine:
[To be inserted after the petition for the departed]
Again we pray for those who have lost their lives because of the war in Ukraine: that the Lord our God may look upon them with mercy, and give them rest where there is neither sickness, or sorrow, but life everlasting.
[To be inserted after the petition for the living]
Again we pray for mercy, life, peace, health, salvation, for those who are suffering, wounded, grieving, or displaced because of the war in Ukraine.
Again we pray for a cessation of the hostilities against Ukraine, and that reconciliation and peace will flourish there, we pray thee, hearken and have mercy.