Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski, Eparchial Bishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the UK, has given us a short reflection on the day Pope Francis and Catholic bishops around the world consecrate Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Bishop Nowakowski explains why we revere Mary the Mother of God, and who she is to us, as Christians – especially in relationship to Our Lord and Saviour.
He also expresses his gratitude to “our brothers and sisters who are on the border”, particularly Poland, who are welcoming over a million displaced people.
“When we think of the profile of the displaced person, especially now in Poland, these are mothers with young children who have had to leave and say goodbye to their husbands, who are defending their country… When we think of our relationship with the Holy Theotokos, the Blessed Mother of God, we understand this as ‘family’, and in times of great need, we run to our families to help us. So we think of all of those people here in the United Kingdom who will be opening up their homes, their arms, to these displaced people who are seeking refuge, who are fleeing harm’s way.”
When we talk about the Act of Consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it’s a wonderful expression of dedicating ourselves, especially on the the Feast Day of the Annunciation, which takes place during the Great Lent, the fast, the time of journey before Easter.
When we consecrate ourselves – a nation, a people – to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we renew our understanding of the relationship of the Mother of God, the Blessed Theotokos, to us as Christians and who she is, especially in relationship to Our Lord and Saviour.
She was, of course, with Him at all of the principal moments of His life, from the Annunciation to his death and Resurrection and to his Ascension. She was an important figure in the life of the early Christian Church, and she has remained exactly that, in our understanding and our spirituality. For Ukrainian Catholics and Orthodox, we have a special feast day in which we commemorate the protection of the Mother of God, where the Holy Theotokos extends her mantle, her protection over the Ukrainian people. Over the years, many of our heads of our churches, bishops, have consecrated and have dedicated the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian nation to the protection of the Mother of God.
So today we unite ourselves at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Exile in central London, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in union with His Holiness Pope Francis, with Cardinal Nichols and all of the Catholic bishops throughout the world. Our prayer, of course, is for peace in Ukraine, for those who have lost their homes, their livelihood, who have become displaced people in Ukraine, and especially displaced people outside of Ukraine.
We give much thanks and gratitude to all of our brothers and sisters who are on the border, countries with Ukraine, who are welcoming these displaced people. We think especially of our Polish brothers and sisters who have so generously opened up their hearts, their homes and their country to more than a million people.
When we think of the profile of the displaced person, especially now in Poland, these are mothers with young children who have had to leave and say goodbye to their husbands, who are defending their country.
I think when we think of our relationship with the Holy Theotokos, the Blessed Mother of God, we understand this as “family”, and in times of great need, we run to our families to help us. So we think of all of those people here in the United Kingdom who will be opening up their homes, their arms, to these displaced people who are seeking refuge, who are fleeing harm’s way. In many ways, we understand this here in the United Kingdom because in the Second World War, during the bombing of London, many children were sent away by train to other parts of the United Kingdom to have shelter and safety. In a similar manner, we are now being asked to open up our homes and our hearts to these displaced people.
By consecrating Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we are also consecrating and opening our hearts. We pray that these hearts be opened, not only here in the United Kingdom, but also the hearts of leaders that are capable and able to bring peace to Ukraine.
We understand that not everyone will be able to attend the Act of Consecration in our Cathedral or in other cathedrals throughout the United Kingdom or in parishes, because they may be at work or they have other challenges not allowing them to come to the churches. We want them to know that we are already uniting our hearts with their hearts and in their own way, if they can, on Friday, at a time that would be available to them, stop and pause for a few moments and consecrate themselves along with the nations of Ukraine and Russia, thereby being in Union with not only the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Patriarch Sviatoslav, but also with their Catholic bishops here in the United Kingdom and, of course, with his Holiness Pope Francis, who will be praying this Act of Consecration at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.