Following an uplifting archpastoral visit to the local parishes of Melbourne city limits, Archbishop Daniel traveled to the Southern part of the State of Victoria on February 3, 2020, in order to visit the Nativity of the Birth-Giver of God Ukrainian Orthodox parish in Geelong, where Very Rev. Fr. Vasyl Kasyan serves the spiritual needs of the local Ukrainian Orthodox community.
Upon arrival, Vladyka Daniel, who was accompanied by Very Rev. Fr. Michael Solomko, president of the Consistory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Eparchy of Australia and New Zealand of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Diaspora, was formally welcomed to the parish by a few representatives of the youth of the Church, who presented the hierarch with a bouquet of flowers. Dobrodiyka Halyna Kasyan presented the Archbishop with a traditional bread and salt, thus welcoming the hierarch according to centuries old tradition.
In the presence of about 100 people, the Moleben to the Birth-Giver of God was served by the clergy of the parish community. In his sermon remarks, His Eminence stated:
"What is your image of God? How do you envision God as you pray and reflect on God’s word? Has your childhood image of God developed into a deeper understanding of who God is and who you are in relationship to God?
Such questions are not mere intellectual abstractions. These are real questions of human existence that touch the deepest longings for happiness written on each human heart. The foundation for our life of friendship with God rests on our understanding of who God truly is.
The Sacred Scriptures and Tradition of the Church invite us to reflect on our image of God. The author of the Book of Wisdom, the psalmist, St. Paul and St. Luke each in their own way present profound images of God.
“Before the Lord the whole universe is as a grain from a balance,” says the author of Wisdom. God is the all powerful creator of the universe, so great in power that the entire universe is like one grain or drop of dew on the grass.
Even as scientists advance in knowledge of the world, the entire universe remains overwhelming to the human mind. God is far greater than the most advanced knowledge we have of universe. For this reason, our response to God is always awe, wonder and holy fear.
“O Lord and lover of souls … your imperishable spirit is in all things,” says the author of Wisdom. God is the origin, creator and sustainer of all that exists. His power is beyond our imagining. And this same omnipotent Creator is the lover of souls, the lover of your soul!
“The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness,” sings the psalmist. These descriptions of God bring us close to the heart of a God whose grace fills the world, whose mercy restores and heals, and whose anger is washed away in infinite kindness.
The Gospel tells the story of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus, the tax collector. At the end of the story, Jesus visits the home of Zacchaeus to the dismay of his disciples and the crowds. Jesus’ words at the end of the account give us the deepest insight into who God is: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” As the son of God, Jesus is the human face of God.
This same God, creator and sustainer of all being, comes in search of his creatures who are lost in sin and weakness. This is the great mystery of Christian faith that we can never give enough thanks to God for.
As we reflect on God’s word, we pray for the Holy Spirit to shape our understanding of who God is so that we may come to understand who we are in relationship to God. Then we will have the wisdom and courage to pray, “Speak to me, Lord.”
Presenting parishioners in attendance with the sacred image of Christ the Savior, reproduction of the icon by iconographer Natalia Zharsky of Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox parish in Trenton, NJ, Vladyka Daniel took time to speak to each parishioner, offering his archpastoral blessing and prayers.
The evening concluded with a delicious dinner, prepared by the ladies of the parish, during which Archbishop Daniel shared a loaf of Korovay (Ukrainian greeting bread) with all in attendance.
Prior to his departure for Melbourne, Vladyka Daniel was welcomed to tour the local Ukrainian Catholic parish of the Protection of the Mother of God, where he was welcomed by the pastor of the community Rev. Fr. Yuriy Tychenko and Deacon Michael Kaminsky.
Photos by Viktor Musyt