Characteristics and Limitations of Ukrainian Tomos – Part IV

Dear Readers:

Here we go again, as I continue my superb translation of this analysis by Professor Vladimir Burega of the Kiev Theological Academy!  Where we left off, we just finished the section on Church and State,   Burega makes a convincing case that the Autocephalic process in play here is not completely Bizarro-World, given the history of creating national churches in newly-independent nations.  On the other hand, this current Ukrainian Autocephaly is sort of a throwback to 19th-century nationalism.  That was also the era of the Great Game (in which Western powers attempted to shove Russia aside and seize chunks of Eurasia), so is not all that surprising that current Westies, using the Ukraine and the Ukrainian Diaspora as their clients, are back up to these time-worn but effective tricks!  And religion to them is just another arrow in the quiver.  I venture to guess that most of these politicians are no more able to spout their catechism than a hen can do card tricks.  Having got that off my chest, it is time to embark on the next section, which is entitled….

The Holy Myrrh

Professor Vladimir Burega

In practically all the Tomi granting Autocephaly, there is a clause about the requirement of the new church to receive the Holy Myrrh from the Constantinople Patriarch.  This rule demands a brief explanation.  The Holy Myrrh is a special substance which is used in the ceremony of the Anointing.  In Orthodox tradition the anointing (rubbing on the myrrh) is performed on a person directly after their baptism.  Through this anointing, the person is given the gift of the Holy Spirit, which allows them to participate fully in the life of the church.  Therefore, the ceremony of myrrh-anointing holds a very special significance for the Church.

The Holy Myrrh is blessed by the heads of the national churches.  However, not all Primates around today have the right to prepare and bless the myrrh.  This right is given only to the Patriarchs.  Hence, the heads of such (national, lower-ranking) churches such as Greece, Albania, Poland, or Czechoslovakia, must receive their Myrrh from Constantinople.  [yalensis:  ’cause these churches are further down in the pecking order and only have Metropolitans at their heads!]

Women started the tradition by bringing Myrrh to prepare the corpse of Jesus.

The (Ukrainian) Tomos from 5 January says that the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) likewise must receive its Myrrh from the Constantinople Patriarch.  It is stated in the text of the Tomos that this is the symbol of the unity of the Church.

One must note, that the attempts of the Constantinople Patriarchs to retain for themselves the right to prepare the Holy Myrrh for the newly-created Autocephalic Churches, has engendered, from time to time, conflicts.  Young churches saw in this (custom) an attempt to limit their independence; and also Constantinople’s striving to maintain its dominance over them.  Therefore, for example in the 1880’s the Romanian Church entered into a fierce conflict with Constantinople, attempting to win the right to prepare its own Myrrh for its own needs.  And it succeeded in doing this.  In the Tomos granting Autocephaly to the Romanian Church (1885) there is no clause requiring them to receive the Myrrh from Constantinople.  Nor did the Bulgarian Church (which got Tomos in 1945) have to submit to such a requirement.

[to be continued]

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