Characteristics and Limitations of Ukrainian Tomos – Part V

Dear Readers:

Welcome back, as I continue translating this analysis of the new Ukrainian Autocephaly. Where we left off, we just finished the section on Holy Myrrh, and it turns out that the new Ukrainian Church, being led by a mere Metropolitan, cannot be trusted with preparing its own Myrrh.  Instead, they have to wait until Constantinople fries them up some up Myrrh and sends it by special courier.  After which the Ukrainian holy men can use this special oil in such ceremonies as baptism and christening.  In the Orthodox religion Myrrh is also used to consecrate new churches, when smeared on the walls and altars.  Orthodox Tsars also used to be anointed with Myrrh when they were coronated, the priests would just pour it right over his head, like Gatorade on a football coach.

Ivan the Terrible, however, preferred to be anointed with gold coins!

I pulled up this page on the Russian wiki with additional background information about this special substance.  Myrrh is a natural gum or resin extracted from a number of small, thorny tree species of the genus Commiphora. Myrrh resin has been used throughout history as a perfume or medicine. Myrrh mixed with wine can also be ingested.  Myrrh is first mentioned in the Bible in the Book of Genesis 37:25: “Then they sat down to eat a meal. And as they raised their eyes and looked, behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites was coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing aromatic gum and balm and myrrh, on their way to bring them down to Egypt.”  In Exodus 30:22 God lays out some ritual rules for Moses, which include the use of Myrrh as an oil for anointment.

Myrrh is mentioned many, many times in the Bible, both Old and New Testament, thus testifying to its importance.  In the Book of Esther (2:12), the young ladies who were picked as brides for the Persian King Ahasuerus, were sent to Beauty School, groomed and trained to make themselves sexy and aromatic: “Six months with oil of Myrrh and six months with spices and the cosmetics…”  At the end of this training period, they were ready for the Royal Casting Couch.  It’s good to be the King!

Queen Esther: was properly trained in the use of cosmetics, including Myrrh

Centuries later, when Jesus was born, the three Magi brought Myrrh to the Baby Shower – Matthew 2:11:  “After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”  Just like Anton Chekhov with his “rifle on the wall”, the mention of Myrrh in this early part of the Jesus story foreshadows the later, much sadder, denouement.  In Christian mythology Myrrh is a symbol of death, because this perfume was used (among other things) to prepare dead bodies and keep them fragrant until the time of the funeral.  When Jesus is up on the cross (Mark 15:23), a kindly centurion offers the suffering man a goblet of wine mixed with Myrrh; any normal person would accept this, because it helps ease the excruciating pain.  But Jesus refuses to drink it.  Maybe he is still resisting his inevitable death.  Later, after he dies, Myrrh is used to prepare his body for burial.  Traditionally, women get the credit for this, which totally makes sense, as it was woman’s job in those societies to prepare dead bodies for burial.  The group of women who brought the Myrrh were said to be:  Mary Magdalene; a different Mary, wife of Clopas; Joanna; Salome; and the sisters Mary and Martha (sisters of Lazarus).  However John 19:38 gives most of the credit to a man named Nicodemus: “Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.”  A hundred pounds of Myrrh and Aloe — that’s quite a lot!  Must have cost a small fortune.

Anyhow, it is now time to turn it back to Vladimir Burega, his next section is entitled



Internal Structure

Professor Vladimir Burega

As a rule, Tomi granting Autocephaly do not contain a detailed description of the internal structure of the newly-created Church.  It is merely indicated, that the Primate should govern the Church along with the Bishops who constitute the Synod.  In this regard the Tomos for the Autocephaly of the Czechoslovakian church (1998) was a notable exception.  In this case the internal structure and system of higher governance was described in great detail.

Similarly, the Tomos for the Ukrainian Autocephaly also puts a lot of emphasis on certain aspects of the structure of the new Church.  Here, for example, it is indicated, how the OCU Synod should be organized.  Its composition must include all the Bishops who have Eparchies within the borders of the Ukraine, in order of seniority.  It is especially stipulated, that the founding rules of the OCU must, in every way, correspond to the wording of the Tomos.

who ever tries to tell Ukrainians what to do…

This is not accidental.  There was a recent incident when the norms of the Tomos differed from the norms of the founding rules of the Autocephalic Church.  I am talking about the Orthodox Church of Czechoslovakia.  Its founding rules, adopted in 1992, differed substantially from what was laid out [later] in the Tomos, that was granted in 1998.  Having received the Tomos, the Church of Czech and Slovakia continued to live by its rules, established previously.  It was only in 2016 that the Constantinople Patriarch demanded, unambiguously, that these churches bring their rules into line with the Tomos.  As far as I know, this demand has, to this day, not been complied with.

It is perfectly obvious, that the Constantinople Patriarchate is attempting to prevent such conflicts in regard to the OCU.  [yalensis:  He is dealing with Ukrainians!  I pity the poor fool…]  Therefore the (Ukrainian) Tomos contains a rigid demand to comply with the provisions of the Tomos.  [Haha, lots of luck with that…]

[to be continued]

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