In the rich tapestry of Christian faith, devotion to the Most Holy Mother of God holds a special place. In the Kyivan tradition, this devotion runs deep, with a history that spans centuries. “Devotion” in simple terms means a deep and strong feeling of love, loyalty, and commitment towards something or someone, often shown through prayer, respect, and dedicated actions. Let’s delve into the profound significance of this devotion and its enduring impact on the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
The Church’s Unified Belief
In a unified and conciliar manner, the Church professes Mary, the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the God-bearing One, or “Bohorodytsia” in Ukrainian. She is revered as the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin. The Church commemorates her life events in various feasts throughout the liturgical year, including her Conception, Nativity, Entrance into the Temple, Annunciation, Encounter in the Temple, and Dormition. Mary is seen as the perfect model for our journey towards holiness.
The Power of Iconography
Iconography plays a vital role in expressing this devotion. Icons such as the Icon of the Sign, Hodegetria, Tenderness, and Mother of God of Perpetual Help convey the intimate connection between Mother and Son, emphasizing the profound relationship between Mary and Jesus. The Oranta icon, portraying Mary in prayer, reminds us of her role as an intercessor for humanity before the heavenly Father.
Addressing Mary with Boldness
The Church addresses the Mother of God with boldness, acknowledging her as the first to be divinized by grace. The prayer, “Most holy Mother of God, save us,” reflects the Church’s understanding that it is through God’s grace that salvation is achieved. Mary’s peaceful and grace-filled Dormition, often referred to as Falling-Asleep, signifies her transition from earth to heaven. She was the first among humans to be glorified in both body and soul, serving as an image of our own future resurrection.
A Constant Intercessor
Mary’s unwavering intercession on behalf of humanity is celebrated in the feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God. In this feast, the Church recognizes her role as an ever-present advocate who stands before God, praying for us alongside the choirs of saints.
The Kyivan Tradition
Devotion to the Mother of God has deep historical roots in the Kyivan tradition. Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise consecrated Rus-Ukraine to her protection, leading to the construction of numerous churches and the creation of iconic works of art. Notable icons from this period include the Vyshhorod Icon (now known as the Vladimir Icon) and the Belz Icon (Częstochowa Icon). These icons exemplify Ukrainian iconography, characterized by the kind and gentle facial features of the Mother of God.
Miracles and Pilgrimage
The devotion to the Mother of God gained further momentum after the miraculous lifting of the Turkish siege of the Pochaiv monastery, attributed to an icon of the Mother of God. This event led to the establishment of additional pilgrimage sites, including Zarvanytsya, Univ, Hoshiv, Stradch, Zhyrovytsi, Yaroslav, Kholm, Mariapoch, and more. The Ukrainian people have developed a strong tradition of relying on the Mother of God’s protection and assistance.
Devotion to the Most Holy Mother of God is a central aspect of the Kyivan tradition, deeply ingrained in the spiritual and cultural heritage of Ukraine. Through iconography, prayer, and pilgrimage, the Ukrainian Catholic Church continues to honor and seek the intercession of the Mother of God, finding solace and strength in her unwavering presence throughout the centuries.