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Ukrainian Moses

by Rev. Romanos V. Russo

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The book of Deuteronomy records that the holy patriarch Moses prophesied to the people of Israel, “The Lord Your God will raise up a Prophet from among you like myself, and you shall listen to Him.” (Dt 18:15) Tradition has always interpreted this passage to refer to our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, whenever I meditate on this text, I think of the Servant of God, Andrew Sheptitsky, Archbishop of Lvov, Metropolitan of Kiev-Halych.

Those who saw the metropolitan in his old age were immediately reminded of the heroic statue of Moses by Michelangelo in the Church of St. Peter in Chains. Artistic physical resemblance, however, does not prompt my application.

In a deeper, spiritual sense Archbishop Andrew was a Moses to his people. As Moses was an outspoken defender and liberator of his people, blessed Vladyka (bishop) Andrew strove to aid his Ukrainian flock in developing a sense of national identity.

As Moses himself was an “outsider,” raised an Egyptian and exiled among the Midianites, Archbishop Sheptitsky grew up in a family that had become more Polish and Latin Catholic than the Ukrainian Greek-Catholics they were by tradition.

Moses was the great liturgist that decreed the paths of piety, holding what is the Lord’s in honor. Vladyka Andrew preserved the numbers of his secular clergy and increased the religious ministering to his people and waged a life-long battle to purify and ennoble their liturgical life.

Moses led his people in their bitter wandering through the desert. Shiptitsky burned with zeal for the members of his flock scattered throughout the New World in search of another promised land.

Moses brought his flock to the brink of the Holy Land but was not granted to lead them in. Metropolitan Andrew exhausted himself in striving for the unity of the Eastern Churches but was not to see the fruit of this labor in his lifetime.

Moses and Andrew both pointed the way to Christ: of the former Scripture says “There has never yet risen in Israel a prophet like him,” (Dt. 34:10) The faithful prayerfully hope that the last word to be said of their revered Vladyka will be: Saint.

Metropolitan Andrew was born on July 26, 1865 and given the baptismal name Roman. His father’s family, the Counts Sheptitsky, had given several hierarchs to the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. However, in recent centuries, the Sheptitsky’s had gradually adopted the culture of the Polish, their language and even their rite. This assimilitation led to contempt for the humble Ukrainian peasant and his presumably inferior Church. Imagine the Sheptitskys’ surprise, even chagrin, when young Roman announced that he wished to become a Greek-Catholic priest. At that time it was all but obligatory for candidates to the diocesan priesthood to marry before their diaconal ordination. The young Count Roman resolved instead to be tonsured a monk according to the rule of St. Basil the Great. First, though, he had to overcome his father’s objections by taking a civil law degree at the university.

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