"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, July 23, 2012

"Uniate" History

The happiest and most rewarding summer of my adult life was that of 2001, which I spent teaching in Ukraine, a country I rapidly came to love, and where I came to meet the incomparable Fr. Bob Anderson and my great good friend, now the priest Jason Charron.

In mid-2001 Ukraine was not quite ten years out from the tyranny of Soviet communism, and I was astonished, even a decade on, to see the rot left by that evil system. As I put it to some companions not long after getting off the plane, I thought I was going to Europe: not the Third World. It was (as I have written elsewhere at length) a country of great contrasts: beautiful cities full in some cases (especially in Galicia, reflecting Hapsburg influence) of baroque architecture surrounded by primitive infrastructure and rural poverty of a kind that made me think I had been transported back to the prairies of the early nineteenth century.

It was there that I met the head of what was then called the Lviv Theological Academy, today known as the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU). It has recently been announced that the priest-scholar Boris Gudziak, rector of UCU, has been made a bishop. It is not often--in fact, it seems sadly rare--when one can give a full-throated and unhesitating "Axios!" to such an election, but this is one. Gudziak has worked tirelessly to build up UCU (Peter Galadza once said to me of Gudziak, "It's not that he's burning the candle at both ends: he's thrown the entire candle into the fire!"). UCU's students were some of the finest I have ever taught, and who, notwithstanding a lack of so much we take for granted in North America, were far and away more enlightened than their counterparts here, and far better educated in some respects. I found especially moving their loyalty to Ukraine and determination to stay there and build a country out of the ashes rather than take the easy route of fleeing elsewhere.

Gudziak was trained as an historian at Harvard, and is the author of the invaluable study Crisis and Reform: The Kyivan Metropolitanate, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and the Genesis of the Union of Brest (Harvard UP, 2001, paperback).

This book is a landmark study. It is required reading for all who desire to understand the still-convoluted and controverted religious history of Ukraine, which has so often, sadly, been on the front-lines of Orthodox-Catholic conflict, especially over the so-called Uniate problem, which has so often been subject to "confessional propaganda" (Taft) on both sides instead of real history.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Anonymous comments are never approved. Use your real name and say something intelligent.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...