His Beatitude Lubomyr celebrated his birthday with youth
On February 28th, His Beatitude Lubomyr (Husar) celebrated in Kyiv his birthday jubilee –his 80th birthday and the 55th anniversary of his ordination as a priest.
Perhaps using the term “celebrated” overdoes somewhat the scope of the event – after all, the Archbishop declined all awards and pompous celebrations. His only wish for his birthday was to spend it amidst youth.
Prior to this get-together, Thanksgiving Vespers, led by UGCC Head, for His Beatitude Lubomyr were celebrated in the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ. In greeting the jubilee celebrant, UGCC Primate reminded everyone that it was His Beatitude Lubomyr who placed the first cornerstone of the cathedral and that he initiated the renewal of our Church on the territories of Central and Eastern Ukraine, where the Church had been destroyed (audio).
“How does it feel to be 80 years old?” inquired the journalists. “When you get there, you will know. It’s hard to describe. Life is life. There is nothing special in it,” answered the jubilee celebrant with a smile. He stated that the most valuable gift that he received were all the prayers.
“Are you happy?” they asked. “Hmm, yes-- I am just as happy as I am every day. I do not feel anything special,” he replied.
Youth loves His Beatitude Lubomyr very much, especially for his ability to joke in a sharp-witted and philosophical fashion. He shared quite a few jokes that evening. “Thank you for your initiative. You thanked me that you were invited. But I did not invite you. I am simply very glad that you are here. And the meeting was organized by people just as young as you are,” joked the jubilee celebrant. He also recalled the words of an American cardinal: until forty try to be with older people, after forty – with youth, in order to stay young. “I really expect that I will walk out of here younger,” stated His Beatitude Lubomyr. The audience burst into laughter.
The Archbishop Emeritus was asked to reminisce about Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky. “I was about 5 or 6 years old then. There was a sport event which was organized by students. They were forming a tower… My father, who brought me there, told me to turn around and look. I turned around and there was a car with an open top and in it sat an elderly gentleman with a thick shock of grey hair.
My father said: “He is a Metropolitan.” That is embedded in my memory.
“However, I have to honestly admit that I was more interested in the tower than the Metropolitan… About fifteen years ago I was invited to speak in Lviv. It was very difficult for me to say that I was the successor of Metropolitan Sheptytsky. I thought about this later: I did see the Metropolitan… Maybe he even saw this small kid with big ears. But could he have even thought in some prophetic way, that this kid would be his successor?” related the celebrant.
The play in the evening was composed in verse by Tetiana Shpeicher. One can read the verses and view the unique photographs of his Beatitude Lubomyr on the website of the Center of Academic Pastorship of UGCC Kyiv Archeparchy.
Overall, the birthday celebrant said little. Mostly students presented their “creative gifts” for him. They were songs or simply music – ranging from “Ave Maria” to songs of His Beatitude Lubomyr’s youth -- the jazz song “Let my People Go” by Louis Armstrong.
After a song about one’s home, the jubilee celebrant shared his memories of Lviv, such as one from 1939 when close to his home, a Jew was shot, and the children went to see this dead person… His memories of his home differ somewhat from the idyllic manner in which they are often portrayed in song lyrics.
A special guest, his relative and goddaughter, Maria Rypan from Canada flew in to personally greet him. For her the Archbishop is Uncle Lubko. She said that the parents of His Beatitude argued for a long time how to name him. Then, a friend of theirs, named Lubomyr, suggested that they name him the same as he. The parents added the two names of the child’s grandfathers: Lev and Luka. Ms. Maria also retold the memories of Aunt Luba—how small Lubko moved around furniture in his home when all others were asleep. He would move a table to the center of the room and would “celebrate” the Liturgy.
The event hosts suggested that the hierarch reminisce on how it was to serve in Ukraine after being in Italy. “I came to Ukraine not directly from America but from Italy. And Italy is a country similar to Ukraine in that no one is capable of understanding anything about politics. Yet politics is not everything. What was my first impression of Lviv? I returned to it after 46 years. Lviv was once a beautiful city. Someone named it the “Little Paris of the East.” “I was very depressed that people were walking on the street without smiling… We should thank God that we are beginning to smile…” with his optimism, His Beatitude Lubomyr cheered up the audience.
To be with their spiritual father came students from various universities: Lviv Polytechnic National University, Ukrainian Catholic University, Ivan Franko National University, Vasyl Stefanyk Transcarpathian Pedagogical University, Borys Hrinchenko University in Kyiv and others.
The organizations Plast and Obnova did not forget to greet their member. Each one presented the celebrant with their hymn. Plast members sang the hymn Oy u luzi chervona kalyna [Oh, in the meadow there is a guilder rose] since His Beatitude belongs to the Scout unit Chervona Kalyna [A Guelder Rose].
In concluding the evening, His Beatitude Sviatoslav, in trying to adhere to the style of the earlier speaker, described when once His Beatitude came to the Lviv Seminary. On the day before the Feast of St. Nicholas all the seminarians had defended their diploma theses. You can well imagine what a sense of relief they all felt on that day! However, on that evening, His Beatitude Lubomyr, as our ruling hierarch, arrived at the seminary. I can’t recall why, but the rector was not present, and therefore I had to meet the honored guest.
In leading him to the chapel on the second floor, I had to say something since we could not simply walk in silence. And I told him that our seminarians finished their exams, defended their theses… After the Evening Vespers with a litany, His Beatitude came forward to give a sermon. All the seminarians stood breathless awaiting his words.
And in this tense moment, he started: “Father Sviatoslav told me that it is a beautiful day here today. If he had said that it is a beautiful day today because His Beatitude Lubomyr has come here, I would understand him; if he had said that today is a beautiful day here because tomorrow is the feast of St. Nicholas, I would understand him; if he had said that is a beautiful day here because we all prayed well together, I would understand him, -- but Rev. Sviatoslav said that today is a beautiful day here because you all defended your theses --- there I do not understand him.”
Then I stopped breathing and thought --- what will the seminarians say about me in their rooms today? But His Beatitude while walking to the car, grasped my hand and said: Sorry, Father Sviatoslav, I couldn’t resist that.” This situation is demonstrative of the figure of His Beatitude Lubomyr – our spiritual father, who on that evening gave witness to the presence of God’s love among us… Thank you, Your Beatitude, and many long and hearty years,” ended the Head of the Church.
The jubilee celebrant, a member of Plast and Obnova, Uncle Lubko, His Beatitude Lubomyr thanked all for “a wonderful evening.” “You see what it means to be young. It is a blessed time. It is a shame that it goes by so fast, and one must take advantage of each one of its minutes. Rejoice in your youth, work!” He doubted that older people could put together such an evening with such imagination and so rich in varied interesting moments.
“I am thinking of writing memoirs of my life and you helped me to figure out the title -- “The first 80 years of my life” joked his Beatitude Lubomyr at the end, and sincerely expressed his gratitude for the assistance “to at least become a bit younger.”
UGCC Department of Information