When Ukraine Became A Christian Nation In A Day

Thursday, March 11, 2022
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy

 Posted by Ambassador T. Brikins

 ''Who has heard of such a thing? Who has seen such a thing? Shall a land be born in one day? Or shall a nation be brought fought in a moment? For as soon as Zion was in labor, she brought forth her children.'' Isaiah 66:8

 The footnote in the Amplified Bible comments that, ''Never in the history of the world had such a thing happened before - but God keeps His word. As definitely foretold,'above', '' and in Ezekiel 37:21,22, Israel became a recognized nation, actually ''born in one day''. After being away from their home land for almost two thousand years, the Jews were given a national home land in Palestine by the Balfour Declaration in November, 1917.

 In 1922, the League of Nations gave Great Britain the mandate over Palestine. On May 14, 1948, Great Britain withdrew her mandate, and immediately Israel was declared a sovereign state, and her growth and importance among nations became astonishing''. 

 But 960 years, in 988, before this event a similar but a much more event of spiritual significance and proportions took place in Kiev, Ukraine. While Israel's dispersion came out of disobedience to God's word, Ukraine's birth as a Christian nation came in obedience to God's word. The Quest For a New Religion Results in the Christianization of a Nation in a Single Day in 988 '' To the Protestant mind, conversion is understood in terms of an individual's act of dedication and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. But the idea of a whole people turning to Christ at the command of a ruler seems inconceivable. Yet in 988, Prince Vladimir of Kiev, in the Ukraine, ordered his subjects to gather at the River Dnieper to receive the rite of baptism, thereby establishing Christianity as the religion of Kievan Russia. 
The Great Prince Vladimir of Kiev

 '' The cradle of Christianity was the southern city of Kiev, in the state of Rus, which came to prominence towards the end of the ninth century. Its rulers were Varangians (or Russes) who had been invited by the quarreling Slavic tribes to enter the region and restore order. In 882 they occupied the city of Kiev and brought the Slavic tribes under their control. Although a pagan people, there may have been a christian presence on the land for several centuries. Legend has it that between AD 50 - 60 the Apostle Andrew visited the region, then known as Scythia, and made converts.

 Paul mentioned the region in Colossians 3:11.''[In this new creation all distinctions vanish.] There is no room for and there can neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, [ nor difference between nations whether alien ] barbarians or Scythians [who are the most savage of all], nor slave or free man; but Christ is all and in all [everything and everywhere, to all men, without distinction of person]. 

 Then as the state of Kiev bordered on the ancient world of Greece, Rome and Byzantium, several Bishoprics were established in the fourth century among the Greek colonies along the Black Sea. Nevertheless, the Faith did not take root, and it was not until the ninth century that more favourable conditions existed for the gospel. It was quite likely that Christianity was reintroduced into the region following the evangelisation of the Slavic tribes by the missionaries Cyril and Methodius (c 860). There may have been a diocese of the Byzantine Church at Kiev as early as 867; and there was at least one church in the city early the following century.

 There were known converts among the Kievan merchants , knights and soldiers, and it appears there was even a number of believers at Court. It was possible from them that the Princess Olga learned of the Faith, though she did not declare her belief until some years after her husband's death. 

 Princess Olga 

Olga was a regent of Kievan Rus' for her son Sviatoslav from 945 until 960. Following her baptism, Olga took the name ElenŠ°. She is known for her subjugation of the Drevlians, a tribe that had killed her husband Igor of Kiev. Wikipedia

 Olga was the wife of the ruling prince, Igor (913 -945), and ruled Kiev after her husband was killed in battle. In c955, at the age of sixty-seven, she journeyed to Constantinople to visit the Byzantine emperor, Constantine VII, where she was taught the doctrines of the Orthodox Church; she was baptized in AD 954, and declared her new Faith. On her return journey she preached the gospel in towns and villages when, it was said,'she shone like the moon by night, and was radiant among the infidels like a pearl in mire'. This agrees with the Bible. ''And the teachers and those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness (to uprightness and right standing with God)[shall give forth light] like the stars forever and ever.'' Daniel 12:3.

 This Grand Princess Olga also sent an embassy to Otto 1 in the West, requesting a bishop and priests. But her son , Prince Svyatoslav, a powerful warlord who conquered large areas and expanded the power of Kiev throughout the area, oversaw something of a pagan resurgence : in his eyes Christianity was effeminate and unworthy of a warrior king like him. Her grandson, Prince Vladimir (973-1015), eventually adopted the Faith,a decision partly motivated by political considerations. 

Vladimir was a ruthless leader; he strengthened the authority of the Kievan state, extended its boundaries and subdued neighbouring warlike tribes. During the early years of his reign he built a number of pagan temples, which led to a strong pagan revival in Kiev. Religious Quest The story of his quest for a new religion is part legend , but was actuated by the visit to his Court (c986) of a delegation of Bulgars (from the region of Bulgaria) who were Muslims.'Though you are a wise and prudent prince, you have no religion. Adopt our Faith and revere Mohammad', they implored him. When Vladimir enquired the nature of their religion,they spoke of their belief in God and mentioned some of the practices demanded of them as followers, including that of abstaining from alcohol. Vladimir listened, but was not attracted by what he heard, for 'drink is the joy of Russians'. 

 This visit was followed by representatives from other religious groups, each one intent on persuading the prince to adopt their Faith. A group of Germans came as emissaries of the (Western) Catholic Church, but he had little patience for their idea of fasting. These were followed by Jews of the Khazar tribe. When he learned that their race had been defeated and they were without a state, the prince demanded, 'How can you hope to teach others while you yourselves are cast out and scattered abroad by the hand of God? If God loved you and your Faith, you would not be such dispersed...Do you expect us to accept that fate also?

 Finally there came a scholar from Greece who was of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Greek spoke of Jesus as God incarnate, who was crucified, rose again and ascended to heaven. The news that God should have descended to earth, and endured such pain aroused the Prince's interest and he agreed to hear the Bible story. Even so, Vladimir remained uncommitted. ' I shall wait yet a little longer', he concluded, for he wished to enquire further about all the Faiths.

On the advice of his leading nobles and city elders he chose 'ten good wise men' to conduct an investigation.' If you desire to make certain,' they said, 'you have servants at your disposal. Send them to inquire about the ritual of each and how each one worships God'. The emissaries set off, first to observe the Bulgars, then to view the German’s ceremonies, and finally to examine the Orthodox Faith.(There is no mention of a visit to a Jewish synagogue.)

 At Constantinople,when the Byzantine emperor discovered the nature of their visit, he felt honored. He ordered the patriarch to prepare the church and the clergy, and to array himself in his sacerdotal robes, so that the Russes might behold the glory of the God of the Greeks

. Splendour and Beauty 
The emperor accompanied the visitors to the church, calling their attention to the beauty of the building, the chanting and the services, and explained the worship of his God. The Russians returned to their own country full of praise for the Greek ceremonies, saying, ‘We know not whether we were in heaven or on earth. For on earth, there is no such splendour or such beauty, and we are at a loss how to describe it. We only know that God dwells there among men, and their service is fairer than the ceremonies of other nations’. Vladimir’s nobles responded, ‘If the Greek Faith were evil, it would not have been adopted by your grandmother Olga, who was wiser than all men. 

Despite the favourable report, the Prince delayed his decision, intending to resume his religious quest after carrying out a siege of the Byzantine city of Kherson. Yet he was obviously impressed with the Christians’ God, for he told the Almighty that should he end up capturing the city, he would be baptized in gratitude for His help. When the city fell to his army, Vladimir made a bid for the hand of the emperor’s sister, Anna. His hope was that by such a marriage he would cement his possession of the city and ensure a peaceful co-existence with the Byzantine empire. At the time, the Prince was suffering from an eye disease which seriously impaired his vision. Anna told him that if he desired to be healed, then he should be baptized, otherwise, he would not be cured. ‘If this proves true,’ he declared, ‘then of a surety is the God of the Christians great.’ Vladimir submitted to baptism, and as the Bishop laid hands on him he straight received his sight. Upon experiencing this miracle, the prince glorified God- ‘I have now perceived the one true God’. 

 Mass Baptism 
 Back in Kiev, he ordered that all idols should be destroyed. Heralds were despatched throughout the whole city to announce that all inhabitants had to present themselves at the River Dnieper for baptism, or risk the prince’s displeasure. When the people heard of it, they exclaimed, ‘ If this were not good,the prince and his nobles would not have accepted it.’ On the following day, a large number of people gathered at the river for the occasion, together with the prince and the priests of the princess. The people went into the water; some waded out, up to their necks, while others with children in their arms stayed nearer the bank. The priests stood by and offered prayers. It was said that ’ there was joy in heaven and upon earth to see so many souls saved’, while the devil lamented, ‘Woe is me…my reign in this regions is at an end.’ 

 Not everyone presented themselves for baptism, and it is admitted that there was some use of coercion and some rebelled. But for the most part, the conversion to Christianity came quickly and painlessly, though initially it may have only gained a superficial hold upon the people. Nevertheless,the mass baptism in the Dnieper signaled the beginning of the Orthodox Faith as the state religion of Kiev and, ultimately, of Russia. Under Vladimir, Christianity spread to other towns; just as previously he had strengthened the pagan religion, so now he devoted his efforts in building up the Byzantine religion. The preaching was especially helped by the fact the message was delivered in a Slavic tongue akin to the people’s own. Churches were built; schools were established throughout the realm, so that people could learn to read the Scriptures; welfare institutions were opened for care of the needy;and the dearth penalty was abolished’’. 

 Great Events In The Story of The Church by Geoffrey Hanks
 History of Christianity by Jonathan Hill

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