In April 1945, Bishop Hryhory Khomyshyn, Greek Catholic eparch of Stanislaviv (now Ivano-Frankivsk), ordained Ivan as coadjutor bishop with the right to succeed him in case Bishop Khomyshyn should be arrested or killed by the Communist leadership. However, on June 2, 1945, Ivan was arrested and deported to the labor camps in Vorkuta, Russia. In 1950, he was transferred to labor camps in Mordovia, Russia.
Following his release in 1954, Ivan returned to Stanislaviv. He was arrested again in 1962 and imprisoned for five years in a camp known for its harsh treatment of prisoners. Although he was released on November 30, 1968, he was interrogated by KGB officials every few weeks. The last visit was two weeks before his death, which was on December 2, 1973, in Stanislaviv.
Because of his imprisonment and suffering, Blessed Ivan Sleziuk is honored among the “Martyrs Killed Under Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe” and was beatified in 2001. Beatified with Blessed Ivan was Bishop Hryhory Khomyshyn, the bishop who had ordained him and who died in a Communist prison in Kiev in 1947.
In today’s First Reading, the Prophet Isaiah envisions a day in which the forces of evil will be vanquished: “But a very little while… the tyrant will be no more and the arrogant will have gone. All who are alert to do evil will be cut off, those whose mere words condemns a man, Who ensnare his defender at the gate, and leave the just man with an empty claim.” Although we still wait in hope for an end to evil and injustice in the world, the saints and martyrs remind us that there is a power at work in the human heart that is greater than any worldly power: the grace of God. It was God’s grace that allowed Blessed Ivan to endure years of torture and abuse, all the while empowering him to remain faithful to his commitment to serve God as a bishop. He was able to boldly proclaim with the Psalmist, “I believe I shall see the bounty of the Lord / in the land of the living. / Wait for the Lord with courage; / be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord.”
The long night of Advent is a stark reminder of the darkness of sin and injustice that still exist in the world. And yet, these days call us to watch for the glimmer of dawn as we wait for the Sun of Justice to rise and drive away darkness and despair. Reflect today on how you see the light of heaven piercing the darkness of the world around you. Ask Blessed Ivan to help you persevere in your own search for God’s peace and justice.
Prayer +Almighty and merciful God, who brought your Martyr blessed Ivan to overcome the torments of his passion, grant that we, who celebrate the day of his triumph, may remain invincible under your protection against the snares of the enemy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.(from The Roman Missal: Common of Martyrs—For One Martyr)
This reflection was originally written for www.aleteia.org and posted on their website on December 2, 2016.