"Today in our Church, gold is being purified from impurities."

28 September 2023 14:53
Vasyl Lomachenko with his father, coach, and friend Anatoliy Lomachenko. Photo: Lomachenko's Instagram page. Vasyl Lomachenko with his father, coach, and friend Anatoliy Lomachenko. Photo: Lomachenko's Instagram page.

Vasyl Lomachenko, in an interview with the UOJ, talked about the turning point in his spiritual evolution, divine image in a human, and his vision of the UOC’s future.

Vasyl Lomachenko needs no introduction: he has won everything possible in both amateur and professional boxing. He has been recognized as the best boxer of the year on numerous occasions, regardless of weight class. Due to his incredible speed of movement and thought, Lomachenko is often referred to as "The Matrix," drawing parallels with the famous movie character Neo. At the age of 35, he has already become a legend in the world of boxing.

However, for the faithful of the UOC, Vasyl is, above all, an Orthodox Christian—a man who is not afraid to publicly express his support for his Church, despite facing hate and threats from radicals. We present to your attention an interview in which Vasyl Lomachenko talks about how he came to faith, why he experienced a spiritual turning point at the age of 33, and what he envisions for the future of our Church.

– How did Christian Vasyl Lomachenko begin?

– The role model for me is my father. Every Sunday, he tried to take me to the church service. I went with him, but before, it was only because my father was and still is an authority figure for me. Yes, I understood that there were Higher powers, that there was God, but, like for most people, it was at the level of "God is within me." I believed that I could sleep late on Sundays, and I could go to church at any time to light a candle or ask for what I needed.

But today, I almost never miss Sunday service, and there I try not to ask but to thank.

Usually, before every fight, before competitions, we would go to the church to get the priest’s blessing, and then went to the competitions. After competitions, at my father's initiative, we went to the church, read a thanksgiving prayer. I only went to church when it was necessary before and right after competitions. And even then, if it weren't for my father, I probably wouldn't have done that. I had an understanding that, yes, probably, the Lord helped me, but most likely, that it was my merit, I did it. Like, I trained hard and intensively. It felt like everything was consistent – I won the competition because I trained well, I was stronger than others.

"But today you understand one thing: yes, you train, yes, you compete, and you win. But the Almighty gives everything – He gives you the strength for training as well. In any case, every person receives talent at birth. The question is whether they discover that talent or not? Have they developed that talent or not? In my case, the Almighty gave me the talent for hard work in the gym, the talent that made me a boxer, the person I am today. But this is starting to sink in me only now. Today, I understand that it's all thanks to the Lord. Without His support, without the will of the Almighty, I doubt that I would have achieved anything.

Overall, it seems to me that we, Orthodox Christians, should attend church services whenever the priests are serving, whether it's Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, whenever there's a service – we should be in the church. However, as a rule, for us, laypeople, it usually only happens on Sundays. And that's understandable – people are at work, people are busy. That's why we have Sunday, a day when without exception, everyone should be in the church and thank the Almighty for the fact that we're alive today, for waking up, and for having something to eat.

– People often turn to faith because of illnesses, problems, or an awareness of their weakness. On the other hand, athletes are symbols of strength and self-confidence. Many say, 'I achieved everything by myself, without God.' You are a legendary athlete who has achieved outstanding results. What would you say to your fellow athletes who think this way?

– I don't think my answer will influence or help anyone. The only thing

I know from personal experience is that you need to take a step or two towards God, and then He will take ten steps towards you.

I came to the Orthodox faith deeply and consciously not so long ago. I have been Orthodox all my life, nominally. I was baptized, my family is Orthodox, I used to go to church when my father made me. However, I started developing consciously, spiritually two or three years ago, after my defeat in the fight with Lopez. That was the moment that changed my attitude towards life and my attitude towards faith."

"It is said that a person's life changes after the age of 33. I never understood this before. But when I turned 33, I felt it. It somehow coincided – the defeat and turning 33. That's when I realized that I could look at myself from the outside, I could see what I was doing wrong.

The problems I had, the successes I had... I started to simply understand where they came from and from Whom.

If I used to think that the world revolves around me, at that moment, I understood that it's not like that at all. Everything that I have today, and the same goes for anyone else, everything that is either given to us or taken away from us – it all comes from the Almighty, from the Lord. And it depends on how we live, what kind of life we lead.

– Many Orthodox Christians consider boxing to be an unchristian activity, where one image of God cripples another. Do you have any internal conflict when, for the sake of victory, you need to inflict harm on your opponent, but a Christian should not cause pain to another?

– This feeling emerged in me relatively recently, after I understood what God is and what it means to be an Orthodox Christian. After that, I had these doubts. When I step into the boxing ring today, I no longer have that bloodthirstiness that I used to have. Before, I didn't think about it, I understood – there's an opponent, and to win, you need to destroy him. Whether it was on points, through a knockout, or a knockdown. The goal was to cause as much damage as possible. Today, that's gone. Thank God it's gone. For me, it's enough to win convincingly, to be head and shoulders above, and of course, to do it on points.

In any case, it's a kind of sport where you're not immune from anything. But if there's an opportunity, when you feel that you're far superior to your opponent and you could knock him out, it's better not to do it.

From experience and practice, I know that you can win a fight without having to finish off or destroy your opponent. Maybe not many people think about it, but your opponent has parents, children, friends, loved ones who are watching and worrying about them. You should always put yourself in another person's shoes. Then you might start acting differently."

– Today, very few people dare to publicly support the UOC. You are one of those people. Don't your colleagues and near ones advise you to stay aloof and not "draw fire" on yourself?

– There are various opinions, it varies greatly. What's important is what you feel and what you do. Each lamb will be hung by its tail. I have determined the truth for myself, I have determined where I'm going and what I want. I try to do everything possible for that.

You can draw parallels with your own parents. If someone mistreats or humiliates your parents, a normal reaction for anyone is to defend them. You will stand up for your parents, risking your life if needed. The same works with the Church, the temple, and the Orthodox faith. This our mother, without whom we would perish.

The reaction of any Orthodox person is to stand up in defense. Still... Compared to how people defend the Orthodox Church (I follow it online), compared to how they are persecuted, how they suffer... What I do, making some posts or expressing my opinions, I don't consider it serious support. It's the people who stand there (defending the churches – Ed.), risking their lives and freedom – they should come to the fore.

– There were photos of you in the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra on the Internet. How long did your obediences last?

– I came to the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra several times to venerate the relics and got to know the monks there. They invited me and said that if I ever had the opportunity and time, I should come for obediences. After one of my fights, I returned and called, asking for such an opportunity. We came for a short time, just half a day, did some work, and then went home.

– You communicate with His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry. What is he for you?

– He is a very bright person. People who have been growing spiritually for a very long time radiate a certain strength and power that the Almighty bestows upon them. It's difficult to find the right words, it's difficult to describe it. But you can feel this person's strength. You understand perfectly well that all of this comes to him through his prayers, through his efforts, through his love for the Lord. Perhaps, it is through this that the Lord responds to him and gives him inner energy that another person can feel, even just being nearby.

– The expulsion of the UOC from the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, the mass seizures of its temples, the hate from the media and the authorities. How can you comment on all of this? Can this happen in a rule-of-law state?

– In order to comment on the actions of any individual, one must be very pure themselves. I don't consider myself to belong to that category. Therefore, it would be wrong to criticize someone today, to talk about it. I try to dig deeper within myself, to look at what I do, how I do it. You need to look more at yourself, try to improve yourself more. As for what is happening around us, of course, it's disappointing, it definitely should not happen that way. It's painful to watch, very painful. No matter from what perspective we look at it, it definitely should not happen.

– How do you see the future of our Church?

– I've been listening to a song for a very long time, and recently it came up in my playlist again. I heard these words in it: "To purify gold from impurities." This is what is happening to our Church today. Right now, gold is being purified from impurities. How do I see our Orthodox Church in the future? Golden and flourishing.


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