At the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in D.C., parishioners observed Ash Wednesday with prayers for peace, for Ukraine and an end to suffering in a time of war.
"This Ash Wednesday we are all painfully aware of the violence that has returned to our world,” Cardinal Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington, said. “Our Ukrainian sisters and brothers should be uppermost in our prayers."
The raging war was on the minds of many parishioners who showed both subtle (one man wore the colors of the Ukrainian flag) and overt (another woman sat in the pews wrapped in the flag itself) signs of solidarity.
The Most Rev. Borys Gudziak, an archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, joined Wilton cardinal Gregory Wednesday afternoon.
He said the faith of the Ukrainian people has been tested, but they will not falter.
"Ukrainians, as you can see, are enduring and it is an act of faith. It’s an act of faith in God-given human dignity and freedom,” Gudziak said.
Today, the lenten season harkens back to the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert alone, isolated and faced with temptation.
Gregory said there are parallels to be drawn from the holy period and the plight of Ukrainians.
"I sense that same kind of encouragement and willingness to endure so that the Ukrainian community is triumphant not in a militaristic way, but in a way of humanity and certainly in a way of freedom,” he said.
That message is especially poignant for parishioner Vitol Chrzanowski, an immigrant whose Polish parents have faced down Russian aggression in the past.
“My family has experienced what these people are going through, so for me the celebration of lent and coming here is really a salvation and redemption and cleansing process,” he said.
Though the battle is still being fought, Gudziak said the moral war has already been won.
“The whole world is together in condemning this invasion,” he said. “Our Lord teaches there is no greater love than when someone gives their life for a friend and that’s what we’re seeing happening this very minute in Ukraine.”