From the Pastor

Greeting in the Lord.

The global COVID-19 crisis has ignited a number of difficult discussions and decisions in our Holy Orthodox Church.  The Federal Government, our State Government, local city officials all have contributed to clarify for the most part and yet confuse us on the other hand. Epidemiologists have postulated differing opinions and thoughts on the subject, while reviewing their efforts, others point out the accuracy or the error in what is forecast.

We all feel hurt by the timing of this pandemic, coming as it does as we approach the most glorious time in our Church calendar, Holy Week and the Joyous Resurrection of our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Holy Week stimulates us to go to church more, to pray more, to be alert to God more, to ask for forgiveness more and to forgive more. Instead, we find ourselves confined to our homes, praying at home without benefit of Church holiness, to change our lifestyle in a way we were not ready, to isolate ourselves and yet to love our neighbor, by “Social Distancing” even though I prefer the term “Love distancing.”  For, by distancing from one another, from our neighbor, we limit the spreading of the germs that facilitate this virus out of love.

We believe it was Thomas Merton, an eminent theologian, who wrote: “If you go into the desert merely to get away from people you dislike, you will find neither peace nor solitude; you will only isolate yourself with a tribe of devils…God into the desert not to escape other men but in order to find them in God.”

             Thus, the distancing that we have been experiencing is an invitation offered to us by God, to give him more of our time, to offer him our personal sacrifice of time and space, to have a longing for him, to desire to return to him when the time is right. Furthermore, distancing gives us the opportunity to re-create our home into a “Home Church” a “Little Church” where God is more evident, where God is more accessible, where our faith can be lived and practiced more, and where with others, we can rebuild the spiritual fellowship through the telephone and the internet, as we inquire of them, how they are doing. We can see once again, God in our family members and our neighbor.  St. Paul reminds us: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13.

Ecumenical Bartholomew, inspired as the leader of our Holy Orthodox Church to address the challenges we face said: However, that which is at stake is not our faith—it is the faithful. It is not Christ—it is our Christians. It is not the divine-man—but human beings. In this time of crisis, we need to be less argumentative and defensive and more apostolic: our true priority is our neighbor.”

             Our Holy Tradition has bequeathed to us a way of living Holy Week and celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord. Seeking other ways is hard for we honor and rejoice in our ways of celebrating. We like the palms, the Sacrament of Holy Unction, receiving Holy Communion, receiving a flower from the Epitaphion, bringing the light of the Resurrection into our home. These we cherish; these we celebrate; these we perpetuate. Livestreaming services cannot truly replace sitting in our favorite pew, in our regular attendance, hearing the hymns and offering our prayers. Even so, streaming on the Internet can still expose us to the grace of the Holy Spirit, the love and mercy of God, as we put into practice the words of St. Paul: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thank in all circumstances: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Instead of palms and flowers, Holy Unction and Paschal Light, we can rediscover God in our families, the Lord active in our neighborhood, that our homes are truly “Home Churches” and “Little Churches.” We have to admit we are quite accustomed to leaving our homes to shop, to eat out, to see a show, to be with relatives. Now we are called to live in closer proximity to our family members, renewing in our heart, who they are and who we are. It is a time to put into active action the two commandments of our Lord: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-38)

Thus, it is with heavy heart and spiritual longing to see and share Holy Week and the Holy Resurrection with all of you, we announce all the services will be cancelled until we can return, assured that the virus is abating and we would not jeopardize the health and well-being of any one of our beloved parishioners.

Yet, in time, we shall gather once again as a community of believers and faithful. With joy in our hearts we shall proclaim the eternal message “Christ is risen!” With voices loud and clear we shall respond “Truly, He is risen!” with words of glory to God we shall approach Holy Communion having been deprived of it by unforeseen circumstances.

We ask you pray for our parish, for all of the parishioners, each one individually and all together as a community. If ever there was a time wherein we needed daily encouragement, it is now! We are all spiritual friends; let us take advantage of that. The human voice at the other end of the telephone brings a smile to both the giver and the receiver and assured us someone is thinking of us. A note on the Internet can dispel the distance between us; use the Internet. An act of kindness to a shut-in can assure them, God is watching. God has given us the power to create these means. Let us use them and glorify Him at the same time.

 

In Christ,

 

Fr. John and Parish Council


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