The Best of Times

While suffering under the pandemic

I have been painfully aware that many people are feeling betrayed by their bishops and priests because of the closure of our churches, during this pandemic. Some have suggested that we priests are enjoying the services because we no longer have to suffer the hassles of having lay people around, and that while we clergy are enjoying a “spiritual awakening”, others are forced into this quarantine that has sequestered them in their homes, alone. While they’ve supported their churches through the years, we clergy have now locked the doors of the temples in order to hold private liturgies.

Knowing this sentiment is perhaps more common than not, I know I speak for every bishop, every priest, when I say that we priests who have been forced to close our churches, miss our people. Our parishioners, and in the case of monasteries, our pilgrims, are all beloved by us. Our people are the very reason we entered service to the Church, for they are all an integral part of  the Body of Christ, and are much beloved by us.

Please, dear ones, don’t despair, but remember that we will all get through this together. The separation we are all experiencing during this pandemic, will pass, and things will return to normal. This is not the only time in the history of humanity that such terrible times have befallen our human race, and it will not be the last.

Our own regular communicants, here in our monastery, made it clear that they felt they needed to stay away from the monastery, fearing they might introduce the coronavirus to the monks. Depriving themselves of the Holy Mysteries, they chose to protect us.

Following last Sunday’s Liturgy, I drove to the home of some pious believers who had gathered for a Reader Service, together with other parishioners, and calling them out their front door, I blessed them from my vehicle, so they could actually see me in person, and know that I love them, and that I miss seeing them. I’ve even sent photos of the services to them, hoping these photos would help them feel connected to the monastery, even though they were not able to be present.

Every priest I’ve spoken to, and even my archbishop, feel the same way. How could we not, for the Church is made of up all of us, together. We clergy are the servants of our people, yet a pandemic has sequestered all of us in our homes and monasteries, just as our people have been sequestered in their homes. Just as family members are now prevented from visiting loved ones who are under quarantine in hospitals, sometimes even facing death alone, we priests are suffering the pain of being separated from the people we love, and wish to serve.

I must also stress that it is not just we priests who can benefit from the forced isolation that has presented us with the chance to make this Lenten journey one of the most spiritually profitable of all. It is not just because we are able to serve the Liturgy, but even more so, because we have been gifted the opportunity of experiencing an inner silence that none of us, be we clergy or lay people, have had in our lifetimes.

It is perhaps the Lord Himself Who is gifting us this pandemic as our way of being awakened to that which is of eternal value, while extinguishing, even if for a few months, the distractions of a world that has, long ago, turned its eyes away from God. In our having made idols of profit, material goods, movie stars, fancy cars, and personal style, we’ve forgotten God. Now, we have been called to repent, and to turn our collective gaze back to that which really counts, our relationship with Christ, Who loves us, even in spite of ourselves.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Photos: The celebration of the Presanctified Liturgy in the monastery on Friday.

Saturday March 28, 2020 / March 15, 2020
Fourth Saturday of the Great Lent. Tone seven.
Great Lent. Food with Oil
Parents’ Saturday. Remembrance of the dead.
Martyrs Agapius, Publius (Pauplios), Timolaus, Romulus, two named Dionysius, and two named Alexander, at Caesarea in Palestine (303).
New Hieromartyr Alexis priest (1938).
New Hieromartyr Michael priest (1940).
Hieromartyr Alexander of Side in Pamphylia (270-275).
Martyr Nicander of Egypt (302).
Venerable Nicander, monk, of Gorodets (Novgorod) (1603).
New Martyr Manuel of Crete (1792) (Greek).
St. Hebarestes.
St. Zachariah, pope of Rome (752).

The Scripture Readings

Hebrews 6:9-12

A Better Estimate

9 But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. 10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Mark 7:31-37

Jesus Heals a Deaf-Mute

31 Again, departing from the region of Tyre and Sidon, He came through the midst of the region of Decapolis to the Sea of Galilee. 32 Then they brought to Him one who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech, and they begged Him to put His hand on him. 33 And He took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers in his ears, and He spat and touched his tongue. 34 Then, looking up to heaven, He sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”

35 Immediately his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly. 36 Then He commanded them that they should tell no one; but the more He commanded them, the more widely they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He makes both the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.”

Abbot Tryphon

About Abbot Tryphon

The Very. Rev. Abbot Tryphon is Igumen of All-Merciful Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island, Washington. Situated in the heart of a beautiful forest, surrounded by the Salish Sea, the monastery is reached by ferry from either Seattle, or Tacoma, Washington.

14 comments:

  1. Thankyou FR Tryphon for your daily blog. I’m in Sydney, Australia in a lockdown situation. Not leaving apartment. I pray daily and look forward to your wise words daily. I can’t understand the anger of people towards the clergy. You are not responsible for this virus, infact it is we as a society that have possibly incurred the wrath of God. It is we who are spreading this virus by not adhering to the recommendations of safe distancing and isolation. It is our government’s closing our churches, not clergy.
    Please keep up with your blogs, keep praying for us all and to all those angry people out there, let it go, the churches around the world will open their doors when they can, and we can all pray together again and thank God that we survived! Vitya.

  2. Dear father,
    Amen to everything you said!
    Greetings and many thanks from Greece.
    A distant yet daily present through your offerings pilgrim,
    Ioanna Papandreou Frantzeskakis

  3. From a Deacon friend,
    “We’ll be like St Zosimas and the other monks who went off into the desert for Lent, without any communion or services. God willing it will only last for that length of time and not how long St Mary spent in the wilderness!”

  4. Thank you and Bless Father Tryphon.
    Yes we are all having a difficult time, all Orthodox and everybody around the world. We have today something that previous generations that endured sickness and disease did not. Technology, Internet etc. It is causing much anxiety and fear among all. This is precisely why we all need to increase prayer and take your words and the words of our Orthodox Church and translate it all into prayer. We also have a prayer before we use the internet.
    May our prayers and the Prayers of our Holy Fathers help us all towards Christ!
    Sasho Naumovski
    Sydney

  5. Through the prayers of the Holy Theotokos, the Saints, our loved ones who have gone before us, and our Church Fathers, Bishops, Metropolis’, etc., Savior save us for You are good and lovest mankind. May God grant us all his mercies and may we remember to show kindness and offer our humble prayers for one another.
    Just another Greek with Greek hugs and loves!! The joy of the Lord is our strength 🥰.

  6. Dear Father Tryphon,
    Thank for continuing to faithfully write your blog during the Pandemic. Notable: My daily message from YOU comes while I am sleeping. It is ALWAYS there to greet me as I wake. As you suggest, it is during this time of being sequestered that I have been freed of my busyness enough to fully appreciate your “presence” and wisdom in my life. I am spoiled with this Comforting Gift every quiet morning. I am deeply grateful for it. In reflection, I now recognize God has Gifted me / us with quarantine . For those feeling “victimized.” or “betrayed,” I offer a cherished “family heirloom…
    The dear priest that brought me into the Church nine years ago, left this enduring Truth about Lent: —-
    “Lent is a 40 day retreat.
    What we do with it is up to us.
    Together we share its Promise: To end better than when we started.”
    Fr Tryphon, may God continue to bless and keep you very safe. Thank for your devotion to all of us., With love in Christ… Debbe

  7. Good morning Father , and bless.

    If you have the capabilities , many churches have gone to live streaming as an option to stay connected in these times.

    Have a blest day.

  8. I have never heard those sentiments from any of my friends. In fact, anywhere one surfs on the Internet can find closed services that we can see & participate from our homes. At the conclusion priests give us a special message. Then Mt. Athos , all 20 monasteries held an all night vigil. Many of us held the same vigil & some prayed at different hours. Another priest scheduled a 24 hours prayer chain. So I cannot relate to those who are critical. Humbly, Jeanne Tsakalos from Baltimore, Md.

  9. I have to admit that I was taken aback to learn how people were misinterpreting these actions; it would never have occurred to me that a priest would resent his congregation that much. Perhaps I am naive , but it just seems to me that if one hated people the clergy would be his last choice, unless of course that person was a narcissistic psychopath ( unfortunately I know of some who would qualify), but I have always considered them to be the exception not the rule. In addition to your wise observations, another benefit I see is that maybe part of the reason for allowing this is that too many families need to reconnect. It is a distressing trend to see members of a family at coffee hour just split up and scatter usually leaving the elderly grandparents and great grandparents to sit alone; none of the children or grandchildren come up and hug on them;( this is why when I attend a certain Church I make an effort them go and greet all of them and give them hugs, but unfortunately most don’t speak English so I can’t sit down and talk. ) Then when the family is ready to leave together that is when the phones come out and everyone goes back into their own little worlds. Too many Churches have turned into social clubs, and too many of us fall into the trap of becoming a little too comfortable in our pews, and ignore our main directive: to be saved and to strive to make sure to try and take as many people with us.

  10. I second the comments above. We can take solace in remembering the beautiful interiors of the sanctuaries, the bells, incense, icons, chants, and prayers and in knowing that the services are being held, that the faithful everywhere are praying for the whole world.

  11. Fortunately I have not heard this sentiment from anyone in our church! Our priest is doing videos of the Sunday liturgy for us so we can worship together from our homes and is calling and texting us to check in, and we are going to start a phone tree to keep in touch with everyone to make sure we all stay connected. This is a contagious virus – please, everyone – we must respect the need to stay apart until we get things under control and can worship together in our churches again safely. Our older people in particular – and our priests – are vulnerable and irreplaceable. Priests don’t grow on trees – we must protect them as well! Please stay well, dear Abbott Tryphon, and all of your brothers at the monastery!

  12. Respectfully, you are too connected to negative people. In the Detroit area all the Orthodox clergy 50+ met and decided jointly, that none of them would remain open. No Orthodox Church in southeastern Michigan is open. Everyone I talked to were grateful. They believed this was a loving and caring response. Everyone of them! Please know that many more of us see the closings as a sign of kindness and compassion. Respectfully, your friend and daily reader, Karen Todorov DOOR Radio

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