The Pandemic Upon Us

Let this plague serve as a call to reorient our gaze

The State of Washington has greatly reduced the number of people who can be gathered in public places, including our churches. Given the lack of faith demonstrated by so many, blaming bishops and priests for the closure of churches, can we imagine how these same people would react should it become known that one of their fellow parishioners got the Coronavirus while attending the Liturgy?

We clergy need to protect our people, even though many of us must now suffer attacks from the very people we love and serve, while being accused of being fearful and unfaithful, as we close down our parishes to public services, trying as best we can to be obedient to the rules put down by our federal government. One bishop I know has suffered greatly by having had to endure such attacks on his own faithfulness, as he “closed down the hospital”.

This pandemic should be a reminder to all of us that we should be in prayer, seeking an end to the epidemic. This whole time of church closures must not be seen as based on fear, or a sign that the Church is betraying her people, but rather, a time for all of us to go deep within ourselves, worshiping before the Holy Trinity, pleading to God not only dispel the pandemic, but to heal the souls of people who have turned our sights to earthly pleasures, while distancing ourselves from the things of God.

Let this plague that has come down upon us, serve as a call to reorient our gaze, as we turn away from things of a secular nature, and look towards the things of God. Our focus must not be toward the material world, but toward heavenly things, the things of God. We can even see this pandemic as a blessing, really, since we are now asked by our Federal Government to refrain from gatherings of more than ten people, and sequester ourselves in our homes. What better way to continue our Lenten journey towards the celebration of Pascha, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!

With the closure of public gatherings across the country, including the closure of many churches, we now have been given the opportunity to turn from all secular temptations, such as concerts, sporting events, bars and restaurants, movie houses, and all other kinds of secular distractions, and focus on our inner life. We now have the opportunity of rekindling our personal prayer lives, joining other family members in using our prayer books, lighting lampada and candles before our family icons, and building up the “domestic church”.

This is not the time to simply spend hours playing Monopoly, or watching television, but a God allowed time to turn our collective gaze upon the Holy Scriptures, and building up our personal prayer life, something that has long been sidelined by earthly distractions.

Finally, let us see these trying times as allowed by God, for humanity’s sake. Let us see this pandemic as an opportunity to return our collective gaze upon the things that really matter, those things of an eternal nature. Let us repent, as a people who have long ceased to make faith central to our lives, and actively live as committed Christians.

Let us not place blame on those who lead us, but rather pray with earnest, “Heal us from our pride, which can make us claim invulnerability to a disease that knows no borders (Prayer in Time of Epidemic).”  And let us remember that “the Lord seeks out the heart, not the appearance (Saint Paisius of Sihla)”.

Even if we are unable to attend services in our churches, we must remember that the grace imparted from the Bloodless Sacrifice is still efficacious, even if we are barred from the temple while the Divine Liturgy is being celebrated, just as we are blessed by the Holy Mysteries during those times when we are in attendance, but not receiving Holy Communion. Every time the Divine Liturgy is celebrated, grace pours out upon the people of God. Every time the Divine Liturgy is celebrated, the Church Militant here on earth, is united to the Church Triumphant in heaven. Every time the Divine Liturgy is served, we are united to Christ, and to each other.

Let us not give in to the lies of the Evil One, for God is with us, just as God was with His people during the Soviet persecution of the Church, when the services were forbidden, and churches were razed to the ground.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Photos: Wednesday’s Presanctified Liturgy in the monastery.

Thursday March 19, 2020 / March 6, 2020
Third Week of the Great Lent. Tone six.
Great Lent. By Monastic Charter: Food without Oil
The 42 Martyrs of Ammoria in Phrygia, including: Constantine, Aetius, Theophilus, Theodore, Melissenus, Callistus, Basoes, and others (845).
Venerable Job (Joshua in Schema) of Solovki (1720).
The uncovering of the PreciousEvCross and the Precious Nails by Empress St. Helen (326).
Monk-martyrs Conon and his son Conon of Iconium (270-275).
Venerable Arcadius, monk, of Cyprus (361), and his disciples Julian and Bulius.
Icons of the Most Holy Theotokos “Chenstokhovskaya”, “Shestokhov” (“Hearth”). “Blessed Heaven” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos in Moscow.
Translation of the relics (1230) of Martyr Abraham of Bulgaria (1229).
Venerable Fridolin, abbot, enlightener of the Upper Rhine (538).
Martyrs Cyriacus and 12 companions, who suffered under Diocletian in Augsburg (304).
Translation of the relics Sts. Cyneswitha and Cyneburga, abbesses of Caistor, and St. Tibba, nun, of Rynall.
Monk-martyr Maximus (Greek).
Martyr Euphrosynus (Greek).
Martyrs Julian and Eubulus (Greek).
St. Hesychius the Wonderworker, monk (Greek).

The Scripture Readings

Isaiah 11:10-12:2

10 “And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,
Who shall stand as a banner to the people;
For the Gentiles shall seek Him,
And His resting place shall be glorious.”

11 It shall come to pass in that day
That the Lord shall set His hand again the second time
To recover the remnant of His people who are left,
From Assyria and Egypt,
From Pathros and Cush,
From Elam and Shinar,
From Hamath and the islands of the sea.

12 He will set up a banner for the nations,
And will assemble the outcasts of Israel,
And gather together the dispersed of Judah
From the four corners of the earth.
13 Also the envy of Ephraim shall depart,
And the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off;
Ephraim shall not envy Judah,
And Judah shall not harass Ephraim.
14 But they shall fly down upon the shoulder of the Philistines toward the west;
Together they shall plunder the people of the East;
They shall lay their hand on Edom and Moab;
And the people of Ammon shall obey them.
15 The Lord will utterly destroy the tongue of the Sea of Egypt;
With His mighty wind He will shake His fist over the River,
And strike it in the seven streams,
And make men cross over dry-shod.
16 There will be a highway for the remnant of His people
Who will be left from Assyria,
As it was for Israel
In the day that he came up from the land of Egypt.

A Hymn of Praise

12 And in that day you will say:

“O Lord, I will praise You;
Though You were angry with me,
Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me.
2 Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
‘For Yah, the Lord, is my strength and song;
He also has become my salvation.’ ”

Genesis 7:11-8:3

11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. 12 And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights.

13 On the very same day Noah and Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark— 14 they and every beast after its kind, all cattle after their kind, every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, every bird of every sort. 15 And they went into the ark to Noah, two by two, of all flesh in which is the breath of life. 16 So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the Lord Shut him in.

17 Now the flood was on the earth forty days. The waters increased and lifted up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. 18 The waters prevailed and greatly increased on the earth, and the ark moved about on the surface of the waters. 19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered. 20 The waters prevailed fifteen cubits upward, and the mountains were covered. 21 And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man. 22 All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died. 23 So He destroyed all living things which were on the face of the ground: both man and cattle, creeping thing and bird of the air. They were destroyed from the earth. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive. 24 And the waters prevailed on the earth one hundred and fifty days.

Noah’s Deliverance

8 Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided. 2 The fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven were also stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained. 3 And the waters receded continually from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters decreased.

Proverbs 10:1-22

Wise Sayings of Solomon

10 The proverbs of Solomon:

A wise son makes a glad father,
But a foolish son is the grief of his mother.

2 Treasures of wickedness profit nothing,
But righteousness delivers from death.
3 The Lord will not allow the righteous soul to famish,
But He casts away the desire of the wicked.

4 He who has a slack hand becomes poor,
But the hand of the diligent makes rich.
5 He who gathers in summer is a wise son;
He who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame.

6 Blessings are on the head of the righteous,
But violence covers the mouth of the wicked.
7 The memory of the righteous is blessed,
But the name of the wicked will rot.

8 The wise in heart will receive commands,
But a prating fool will fall.

9 He who walks with integrity walks securely,
But he who perverts his ways will become known.

10 He who winks with the eye causes trouble,
But a prating fool will fall.

11 The mouth of the righteous is a well of life,
But violence covers the mouth of the wicked.

12 Hatred stirs up strife,
But love covers all sins.

13 Wisdom is found on the lips of him who has understanding,
But a rod is for the back of him who is devoid of understanding.

14 Wise people store up knowledge,
But the mouth of the foolish is near destruction.

15 The rich man’s wealth is his strong city;
The destruction of the poor is their poverty.

16 The labor of the righteous leads to life,
The wages of the wicked to sin.

17 He who keeps instruction is in the way of life,
But he who refuses correction goes astray.

18 Whoever hides hatred has lying lips,
And whoever spreads slander is a fool.

19 In the multitude of words sin is not lacking,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.
20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver;
The heart of the wicked is worth little.
21 The lips of the righteous feed many,
But fools die for lack of wisdom.

22 The blessing of the Lord makes one rich,
And He adds no sorrow with it.

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.

17 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for these words. Lord, protect each of us from this virus, but if we get it, help us to protect others from catching it from us. Please add my son’s name to your prayer list – Eric. He had life-saving surgery postponed due to this virus. He recently lost his job and is now taking care of his 3 young sons while his wife works. Please remember him in your prayers and all who are facing situations beyond their control. May God richly bless each of you and celebrate the Divine Liturgy for us all.

  2. Thanks be to God for being such a source of encouragement , a light in the darkness, and a reminder that each of us needs to spend more time in prayer and repentance during this Lenten season. Ultimately, this should be the way we live our lives. May God continue to grant you, your Brothers, and all of our perspective Churches much strength and courage !! Forgive us O Lord!

  3. We wouldn’t feel too good about our priests and bishops becoming ill either if they have to be exposed to large crowds. It all has to be taken into consideration or there will be no priests. (I read today 12 priests died in Italy while 20 others are hospitalized).

    As for the plague: Daniel 12:11 says when we lost the daily sacrifice, there will be 1, 290 days so this is just over 3 years and that might be how long it takes for us to get past the virus and into a safe space.

    God bless!

  4. The monasteries are the spiritual heart and lungs of mankind; never ceasing to keep we (the parts that sleep) alive 24/7. Now our clergy are the same. The services exist for God and our clergy are called to serve before Him, maintaining our well-being before our Creator and Lord. The laity–while adding to the solemnity and celebration before God–are unnecessary. In fact our presence is a privilege and an honor for us, not to be taken lightly or frivolously. As you say, it is the time for us to breathe the life back into our home altars and be the spiritual heart of our physical households. Stay well and healthy, dear Reverend Father and all the brothers with you.

  5. Thank you for this firm and gentle reminder that God allows disruptions into our lives so that we will refocus, repent and renew our relationship with the Holy One. May we be available to each other and our neighbors so that we can grow a rich spiritual harvest.
    Be the blessing,
    Wes Kroeker
    – a Mennonite brother – happy to tap into the wealth of “An Ancient Faith”

  6. Let’s not spend time criticizing our clergy for taking actions that are required for the good of all. How about we give thanks knowing that this is a temporary inconvenience (albiet one that kills people), and that our churches will stand in their glory until we are able to return to them. Think of the millions of early Christians who may have woken one day to find their church gone, never to be again in their lifetime. Think of those who had all that they were used to ripped from them for their beliefs, and of those who were martyred. This is not what is happening to us. We are among history’s most blessed, in this world anyway. Let’s give thanks for that fact, and let us honor and support our clergy for their faith and their sacrifice in this difficult time. Thank you Father for reminding us that this is an opportunity to “reorient our gaze” toward God.

  7. Father –
    I thank you for your article and the many good points you make. I am, however, troubled by it. There are many faithful (and clergy) who are troubled by the response of (most) of our hierarchs to this crisis. I fully understand that they are in a terrible position and that they are “damned if they do, and damned if they don’t”. But many of us are having our faith in the institutional church challenged by its response to this. Would you please be so kind as to not refer to us as people demonstrating a “lack of faith”? I have no desire to argue with you as to whether the hierarchs’ actions show them to be “faithless” or “wise”. I will also not debate with you whether the “plague” being visited on us is the actual virus or the fear/panic/hysteria that it is engendering. I have tried, in conversations with people who have concerns like myself, to not be judgmental of our hierarchs or others. I would just humbly ask that, in this time of the fast, you not characterize those who are deeply troubled by the church’s actions as “lack(ing) in faith”. No one’s deeply held concerns are going to be answered or assuaged by such characterizations. Thank you.

    1. I’ve read through Abp. Kyrill’s directives for his priests for this time of crisis and find them to be micromanaging, but certainly not cowardly. My two cents.

  8. Abbot Tryphon, the Church of England has suspended services too for the duration. Perhaps you could do a ‘live’ service over the internet like my church will on Sunday? You can watch it here at 0945 UTC https://www.clayton.tv/

  9. Thank you Abbot Tryphon.
    These are strong words and much needed.
    As Christians we should think of others before ourselves and if that means we stay away, for a temporary time, to keep the vulnerable safe then let us do that. I don’t understand how we can criticize the clergy or fathers during this time as they feeling the most burden to lead their flock in the safest means possible.
    This is the time to reflect, meditate, and build our own “chruch” within our home. Church is only one aspect of being a Christian. Faith at home is most important. When children see this they will follow. They will see that it is not only allocated for Sundays only. This is a good time for us to practice that and show what it means to have faith especially during these tough times.
    God bless you Abbot Tryphon. I enjoy your daily reflections and find them a blessing.

    1. Father, bless! Our eldest son is an ER doctor and, like all on the front lines, needs prayers for protection, strength and wisdom. Please pray for him (David). Whatever we can do to slow the progress of this plague will save their lives and ours. I am very thankful that the hierarchs have helped in this way. Individually, we all want to be in Church in person. To abstain is a needed and good sacrifice, but, without the hierarchs’ support, many would feel that they should take the risk. At Presanctified last week an infant who is being treated for cancer was present…a small service that seemed safe. But what if my cough wasn’t just allergies? I could never forgive myself. So many of our clergy are “older”: we need them to survive this. Thank you, clergy, for helping us help one another.

  10. Please note that the word plague means “a contagious bacterial disease characterized by fever and delirium, typically with the formation of buboes ( bubonic plague ) and sometimes infection of the lungs.” The current COVID-19 is a pandemic of a viral illness, rather than a plague of bacterial disease. I think the word plague carries significant fear and weight because of historical outbreaks.

    In my opinion, the best response at this time, as at all times, is to be calm, kind, and to do the best we can to care for ourselves and other people. May God bless us all.

  11. His Eminence, Archbisop Alexander, has compared the few remaining in the Temple that are necessary to hold a service (priest, deacon chanter) to the monks in the story of St Mary of Egypt who remained behind while the remainder went into the desert. Those “left behind ” were not there to prevent theft or vandalism but to represent the community in prayer and keep services ongoing.

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