Let us use this pandemic as the time to rediscover the beauty of our faith
This Covid-19 pandemic has afforded me the time to sit in silence, enjoying the beauty of the surrounding forest, like nothing I’ve experienced in years. The forest is so quiet, now that I don’t hear traffic sounds off in the distance, and airlines flying overhead, and the return of our bird population has afforded much joy for we monks, listening to their singing in the forest trees.
Our environment is so quiet, in fact, that wildlife has appeared like never before. We’re even hearing packs of coyotes back in the depths of the forest, just west of the monastery grounds, something we’ve not heard in the over thirty-two years since moving the monastery to Vashon Island.
Although I miss drinking coffee on the veranda of the trapeza with visitors, and the communal meals following our celebrations of the Divine Liturgy on Sundays and feast days, I’ve also noticed that just sitting in my monastic cell, with the lampadas burning before my personal icons, has been the occasion for breathing in the beauty that has always been there, but sometimes not seen because of my normally busy schedule tending to the needs of pilgrims. Our monastic temple seems even more beautiful, now that I am not tending to the usual business of my days.
This pandemic has brought back my attention to that which originally drew me to Orthodoxy in the very beginning. My very first encounter with the magnificence of her churches and the grandeur of her divine services, is now boldly confronting, once again. Having grown up amid the natural beauty of Northern Idaho, with mountains and lakes that continually took my breath away, I’m now experiencing, anew, the same wonder and amazement when entering our church for services, or walking on our forest trails.
Orthodoxy and beauty are inseparable because God and beauty are inseparable. The beauty of a sunset is a reflection of our Creator, just as the interior of a temple reflects our experience with this Creator God. We humans were formed as physical beings, placed in a material world and invited to commune with our Creator. The majesty and beauty of the created world inspires us to an awareness of God’s presence.
A bouquet of flowers placed in our icon corner has an internal affect on us. Created in God’s image, we in turn become creators. The beauty that comes from the artist’s brush or the poet’s voice, is an act of a creator. Taking our creative instincts into the realm of the spiritual unites us with God and connects us to the eternal. This is why an artist or a poet can experience the eternal when creating something of beauty.
God is the Creator of heaven and earth and is present through His creative energies. The material world, being good, is an important means through which God expresses Himself. It is through God’s created beauty that we are drawn into a relationship that is meant to be eternal and through which Divine Revelation can transform our nature. Then creation is completed and the created is united to the Creator.
With all the fear most of us are experiencing as we collectively look toward an uncertain future, this can actually be for us a precious time, for it allows us to look at the beauty that we so often do not see. Even if we are locked in quarantine, and separated from our fellow parishioners, or our family and friends, we can gaze with wonder at our personal icons, and know that our Lord loves us, and that His saints are interceding before the Throne for us.
We must remember that this period of trail and separation will pass, and our world will be restored to the beauty God intended, if we let it. The preoccupation with the material world that has been filled with consumption of goods, and the acquisition of perishable things, can be beautifully replaced with that which is truly important, and of an eternal value for we Christians, if we let it. Then, even if belatedly, we will once again shout out together, Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen! And this time, we will feel it in the depths of our hearts and souls.
With love in Christ
Sunday April 12, 2020 / March 30, 2020
The Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem.
Great Lent. Fish Allowed
Venerable John (Climacus) of Sinai, author of The Ladder (649).
St. Sophronius, bishop of Irkutsk (1771).
Prophet Joad (I Kings 13:11 -10th c. BC ) who dwelt in Bethel.
Holy Apostles Sosthenes, Apollos, Cephas, Caesar, and Epaphroditus, of the Seventy (1st c.).
St. Eubula, mother of St. Panteleimon (304).
Venerable John the Silent of St. Sabbas monastery (558).
Venerable Zosimas, bishop of Syracuse (662).
St. John II, patriarch of Jerusalem (5th c.).
Hieromartyr Zacharias, bishop of Corinth (1684).
St. Osburga of Coventry, virgin (1015) (Celtic & British).
Translation of the relics of the Martyr-King Edmund of East Anglia (Celtic & British).
Venerable John the Hermit of Cilicia (4th c.).
The Scripture Readings
The Triumphal Entry
21 Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. 3 And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”
4 All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:
5 “Tell the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your King is coming to you,
Lowly, and sitting on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ”
6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. 8 And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Hosanna in the highest!”
10 And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?”
11 So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”
15 But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant 16 and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?”
And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read,
‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have perfected praise’?”
17 Then He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and He lodged there.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Meditate on These Things
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
The Anointing at Bethany
12 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. 2 There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. 3 Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
4 But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, 5 “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.
7 But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. 8 For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.”
The Plot to Kill Lazarus
9 Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.
The Triumphal Entry
12 The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out:
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’
The King of Israel!”
14 Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written:
15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion;
Behold, your King is coming,
Sitting on a donkey’s colt.”
16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.
17 Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. 18 For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign.