Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Theotokos & St. Nikephoros before our Crucified Lord

(SOC-EAD) - During this pandemic, as we collectively experience the global outbreak and exponential spread of the coronavirus, the Venerable Nikephoros the Leper appeared to someone in Greece and told him: “Tell the people not to be afraid of the virus. And, in the event that someone gets infected, tell them to pray to me and I will help them.”

Rendered at the hands of iconographer, Archimandrite Evsevije (Meandzija), a Serbian post-graduate student at the Theological Faculty of the University of Athens, this new icon for our times, represents the Theotokos and St. Nikephoros praying before the Crucified Lord to save humankind from the coronavirus.

Serbia and COVID-19

(SOC) - Communique of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church

Regarding the latest recommendations of the Government of Serbia, in order to suppress the spread of the COVID-19 virus, "religious services in churches and in the open air are to be performed without the presence of the faithful", with the clarification that the aim of these recommendations is a safe way of worship and the protection of public health, all the while enabling worship to continue, we inform all our clergy, monastics, and faithful that the Serbian Orthodox Church will implement these recommendations, as it has already done in those countries of the Serbian diaspora and other regions where such protective measures have been taken a few days ago. The Church will not interrupt the serving of the Divine Liturgy or cease communing the faithful, because this is a matter which cannot be debated: it is the basis of our faith in the Living God. Specifically, this means that during the services in the church there is to be a priest (or priests) with a deacon, chanter, and an altar server (according to the need and circumstance).

We urge the faithful, 65 and older, as well as those of younger in weaker health and lower immunity, to refrain from coming to church for worship in the coming days and weeks and put themselves and others at risk.

We repeat: the risk is not in Holy Communion (on the contrary, we receive it, among other things, "for the healing of soul and body"), but the real danger of the virus, unrelated to Holy Communion, is due to its recent spread everywhere, and the upcoming period has been deemed by both Chinese and our own experts as the most critical and see an increase of isolation as the only way to stop it from spreading and avoid the tragic experience in Italy and some other countries.

To our faithful we impart our paternal, pastorally responsible and loving blessing that they follow the divine services by television broadcasts and/or online, via church websites, and that they schedule with their parish priests communion at home in due time.

All other services, particularly Holy Baptism, should be postponed for a later date when the situation has been normalized, but when it is urgently needed it should be done according to the measures of the state of emergency. Funerals must be done with as few amount of people as possible.

We note particularly that we should not use church attendance as an excuse before one’s conscience and neighbors for disrespecting the measures of self-isolation. Thus, we once again call upon all our clergy, monastics, and faithful to abide by all the precepts of the state and directions regarding church life prescribed by the Holy Synod of Bishops.

From the Office of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church

Athonite monk reportedly comes down with coronavirus

(Orthodox Times) - A monk from Mount Athos infected with the coronavirus is hospitalised at the “AHEPA” University General Hospital of Thessaloniki.

The monk has been living to a large monastery of Mount Athos and had reportedly travelled to England along with a delegation of the monastery. Other monks in the same monastery have the same symptoms and, therefore, they remain in quarantine in their cells. It is the first recorded case on Mount Athos that closed its gates to pilgrims a week ago due to the coronavirus.

An Italian pilgrim had also suspicious symptoms while he was at the Hilandar Monastery a few days ago. He was also transferred to the same hospital, where he was found to have common flu.

Services at Church of the Holy Sepulchre will continue

(Church of Jerusalem) - On Thursday, March 13/26, 2020, the Three Major Communities, namely the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Custody of the Holy Land of the Franciscans, and the Patriarchate of the Armenians in Jerusalem, who are responsible for the Status Quo, published the announcement stated below, stating that the Services at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre will continue to be held by the ministering Fathers of each Community, according to the Typikon of the Status Quo. However there will be a significant decrease in the numbers of the faithful attending the services, in order to adhere to the safety precautions against COVID-19 virus.

“Following the evolvement of the situation in the Holy Land, we the Heads of the Three Communities to whom the Providence granted the grace and honour of proclaiming the lodes of the Lord in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre and Resurrection, wish to inform that the celebrations of the Communities, the Greek Orthodox, the Latin and the Armenian will continue regularly, even though for safety reasons and in order to avoid the risk of the diffusion of the COVID-19 infection, the number of participants in the celebrations will be limited to few persons and the Basilica will be accessible during the liturgies only.

We wish to assure that inside the Basilica, the prayers of the Three Communities will continue, rather intensify, asking the Heavenly Father the end of the pandemic, the recovery of the sick, the protection of the medical personnel, the wisdom for the Pastors and the Governors and the eternal salvation to those who lost their lives. We raise this prayer from the very place where, through the sacrifice of His own life on the Calvary and through His Resurrection from the Sepulchre on the third day, the only begotten and beloved Son Jesus Christ, defeated evil, sin and death.”

When the mayor of St. Petersburg and the Church collide

(orthochristian.com) - Residents of St. Petersburg, Russia, are prohibited from visiting religious sites from March 28 to April 5 according to new measures aimed at containing the quickly-spreading coronavirus.

The decree signed by city Governor Alexander Beglov yesterday prohibits “individuals from visiting objects (territories) of religious organizations, with the exception of the clergy and religious personnel of the given religious organizations.”

However, the Russian Church has responded that the Russian constitution and law do not provide Beglov with such powers.

Responding to the new decree, the Legal Department of the ROC states that:

In the Russian Federation, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion are [constitutionally] guaranteed, including the right to celebrate the Divine services individually or jointly with others, and other religious rites and ceremonies.

The right of man and citizen to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion can be restricted in order to protect the health of citizens only by federal law.

Other acts of government bodies (including acts of government bodies of constituent entities of the Russian Federation and municipal bodies) may not restrict freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, including the right of citizens to visit religious sites in order to participate in the Divine services, as such acts do not have the status of federal law.

And, according to a statement from the St. Petersburg Metropolia yesterday, services in the city will continue.

The statement begins by noting that, “for the sake of pastoral care of people … while maintaining a firm faith in the work of God’s good providence and in Divine omnipotence,” special measures have already been taken since March 19, including the disinfecting of churches.

Extensive interview with Met. John (Zizioulas) on coronavirus

(OMHKSEA) - A (telephone) conversation with Metropolitan of Pergamon John Zizioulas (March 23, 2020).

We wish to hear your views on the current situation, since your theology plays a great role in the present circumstances.
Metropolitan John: My theology, unfortunately, cannot be applied. In Greece they have already closed the churches, and the Divine Liturgy is not being served. Is it served in Serbia?

Taking into consideration the decision of the government that the number of people in one place be limited, as well as the issue of getting around and social distancing, the Patriarch Irinej’s newest decision is that services be held in churches but without more than five people.
Metropolitan John: That’s acceptable.

In America it was decided that the priest, chanter and altar server be present, in order for the Liturgy to be served, so that they might have the holy mysteries in order to commune the people. What do you think about that?
Metropolitan John: For me, the Church without the holy Eucharist is no longer the Church. On the other hand, the danger of transmitting this virus to others imposes on us the need of doing whatever is necessary, even if that means closing the Church. The Greek government has taken drastic measures due to the very serious matter at play.

Many have posed the question: What does John Zizioulas say? Since everyone knows that you had once said that in Orthodoxy a “private” Liturgy doesn’t exist.
The liturgy under the current conditions will be served for the life of the world. One priest will serve in order to allow the people to take communion. Let us not forget, the Liturgy is served “for those who are absent with good reason.” Those, who cannot come, are now everyone. I think it is an acceptable decision that a priest serves the liturgy in the church with two or three people. How he will forbid other from attending, I don’t know. I think the best decision, instead of completely closing the church, is to have the priest serve with up to five people. Therefore, the Liturgy should be served in churches, but the possibility of spreading the virus should be reduced to zero.

The Church of Greece will broadcast the Holy Liturgy via the Internet. Some in America will do the same. What is your opinion?
I don’t agree with the Divine Liturgy being transmitted by television. I’m confined to my home and will not be able to attend Liturgy. However, I will not turn the television on in order to watch the Liturgy. I consider that an expression of impiety. It is impious for someone to sit and watch the Liturgy. This is not an outlandish opinion. It is one thing for a family to stand together in their living room and behave as if they are at church. It is quite another to sit in the den buttering muffins while refilling coffee cups. It trivializes the transformational and transcendent and sets an awful example for our youth. I will add, I have on occasion gotten people out of the coffee hour room between orthros and liturgy for just such behavior. You come to church to praise Him, not to share witticisms and chuckle through the services. Returning to the topic of online services, molebens and that sort of prayer would seem to be much more readily adapted to televising.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Assembly of Bishops launches COVID-19 Resource Center


The Holy Mountain closed to pilgrims, but praying for us all

(Basilica.ro) - Holy Mount Athos is closed to pilgrims until the end of March, but its monasteries continue prayer and religious services even more fervently.

The governing Holy Community of Mount Athos has urged all churches and sketes on its territory to hold cross processions and officiate All-Night Vigils to the Mother of God, who is the Archontissa (lady leader) of the Mountain.

This Friday night, in the fourth week of the Great Lent, the Athonite monks will hold All-Night Vigil to St. Martyr Charalambos, healer of infectious diseases, informs Orthodox Christianity.

The monks from the 20 monasteries and the other sketes and cells will ask God’s mercy for the whole world threatened by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Holy Community of Mount Athos has expressed the need to strengthen prayers and the celebration of the Sacraments during Great Lent and has called on all to repent “with all the power of the spirit of the Lord, the Lifegiving Source overcoming death.”

Carpatho-Rusyn primate to be interviewed by AFR

JOHNSTOWN, PA (ACROD) - A one-of-a-kind, in-depth interview by His Eminence, Metropolitan Gregory (Tatsis) of Nyssa will be aired on a very special 5th Sunday Stewardship Calling Program on Ancient Faith Radio on Sunday, March 29th at 8:00 p.m. Eastern (7 Central, 6 Mountain, 5 Pacific).

In this extended interview Metropolitan Gregory will discuss the following:

1. His upbringing and the challenges he faced along his journey;
2. How our Orthodox Christian theology can be reconciled with the world of science; His scientific background before major orders makes him uniquely qualified to speak on this.
3. An update on the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops;
4. The background and history of the American Carpatho Russian Orthodox Diocese of North America; Something few people know about.
5. His official trip to Cuba as the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarch;
6. His critical focus on our youth and emerging adults ministries and his vision for American Orthodox churches.

This is a wonderfully frank, personal and comprehensive interview. Diocesan faithful and friends are encourage to Log in at: https://www.ancientfaith.com/radio/live

Fr. Tom Soroka interviews Met. Tikhon on coronavirus

(AFR) - Fr. Tom Soroka welcomes His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon (Archbishop of Washington and Metropolitan of All America and Canada of the Orthodox Church in America) for a special edition of Ancient Faith Today. Metropolitan Tikhon shares his perspective on the ongoing crisis and the Church's response. Learn how he is spending his time "sheltering in place" including a special treat at the end.

OCA delivers family resource during the time of coronavirus

Resources for Coronavirus outbreak - There's a lot here for the whole family and it gets updated daily.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

ROCOR Chicago adopts OCA Diocese of the South model

It seems the skeleton crew model in churches with live streaming has become the primary model in these coronavirus days. Some dioceses has shuttered entirely of course, but they are in the minority.


(ROCOR-Chicago) - According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention COVID-19 is present in all 50 states and is being spread within the community, that is, the virus is now native to local communities in all states in our diocese and is being conveyed person to person. Although the rate of spread is not the same from state to state, circumstances are changing rapidly. New orders are issued on an almost daily basis. In order to provide protection for the faithful, and to further emphasize the serious risk of this disease, the Diocese must impose a uniform rule for all it's parishes.

Given the above, it is incumbent upon the Diocese of Chicago & Mid-America to act in the best interest of its faithful. It is crucial that the Divine Services continue in each parish and monastery of the diocese if at all possible. But because community spread is rampant now, and because Italy has provided us with an excellent example of the negative outcomes we can expect if this virus is not taken seriously, and because the diocese cares for both the spiritual and temporal health of its faithful, beginning on Monday, 10/23 March, 2020, with the blessing of Archbishop Peter, public services will no longer be held in the diocese until further notice. Divine Services will be conducted by the smallest number of clergymen and support staff possible, but with a hard cap of 10 individuals maximum. Those who wish to commune may do so at home by making an appointment with their parish priest. The faithful may not commune in any other way than with a home visit or a visit to a medical facility. A Public Health Protocol will be sent to each of the priests and must be followed in the case of a home/medical facility visit. The frequency of partaking of Holy Communion for each of the faithful is strictly at the discretion of the parish priest. It is expected that in these extraordinary times the faithful would likely partake less often than they might if the churches of our diocese were open as usual. This is especially true for those who are not ill. As the pandemic develops there could be very many ill that our priests will have to care for. Those who are not ill need to consider the strain this pandemic will take on our clergy as they care for the sick and dying. It is inappropriate for the faithful to quarrel with the priest about the frequency of partaking, but of course all such civil discussions are welcome. The priest should, if necessary, prepare more of the Reserve Sacrament at any of the Saturday or Sunday Divine Liturgies during this pandemic. The faithful will be communed only with the Reserve Sacrament – the Mysteries consecrated at the Divine Liturgy will not be brought from the church to the faithful under any circumstances. The civil authorities are under much pressure now, and now is not the time to have a First Amendment debate with a law enforcement officer who pulls a priest over who is carrying a chalice with the Divine Gifts in his car. Discretion is the better part of valor and we will exercise discretion – not seek to antagonize the civil authorities in this way. There will be no exceptions to the above. Those with questions are asked to contact Fr. Gregory Joyce, Diocesan Secretary with questions or for clarification. Fr. Gregory will discuss all issues with Archbishop Peter.

It should be known that three physicians who are practicing Orthodox Christians assisted in the creation of this policy.

Monday, March 23, 2020

ROCOR litanies for coronavirus

It will be interesting to look back at all the liturgical alterations made in the wake of the coronavirus. Some of the prayers and litanies are quite beautiful and some are frankly clunky - poor grammar and muddled imagery. Some jurisdictions borrowed from existing prayers while others started out fresh. My preference is for using extant prayers as they are extant for a reason (they were well written enough to be published and republished).


(ROCOR-Chicago) - Instructions: Special Prayer at the Divine Liturgy

Dear Father Rectors,

Christ is amongst us!

Beginning immediately, with the blessing of Archbishop Peter we are to replace the prayer for Ukraine during the Divine Liturgy and to insert the prayer from the moleben “Hymn of Supplication In Time of Destructive Pestilence & Deadly Plague”. That prayer is found on p. 197 of part III of the Jordanville Trebnik in Church Slavonic, and in English here:

“O Lord our God, from Thy holy height regard the supplication of us, Thy sinful and unworthy servants, who have angered Thy goodness by our iniquities, and have provoked Thy lovingkindness; and enter not into judgment with Thy servants, but avert Thine awesome wrath, which is justly brought to bear upon us. Withdraw the threat of destruction; sheath Thy dread sword, which invisibly cutteth us down before our time; spare Thy poor and wretched servants, and confine not in death the souls of us who in repentance, with contrite heart and tears, fall down before Thee, our wise, kindly and readily placated God. For Thine it is to have mercy and to save us, O our God, and unto Thee do we send up glory—to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit—now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.”

The petitions said during the ektenia following the reading of the Gospel for Ukraine should remain, but the prayer is set aside in place of the prayer above until further notice. This prayer may also be read during the Presanctified Liturgy according to Archbishop Peter’s blessing.

In Christ,

Archpriest Gregory Joyce
Secretary, Diocese of Chicago & Mid-America

Georgian Church adopts popular 10-person rule

Tbilisi, March 23 (Interfax) - Georgia's ban on public gatherings of over ten people during the state of emergency applies to the Church as well, Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia said.

"The restriction of gatherings of up to ten people concerns everyone and everything. Its primary purpose is healthcare for our citizens. The main goal and task of the Georgian government is to care about the health of our citizens regardless of religion," Gakharia said at a briefing, when asked if the emergency curbs applied to the Church.

A day earlier, the Georgian Orthodox Church said after a Holy Synod that there would be no changes in communion rules because of the Covid-19 threat.

The Synod unanimously disagreed with the opinion that one could get infected through shared use of the same spoon during the holy communion, Metropolitan Nikoloz (Pachuashvili) of Akhalkalaki and Kumurdo told reporters.

"This is absolutely ruled out. There should not be any changes," he said.

He also said it was decided to allow the flock to listen to the service outside a church.

Live Liturgy - a resource for online streaming of our services

(LiveLiturgy.com) The world is facing unprecedented challenges due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Many of our clergy and faithful have been asked to diligently take all measures in their personal and communal lives to protect themselves and others from the spread of the virus. Church hierarchs across the globe have made the difficult decision to suspend public Liturgical celebrations in order to slow the expanse.

But… a scared world needs a fearless church!

Many priests and faithful are working together to make liturgies available for you on the Internet. LiveLiturgy.com was created to better organize this information, so you can spend less time searching, and more time in prayer.