St. Gregory Palamas — 2nd Sunday of Lent
“1st Sunday of the Coronavirus 2020”
Livestream of the Vespers:
Here is a ROUGH cut of our first "Live" Sat. Night Vespers. We used materials that are on the frontpage of athanasiusoca.org Until normal schedule obtains, we will be offering this (hopefully cleaner!)
Posted by St. Athanasius Orthodox Church on Saturday, March 14, 2020
Livestream of Liturgy:
Readings for today:
Hebrews 1:10-2:3 (Epistle) Mark 2:1-12 (Gospel)
+Sermon on the Sunday, March 15, 2020+
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
One of the things that deeply impressed me as a teenager, when I first drank deeply from the wells of the early Church, was the fact that the early Christians were fearless! The local governor threatened to imprison them. They were not afraid. The emperor himself condemned them all to be lit as lamps in his garden. They didn’t renounce Christ. And in the face of disease, it was the Christians who would–at great personal risk–take care of the dying, take in the orphans, attend to the widows, and endanger their own lives. They showed superhuman courage and boldness and fearlessness in the face of terror and chaos!
I see that same courage when I look at the lives of the holy apostles, when I consider the martyrs from literally 21 centuries of Christian history, and even when I survey the ranks of the holiest monks and nuns who are sprinkled liberally throughout the history of our beloved Orthodox Church. (They were courageous in their sprint to Christ!)
Today, we face a new challenge: a new disease that has spread across the whole world. How do we follow the courageous Christian men, women, and children who are our models? What is our response–today as Orthodox believers–in the face of the COVID-19 Coronavirus?
Many of our faithful and beloved brethren would say, ‘Let us continue courageously with life as usual.’ ‘Let us renounce the unChristian chaos that is breaking out around us (and a lot of it is indeed unChristian) by running to Liturgy together and praying.’ They would desire with all their heart to find peace in the one place they expect it: in the physical gathering of the Church. Brethren: let me be clear. I completely agree with them This is absolutely my own impulse: to run to church, to gather with my brothers and sisters, to confess my sins and receive Holy Communion! (This is what Christians generally ought to do!) But, following the lead of our archpastor, we need to ask oursevles: In THIS particular situation, with our contemporary knowledge of epidemiology, with our firm faith in God, what might be required of us? What does faithfulness look like for us today? What does it look like to fearlessly show the love of God to our neighbors, in this unique context–perhaps never to be repeated in our lifetime?
The best science–which I will concede is imperfect, but that rational people ought to rely on–tells us that the best way to limit the hasty explosion of this Coronvirus is to practice social distancing. I’m sure by now you are all familiar with this idea of ‘flattening the curve.’ By cutting out large gatherings and limiting our interactions to small groups, we offer the elderly and other at-risk groups the chance that they might get a hospital bed–that they might get the care they need in a way that will make a meaningful difference in their survival. The question to us today is: am I willing to sacrifice my desire to fully keep the Lord’s Day as I would like (and as we traditionally relish) out love for our seniors here in our parish? Am I willing to see ‘my Lent’ greatly inconvenienced and modified so that I might participate in giving the elderly and ‘at risk’ population in Nicholasville and in Lexington and in our surrounding communities a better shot at pulling through this affliction?
In the early Church and at various points in Church history, Christians found themselves in circumstances when–either by choice or by persecution–they were unable to take up the full range of Christian practice: regular Communion, regular gathering, formal Christian Education, and so forth. With this history in mind, our archbishop has asked us–out of a sense of courageous and BOLD love for our brethren–to refrain from large gatherings in the church (not to save our own skins, but to help those most at-risk.) He has blessed and encouraged, however, the decisive continuation of Church Life. If, God’s grace, I remain healthy, I will hear lots of Confessions and the Church will be open more than 40 hours this week for prayer and lighting candles. I have expanded my office hours. And for the next two Fridays–at least–I will be present all Friday afternoon for Confessions with Reserve Communion–one or two people at a time, or as a household. (Call me to make an appointment!) Sacramental Life goes on, my brothers and sisters. The Church remains the Church. Yes, the way we are keeping Lent this year is not how we might have willed it; but we serve a Savior who himself cried out to the Father “Not My will, but Thy will be done!”
So…. How do we courageously, rather than grudgingly, take up this Lenten ascesis placed before us in Lent 2020?
1). Remember the Lord in everything. God is with us!
2). Take up social distancing as a kind of obedience–a discipline freely taken up courageously out of love. Be bold with it! Avoid large groups and give it to God! (Being alone more often is not a crazy idea, especially in Lent.)
3). Take this time as a Sabbath–not from God or being a fearless Orthodox Christian, but from the busyness that characterizes so much of our life, even in the Church. Imagine reading several challenging works of the church fathers and delving more deeply into the Scriptures–and engaging your families in that effort, too.
4). Take advantage–in a new way–of the resources already online and coming online. The internet needs redemption. Maybe this can be a season when we can “baptize the internet,” leaning on it for connecting more to church, for connecting to Orthdox Christian ministries online, for devotional material, and so on.
5). Reach out boldly and fearlessly to people in need. Reach out to friends in the parish, to others whom you might not know in the parish, to your neighbors outside the parish–and see how they are doing. Call them up. Text them. Ask them if they need you to drop by. There is a good chance many of our neighbors will be suffering either from illness or–at least–from terrible social isolation. It is in this context, by the way, when putting ourselves in danger makes perfect sense–when our presence could save lives and their state of mind.
What lies before us is a Lenten discipline unlike any other we’ve ever taken up. It’s not one we’ve chosen. But the route of love and obedience points us down this path. May we take it up not grudgingly or faithlessly or with a kind of reluctant rigor that comes from zeal without knowledge; instead, may we find Christ in the ascesis of social distancing, may we find Christ in our personal repentance and Confession, may we find Christ in the occasions when we receive Communion, and may we find Christ in reaching out to neighbors. God hTelp us to embrace THIS unique Lenten sacrifice with courage and fearlessness May our Lord especially give grace to our healthcare workers–and all who labor on the frontlines of this pandemic. May he deliver us all from an ungodly fear. And may he fill us with a courageous love for the most vulnerable among us! Amen!
On Wednesday, March 11, 2020, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon convened an extraordinary meeting of the Holy Synod which met by conference call to discuss the continuing Coronavirus outbreak. His Eminence, our Archbishop Alexander, has issued a directive regarding limiting church services and activities for the rest of March due the COVID-19 outbreak. You can find his pastoral letter on the diocesan website: dosoca.org. They strongly encourage social distancing to help reduce the spread of this virus.
The approved services will be live streamed thru the parish facebook page. Also, check the parish website for links to recordings of the services on other social media.