The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdown of much of the civilized world is well underway. In some parts of the United States the restrictions on travel and interaction are relaxing. In other parts, the conflict between freedom and security is fought anew.
My family, like many Orthodox families, have not been inside our church in months. We have not received the Body and Blood of Christ in a great while. Though we have tried to remain steadfast in our prayers, the distance brings with it sadness which leads to lethargy, which leads to apathy.
Our parish has followed the orders of its bishop, who has erred on the side of great caution in allowing participation in the life of the church. This has caused frustration and conflict that should not exist among the faithful. We are called to submission, in spite of our American individualism. Internet Orthodoxy has made priests of us all, to the peril of our salvation.
An Orthodox Response
What should Orthodox Christians do? There is probably no single answer. This virus is likely here to stay, as is the tendency to give up freedom in pursuit of fleeting security.
Our churches and businesses will open again, perhaps in a very different way than before. It is important to remember that the Church has endured far worse persecution than social distancing guidelines. But until the time when we can all be together again, here are a few things we can do:
Be kind to people who are afraid, regardless of their motivations. People react to fear in many ways. Some are taking proper precautions while continuing to venture outside and lead their lives. Others are quarantining themselves for the sake of others. Still others may be making a show of precaution in pursuit of the praise of others. Treat everyone with kindness, no matter their motivations. and practice loving those with whom you disagree.
Be better stewards of ourselves and our environment. Eat better. Exercise. COVID-19 preys on those with compromised health, so work to avoid developing conditions that weaken you. By becoming more conscious of our health, we also lessen our impact on the ecology and on resources like health care and government institutions.
Read St. Paul’s essay on love. We could all use the reminder that love is self-denying, not self-satisfying:
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Pray for your priest. COVID-19 is an unprecedented burden on top of his normal responsibilities. Putting himself in harm’s way by visiting the sick. In many cases, having to learn new technologies in order to stream services. He’s also having to hold the parish together as it scatters, with some never to return. Pray that God grants him the strength to lead whoever remains when all of this is over.
Have hope. We are to be the light of the world, especially in hard times. Help those who need it. Pray for your neighbors. Be kind to your family even when the increased closeness is driving you crazy.
Christ is risen and has saved us. Even as death reigns in this fallen world, Christ has overcome the world.
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