O Virgin, we extol the great grace of your Protection, which you spread out like a bright cloud beyond all understanding; for you invisibly protect your people from the foe’s every assault. Since we have you as our shelter and certain help, we cry to you with our whole soul: Glory to your great deeds, O most pure Maid. Glory to your shelter most divine. Glory to your care and providence for us, O spotless one. ~ Hymn for the Feast of the Holy Protection
Dearly Beloved in Christ,
Now is the time to become a Christian: One who is united to Jesus Christ. As we face the uncertainty and unrest that has come upon the earth, we must seek the protection of our Lord and Savior, of His holy mother, and of all the saints. The world needs prayer, our prayer. This has always been the case; but it is even more evident in these present days. In the Artoklasia service we pray:
“For the protection of this holy church, this city and every city and land from wrath, famine, pestilence, earthquake, flood, fire, sword, foreign invasion, civil strife, and accidental death. That our good and loving God may be merciful, gracious, and kindly-disposed, and may divert and disperse all anger and disease coming against us…”
Now is the time to become a Christian. We must turn to fervent and perpetual prayer—for our health, for our loved ones, for those who are afflicted, for those who offer treatment and consolation, for those who govern, and for everyone upon the earth.
The Church will continue to offer all of the life-giving liturgical and sacramental services, upon which our lives depend. Please make every effort to pray in private and also in the communal setting of the church. On Friday evenings we can pray for the unfailing intercession and holy protection (“agia skepi”) of the Theotokos, that she will continue to offer her protecting veil over us.
At this time, and under the guidance of our civil leaders and hierarchs, our parish of St. John will suspend all non-liturgical events and activities (youth activities, Bible studies, ministry meetings and events, etc.). As many of you may have heard, the ordination of Deacon Steve Tussing has been postponed, much to the chagrin of His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos, who earnestly desired to come, but ultimately had to decide otherwise. (Please pray for our beloved hierarch’s continued health and protection.)
While I encourage you to come to pray here at St. John—during the services and at any other time—I also encourage you to take necessary precautions! Especially for those who are at higher risk, you must do what is necessary to prevent becoming sick.
In all things, remember that God’s providence continues unhindered. He alone will guide our lives toward salvation, whether through sickness or through health. His salvific work remains unchanged, even in the midst of turmoil and unrest. Furthermore, our “work” is the work of repentance, which brings about humility, which attracts the grace of God. May this present pestilence bring about our repentance and our renewed zeal for eternal life and communion with Him! All things are within the embrace of our loving and compassionate Lord!
AT CHURCH, we will take the following precautions:
– Parish Council will regularly clean and disinfect the icon covers and counters in the narthex during and after church services.
– Parishioners—and especially the children—are encouraged to practice good hygiene which includes frequent washing of hands.
– Parishioners are welcome to take the precaution of not kissing when venerating the icons or greeting a priest.
– Those who have any cold/flu symptoms are asked to refrain from coming the church services while their symptoms persist.
– If you are in the high-risk demographic, you may choose to refrain from some of the church services. This is OK.
– If you are unable to come to church services, you may watch the services from home through live streaming and/or previously recorded services, which are listed here.
AT HOME, I encourage each of you to:
– Pray fervently in regard to the coronavirus and its effects.
– Each morning take a sip of holy water and pray for God’s protection. (If you don’t have a bottle of holy water, you may receive one from the church. If your bottle runs low, fill it before it empties with regular water, which will become sanctified by the holy water in the bottle.)
– Use any holy oil you may have, anointing yourself and your loved ones daily.
– Offer special prayers of intercession during this time of need, such as the Small Paraklesis.
Please read this profound and God-inspired contemplation on the pandemic, by Elder Zacharias of Essex, England (spiritual child of St. Sophrony of Essex).
Lastly, there is a wonderful modern saint, St. Nikiforos the Leper, who is a patron to those suffering from disease or the threat of disease. Please pray to him on behalf of all! Our bookstore has St. Nikiforos icons, a Paraklesis service, and a book about his life. You can also read more here.
If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact me.
May the Panagia, our beloved patron, St. John the Baptist, and all the saints intercede on behalf of us all!
In Christ’s Love,