Saturday, March 21, 2020
Dear Beloved in Christ,
It is with a heavy heart, but with firm resolution that I write to you today. Last night our civil leaders—who truly care for the well-being of our most vulnerable fellow citizens—spoke with one voice at a press conference. They gave a concerted plea (free of any threat of penalty), asking that we Oregonians remain home as much as possible, leaving only for essential errands or work, or to go to open outdoor spaces for refreshment.
I cannot in good conscience continue to have services that are open to our parishioners. Effective immediately, services at St. John will take place with only clergy and chanter. When I sent today’s daily reflection, I reread Elder Zacharias’ profoundly insightful and pastoral essay regarding these current times. You must read this! In his essay, he says:
“For us there is no doubt: we shall show pure submission to the orders of the government. … This is the ethos of Christ that God showed in His life on earth and this is the apostolic commandment that we have received: ‘…be subject to principalities and powers, obey magistrates, be ready to every good work, speak evil of no man, be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men’ (Tit. 3: 1-2); and ‘Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme…’ (1 Pet. 2:13-17). If we do not obey our governors who are not asking much, how will we obey God, Who gives us a divine law, which is far more sublime than any human law? … If they ask us to stop our Church services, let us simply surrender and bless the Providence of God.”
My brothers and sisters, I urge you: Be at peace. God is at work in this. We must see the divine providence, knowing that we will be blessed both for our willing obedience and also for our compassion and care for those with compromised health. In this, we can hear our Lord Jesus Christ on the Day of Judgment saying, “I was weak and elderly, and you protected me from sickness and death.” (cf. Matthew 25:34-36)
God, in His providence, has ordained that we the faithful should make an interior journey through Lent, seeking Him in our quiet spaces, in our closets of prayer. I have no doubt that in part God has allowed this present scourge so that we can awake from our spiritual stupor and take stock of our own lives, and repent. May this time of trial be the springtime of own spiritual growth, so that a full and ripe harvest—of virtues and good works—may come in the years ahead.
You are not alone. I take this journey with you and also on behalf of you. The prayers that I will continue to offer before the Holy Altar are spoken with the one united voice of the entire Body of Christ—those present and those absent from the church.
Furthermore there are numerous venues through which to participate online in the liturgical services. My former parish, St. John the Baptist in Las Vegas recently introduced live broadcasts of the services. In addition, you can select from parishes throughout our metropolis that are offering live broadcasts, or parishes around the country.
[If any parishioner(s) would like to help make our own church capable of live online broadcast, please contact me!]
I will continue to be available, though I will limit my face-to-face interactions to the most essential functions: confessions and pastoral counseling. Furthermore I will continue writing the Daily Reflections and will look for more interactive ways to connect: Bible study via Zoom, etc.
You are all in my prayers, as I know that you pray for me and my family.
In Christ’s Abiding Love,