The Coronavirus Message You Didn't Want to Hear
Archpriest David Moser
I have read and heard many messages that are inspired by the plague of Coronavirus that is now sweeping the entire world. We have heard many messages from various clergymen and other Church sources which encourage us to remain calm, follow the guidelines of medical and governmental authorities to avoid the spread of infection. We also have heard from our hierarchs and clergy messages of hope and comfort encouraging us all to turn to the Mother of God and the saints for help and protection including akathists and other special prayers in our daily prayer life. From some of our clergy we have also heard the exhortation to use this time of difficulty as a means to reorient our lives towards the spiritual life and the working out of our salvation.
This is all very good, however, there is one note that seems to be missing (or at least muted) that I think is essential and that is the note of repentance. God has visited this plague upon us at a particularly noteworthy moment – in the midst of Great Lent, the season of repentance. This timing is no coincidence, but it is in itself a message to us. Sickness and personal distress has always been seen as a means by which we are chastised by God, to get our attention, point out our errors and lead us to repentance. Indeed the prayers of the Molieben in time of Devastating Epidemic and Death Bearing Pestilence, which we are increasingly being instructed to use, point out this link. Those prayers focus on our repentance and our cry to God for mercy. In addition to caring for one another, encouraging one another and reordering our lives to include a more spiritual focus we must also repent. Read the prayers of repentance from the prayer rules daily and examine your heart closely and honestly. Daily stand before God and confess your sins and ask for forgiveness, mercy and strength to turn away from them. Take the opportunity to go to the sacrament of confession, not just occasionally, but as often as possible. Weep for your sins (and if you cannot weep, then ask God to grant you the tears for this). Let the sickness remind you of your mortality and the nearness of death; remember that you will stand before the throne of God and you will be judged by God who will reveal not only your sins, but also your virtues. He will deftly separate the wheat from the chaff; the wood hay and stubble from the gold, silver and precious stones; the virtue from the vice; the righteousness from the sin. Now is the time to confess your sins, repent of them and cast them away from yourself so that they do not appear and weigh you down at this critical moment. This is the message of repentance that the coronavirus plague brings to us.
There is, however, one more thing to consider. We are called to bear one another’s burdens and this is because we are all (that is all of mankind) joined to one another, linked by our common human essence that we have inherited from our first parents. Even now we know that we bear the consequences of their sin in our own fallen natures and stand in need of the regeneration by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the same way we all bear the consequences of the collective sins of our society and culture. The world groans under the ever increasing weight of our sins – and sometimes it “breaks” a little and we suffer earthquakes, floods, fires and other natural disasters. Today the “biology” of the world has broken under this weight and we suffer from the plague. Our society has forgotten God and embarked on the idolatry of worshipping science, on rampant greed, on violence towards one another, on the murder of helpless innocents (especially infants) on an unprecedented scale, on the “normalization” of perversion and the abandonment of morality and righteousness. When God sent the prophet Jonah to Ninevah to declare His judgement, the people – all the people – fasted and prayed and mourned for the corporate sins of their city and God heard them and spared them from destruction. There have been numerous other examples of the necessity and efficacy of public repentance in times of disaster and plague resulting in the mercy and compassion of God Who spares His people. Today we must also “bear the burden” of our society and repent, not only for our own sins, but for the sins of our nation and indeed of our world. Our world has by and large forgotten God – or worse yet has rejected Him. We who remain, who continue to serve God must take on the task of repentance for our whole society, our city, region, nation, indeed the whole world. In this way we must “bear the burden” of our neighbor by repenting not only for our own sins, but on behalf of those who cannot or even will not repent. The petitions of A Molieben Sung In Time Of Devastating Epidemic And Deathbearing Pestilence are a good example of how to say such a prayer, for example: “Remember not the transgressions and unrighteousness of Thy people, and enter not into judgment with Thy servants, neither incline with wrath because of Thy servants. If Thou markest iniquities, O Lord, who can stand? For we are dust and ashes, and our substance is as nothing before Thee. But as Thou art compassionate and the Lover of Mankind, show loving kindness and do not destroy us in Thine anger on account of our transgressions, we pray Thee, O Most-good God, hearken and have mercy.”
And so let me cry out with the words of the Great Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”
About our Parish
Saint Tikhon Russian Orthodox Church is a growing community of believers seeking to be transfigured by the Holy Mysteries (Baptism, Holy Communion, and others) established by our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ for His Church. The parish is located in the city of Bristol, in the mountains of southwest Virginia. The church is a short drive from Johnson City and Kingsport, Tennesee. We are a young and growing parish with members of many diverse backgrounds and life experiences. We are blessed to be overseen by His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia). Fr. Matthew Williams has been our priest since 2011.
Although our parish is historically connected with the Church in Russia, Orthodoxy is the Universal Church and we extend a warm invitation to our Divine services (which are primarily in English) to all who are seeking out the ancient Faith once delivered to the saints. As Orthodox Christians, we strive to live our lives according to the commandments of Christ through the guidance of Holy Tradition and as affirmed in Holy Scripture. The services of the Church have been compared to a wedding feast, like that of Cana in the New Testament, where the Bride (the Body of Christ) mystically meets Her Bridegroom Christ, in the Eucharist.
Should you have any questions about the Orthodox Church, or about visiting our parish, please feel free to speak with Fr. Matthew before or after any service, or by phone or email. We also offer several articles and discourses on this website for your perusal.
SPECIAL NEEDS AND REQUESTS
Please feel free to contact Fr Matthew to schedule a special service of supplication (молебен), memorial service (панихида), confession (исповедь), or meeting.
1800 Euclid Ave
Bristol, VA 24201