“To partake of the holy Body and Blood of Christ is good and beneficial; for He says quite plainly: ‘He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.’ Who can doubt that to share continually in life is the same thing as having life abundantly?” (St Basil the Great).
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh” (St. John 6.51).
To the revered Hierarchs of our Holy Orthodox Faith,
It is with great anguish and humility that I write, imploring you to allow the faithful back into our sacred churches. I cannot fathom the immense burden and responsibility carried by the leaders of our church at this time; however, I beseech you to hear my plea. Through 2000 years of persecution, pestilence, and occupation, the Orthodox Church never chose to close her own doors and suspend her services, until now. In the face of certain death, the truth of our faith always prevailed. Born of these times were some of the most venerable martyrs of our church, as they embraced trial and tribulation with zealous hearts and steadfast souls. With conviction they demonstrated the words of St Ieronymos of Aegina, “Let us entrust our life to God, and may it be done as He wishes. Whatever the outcome may be for us, that’s the one that is for our good. For God does not want the perdition of man, but his salvation…”
In light of the recent outbreak of COVID-19, extreme precautions have been taken worldwide to ensure the physical wellness of the people, yet we have betrayed our spiritual well-being. We have rightly kept our hospitals, pharmacies, and grocery stores open to nourish and care for our bodies; why then have we abandoned the health of our souls? By denying the faithful access to our holy churches and sacraments, we have quarantined Christ in our time of need. The Orthodox Church has always emphasized the importance of the sacraments and their fundamentality for a rich spiritual life. By locking the church doors, those teachings have been annulled. St John of Kronstadt proclaimed, “There is nothing on Earth higher, greater, or more holy than the Divine Liturgy; nothing more solemn, nothing more life-giving.” In this time of unrest, widespread fear, and uncertainty, the people require the sacraments of the church more than ever. We need Holy Unction as our shield, Holy Confession as absolution, and Holy Communion as our strength. “…Partake of the Eucharist in the conviction that it dispels not only death but even the diseases that are in us” (St Cyril of Alexandria). We seek the solace and peace found in the grace-filled sanctuaries of prayer. Instead, we have been denied access to the greatest of Holy Mysteries.
When we venerate icons, we reverence the grace of our Christ, Panagia, and the holy saints; not wood or glass. When we kiss the priest’s hand, we revere our earthly representative for Christ. When we partake of the Eucharist, we receive our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ within us, the Holy Fire! It is impossible for these actions, done in complete faith, to be anything except beneficial for our souls and bodies, as the church is the greatest spiritual hospital of healing. “The sacraments-more properly called mysteries-which are not only closer to us, but even the angels themselves long to gaze upon them, are the mysterious workings and actions of the Church. We see oil in the sacrament of Holy Unction, and bread and wine in the Eucharist, but the mystery isn’t what we see. Instead, mysteriously present in the oil is the Holy Spirit, just as the fullness of Christ is present in the consecrated bread and wine” (Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra, of Blessed Memory). Eventually we will all stand before our sweet Savior; how wonderful it would be to have spent our time well, serving and worshipping Him without fear or earthly cares, in His blessed home.
In this fallen age of rampant sin and despair, may God have mercy and forgive us our many trespasses. I, among the first, am most unworthy and have taken many blessings for granted; the greatest of them being the privilege to attend the Divine Liturgy and partake of the Holy Eucharist. I humbly beg of you to please consider re-opening our churches for the nourishment and salvation of our souls. “As the bread which is from the earth, after receiving the invocation of God upon it, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two things, an earthly and a heavenly, so our bodies after partaking of the Eucharist are no longer destructible, having hope of the resurrection that is forever” (St Irenaeus). Our faith is greater than our fear! May we, the faithful, turn to self-examination, repentance, and prayer at this time, in preparation for the greatest feast and joy of the liturgical year, the miracle of Pascha. Through your holy prayers and guidance, may we be found worthy to celebrate our Christ’s glorious Resurrection in Orthodox churches, worldwide.
“For a man’s complete sanctification, the body of the servant of the Lord must be united with the Body of Christ, and this is accomplished in the Mystery of Holy Communion” (St John Maximovitch).
“Our Orthodox Faith is neither a museum nor a thing of the past; rather, it is life, creation, and light. It is the lofty ideal of our nation, the golden hope of our salvation, and our boast in Christ. Let us proclaim it courageously and heroically as true and genuine children of its distinguished heroes” (Elder Ephraim of Philotheou and Arizona, of Blessed Memory).
With deep reverence and love in Christ,
The Orthodox Faithful