“During the quarantine period, it turned out that all of us, Orthodox Christians, are extremely dependent on churches. More precisely, on the walls in which we perform divine services.” Archpriest Dionisy Svechnikov reflects on whether this is good or bad, why home prayer is so important and how we can get through the difficult times of the pandemic.
Perhaps, there is not a single person in the world who, to one degree or another, has not been affected by the coronavirus pandemic in recent months. At the moment, it is still difficult to talk about what will happen tomorrow. Some countries have relaxed the quarantine restrictions and decided to open the borders. In other countries, on the contrary, the situation has worsened.
But now it can already be said with confidence that the coronavirus pandemic has posed a number of questions for humanity that have not yet been answered. Among others, there are questions of spiritual life under the condition of quarantine. I would like to reflect on one of them.
During the quarantine period, it turned out that all of us, Orthodox Christians, are extremely dependent on churches. More precisely on the walls in which we perform divine services. We heard so many groans, lamentations, discontent, condemnation and outright abuse during this time in connection with the impossibility of getting inside the church. People said all kinds of unpleasant things and uttered so many curses towards the authorities, who forbade going to church. As many unflattering words were said towards the Patriarch because he had encouraged people to stay at home.
It was strange and sad to listen to and read all of this. Indeed, people sat at home and could not get into the churches, including both the dissatisfied and those who reacted to what was happening with understanding and responsibility. Priests were even forced to celebrate the Paschal service behind closed doors in many churches, they could not let parishioners in.
Analyzing these events, one involuntarily comes to the conclusion that most of us probably cannot imagine our spiritual life without church buildings. Even temporarily. We have restored them, built new ones, and decorated them zealously after the decades of persecution and desolation. We could not even imagine that there would be a situation when people would not be able to get to church on Pascha or just go there any day to pray and light a candle.
The main thing that many have been deprived of during the quarantine was Holy Communion. No, I will not once again point out to St. Mary of Egypt, who lived in the desert without taking Communion for 47 years. This stunning example of repentance is hardly available to the majority. People are already accustomed to taking Communion every Sunday, not to mention on great feast days.
For the sake of the truth, I would like to note that not so long ago the laity took Holy Communion very rarely, not more than several times a year. It took a lot of work to break this stereotype, to explain to people that one should not just stand listening to beautiful chants at the liturgy, but should approach the Chalice. The Lord calls people to do this specifically. There have been numerous sermons and publications on this topic.
As a result, we achieved it: people began to receive Communion regularly. But then a new misfortune occurred: people could not go to the church and receive Communion. The coronavirus infection has put everyone at their homes, without respect for their religion or nationality. This virus simply doesn’t care, it affects both believers and non-believers alike. What is one supposed to do now? How should one act in this situation?
The first thing I want to say is that a Christian remains a Christian in any case, even if he/she cannot get into the church. That is they remain a Christian in the full sense of the word: not limited by anything or half-hearted. There is no reason to seriously lament the temporary lack of access to the church. There is no need to play as martyrs and confessors, who by all means need to get to the feast in the church by sneaking in, escaping the police patrols and posts.
It is obvious that the state does not force people to renounce Christ by limiting the gathering of people in churches at all. Therefore, no martyrdom or confession is required from anyone. I will say more, such a “confessional” behavior of some parishioners played a cruel joke: when people were caught at a divine service, the police issued severe fines to churches and priests. Paradoxically, at these moments most of such “confessors” were not ready to help their parish by paying these fines.
Perhaps many of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world will temporarily have to do without the sacrament and the opportunity to pray at a church. But does anyone forbid you to pray at home? This is not only about the prayer rule, morning and evening prayers. It is high time to remember that unity is one of the principles of the organization of the Church.
The Church is the Christian community. And this community cannot be broken either by quarantine, or by the inability to pray inside the church, or by anything else, because Christ Himself is the head of the Church, He is the one who is the center of the community of Christians. The gates of hell, according to the Savior, cannot overcome it, let alone coronavirus.
“Pray one for another that you may be healed: the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). This apostolic call is perhaps enough to start praying intensely at least for the sick, whose number is great now.
Pray not only for your relatives and friends, but for all those who suffer from the disease. Pray for doctors who are now at the forefront of the fight against the virus. Pray for those who, due to quarantine, find themselves in a difficult life situation.
In my opinion, if members of the community, or parish, will agree to pray together at the same time, such prayer will be very useful. Such prayer unites, strengthens and really helps. This is a real congregational prayer, even if it is performed by each member at home. I believe that through joint prayer, the Lord will give all of us the strength to cope with the pandemic and its consequences.
Translated by pravmir.com