In this email
Message from Fr Alexander — A change of mind
Create an online forum?
Statement of the Holy Synod
Live stream information — Including the Services of Holy Week and Pascha
News of Future Services
Saints and Feasts
Offer of help
We hear two extremes during this present crisis, on the one hand, “Where is God?” and on the other, “Why is God punishing us?” These are always the temptation when we face adversity, from persecutions under emperors, tyrants and other religions to natural disaster: “Where are you, God? … What have we done to deserve this?”
And in a crisis, in an emergency, we start to portion blame. “This is because God is not as loving as I thought.” “This is because our leaders are not wholesome enough.” “This is because there are not enough who read the Bible.” “This is because schools do not have enough prayer.” “This is because of war.” “This is because of that religion.”
It is interesting that we do not do this when things go right: when we get a job, or a promotion, when we have a bit of luck, when our lives proceed unimpeded. In the good times we are happy to have God in the background — even in the middle of a Church God can become secondary — but do not seek after him with our whole heart: moreover, we are now despondent in the hard times.
The Bible offers us an account of a righteous man named Job. Job was a wealthy and prosperous man who lost everything, including his health. Yet when his wife encourages him to blame God for his misfortune he replies, “You have spoken as one of the foolish women speaks. If we accepted good things from the Lord’s hand, shall we not endure evil things?” (Job 2:15)
We turn, then, to the Christian response; we neither blame God nor lament his absence. He is here with us and encouraging us to contend until the end. We have accepted much good from him in our lives — our food, our shelter, our clothing, jobs, money, family, the very air we breathe is from him — now we must accept, with the same gratitude, social distancing and separation from divine services. In all this God is offering himself to us. Can you, can I, glorify God in the bad times as well as the good? Do we have Job as our model?
And there is a greater level of love we can enter. We, each one of us, can ask ourselves the question, “How am I being called to repent?” This is not asking what someone else has done wrong, whether a global leader, a scientist, a doctor or someone close to us: how is the Lord calling me to repent in the midst of the Coronavirus crisis? I am being called to repent — literally to change my mind — and turn again to the Lord: how may I achieve it? Am I taking advantage of this new situation to renew my spiritual life or am I continuing as if nothing has changed?
When King David was moved to contrition after the Prophet Nathan visited him, he changed his mind, he repented. And in his deep and moving repentance, he wrote the 50th Psalm (Psalm 51 in Bible’s based on the Hebrew text). His was such a profound repentance that we use his as a template for all repentance. It is a beautiful Psalm, the only read in its entirety by the priest during every Liturgy, and one which would do us well to repeat often.
Make the sign of the Cross, and read it aloud.
Create an online forum?
Would you be interested in meeting online? One-to-one or as a group? We could make use of technology to create an online community, ask questions, read together, pray together?
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Statement of the Holy Synod
The Holy Synod of the Church of Antioch, under the presidency of His Beatitude John X, has published the following Pastoral Encyclical.
To all our beloved children of the Antioch Church, clergy, monastics, and all faithful …
First of all, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ keep you, and may His peace fill your hearts with the light of His Resurrection, as the anchor of reassurance for tomorrow, abiding in “faith and hope” (1 Cor. 13:13), in the joy of the redeemed children. May He strengthen you by His love, through which He conquered on the Cross, once and for all, the “last enemy to be destroyed” (1 Cor. 15:26).
We, the hierarchs of the Holy Synod of Antioch, under the primacy of His Beatitude John X, address you today, as pastors of your journey in Christ, walking in the midst of the most serious health issue from the beginning of the twentieth century. We lift up our prayers for you and your families’ well-being, and for the whole world.
Beloved Children …
As you know, we have been committed to halting church services, and we have requested from you to abide by these general measures taken by the whole world and to stay at home. Our previous directives came in the context of our great concern for the physical, mental and spiritual safety of each one of you, as a way to incarnate our communities’ evangelical love concerned for the safety of each human being in the world, and as a sign of our commitment to the social measures taken by the official authorities for the safety of all.
These unusual measures come in the midst of our holy Lenten journey to Pascha. These measures increase our longing to the Holy Eucharist and to the common participation in prayers and supplications in our churches. It is a rightful longing that is held by us as a “mystery” of sonship. However, our Church, whose history testifies to its several harsh episodes in which her children and saints were displaced, has remained gathered alive, following the concerns of her people. The Church is present in the prayers of her children, who associate themselves closely with the words of the Holy Scripture and form temples with their kneeling bodies a holy sacrifice on the Lord’s altar.
Therefore, the first thing we invite you to contemplate these feelings, and to abide by the Divine joy which no suffering can impede. You are called to do this through intensifying your daily prayers and reading of the Bible, writings and lives of the Holy Fathers, and everything that makes your houses “little churches” filled with entreaties and prayers, while remembering that the “Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). Beloved, lift up one another to the Lord, and pray for the whole world, for the sick, wounded, needy, displaced, kidnapped, and all the victims. Pray for all scientists and physicians, for all nurses who are working to help people out of this tribulation. Pray for the workers and janitors, for those who keep the security and regulations, and for all those unknown soldiers that work for your well-being and social safety, who are endangering their lives in order to provide you with the basic necessities of life. Pray for your shepherds. See Christ in the needy and in all those who are suffering from these circumstances. Share your bread and your goods with them. Protect yourself from all fear and panic, remembering that you are the children of the Creator of life, Who said: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mat. 28:20). In doing this, you are the one gathered Church, longing to the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Church that the Lord desires, and in which He is pleased today. Make out of your time, the time of confinement and staying at home, a desert of repentance and longing to Holy Communion, and an “acceptable time” to work for the Lord and for the neighbor (2 Cor. 6:2). Endure this stage in light of the experience of monastics who went out to the desert in the beginning of Great Lent, in order to focus on prayer and repentance, and to fuel the longing for the meeting of the brothers and sisters at the Risen Christ’s feast.
Beloved Children …
In addition to the foregoing, and to our prayers for you and for the sake of the world, we are keeping pace with the developments of the pandemic that threatens human life today. After meeting with each other, through communication and consultation between His Beatitude the Patriarch and Their Eminences the hierarchs, especially in light of the imminence of the Great and Holy Week and the Glorious Pascha, while facing the tragedies and repercussions of this difficult ordeal, we inform you of the decisions and directives we have taken:
Firstly: We emphasize the necessity of strict adherence to the procedures adopted and taken by the official authorities specialized in fighting this pandemic and its spread, including the stay at home policies, while experiencing the mystery of the family as the joy of life.
Secondly: We call upon the believers in all the Archdioceses, clergy, monastics and laity, to fully cooperate with the competent official and health authorities, in everything that provides aid and serves the welfare of the social health security.
Thirdly: The services and prayers during the Great and Holy Week, and during Palm Sunday and Great Pascha (April 19) are to be held by just the priests and monastics in churches and monasteries, offered for the sake of all the people and for the peace of the whole world. In other words, the services are held behind closed doors, without the participation of any of the believers, while activating the possibility of direct broadcasting of daily prayers through the websites of the parishes, thus allowing the believers to follow the services from their homes.
Fourthly: We pray, when conditions allow, and by God’s mercy, to celebrate the Paschal service together on the day of the Leave-taking of Pascha (May 27, 2020), when the Paschal service is celebrated in its entirety and with our participation together. We hope that by that by time we will have triumphed over the pandemic and the life cycle be returned to normal. In order to prevent any confusion, the holy forty-days period of fasting ends at twelve o’clock at midnight of Saturday-Sunday, April 19.
Fifthly: The parish priests and all believers, along with the parish councils and various church organizations and brotherhood are called to work together and collaborate in everything that helps and supports the needy and relieves the suffering of the victims and their families.
Sixthly: The Church prays that the Lord may have compassion for His creation, remove this health distress from our world, strengthen the medical staff, nurses and all paramedic teams in hospitals and society, protect them from all harm, heal every patient, have mercy on all the deceased, and inspire all specialists, physicians and scientists to work on whatever protects life and the universe from all pandemics and evils.
Seventhly: These measures were taken according to the latest data and developments, with our hope that these days will be shortened and life will return to its natural cycle.
Eighthly: While we accept the diversity of opinions and differing ideas in the approach to these matters, the aforementioned decisions and directives express the official position of the Antiochian Church. Accordingly, every violation of these decisions constitutes an explicit violation of the Church’s position, and the Church authorities are not responsible for any civil consequences of these violations.
Beloved children …
We pray and hope that this worldwide tribulation will end, and that it will not cause us any hardship, difficulty, or suffering. We ask you to be strong in the Lord, looking forward to seeing the joy after this storm. We ask you again to look forward to the day in which we will make our contribution to a new world dawning upon us with reassurance, stability, solidarity, joy and splendor, under the Lord’s protection. In this hope, we entrust you under God’s protection, hoping that you be steadfast in your prayers, so that we can cross this stage together, without carrying in us any pain and wound, other than our longing for the Saviour’s Body and Blood.
We should follow government advice whenever we can. We are not being asked to give up or deny our Faith, but many are being told to stay socially isolated and this will last, perhaps, for many months.
How can you respond? Pray. We pray because we love and because we know the power of prayer. We pray not as a last resort but as a first response.
Is there anything you need or anything you can offer? Let me know — my telephone number and email address are on each of the emails: please get in contact if you are feeling isolated: I am here for you.
Are you willing to contact isolated people via email or phone? Let me know! It would be good to match up those who need help with those who can offer it.
Live stream — Holy Week and Pascha
The Monastery of Saints Antony and Cuthbert, Shropshire, is live-streaming its services for all who are unable to go to their own churches. These are over YouTube and can be accessed here:
Saturday 11th April
Ninth Hour & Vespers for Palm Sunday
Sunday 12th April
Night Office, Matins and Divine Liturgy for Palm Sunday
7.30 am (Divine Liturgy will start by 10 am)
Matins of the Bridegroom
Monday 13th April
Matins of the Bridegroom
Tuesday 14th April
Matins of the Bridegroom
Wednesday 15th April
Office of Holy Unction
Thursday 16th April
Vesperal Divine Liturgy for the Lord’s Supper
Matins of Great and Holy Friday (12 Gospels & Crucifixion)
Friday 17th April
Vespers of Holy Saturday (Deposition from the Cross)
Matins of Holy Saturday (Lamentations and Epitaphion Service)
Saturday 18th April
Vesperal Divine Liturgy (“The Earthquake”)
Great and Holy Pascha — The Reed Service, Christ is risen, Paschal Matins, Paschal Divine Liturgy
Sunday 19th April
Vespers of Love (Agape)
News of Future Services
Given the current situation in the UK, and throughout the world, about the Covid-19 (Corona) virus it would be prudent to wait for our plans to meet together as a worshipping community. I hope and pray this will pass soon.
This is an invitation for us to repent and to pray.
We need to be praying, too, that the patron of our new community will identify himself, herself or themselves to us. I believe it will not be so much that we choose, rather we need to pray that the choice be revealed to us.
Our Facebook Page, facebook.com/orthodoxeastleigh, too, has daily additions during the week as well as on feast days. Please do like and share our page and content so we may reach a wider group of people.
Do you receive the weekly (on Fridays) text message? If not, then let me know.
Saints and Feasts
Wednesday 8th April — Apostles Herodion, Agabus, Asyncritus, Rufus, Phlegon and Hermes of the Seventy
Thursday 9th — St Theodore of Crowland the Hieromartyr
Friday 10th — Martyrs Terence, Pompeius, Africanus, Maximus, Zeno, Alexander, Theodore and Macarius, at Carthage
Saturday 11th — Lazarus Saturday
Sunday 12th — The Great Feast of the Entry of our Lord into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday)
Monday 13th — Great and Holy Monday, Commemoration of the blessed Patriarch Joseph the All-Righteous and of the unfruitful fig tree cursed by the Lord
Tuesday 14th — Great and Holy Tuesday, Commemoration of the Parable of the Ten Virgins
Wednesday 15th — Great and Holy Wednesday, Commemoration of the Sinful Woman who anointed the Lord with myrrh
Thursday 16th — Great and Holy Thursday, Commemoration of the Washing of the Feet, the Mystical Supper, the Prayer in Gethsemane and the Betrayal
Friday 17th — Great and Holy Friday, Celebration of the Holy and Redeeming Passion of the Lord
Saturday 18th — Great and Holy Saturday, the Blessed Sabbath, Celebration of the Burial of the Lord and His Descent into Hades
Sunday 19th — Great and Holy Pascha — The Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ
Can I help you?
I am here for you, you need only ask. Is there a way I can support your life of faith? Get in touch.
Can you help the mission?
Yes, absolutely. Offer yourselves to the Lord: pray! Make available to him all your talents and ask him how he would like you to use them — listen for his reply.
I ask your prayers for me.
With love in Christ