In this email
Message from Fr Alexander — Now … but not yet
A blessing or a curse?
Create an online forum?
Live stream information
News of Future Services
Saints and Feasts — 4th–11th June
Offer of help
Liturgically the days between Ascension (last Thursday) and Pentecost (this Sunday) are strange. We have given up saying “Christ is risen …” at the beginning of the services but we also do not say the familiar prayer, “O heavenly king …” There is a feeling of “Now … but not yet.”
This is a feeling we have even more particularly during this coronavirus crisis. We are at an in between time, not ready to come out of lockdown, yet we are are ready, at least in some sense. Now … but not yet.
This coming Sunday we will commemorate Pentecost, the feast of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and those with them in the Upper Room. One aspect to understand this feast is a, perhaps, overlooked occurrence in the Old Testament: the Tower of Babel (see Genesis 11:1–9). And at Pentecost the curse of Babel was undone but not in the way we might expect. At Babel the languages were confused that we might not understand one another, but at Pentecost (see Acts 2:1–11) it is quite different.
Perhaps more important than the Apostles speaking other languages, the key phrase comes when we are told all who were in Jerusalem “heard them [the Apostles] speak in his own language.” (Acts 2:6). Babel had been overcome not by abolishing languages but by transfiguring them. Despite the barriers of language, the Apostles enabled themselves to be understood by all.
We have been given our own Babel, our own division. We have been separated not only from other nations but from our own friends and family — we have even been separated from being present at Church services. And in this division, this separation, we experience loneliness. Yet God is not going to click his fingers and remove this from us, he is not going to magically undo what has happened: in his love and mercy towards us he will allow us to transfigure and transform this Covid-19 reality into one which reflects his love for us — he will allow us to experience Pentecost anew.
What form will this take? I do not know. Yet I do know that this crisis is gift from God — and it is most definitely a gift, not a curse — is given that we may be saved, that we may come to new life, that we may turn away from sin and put all our hope in the Lord.
My dear brothers and sisters, friends, be transformed and transfigured by the descent of the Holy Spirit that you may come to the Lord and have a desire for him burning in your heart. Be of good cheer, this crisis will pass and our Faith will be strengthened.
A blessing or a curse?
On Sunday I wrote a short reflection on our present crisis and posted it on our Facebook Page (if you have a Facebook account, please do “like” it).
Forgive me for being so blunt: it appears for many that Church is there to dispense grace when the people choose. So they get Communion when they choose to go, attend and expect memorials, baptisms, weddings and funerals when it’s convenient. I have heard of people who have booked a wedding reception venue and then have gone around looking for a church which can hold a service on the correct day and at the correct time.
And we, each of us, need to ask ourselves the question, “Am I treating Church like a service provider?”
Christ, in his mercy and love for us, has told us that the Church buildings will be closed for a period of time — even during Lent and Pascha. And we must all recognise that this is not a curse, it is a blessing! Christ has blessed us with this pandemic because we can measure ourselves by this standard,
- Do I treat Church as a service provider?
- Do I go for a good luck charm to protect myself for the week?
- Do I go because I think I will get that job? Get that raise? Get that wife or husband? Get good grades? Get a bit of luck?
- Is my faith centred on God or centred on me?
And we take this blessing from God, this forced absence from Church, and we examine ourselves. We look inside ourselves and discover ourselves — not the face, the mask, we put on for Sunday mornings but our true selves. God is letting us peel away the layers of sin, the layers of dirt, the layers of decay and rot and be made new, clean and pure.
Are you accepting this period, this Greatest Fast we have experienced, as a blessing or a curse? Have you taken the opportunity the Lord has given you to repent? Have I? Or, when this is all over, will we go back to our former lives? Our former faith?
Become alive to God now, experience him in everything you do. And then, when the churches are able to reopen, you will be able to experience him even more fully in the Holy Gifts.
This lockdown period, this “Now … but not yet,” is given to us to reflect on ourselves — it is a time for each of us to repent, to change our mind, to draw closer to God.
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?
Let me know! Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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:
Usually Vespers on Saturday evenings at 5 pm and Matins and Liturgy on Sunday mornings from 7.30 am.
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
Thursday 4th June — After-feast of the Ascension. Ss Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus (1st). St Petroc, Abbot of Padstow (6th).
Friday 5th — Leavetaking of the Ascension. Hieromartyr Dorotheos, Bishop of Tyre (c 362). Hieromartyr Boniface of Crediton, Archbishop of Mainz and monastic at Nursling (754).
Saturday 6th — Saturday of Souls.
Sunday 7th — Great Feast of Pentecost.
Monday 8th — Day of the Holy Spirit.
Tuesday 9th — Third day of the Trinity. St Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria (444). St Columba of Iona, Enlightener of Scotland (597).
Wednesday 10th — Martyr Alexander and Virgin-martyr Antonina at Constantinople (c 313).
Thursday 11th — Holy Apostles Bartholomew and Barnabus (1st). Mitrophan Chi Sung and the Martyrs of the Boxer Rising (1900). Commemoration of the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel to a monk on Mt Athos, and the revelation of the hymn It is truly meet (Axion Estin) (982).
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