“When evening had come” (Mk 4:35). The Gospel passage we have just heard begins like this. For weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice in people’s gestures, their glances give them away. We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this.
It is easy to recognize ourselves in this story. What is harder to understand is Jesus’ attitude. While his disciples are quite naturally alarmed and desperate, he stands in the stern, in the part of the boat that sinks first. And what does he do? In spite of the tempest, he sleeps on soundly, trusting in the Father; this is the only time in the Gospels we see Jesus sleeping. When he wakes up, after calming the wind and the waters, he turns to the disciples in a reproaching voice: “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (v. 40).
Let us try to understand. In what does the lack of the disciples’ faith consist, as contrasted with Jesus’ trust? They had not stopped believing in him; in fact, they called on him. But we see how they call on him: “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” (v. 38). Do you not care: they think that Jesus is not interested in them, does not care about them. One of the things that hurts us and our families most when we hear it said is: “Do you not care about me?” It is a phrase that wounds and unleashes storms in our hearts. It would have shaken Jesus too. Because he, more than anyone, cares about us. Indeed, once they have called on him, he saves his disciples from their discouragement.
The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities. The tempest lays bare all our prepackaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.
In this storm, the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters.
“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, your word this evening strikes us and regards us, all of us. In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”.
“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, you are calling to us, calling us to faith. Which is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you. This Lent your call reverberates urgently: “Be converted!”, “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others. We can look to so many exemplary companions for the journey, who, even though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives. This is the force of the Spirit poured out and fashioned in courageous and generous self-denial. It is the life in the Spirit that can redeem, value and demonstrate how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people – often forgotten people – who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines nor on the grand catwalks of the latest show, but who without any doubt are in these very days writing the decisive events of our time: doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priests, religious men and women and so very many others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves. In the face of so much suffering, where the authentic development of our peoples is assessed, we experience the priestly prayer of Jesus: “That they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer. How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons.
“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”?Faith begins when we realise we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we founder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.
The Lord asks us and, in the midst of our tempest, invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering. The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith. We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love. In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side. The Lord asks us from his cross to rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us. Let us not quench the wavering flame (cf. Is 42:3) that never falters, and let us allow hope to be rekindled.
Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time, abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order to make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring. It means finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity. By his cross we have been saved in order to embrace hope and let it strengthen and sustain all measures and all possible avenues for helping us protect ourselves and others. Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.
“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”?Dear brothers and sisters, from this place that tells of Peter’s rock-solid faith, I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the stormy Sea. From this colonnade that embraces Rome and the whole world, may God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace. Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: “Do not be afraid” (Mt 28:5). And we, together with Peter, “cast all our anxieties onto you, for you care about us” (cf. 1 Pet 5:7).
Samseau said:I think the correct solution to this is "drive-in mass."
It's an airborne virus, so keep people in cars while watching in a parking lot.
Then, for communion, the priest (wearing a facemask) can go up to each car and administer Communion.
I flat out reject the idea that the Communion can spread disease, being the body and blood of Christ. There is nothing to fear there. The rest of the sermon, however, is at risk unless the above steps are taken in precaution.
We so much want to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and to receive Holy Communion. To hear the choir and smell the incense. To see the sacred liturgy in all its splendour. To see the boys serving mass with reverence. To meet up with our friends after mass. But current circumstances prevent us from making this possible.
But remember that this privation of the good is an opportunity to redouble our sense of appreciation. Because too often we “receive” the sacraments but forget to thank the Lord for them.
This is not a time simply to petition the Lord for a lifting of the current restrictions. No. This is a time to thank Him for all that we have received. To doubly thank him for the gratuitous gift of Himself in the Holy Eucharist. To make acts of reparation for all the times that you have received Him without even thanking Him.
How many Holy Communions have we received in our lives? Can you count them? Think over the years how many times you have received Our Lord, how many Masses you’ve attended. With all those Holy Communions we should all be saints. The reality is that most of us aren’t.
Why is that?
It has to do with our dispositions. And one of them is related to gratitude. Let’s no longer approach confession and communion as a “revolving door”. And let us especially not reduce the Holy Eucharist to a mere “right”. It is not a “right” but rather a privilege. A free gift of God.
We don’t deserve such a gift.
Cardinal Robert Sarah, in his recent book written in collaboration with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI entitled “From the Depths of Our Hearts”, makes reference to this aspect. In that chapter he speaks of the error of ordaining married men to the priesthood on the argument that people have a “right” to the Eucharist. Reflecting on the concept of reducing the Eucharist to a mere “right” he boldly says:
“The priesthood is a gift that is received as the Incarnation of the Word is received. A community that was formed according to the idea of “right to the Eucharist” would no longer be a disciple of Christ. As its name indicates, the Eucharist is thanksgiving, a gratuitous gift, a merciful present. The Eucharistic presence is received with wonder and joy as an unmerited gift. Any believer who claims it is his due shows that he is incapable of understanding it.”
Brother hierarchs and beloved children in the Lord,
From the Phanar, from the heart of the Queen of Cities, from the City of the Great Church and of Haghia Sophia, we are communicating with each and every one of you – women, men, and children – because of the unprecedented conditions and tribulation that we are facing as a human race as a result of the global threat posed by the pandemic of the new coronavirus, called Covid-19.
The voice of the Church, of the Mother Church, cannot be silent in such times. Our words, then, take the form we have learned through the ages: through the liturgy and through instruction, with encouragement and consolation.
We sincerely thank all those who struggle with self-sacrifice, even neglecting themselves and their families, including:
-Medical and nursing professionals at the front lines, beside our brothers and sisters who are suffering,
-Researchers and scientists searching for proper medication and vaccination to deliver us from this virus, but also
-All those actively working hard to address this pandemic.
Your contribution is invaluable. It is an offering to all of society. It is a sacrifice that deserves every honor and gratitude. All of us thank you and applaud you, not only from the windows of our homes, but everywhere and at all times. Our thoughts and our prayers are with you.
In this struggle, our appointed states, governments and appropriate health authorities have the primary responsibility for planning, confronting and overcoming this crisis. We might describe them as Commanders on the battlefield against an invisible, but now well-known, enemy. An enemy that has turned against humanity.
The burden of the responsibility, that they bear on their shoulders, by necessity demands the cooperation of us all. Now is the time of personal and social responsibility.
Therefore, our dear children, we entreat you as your spiritual father to respond faithfully and patiently to all the difficult but necessary measures proposed by our health authorities and nations. Everything is being done for our protection, for our common good, in order to contain the spread of this virus. Our liberation from this distress depends entirely on our own cooperation.
Perhaps some of you have felt that these drastic measures undermine or harm our faith.
However, that which is at stake
is not our faith – it is the faithful.
It is not Christ – it is our Christians.
It is not the divine-man – but human beings.
Our faith is firmly established in the roots of our culture. Our faith is a living faith, and there is no exceptional circumstance that can limit or suppress it. What must be limited and suppressed in these extraordinary circumstances are gatherings and large congregations of people. Let us remain in our homes. Let us be careful and protect those around us. And there, from our homes, strengthened by the power of our spiritual unity, let each and every one of us pray for all humankind.
We will pass through this period like a journey through the desert to reach the Promised Land, where science, by the grace of God, will overcome this virus.
We are certain that, through our prayers as well, science will indeed prevail. So it is good for us to remain united in spirit, as we continue the struggle of repentance and holiness.
We see our neighbors suffering from the consequences of the virus, while others have already fallen and departed from among us. Our Church hopes and prays for the healing of the sick, for the souls of the departed, and for courage and strength to the families of the afflicted.
This trial, too, shall pass. The clouds will clear, and the Sun of Righteousness will eliminate the deadly effect of the virus. But our lives will have changed forever. This trial is an opportunity for us to change for the better. In the direction of establishing love and solidarity.
Beloved children in the Lord, may the blessing of the Lord, through the intercessions of the All-Holy Mother of God, accompany us in our journey, transform our voluntary isolation into genuine communion, and become our prayer and destination to appreciate the meaning of this, so that we may return to that which is true, to that which is pleasing to God!
Have courage! And may God be with us!
(22 Mar 2020) Russian Orthodox priests staged a procession outside Vysokopetrovsky monastery in Moscow on Sunday to ask for God's protection from the new coronavirus.
The were following an ancient tradition from Constantinople when such processions were held to ward off the plague.
Earlier, hundreds of believers turned up for the Sunday prayer service.
Although authorities in Moscow have banned outdoor gatherings of more than 50 people, religious services are still allowed.
Nonetheless, church officials have imposed some restrictions of their own, such as using disposible spoons during Communion, and a prohibition on kissing religious icons.
Worshippers said they weren't deterred by the risk of getting the virus.
Russia has 367 cases of COVID-19, almost half of them in Moscow.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms.
For some it can cause more severe illness, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems.
As coronavirus cases rise in Russia, some public meetings, including church services, are continuing. In an attempt to limit the spread of the disease, the Russian Orthodox Church has called on priests to take safety measures like disinfecting icons and using disposable spoons for communion wine.
Originally published at https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-orthodox-church-coronavirus/30506923.html
Orthodox clergymen blessed the streets of central Tbilisi, praying for Georgia's protection from the COVID-19 pandemic.They loaded plastic drums full of holy water onto trucks and doused some of the roadways of the capital on March 17.The Georgian government has said it will prohibit the entry of foreign nationals for two weeks, starting on March 18.The country has registered more than 30 cases of the disease, as of midday on March 17, with no reported deaths.
Originally published at https://www.rferl.org/a/orthodox-pr...treets-in-a-bid-to-halt-disease/30493358.html
Thanks to the coronavirus and President Donald Trump, Jewish authorities are hopeful that they will be able to sacrifice a Passover lamb on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem this year.
If the state allows, it would mark the first time the ceremony has been performed on the Temple Mount in 2,000 years.
Interestingly, the Jewish Sanhedrin has hopes of performing the sacrifice, in line with Biblical requirements, because Israeli Health Ministry restrictions relating to the coronavirus led to the Passover offering reenactment being canceled for the first time in 9 years, reports Breaking Israel News.
The Sanhedrin has formally requested the Israeli and U.S. authorities to allow their sacrifice to take place on the Mount.
The sacrifice also requires an altar, built to Biblically-mandated measurements and design, which was already constructed last year.
kel said:Don't they need a red heifer that's never been yoked or milked sacrificed by an Israelite who's been purified since coming into contact with a corpse?
Most of the elements are ready for the sacrifice, including the necessary vessels, vestments, wine and oil prepared to the strictest requirements, and a red heifer is being raised and a lamb has already been acquired and stands ready. At this point, the only thing preventing the rite is the Israeli government, Rabbi Weiss commented.