Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is in our midst!
There is much fear surrounding the outbreak of the novel corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19 or the SARS CoV-2) in our community and throughout the world. As the Holy Prophet Isaiah reminds us, "Be not afraid!" The Lord, the Almighty Phusician, our God and Savior, Jesus Christ is with us--who can be against us?
The Holy Body and Blood of Christ carries no disease. There is no risk for anyone in receiving from the same spoon. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever. He is perfect; and there is no imperfection in Him.
This is a matter of Faith and is beyond contestation.
To clarify, science actually supports this understanding. Ours is a rational Faith. The red wine used for Holy Communion does contain a higher percentage of alcohol than regular table wine; however, it is the polyphenols in the fermented red wine which provide the anti-microbial ability. The Minister of Science in Greece performed a study in which the polyphenols present in Communion wine are shown to be 33% stronger than those used to clean in hospitals. Once hot water is added (bringing the solution to over 104 degrees), they gain an additional 33% effectiveness. This study is supported by an article in the International Journal of Molecular Biology entitled, "Biological Activities of Polyphenols from Grapes" published in 2010 which lends support to the anti-microbial properties of red wine specifically. Also, gold, silver and copper (which constitute the materials from which all of our liturgical chalices and spoons are made) are naturally anti-microbial as well.
As of today, all liturgical services will continue during this Lenten season, with some adjustments and guidelines: 1) when we come to Church, we attempt to stay in our household units. 2) We attempt to maintain approximately 6 feet of space between families whenever possible. 3) We refrain from greeting one another with the traditional threefold kiss of peace, and instead bow to one another. 4) We refrain from kissing icons, or the celebrant's hand, and simply bow in reverence. 5) We will no longer have liturgical books available for use by the faithful until further notice. 6) Holy Communion will be received by the faithful; however, at this time, no one is to close their mouth on the spoon. 7) When offering our Holy Confession, during the prayer of absolution, the priest will not put the "stole"/epitrachilion over the penitent's head, but simply bless with the hand. 8) All of those who are at a higher risk for death due to this virus are encouraged to stay home (this includes those with compromised immune systems, diabetes, kidney, heart or lung disease, and anyone over the age of 70. For a complete list of at risk people, please see www.cdc.gov)
We need prayer, especially corporate prayer, even more in this time of pandemic.
No one will be forced to attend services. No one will be forced to receive Holy Communion.
Fr. Christopher will visit parishioners in nursing homes and those shut-in as long as possible, especially for emergencies. However, some nursing homes have already shut down to visitors except in hospice cases.
Liturgical gatherings offer little possibility for conversation and intermixing; however, extra-liturgical gatherings and activities pose a much greater risk of potentially spreading disease. So, based upon the decision of His Grace, Bishop IRINEJ, all non-liturgical gatherings are cancelled until further notice.
Fellowship/Coffee Hour, Adult Education Classes, Church School Classes, Folklore Rehearsals, Choir Rehearsals, Organization/Ministry Meetings.
Some may ask, why are we doing this?
Many of us, if infected with COVID-19, will survive with very little inconvenience. However, we limit our extra-liturgical activities for the immuno-compromised and other high-risk brothers and sisters. Through the practice of early counter-measures, including social distancing, we can alleviate an unnecessary overwhelming of the health care system, saving thousands of lives. This is the reason we are cancelling all activities outside of church services: in order to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Early counter-measures include the following practices:
1) Remaining at home if one has any symptoms of illness/sickness, especially cough, fever, and/or shortness of breath.
2) Refraining from hand-shaking, hugging and kissing in greeting.
3) Wash hands frequently, with hot water, for at least 20 seconds. Saying the "Lord's Prayer" takes about 20 seconds.
4) Attempting to maintain (not just at Church), as often as possible, a 6 foot (2 meter) distance from others outside of our household.
5) Using one's non-dominant hand to open and close doors, and touch public surfaces.
6) Avoid touching one's face.
We encourage all of you to be courageous in your love during this time and at all times. We humbly thank everyone for their understanding.
"COVID-19, and the precautionary changes and disruptions it is bringing to many of us, is not a diversion from our Lent and our lives. It IS our Lent. It IS our lives. This is, for now, the arena we have been given in which to work out our salvation alongside and in community with one another". - Nicole M. Roccas, In Faith and Love: A Layperson's Thoughts on Drawing Near during a Pandemic.
We offer the following suggestions for continuing in this Lenten Arena:
1) Say the Lord's Prayer when washing your hands.
2) Utilize the Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian at least once daily.
3) Pray for those who are ill, for those who are suffering, and for those who minister to them (doctors and nurses, and healthcare workers).
4) Health-permitting and risk permitting, attend as many services as possible.
5) Participate in the Holy Mysteries of Confession and Communion as often as possible.
6) Use the time given through the restrictions to come together with family dinners, reading the Holy Scriptures, and other spiritually edifying material.
7) Make sure to dedicate some time each day to silence and the contemplation of God.
8) Take on a "buddy" to check up on our brothers and sisters who live alone.
9) Low-risk parishioners can offer those at high-risk to run errands (minimizing their exposure).
10) Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!
These are all ways in which to maximize our growth in Christian love this Lenten season. May God, the Almighty Physician, bless each of you with a deeper awareness of His Undying Love for you!
If you have any questions, please contact Fr. Christopher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Christ's Love,
& the St. Nicholas Parish Council