PHOTO: Metropolitan Anthony and Archbishop Daniel of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA at a meeting with AB Elpidophoros.
UPDATE: Late on March 6, GOA issued guidelines on handling COVID-19…
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA announced specific measures to protect both the Faith and Coronavirus. What is the AB Elpidophoros and the GOA doing? Why are they asleep at the wheel? We all know the answer, unfortunately… Nobody wants to incite panic… But are the priests supposed to give Holy Communion and how? How about measures regarding physical contact, kissing the icons etc…
2 March, 2020
Feast of St. Leo the Great, Pope of Rome and St. Flavian, Patriarch of Constantinople
TO: THE BELOVED CLERGY AND FAITHFUL OF OUR HOLY UKRAINIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH OF THE USA
RE: THE ONSET OF A NEW VIRUS STRAIN CALLED CORONAVIRUS OR COVID-19
Dear Brothers and Sister in our Lord,
CHRIST IS AMONGST US! HE IS AND ALWAYS SHALL BE!
The words of this traditional greeting and response between Orthodox Christians are a powerful proclamation of our firm belief that the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity remains with us at all times and in all places, in particular having received His Most Holy Body and Blood in the Eucharist on a regular basis. We can be assured of this regardless of anything we face during this earthly pilgrimage, whether it is something that brings us overwhelming joy or something that poses a threat to us, like the deadly virus spreading throughout the world as we type these words.
One faithful member of our Church contacted us recently and the first words out of her mouth were: “Here we go again!” She was not making light of the real threat that the coronavirus is. Rather, she is stating a fact that mankind has been faced with horrific plagues and communicable diseases throughout its existence. She enumerated the likes of the Black plague, the Bubonic plague, the West Nile virus, the BIRD flu, the Ebola virus and the Swine flu among other instances and she expressed her sincere hope that people will not look at this new threat of the coronavirus with a “no big deal” attitude. We join her in that hope and we urge all of our clergy and faithful to diligently take all measures in their personal and communal lives to protect themselves and others from the spread of this deadly virus.
AS YOUR HIERARCHS, WE DO NOT PRETEND TO HAVE THE ABILITY TO INSTRUCT YOU REGARDING THE NECESSARY PRECAUTIONS YOU ALL SHOULD TAKE IN THE DAYS AND WEEKS AHEAD TO PROTECT YOURSELVES AND YOUR FAMILIES, ALONG WITH THE HUMAN COMMUNITY AS A WHOLE. FOR SUCH INSTRUCTIONS WE URGE YOU TO GO TO THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF THE CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL – www.cdc.gov SO THAT YOU CAN EDUCATE YOURSELVES THE STEPS YOU SHOULD TAKE IN YOUR DAILY LIVES. PLEASE DO NOT HESITATE IN DOING THIS.
With regard to Liturgical Worship in our Churches, we pray that you do not excuse yourselves based on fear from the absolutely necessary common worship – together as the sons and daughters of Christ – to pray along with the Mother of God for His protection during this crisis and to be prepared as parish families in Christ to reach out to the particular agencies in your local area that are providing care and necessities for those who are afflicted with this virus. We believe that our common prayer, in particular during this Great Lenten season, will offer a profound witness to God about our faith in His Power to eradicate this threat to mankind.
As we gather in our local churches for worship, we believe it might be wise to limit physical contact with the traditional liturgical expressions of faith in reality – our holy Icons – unless provision is made to clean them before and after each veneration – other than just a dry cloth. During this time of uncertainty, it will be altogether proper to bow or prostrate ourselves before the Icons to express our love for the Lord and the Saints who provide the example for the way we should live our lives. We have always found great spiritual comfort during our visits to the Holy Land and the churches there, when we witnessed faithful Christians venerating Icons and waving from the Icons toward themselves (a “come here” type of wave) seeking to pull the Grace and faithfulness of the Saints being venerated into themselves so that they might emulate them in all their words and deeds.
We feel an urgent need to comment most specifically on the Holy Eucharist – receiving the Holy Body and Blood of Christ our Lord – in Holy Communion. We must during times like the present, never doubt in the power of the Chalice, dear brothers and sisters. It contains true LIFE and true LOVE by which no harm could ever enter our lives. When the common spoon of communion is dipped into the Chalice following the communion of one individual, it is cleansed by the Blood of our Lord beyond our broadest comprehension of what “cleansing” is in human terms. Throughout all the history of our more than two millennium Church, we can recall no thread of witness or even a shadow of one, indicating that any disease has ever been spread through the Chalice containing the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord. Perhaps the most convincing fact here is that if the Chalice did, indeed, spread disease, we would certainly be praying regularly for the repose of the souls of tens of thousands or more deacons and priests who, throughout the past 2000 years have consumed the full Chalices following communion of the faithful during hundreds of thousands of Divine Liturgies throughout our history. This is our faith, dearly beloved, and if we lose that faith, we are in grave danger far beyond the physical danger of a virus.
We have confidence that just as the previous viruses and other threats to mankind have finally been defeated, we will witness the same today. Let us be exemplary examples of faith and action to one another – not only throughout the duration of the present threat – but throughout our lives. We can work miracles by that faith and in the resulting joy, draw others in to Christ’s Vineyard. You all are in our prayers daily and we ask for yours for ourselves. St. James states clearly: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing Psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the Name of the Lord. AND THE PRAYER OF FAITH WILL SAVE THE SICK, AND THE LORD WILL RAISE HIM UP.” (James 5:13-15)