COVID-19: An Excuse to Ban Religious Freedom?

One of our commentators on the blog posted the following piece by Fr. Sergi Sveshnikov on FB.  He is with the Russian Church and is a Staff Chaplain at U.S. Department of Justice.  

Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

On the Closure of Churches

Posted in Practical MattersReflectionsUncategorized by Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov on 20 March 2020

See also: Liturgical Minyan

Update 2020-03-21: On March 20, 2020 Illinois Governor Pritzker issued an executive order the prohibited “all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household.” Thus, the order prohibits all and any religious activities or services, unless officiated by members of a single household, and shuts down all churches. Strangely, this order exempts liquor stores and recreational cannabis dispensaries (presumably, due to their essential function). [*] 

2020-03-20: In a surreal move, governors of several states banned religious worship. The governor of Wisconsin, for example, specifically included religious worship in his ban on gatherings greater than 10 people (which naturally applies to all but the very smallest mission congregations and would have banned even Christ Himself from congregating with His 12 apostles), while the governor of New York banned all “non-essential” gatherings of any size. (It is unclear at this point whether Andrew Cuomo would consider the celebration of the Eucharist–even by just one priest and one chanter–to be essential, but my best guess is that he would not.)

Not wishing to minimize the danger of the present situation and the urgent necessity for everyone to do their part in protecting the health and life of the elderly, the vulnerable, and everyone else, I, nonetheless, do have some concerns about the government closing churches.

I think that all of us are prudently complying with all of the recommendations and orders from government agencies–at least for now–but for how long? Can the government ban the public celebration of Pascha in 29 days, and would we have to hide in our basements with the doors shut for the fear of the state police? I am not a virologist, but even I know that the new coronavirus will still be here in mid-April. In fact, experts estimate that it will still be with us through the summer. Pentecost? Will Divine Liturgy not be celebrated in the U.S. for the next half-a-year? What is the threshold at which the government will allows us back into our churches? As of today (March 20), there are 15 thousand reported coronavirus cases in the U.S. This number can only go up. It will not go down. The number of new cases reported in the U.S. was the highest on March 9 at 194 cases. This number will also go up and likely stay up from now on as we learn to live with the new virus in the world. In comparison, the CDC estimates that so far this season there have been at least 38 million common flu illnesses (over 200 thousand new cases every single day), 390,000 hospitalizations and at least 23,000 (and as many as 59,000) deaths from flu. [**] Last season (2018-2019), nearly 36 million people in the U.S. got the flu, almost 500 thousand were hospitalized, and almost 35 thousand of them died. During the 2018-2019 season, 80,000 people died of the common flu in the U.S. Is this enough to order the closure of churches from October through April every year? What are the exact numbers/percentages/trends/rates that give governors the power to suspend our right to worship as we find meaningful and not by sitting in front of a computer or television screen?

Furthermore, do governors have a legal ability to disband monasteries? Sure, residential buildings are excluded from the ban on gatherings, but as soon as the monks or nuns walk from their cells across the courtyard to a chapel, they are in violation of the ban on gatherings for religious worship. The problem is that the ban applies equally in Manhattan and Jordanville, NY. Perhaps, this is me being alarmist, but who thought just two weeks ago that governors could shut churches?

I repeat, I am not a medical doctor or an expert on viruses, and I would urge everyone to follow the advice of experts and the direction of local governments, but shouldn’t someone ask the obvious question: What is the benchmark by which the Holy Eucharist is suspended? What will be the marker at which the faithful are once again allowed to partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, our Savior and Healer? Can we trust politicians not to politic and pander to the various political forces in making their decisions–even just a little bit?

Here is something interesting to consider. The governor of Texas, Gregory Abbott, when issuing a ban on public gatherings of 10 or more people, stated that “there was nothing specific in the executive order about churches because there is freedom of religion here in the United States of America.” He added that most churches were already doing the proper thing by ensuring the safety of their congregations. But this is a very refreshing stance: the governor did not find himself in authority to ban religious worship. Indeed, churches are not in the same category as bars and movie theaters. So, who is right–Governor Abbott or Governor Evers? Can governors in principle ban the celebration of the Eucharist, or does this violate our religious freedom?

I will repeat for the third time for those who missed the first two disclaimers: I am strongly urging everyone to follow the direction of their pastor, bishop, governor, family doctor, CDC expert, etc., and pray  and hope that all of these measures will be successful. However, if they are successful, will this experience embolden the secular authorities to close churches again next year if there is an outbreak of the common flu (like in 2018), or the swine flu (last epidemic 2009-2010), or measles (last outbreak 2014-2015), or pertussis (last outbreak 2014-2015, and we are due for another one), or Zika (last epidemic 2015-2016), or any other communicable illness? Will the Holy Eucharist be routinely put in the same category as public gyms and concerts? The Wisconsin ban on gatherings, for example, while specifically including “movie theaters, taverns, pools, places of worship and religious gatherings” specifically excludes “airports, mass transit, hotels and motels.” Makes good sense, of course, but is the Body of Christ less essential than motels and more dangerous than mass transit? Maybe I am just being silly, but I am somewhat hesitant to put my full trust in our dear leaders to make this determination.


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  1. Monk James Silver says

    This is an over-reaction and not at all helpful. I’m disappointed to see it published here.

    Were Father Sergey Sveshnikov’s observations to refer only to religious institutions, he might have a point. The fact is, though, that ALL public gatherings are illegal at the moment. including meetings for worship.

    The fact that the governor of Texas made an exception for gatherings at religious services has been severely criticized by federal officials for being the serious mistake it truly was.

    Not everyone is taking this ban as seriously as it needs to be. So, for instance, New York City announced just today that people playing basketball and other sports in the streets and parks of the city will be dispersed by the police. The same is true of exercising or running in groups. These strictures are very broad and are not focused on houses of worship.

    Fr Sergey also seems to be unaware that Metropolitan Tikhon directed last week that ALL the monasteries — not just monastic churches — of the Orthodox Church in America were to be closed to all visitors. While the nuns and monks are to continue the daily services in their churches, no visitors are to be admitted to the monasteries. Not to the churches, not to the bookstores, not to the grounds — no visitors at all. Hence, the monastics will not be in violation of civil law if they go from their residences to their churches, nor will they be in contact with the laity.

    There are enough real problems for us to deal with during this pandemic, so let’s not imagine that things are worse than they are.

    Lord, save Your people and bless Your inheritance!

    • Gail Michalopulos says

      Being able to go to Church is not the same as being able to go to any other “public gathering place,” which is probably why it got honorable mention in the First Amendment.

      Some people (Orthodox Christians, interestingly), might actually put the practice on par with receiving a vaccine that affords one protection, as it is the Body and Blood of Christ! I’m beginning to wonder how many of our bishops actually believe that. If they do, they are very cavalier about withholding it. Their first responsibility is to us. Let the public health officials worry about everyone else.

      There are multiple studies that suggest going to church boosts one’s immunity. Prayer is also extremely helpful in managing stress; as in the kind of stress that comes from knowing you and yours are vulnerable to a life threatening illness and losing the ability to feed one’s family. That anyone would equate church with a gathering place like a restaurant or a bar is mind boggling.

      I suspect Fr. Sergy feels that as nice as it is for monks and nuns to be able to continue to attend services, it is also beneficial for the laity, as they have to be present to even have Liturgy. The choir is not a substitute.

      The laity is part of the Church, Father. Any solution that excludes the laity is not a solution; it’s a travesty.

      Barring the faithful from going to Church might not seem like a “real problem” to you (although one could argue that keeping people in Church should be your highest priority), you aren’t directly impacted, as you have rightly pointed out. We are and we belong in the Church, as well.

      If I were a bishop, I would stay with my flock. If the doors were closed to them, I would refuse to enter them, as well. A true shepherd would never drink from a different cup.

      Expect to see more of the same on the blog.

    • Sorry to disagree with you Monk James and I am just as disappointed to see your reaction. I for one am also in favor of allowing some limited opening of churches for the simple reason that they are spiritual hospitals.  Something happened in my parish today. A man’s wife passed away suddenly last night and after the mortuary left this morning he had such an emptiness that the only place he felt he could go was to church.  Should the priest have barred the doors? Where on earth is your compassion? 
      Since this started a few weeks ago, public officials have called for groups no larger than 500, 250, 100, 50, 25, 10, and believe it or not now 5.  Look back at history (You can google it yourself) of the many plagues that have happened over the centuries: St. Cyprian of Carthage in the 3rd century, the emperor Justinian in the 6th century, and on and on.  They are part of life on this planet.
      If anyone thinks that government officials are going to stop this Covid-19 they are sadly mistaken.  Frankly, I think your response is horribly misguided — especially being a monk.  
      Millions of people now are looking to social distancing as the answer, as if it is some kind of cure-all.  We just need to practice social distancing and this is all going to blow over in another week or two. Sorry, that just isn’t going to happen.The best thing that we can do is first and foremost wash our hands, use disinfectants, and avoid contact as much as possible, but even all of that is not going to wipe this virus off the planet.  And then what?  In all seriousness, and then what? Are we to look for some other social experiment? Perhaps some miracle drug? Yes, that’s the answer!  And what if that fails? At what point do we call upon God? Must we wait until all human exercises have failed?
      The man whose wife passed away did what any human being should do, indeed is called to do, call upon their creator for help and guidance.  My priest did not turn this man or the rest of his family away. Thank God!
      I humbly ask you to reexamine your priorities.  Liquor stores and pot shops do not, at least in my book, rank as the highest priorities. Social distancing to the point where we are hiding in our bedrooms is not the answer either.  Opening houses of God with appropriate handwashing, sterilization and social distancing seems to make a lot more sense. Yes, people are going to die because of this virus, and people are going to die from many other diseases, today, tomorrow and the day after. The least we can do is have some faith that God is still in control. 
      Lord have mercy on us!

    • Monk James Silver,

      As I traditionally only write here to oppose what you say, please forgive me this moment to agree completely with what you have posted except for your second-to-last sentence.  Things are quite a bit worse than most people understand.

      As a hard-trad ROCOR who works for / in a direly related field to the moment in question, I break from the MP/ROCOR pietists on this question and ask my kindred to stay away, if only out of selfishness, as your caskets will be lighter than the emotional burdens of the survivors.  I do not expect to see my spiritual father, my godfather, or my most beloved co-parishioners for several months, if ever again.

      Dying from a misguided sense of piety is not martyrdom, and most of you (at least the Americans) are not prepared (emotionally or intellectually) for what we are about to implement.  Some of you, not to name names, have already confused basic civil defense with the ascent of globalist machinations, but this is a fundamental misunderstanding.

      I can only recommend that each of you to familiarize yourself with the stages of grief and to attempt to recognize where your thoughts on any proximate subject may lie within them.


      • George Michalopulos says

        MaxD, you are buying into the hysteria. Seriously, do you think you will “never” see these people whom you named again? Please read Fr Sergei’s article again –carefully. He brings up several good points, the main one being, that the various governors unilaterally closing down places of worship is setting up a very dangerous precedent.

        The government, once emboldened thusly, will only aggrandize unto itself more power.

        • George,
          As I have been watching this develop for over two months now, and as my unstated profession grants me a very different perspective into events such as this, I am not burdened with a sense of panic but am forced to acknowledge that our flock is going to shrink and good people are going to suffer horribly.
          Perhaps the boogeyman posting in which several of you are engaging is a coping mechanism.  It is not my interest to judge you for it, but it seems more like hysteria to me than recognizing that people will die during plagues and that civil defense is not tyranny.

          • Gail Michalopulos says

            Well, as long as you’re not judging us, Max D. . . regarding your comment that our “hysteria” is keeping us from recognizing that people will die, may I suggest you reread what we’ve written. One or both of us is talking about the mortality rate, daily. We realize these are real people. But THANK GOD, we are not seeing what we feared we’d see at this point, i.e. huge numbers flooding our hospitals and overwhelming our resources. Not yet and maybe not ever. It appears as if, for the vast majority, this virus is not death sentence. At least not in this country. But if we react with fear and allow the passage of legislation that has NOTHING to do with slowing down the progression of the virus, it could be a death sentence for our way of life.

            • GSV Death and Gravity says

              We are seeing what I feared. Daily deaths in the country broke 100, and today saw a rise 13,119 confirmed cases…just in NYC.
              I’m kind of wondering what the numbers are going to have to get to before people on here realize the extent of the situation.

              • Thomas S. says

                NYC is in a very different position from, say, the rural Midwest and South, and this is a major point of contention …If you live in the Northeast corridor or Seattle, maybe you should bunker down.  But dont push laws on the rest of us to the point that Easter liturgy is now practically illegal and tell us it is for our own good!And, pardon me, but 100 deaths in a day in a country of 330 million is laughably irrelevant.  Once it strongly outpaces the number of deaths associated with a routine viruses, then maybe we can reconsider.

          • Max D,
            Do you know the meaning of pedantic? 
            So what is your special “unstated profession” which “grants” you this great wisdom?  I am an MD and PhD and even all of my training doesn’t grant me anything. 

            • I work within the civil defense complex. My specific field is so niche that I do not post personal information about myself as I wish not to be identified and do not speak on behalf of my employer, regardless.

              Feel free to revisit this discussion during Passion Week to tell me how wrong I was. As to your objection, well … I don’t understand it and see no reason to argue (likewise with Gail).

              Best of luck with your Lenten struggles.


              • Gail Michalopulos says

                I would hope, like the rest of us, you are praying that the number of deaths remains low. To be able to gloat that you were right during Passion Week would mean that a massive number of people died.

                I personally hope banning people from exercising their hard won freedoms doesn’t become the “New Normal” in reaction to each new challenge. Such extreme measures have long lasting consequences. I also hope Nancy Pelosi is unsuccessful in hijacking the stimulus package to fund the new green deal, the elimination of airline emissions and other extraneous things that have nothing to do with helping the American people get back on their feet. Finally, I hope agencies like the CDC, who are entrusted with awesome responsibility of protecting our health, keep their eye on the ball and not get distracted by things like transexul beauty contests.

              • Thomas S. says

                Sounds like you are in the security clearance self-important gang.The special insight of the “civil defense” profession is that its very raison d’être is to concoct paranoid worst-case scenarios.  My perspective, as someone who spent last Pascha unable to attend liturgy because I was in a place where churches were literally illegal, is that if you are afraid of infection, stay at home, but don’t regulate away Holy Week and Pascha for the rest of us.

          • Steven J. M. says

            I believe it’s possible to take this seriously and to be suspicious at the same time. I also believe that the powers that be can need to take drastic measures and at the same time go too far. I also consider how our way of life is something that is a complete luxury when compared to nearly all of human history, and how it therefore can’t be taken for granted. That which can’t be taken for granted is probably quite unlikely to be returned after it’s been taken away, especially given the times, which have a special kind of hunger about them. So, yes, there’s room in all this to think and talk like a ‘normie’ and yet there’s also more than enough room to appear like a ‘nutter’.
            This world – as you need no reminding – can be very dark, thanks as always to the devil and the demons. If they don’t want Orthodoxy wiped off the face of the planet, along with the western world that at least gives people the freedom to choose to be good or bad, then nothing or nobody does. I’m therefore on red alert for anything in this which smells ‘fishy’, for the devil (and his helpers [conscious or not]) are not above it.

    • I believe Monk James is not getting the full import here. From the article: “In comparison, the CDC estimates that so far this season there have been at least 38 million common flu illnesses (over 200 thousand new cases every single day), 390,000 hospitalizations and at least 23,000 (and as many as 59,000) deaths from flu. [**]” This year this season US alone 390,000 hospitalizations! 23,000 deaths! That is a greater number of deaths than the 19,000 due to Covid19 in the whole entire world! Where is the mass hysteria over this? This is just the US for not even 3 months. With 390,000 hospitalizations for people with the influenza where is all the concern for all the bed space and shortages in the hospitals? From my own research I found that in 2017 US alone had a total of 155 thousand deaths/mortalities from flu/pneumonia. Covid19 US deaths/mortalities so far thus far not even 800 yet. People die, virus or no virus, in a Country with 331 million there will be some number of people who die each year from some number causes diseases ailments and what have you. That such a fundamental constitutional liberty as freedom of religion could be ordered halted indefinitely by what you have to consider for the most part the “Godless authorities” is troubling particularly as this Corona virus so far thus far is only a very very small tiny fraction of both hospitalizations and deaths relative and in comparison to the flu/pneumonia. For those who think this is only “the tip of the ice berg” just look at other countries right now China, South Korea, Taiwan e.g. they have turned the corner they are nearly done with it already and that was where the epicenter of this whole thing was in the first place. Even Italy has had several days of decreasing statistic. There is a bad precedent as Fr. Sergei points out and we as Orthodox we should be smart enough to see this stuff, we have already been warned, writings of various Saints and authors and just in the Scriptures!

      • Johann Sebastian says

        What you aren’t understanding is that COVID19 is resulting in a surplus mortality beyond that encountered in any given year.
        Garden-variety influenza infections and complications never go away, nor do fatalities due to automobile accidents, cardiovascular–among a plethora of others–diseases. This is the baseline state of the world. What we have now is an additional, anomalous cause of mortality beyond that which we normally see.
        Using your argument, we can say that various calamities–global wars, 9/11, natural disasters–a veritable toilet-tissue ream of causes are not serious because the fatalities they inflict are far less than those we include in the “baseline state” mentioned above.
        It’s a fallacious comparison and a foolish one, and it’s very sad that politicking has resulted in wholesale blindness to these facts. I sit very far to the right on the political spectrum and am very much sympathetic to traditionalism. Right now, I think those who I would typically side with are taking a very imprudent approach–for noble reasons to be sure–but right now we’re beyond examining the whys and wherefores. We can do that later. There’s a conflagration at hand and if people on both sides continue to push their respective agendas and political principles, everyone will certainly burn.

        • Corona virus cases will most certainly dovetail heavily into the number of cases that would otherwise be the statistics for flu/pneumonia, just too many commonalities, the nature of the illness, the demographic it hits most predominantly and other things, you are wrong, it is not an “over and beyond” surplus of the flu/pneumonia, that does not make any sense at all. While it is the “Novel” Corona virus and has some new heretofore not seen characteristics it is well inside the family of the influenza/pneumonia class of viral illnesses. And again, only a small “teeny-tiny” fraction subset of the overall influenza-cold-pneumonia class of viral illnesses. Now also there is looming promising treatment with successful small trials and significant anecdotal evidence and FDA approval for “off-label” use of known drugs much to the dismay and the chagrin of the liberals and democrats and cnn and msnbc et. al. whom you can see in their not so subtle ways “cheer-leading” the virus and the epidemic-pandemic in hopes of yet damaging the president before the November elections after three years of non-stop attacks and dismal failures every time. Sorry you cannot see through this and become as it were a “supporter” of sorts for this campaign. Once again, to say that this Corona virus is a “surplus” over and beyond the flu/pneumonia class of viral illness is wrong, does not make sense, Covid19 is well within the class of these viral illnesses only with some slight variation and only a small overall fraction of death/mortality. Numbers have already peaked as well at the epicenter of this outbreak so please, let’s not conjecture like Gavin Newsom projecting up to “20 million” plus cases in California alone within two months, hype, hysteria, nonsense, no where near close to that unless everyone begins to consume bat burritos for lunch everyday!

          • Johann Sebastian says

            Just two months ago the liberals were making the same unfounded epidemiological arguments as you, on account of their indignation at the prospect of closing borders and banning travel to and from China.
            And that is why we are where we are now. But that’s water under the bridge at this point. We need a solution, and the furtherance of BS like this will only ensure that possible solutions become fewer and farther between.
            When this passes, I hope the world realizes just how hazardous open borders and lax migration policies are. You can’t keep your hand outstretched to people who are inherent users, takers, and manipulators. 

            • You mean back in January when it was first proposed that there be some restrictions on borders and of course flight restrictions from China and South Korea? I remember the liberals opposing that but they were not at all making any of the points which I have posted here in the two above posts. They’re argument was simply that border/flight restrictions for “whatever reason” are just simply “unnecessary” or “do not do much” without explanation, all on basis of political correctness I suppose and not any kind of consideration that people abroad could be importing the virus. For them massive lockdowns are preferable and would be a first choice over migration restrictions, particularly illegals which they consider their lifeblood voting constituency. Today and now the Dems/Libs/Progs see some opportunity to damage the president with long closures and extended economic disruptions all in the name of “over abundance of caution” so if lets say you live in the North Bay in California where even to this date there is such a small tiny spattering number of cases and yet fewer mortalities, like the equivalent of a small handful of auto accidents and not anywhere near close to a California wildfire they are shutting down the beaches where the winds blow and you have sea breezes and they exaggerate about how many people have flocked to the beaches and not following “social distancing” because they probably live in the same household anyway, this becomes at least to me overreach overreaction hype and hysteria promulgated by the lib media and followed up on by the politicians. Then on msnbc yesterday a talking head was comparing not being able to go to church on, oh lets say Easter Sunday as the same and similar thing as not being able to go to a hockey game, that is how these people think and believe.

              • George Michalopulos says

                It’s funny, but the other night Gail & I were watching RT and the hostess was interviewing some Canadian soy-boy named Hoffman (I believe). He castigated Orange Hitler for his travel ban saying all the useless buzzwords (racist, xenophobic) but after he finished, the reporter interjected: “But, didn’t your Prime Minister just institute the same travel ban?”

                The level of entitlement that these miscreants have is such that he didn’t expect to be challenged so he offered a mealy-mouthed response, something to the effect that “yes, but Trump’s travel ban was ‘tinged’ with racism”. I kid you not.

                Another silver lining to COVID-19 is that fewer and fewer of us plebs are tugging our forelocks and groveling before these over-educated flunkies. These talking heads may actually have to get real jobs.

                • All these shenanigans. Like that nbc guy asking Trump what he would say to all those people who are “scared?” .. set-up question to then accuse him of offering false hope! When Trump answered him that you are “a lousy reporter” and sensationalizing Chris Cuomo later on cnn blamed (mini tirade) Trump for not getting along with reporters during times of crisis yada yada. Well I’m heartened Trump’s approval rating in handling Corona is 60%.

    • Thomas S. says

      “Were Father Sergey Sveshnikov’s observations to refer only to religious institutions, he might have a point. The fact is, though, that ALL public gatherings are illegal at the moment. including meetings for worship.” …… but hundreds of people can shop in Wal-Mart at once and that’s okay, or 50 people at the liquor store …Our churches, even Orthodox churches, are failing us.

  2. Alitheia 1875 says

    Infection total, just two days later, 3-22-2020, is 31,000 , with almost 400 dead. That’s double in two days.

    • Anonymous says

      This is likely because more people are being tested. Additionally, for the most part, – again according to their own stats, – 98% of people make out just fine. So why not quarantine the vulnerable? Why tank the economy over this? No cause for alarm.
      What will likely be remembered as the outcome of this incident will be the economic devastation, and the totalitarianism of our governments who mostly promote infanticide, euthanasia, abortion, ‘transgenderism’ and bodily mutilation, pornography, sodomy, atheism, etc. 

  3. Jacob Lee says

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.[3]
    Your first right as an American citizen is the freedom of religion. This is before and above speech and the press. It is the first part of the first amendment. Our Bishops and some Priests are more scared of the liability and man then they are of God. Their job is the salvation of souls. If people are going to die from this than their salvation should be the first priority of the Church and Clergy nothing else. 
    That said we should do our part that we have been asked, for the next two weeks to distance, to stop the spread. After that it should be all hands on deck prayer fasting and bringing as many people to Christ as possible. Anything else will be a crime.
    The Church is a spiritual hospital what kind of men close their hospital in a time of crisis?

    • Michael Bauman says

      The Church is not the building not even the close gathering of the people. At this point my own repentance is more important than anything else. Fortunately that can be done anywhere.

      • Gail Michalopulos says

        This isn’t really a response to you, Michael. As you know, the Holy Eucharist is the sacrament of unity; it unites the faithful with Christ and, yes, it has to be in a building with an alter that has the antamin. It can’t be replaced but that’s what humanists want you to think. They see the Church as negotiable; a “nice to have” but not essential. The sad thing is, many of our bishops agree with them. The laity is now, officially, a dispensable part of the Body of Christ. To prove it, they’re communing without us . . . for our “own good,” of course. – I fear for them. God will not be mocked.

      • Michael, you may have forgotten a passage in the book of Hebrews: 10 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

        • Michael Bauman says

          No, I have not forgotten but though “assemble” normally means to “gather together in one place” it can also mean “put the parts together”. While it is generally better to be together in one place on the Lord’s day, we are not limited to that. In addition, I have frequently heard my priest intone a prayer of blessing “for those absent from among us for a cause worthy of a blessing”. The bishops have given us that blessing.

          I have also had the experience of assembling with my son in prayer while he was in New Jersey and I was still here in Kansas. It was critical for him at that time that we be together in prayer. No phone lines or skype or any other modern technology was used. I was as much with him, perhaps more, than if I had been physically present with him.

          It is an overreaction to start accusing our bishops of “abandoning us” when, in this case, they are more likely trying to do their job of keeping their flock safe. I know that is certainly true of my bishop. I know his heart well. In fact when my wife and I were unable to make the Liturgy the week before the restrictions, he called us personally at home to make sure we were alright. He loves and knows his flock.

          Neither is he unwilling to go against the directives of the Metropolitan when it is necessary. Two cases in point, when Met. Philip of blessed memory, instructed priests not to wear cassocks outside the parish building, my bishop blessed all of the priests in his diocese to do it anyway if they wanted to. #2 When Met Philip decreed that the Beatitudes not be sung in the Liturgy, my bishop ignored that. I am sure there were many other such instances when he has protected us to the best of his ability–that is just who he is. So, the whole chicken little attitude does not fly with me. NOT AT ALL. In fact, I am offended by any suggestion that my bishop would even consider betraying us.

          The reality is that our interrelationship with Jesus Christ and one another is not bound by time, space or the physical. It just isn’t. We can assemble all we want no matter what any government says. IF, we make the effort. That effort begins with my own repentance ALWAYS. As the monastic saying goes: “Stay in your cell and your cell will teach you.”

          All the bitching, moaning and complaining is, frankly, unmanly and unseemly. The snowflakes keep falling on my head….

          It is an historical anomaly since the fall of Constantinople (never to rise again) that Christians in some places have been largely unencumbered in coming together. That is not normal nor should be take it for granted. Even in times of relative freedom governments have always imposed restrictions of various types on various believers.

          If you feel you must go, do it. Be prepared to accept the consequences. If you go simply out of defiance, it is unlikely you will be blessed IMO. If you go in sincere and loving response to the Holy Spirit in spite of what our bishops say, much will be added to you.

          • Estonian Slovak says

            Thank you once again, Michael, for saying what I wanted to say, but in a way which almost everyone can appreciate. Moaning and whining about bishops, clergy attire, beards(or lack thereof) won’t solve anything and won’t aid us in our salvation.
                I have been guilty of far too much complaining over the years, and looking back, it really didn’t help me.
                I mentioned before the Albanian coworker of mine. He and I agreed that complaining doesn’t clean the floor, doesn’t bake the bread, doesn’t get the job done. He put his money where his mouth is; he saved enough to open his own ultra modern hamburger place. He was able to give jobs to other of our fellow employees, who were also fed up with the way our bosses treated us. Sadly, the current crisis has him shut down. My point being, he just didn’t sit around blubbering about how things ought to, he did something to better his life and that of his family. I hope when all this is over, he can recover.

  4. Jacob Lee says

    I got a call from my priest today to come fix the Internet at the church so they could live stream. As I was leaving I had tell someone I had never seen before they could only view via live stream. The older man had a look in his eyes of pain. He was not a regular he was someone looking for hope and I had to turn him away.

    I’m more convinced than ever that it’s all a crock and a dress rehearsal for totalitarianism.  
    I have to admire the kids though.  They know bs when they hear it.  400 dead out of a population of 330 million with 23000 already dead from seasonal flu and they’re closing churches.
    This is cowardly and sick.
    “Death, where is thy sting?”
    Everyone needs to take a couple of Xanax and Chase it down with a beer (to help “activate it”) and grow a pair. The national panic attack is irrational.

  6. Jacob Lee says

    My friend from Cyprus just texted saying even the Muslims could not keep us away from Church.
    In our time of need our Bishops look like they will fail us.

  7. “The laity is part of the Church, Father. Any solution that excludes the laity is not a solution; it’s a travesty.”
    Thank you Gail. You have a gift for getting right to the point! ?

  8. Michael Bauman says

    Questions of authority to do things are ultimately meaningless. The Constitution prohibits the federal government from making any law that restricts the exercise of religion but that has been ignored for the majority of my life and no one has really raised an objection.

    State governments may or may not have, it depends on what the state constitution says, community practice in prior emergencies, etc. Not least in this respect is the willingness of the people to obey any order coupled with the state’s will to enforce it against people.

    So far, I have seen no state willing to exert the political will to enforce any of the bans. Against anyone. They certainly did not do so effectively against the spring breakers.

    Here in Kansas, alcohol has an interesting history. Cary Nation was a Kansan, the WCTU big here and we were one of the last states to approve “liquor by the drink” sometime in the late 1970’s I believe. Now, we are allowed for the first time in history to buy alcoholic drinks in a “drive through fashion”.

    Government will ALWAYS seek to control and limit expressions of faith and worship because any faith always puts the divine over the government in some fashion or other.

    Jesus Christ warned us that persecution would come, it has been a constant in the life of the Church except for a seeming respite in Western democracies. Myself, I do not think it was a respite at all, we were simply being seduced rather than locked up.

    So, as with many things, asking “if” and “is” questions is futile. I am increasingly guided by what Hamlet said to his friend prior to going into the sword fight that would end in his death:

    If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it is not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all.

    I have no idea if I am ready for persecution or not. I can only pray that, if it should come to me, the Lord will strengthen me to stand strong. Certainly I have willingly absented myself from my parish for reasons not worthy of a blessing in the past. This gives me a chance to strengthen my will to pray. It is like athletic training. That way I can be a bit more ready.

    Repent, forgive, give alms, pray, read scripture, praise God for all things, trust in His providence. The rest is simply not in our control. “Fear not, I am with you always….”

    I would hope that George and Gail and all of the readers of this blog would take a step back and realize “this kind only comes out by prayer and fasting” Perhaps even fasting from gathering together.

    My wife and I did the life stream from a mission parish that is a beautiful place to be when we can. If it were not so far away, we would go there always. It was a delight. For one thing, we were not struggling so much with the pain in our bodies.

    It is also a time of obedience. Not comparative bishop shopping or kicking against the pricks. “Going to church” is not a right and there are many ways to do it. I guarantee that one of he ways NOT to do it is seething against the government or our hierarchs based on our own will and preferences and fears.

    I am being quite polite in this post. But in case anyone misses the point. IT DOES NOT MATTER BECAUSE GOD PROVIDES TO THOSE WHO SEEK HIM.

    The rest is hooey. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

    A British teen died after testing positive for the virus…making him the YOUNGEST to die after being tested. He was just 19 years old. This is NOT an old person’s disease. It’s killing everybody.
    Had you not attended the Divine Liturgy, this young man would still be alive.
    Had you not gone camping, or played in the park, this young man would still be alive.
    You see, if only you weren’t so selfish. Make a sacrifice for your fellow, global citizen. Don’t know where to go? The drones will guide you, now, with the military escorts. Don’t worry, Netflix, pornhub and a warm plate of McDonalds are waiting for you.
    Remember, comrade, if you disobey, if you show any allegience toward faith in God while questioning the State, you will have contributed to this pandemic and charged with murder or subversion. The governor’s of Washington and New York are serious, 24601! 
    But wait.
    We did not read the full article.
    The young man did NOT actually die from the virus. He suffered unnamed “significant underlying health issues.” 
    In fact, authorities – toward the end of the article – reveal the virus didn’t impact his death AT ALL.
    We are so sorry, 24601. But this could have been you.
    Thank you for taking these ‘precautions.’

    respectfully yours,
    + Javert

  10. Alitheia 1875 says

    Please, everyone, get past the idea that the precautions being taken are part of a bigger plot to restrict religious freedom. All of this is a very big temptation coming in a time of spiritual struggle as we approach Pascha. And, if anyone thinks it’s difficult now, wait until Holy Week and Pascha services are affected.

  11. What are the exact numbers?

    “Last season (2018-2019), nearly 36 million people in the U.S. got the flu, almost 500 thousand were hospitalized, and almost 35 thousand of them died. During the 2018-2019 season, 80,000 people died of the common flu in the U.S. Is this enough to order the closure of churches from October through April every year? What are the exact numbers/percentages/trends/rates that give governors the power to suspend our right to worship as we find meaningful and not by sitting in front of a computer or television screen?”

    To get an idea of the exact numbers consider the following:

    Exact Numbers:
    The world number of Coronavirus Cases in the morning of 15th March, 2020 was about 163,000 cases.
    Eight (8) days later, in the morning of 23rd March, 2020 there were about 358800 cases, ie more than doubled in 8 days!
    The average daily increase in these 8 days was about 10.4% per day!
    Now, this is a huge increase if compounded!

    If we assume that the Coronavirus starts today with one (1) case,
    and thereafter increases by an average of 10% per day,
    we can then calculate a little table to see what happens after a number of days:

    Day____Coronavirus Cases
    0 _____ 1
    20 ____ 7
    40____ 45
    60____ 304
    80 ____ 2,048
    100____ 13,781
    120____ 92,709
    140____ 623,700
    160____ 4,195,943
    180____ 28,228,209
    200____ 189,905,276
    220____ 1,277,587,738
    240____ 8,594,971,441 (Earth popul’n exceeded)
    260____ 57,822,669,934
    280____ 389,002,009,053
    300____ 2,617,010,996,188
    320____ 17,605,941,344,242
    340____ 118,443,969,501,220
    360____ 796,831,798,817,383

    In other words, if the Coronavirus is spread at the current speed, then in less than a year it could infect a world population of thousands of times greater that of the our Earth.Of course this actual increase will be slowed down by various measures. Nevertheless the current daily increase is alarming and the various governments are trying very hard to reduce it.

    • Michael Bauman says

      One big problem with those numbers: They assume full knowledge of who had it and who didn’t in a given population at a given time. Case in point: Here in Sedgwick County Kansas the number of reported cases went up 4x over night, that was largely the result of actual testing going on.

      There was a priest in KC who sought testing early on because of his travels. It took him a week of looking before he could get it. He tested negative.

      Result: Numbers a bogus whack job only to be ignored.

      • Michael,
        you are right.
        You know, may people say,
        “I don’t want your opinion, I want to see numbers, data!”
        The above numbers are for the whole world, many countries, many systems, many precautions etc. It is a kind of a NOMINAL AVERAGE situation. So the correct numbers themselves may be smaller or larger.
        However, Michael, the important thing (please remember this only) is the DAILY PERCENTAGE OF CHANGE in these numbers (not their magnitude)!
        I am not medical and I do no say a single word about how dangerous this virus is. I am impressed by the fast growth only:
        Two days ago I wrote here that the total number of
        cases  were 358,800.
        Today they were 445,800 this morning, same time two days later.
        The total % change is 24.2%
        which works out to 11.47% average daily growth.

        This only means:

        If the average global situation (movements of people, precautions etc) remains as it now is, it is reasonable to expect that tomorrow morning at the same time the NOMINAL numbers will be like say 11% higher than today.(In my table above I have used a more conservative round number of 10% daily growth).
        Now if you accept this, then it follows from the table that:
        In 40 days from now we may have a total number of cases (not deaths) something like 45 times more  than the current situation, ie a total of some 20,000,000 people, worldwide. 
        Needless to say, the various governments will take measures to slow down this as much as possible. New medicines/vaccines will help too.
        Once more, I must make it very very clear:
        I am not saying that this virus is or isn’t dangerous.
        I am not saying that table above implies that it describes a similar situation in the US.
        It is only the total global situation as published by  

        • Gail Michalopulos says

          Ioannis, you are right. The numbers are impressive and they tell an important story.

          They tell us that regardless of the measures we employ, the vast majority of us are going to get the virus. It’s more a question of when than if.

          Worrying about it is counterproductive. Instead, we should be thinking: “Sure, I’m going to get it but because I’m bumping up my immunity by taking vitamin D3, vitamin C, zinc, selenium, etc. I have a better chance of being one of those people who not only survives, but possibly has no symptoms at all.”

          The problem with our current scenario, it that we’re disrupting the social order which is extremely stressful. People are being pushed way out of their comfort zone through isolation and being unable to congregate in familiar places. Think of “Norm” being told he can’t go to “Cheers”. (Only some of you will get this.)

          We’re changing people’s routines and humans are creatures of habit. Anyone who has run a rat lab will tell you when stressors are introduced, rats become agitated and extremely susceptible to disease (this is true of humans, too) because it dramatically lowers their immunity.

          What they should be doing is offering free supplements and incentives to high-risk groups (high-risk in terms of seriousness of illness and death) to encourage them to stay home. Tanking our economy was unnecessary and yet another HUGE stressor.

          Back in the 50s, mothers didn’t worry about diseases like the measles or chickenpox because they knew, with few exceptions, we would all get it. They were more worried about when. Mothers didn’t want their sons getting mumps in adolescence, for example. So instead of slowing things down, they sped things up. They held neighborhood parties with kids who were contagious so the rest of us could be exposed. These parties were not doom and gloom, either; they were quite festive with balloons and cake. No one felt like a bad person for spreading the disease because it was inevitable the disease would spread on it’s own, just like with the coronavirus.

          Slowing down the progression of the virus gives the authorities an opportunity to do more testing and better plan the utilization of resources. They’re going to be looking for “hot spots,” places where there are unusual clusters of people testing positive. They might send more ventilators to these areas and transport patients to other areas where the need is likely lower. When you can better plan, more people get access to the resources they need.

          However, they have no illusions about keeping the population safe from the virus, as that is impossible without a vaccine. The numbers tell us that, as well.

          So, yeah, Ioannis, I agree: the numbers are important. Really important.

          • Michael Bauman says

            Gail, the numbers tell us only one thing for sure which we have actually known all along. COVID is a serious disease that is easily communicable . That’s it.

            • George Michalopulos says

              What gives me pause is an interview with Dr Fauci that he gave last Sunday, which was broadcast on the Mark Levin show. He was very careful in his answers, first saying that the mortality rate is “about 4% at present” but that when all was said and done, it’d be reduced to “about less than 1%”.

              This stresses to me the importance of numbers.

              • Michael Bauman says

                It points out to me that in the midst of things, numbers fluctuate quite a bit and great caution needs to be taken in using them much less projecting them in some wild multi-level marketing scheme.

            • Ioannis, you may have misread the article.  We have to read these articles about coronavirus carefully.  The article you linked to does not say that social distancing does not have efficacy or that it does not help, but rather that it is not enough.  Here is a quote from the article:
              “’Asking people to stay at home and other physical distancing measures are an important way to slow down the spread of the virus and buy time, but they are defensive measures that won’t help us to win,’ Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing.”
              So we must be careful with the details.  The article, and the Director-General of the World Health Organization, do not say that social distancing is useless. To the contrary, it is “an important way to slow down the spread of the virus and buy time.”

              • Yes Blimbax, I saw it, and its continuation
                “but they are defensive measures that won’t help us to win,’ Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said” 
                I thought that was a negative thing to say, but I may be wrong.
                I must say, I was surprised by that part of the statement,
                because, I,like you, thought that it was very useful.

        • Michael Bauman says

          It is highly communicable, perhaps one of the easiest diseases to catch ever. But the only thing that matters is protect oneself and others as best I can right here, right now. Spiritually that means that I have to repent deeply and often whether or not I can participate in the full Sacrament. Control what little you can control, fast, pray, give alms and repent. The rest is up to God—His mercy and providence.

          The local “stay at home” order my local county government of the county I work in issued is a joke, literally 80% to 90% of the businesses are on the essential list with only minor or no modifications including auto sales, soft drink delivery and liquor sales and delivery. The county I live in, just south by half a mile, and my wife works in has no such order. Only the state owned casino is closed but the restaurant and bar are open for carry out.

          • Michael,

            “It is highly communicable, perhaps one of the easiest diseases to catch ever. But the only thing that matters is protect oneself and others as best I can right here, right now. Spiritually that means that I have to repent deeply and often whether or not I can participate in the full Sacrament. Control what little you can control, fast, pray, give alms and repent. The rest is up to God—His mercy and providence.”

            Very wise words!

            “It is highly communicable”
            Indeed, that’s all the matters and we need to remember and to act like you say.

            For curious people like me, the numbers do give a more precise idea,
            illustrating the huge growth difference between a week and a month.

            • Michael Bauman says

              Learned today that here in Wichita they are only resting people who present with severe symptoms.  That means that the total number of cases is understated and the death rate inflated.  My rule of thumb never trust numbers that come from mutual fund wholesalers and government bureaucrats.  

              • GSV Death and Gravity says

                Unfortunately, for the death rate to be meaningfly inflated, it would require that all deaths from COVID-19 had been from previously confirmed cases. This is certainly not the case, and there are signs of lags in death reporting of confirmed cases:

                • “Unfortunately, for the death rate to be meaningfly inflated, it would require that all deaths from COVID-19 had been from previously confirmed cases.”
                  It all depends on what you mean by ‘meaningfully’.
                  Here is the advice given to a doctor friend in Glasgow:
                  “Today I received a letter from authorities about the changes in death certification from now on. There are several changes that I don’t want to go through in detail.  The bottom line is that from now on, everyone who dies with any other reason but had cough and fever as well, will be labelled as COVID 19 related death! Anyone with suspected but not confirmed disease will also be reported as COVID 19 death, and furthermore, if I don’t have a foggiest why a person died, I am demanded to put COVID 19 as a suspected cause of death!”
                  This is politics (and probably money too). It is not medicine. It is in somebody’s interest to have as high a COVID 19 recorded death rate as possible.
                  Why? To panic the public and politicians? To keep the economy screwed down for as long as possible?
                  Somebody is making a bid for power (and/or money). The question is: who?
                  Who wants the public frightened? Who wants the economy trashed? Who stands to gain?
                  Do these instructions emanate from the Glasgow Health Board? The Scottish Government? From London?
                  There is an intelligence behind this, I think – and not a benign one.

                  • Gail Michalopulos says

                    If this is true, it’s terrifying! Any chance you could get the new regulations from that doctor, Brendan?

                    • I will ask  but I must protect her position.
                      However, here’s a thought: If “everyone who dies with any other reason but had cough and fever as well, will be labelled as COVID 19 related death”, then everyone who dies of the flu (ie: the real influenza virus) will be labelled as a COVID 19 related fatality. Compared to Rutherglen just up the road, Glasgow will be made to look like a plague spot.

                    • Gail Michalopulos says

                      Absolutely. I was just thinking we could get a copy of the regulation without anyone’s name on it. If this physician has it, all physicians would have it so no one could be identified.

                    • Gail Michalopulos says

                      You might find this interesting, Brendan:

                      My father died in 2016. He went into the hospital with what appeared to be pneumonia. They tested him for pneumonia and every other possible bacterial infection and it wasn’t any of them. They then tested him for every virus. It wasn’t a virus either.

                      I talked with an old friend of his and learned that he had had a sister named Tilly who died at age 21 of TB. He never told us that. He was the one who went up to the sanitorium to get her body. Then, he and another sister who came to the southwest with him “to improve their breathing,” according to his old friend. He also had something called pulmonary fibrosis. My family knew known of this.

                      Interestingly, pulmonary fibrosis in its last stages can put someone into active TB status. I think my dad died of TB because when I called the hospital that was one thing they didn’t test him for because he was not in a high risk group.

                      My point: They put he died of pneumonia on his death certificate so I guess they can put anything they want to on something that is supposed to be an official record, even when they know it’s not true. Better that, than have County health officials jumping down the hospital’s throat for not having him in isolation. No telling how many people he may have infected. I contacted the hospital with what I knew but they changed nothing.

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      What Brendan cites is a classic example if politicized medicine/science.

                    • Can’t get the letter, sorry. However these rules do not apply in Lothian or Lanarkshire. I shall try to dig out further information

                    • Gail Michalopulos says

                      Thanks, Brendan.

                • Further to my post, the new reporting rules are not being used in Lanarkshire, where absolute accuracy is demanded. So, it seems Glasgow has a problem.

                • Michael Bauman says

                  GVS, I had not thought of that point. Still the numbers will always be sketchy in the midst of things.

              • Michael,
                “they are only resting people who present with severe symptoms”.
                In fact this points to a realistic alternative and ultimate scenario:
                The vast majority of populations will be infected with Covid19.
                At some stage if the % is very(?) high, then social distancing will have no meaning and will be terminated. So practically all of us will have the virus and will carry on as “normal life”. 
                Those with severe symptoms will be treated  symptomatically. Period.
                “My rule of thumb never trust numbers that come from mutual fund wholesalers and government bureaucrats”.  

                Very,very true Michael.
                Yet, there is a subtle point:
                These people can easily falsify absolute values, but not as easily the trend in these values. Example:
                They can easily say e.g. Total cases = 500,000 instead of the correct one say 1,000,000.
                But the cannot go on saying that there is an average  growth of 1% instead of say 10%. This will soon lead to enormous distortion of the absolute values, and they cannot justify this.
                Thus, the daily growth  is really the main thing that “worries” me.
                Enter Christ.
                All this is for our chastening/salvation  

  12. Fr. Christopher says

    A tiny correction, but significant:
    Fr. Sergei is A staff chaplain for the DoJ, not THE staff chaplain for the DoJ.
    Fr Christopher 

  13. It certainly is a test. It’s a test of faith. Liturgy is a three dimensional experience where we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ for the healing of both soul and body…not a two dimensional experience to be watched on a television screen as we self-quarantine. Yes…it is a test of faith. And many of our hierarchs have failed us. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

    • Mikhail,
      talking about dimensions, I think you could add a 4th one:
      Thus 3 geographical dimensions
      plus the spiritual one, leading to Heaven, the presence of Christ and the connection with Him:
      “Let us who represent the cherubim mystically and who sing with them the thrice holy hymn…”

  14. Sage-Girl says

    Just heard from Orthodox friend that our Patriarch Bartholomew has Cancelled trip to NYC due to having Leukemia…
    pray for healing…
    I wonder if Archbishop Elpidoforos will end up as new Patriarch ?

    • He has been groomed to be the next Patriarch for a long time. The fact that he is the author of  ” first without equal” is very disturbing because he will be the EP one day.

    • Not a huge fan of Patriarch Bartholomew for obvious reasons but I pray to God that he gets better. And really, really hope he does not get COVID on top of Leukemia, Lord have Mercy. May God grant him life, peace, health, salvation and pardon and remission of sins  

      • Menas,
        “I pray to God that he gets better” in body and mind, and that he does not leave an ecclesiastical  chaos behind.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Amen, we should pray for his healing.

  15. Apparently President Trump wants to relax social restrictions soon. Maybe we’ll see the churches opening up again sooner than expected:

  16. Someone has faith. He says that the church is a hospital and the Holy Spirit can cure disease. He is passing around anointed handkerchiefs to help with sickness and fear. The parishioners are touching each other.  In an interview, he nicely encouraged other church not to be afraid of persecution. He also correctly noted that there are more people milling around in Target than in his church, and then there is the first amendment.  The governor is doing double talk about sending the National Guard to break up his services, but if he is arrested, he will probably gladly preach to those in prison. 
    He also commented that planned parenthood is not closed: “There is a real virus, but we’re not closing Planned Parenthood, where babies are being murdered,” he said. “If they close those doors today, we’d save more lives than will be taken by the coronavirus.”

  17. Gail Michalopulos says

    I just received the following daily news brief from the New York Times. Is it any wonder they’re going to resurrect thalidomide, a failed drug from the 50s so they can “study” it? Guess they’re none to happy about the potential of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine saving lives. They’ve got to scare us into thinking it’s going to cause us to sprout another head. At this point, being right is more important than saving lives. For if they allow us to avert their dire predictions by actually saving people, how can they hope to control us in the future?


    Good morning.

    We’re covering Congress’s talks on a massive economic stabilization package to address the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak and taking a state-by-state look at stay-at-home measures. We also examine the legacy of thalidomide and its role in modern U.S. drug safety laws.

  18. I have a modest question.  Off and on there has been discussion on this blog about whether the Sacraments are filled with Grace when administered by schismatics who have not been properly ordained.  Much of this discussion centered on the Ukrainian schismatics.
    Some illustrations.  Misha wrote, ““I personally am finished with Constantinople. The case should be made by all that they have voluntarily left the Church and their mysteries lack grace.”
    George Michalopoulos: “And at that point, the divine mysteries performed by those clergymen will be without grace.”
    Others have posted similar views, that a baptism, for instance, is not valid if done by someone not properly ordained.  I assume that those who take the general position that the Sacraments must be administered by someone who is properly ordained would apply that position to the Sacrament of Communion.
    More recently, the subject of the Eucharist has come up in the context of state recommendations and orders that people  not congregate in large numbers, and these recommendations and orders have been applied to churches.  In response, some people commenting on this blog have expressed the view that the Eucharist cannot harm someone.  In other words, one cannot become infected as a result of receiving Communion.
    For example, Gail recently quoted Bishop Clement Vecherya of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP) as follows: “From the Holy Gifts, the believing person cannot become infected.”  Ioannis wrote, “Holy Communion is literally Holy and not contagious.”  Similarly, Nicole wrote, “Never in the history of Orthodox Christianity has anyone sickened from Holy Communion because it is the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ and can only make us healthy and well.”
    My question is this: Assuming that Communion administered by a properly ordained Orthodox priest cannot make someone ill, what do people believe about the situation where a person who is not properly ordained, or who was never ordained at all, purports to administer the Eucharist.  Under that circumstance, could one become infected?

    • Gail Michalopulos says

      As I understand it, if one follows their bishop, they are spared the consequences of his poor decisions. The bishop of the schematics is not Epiphany, as he isn’t even a bishop. He was not ordained in the Church. Bartholomew is their bishop. If any sickness is to be had, in body or in spirit, it will fall on him.

      I suspect, in God’s mercy, the eucharist (small “e”) celebrated by the innocent in that group is devoid of its power either way, i.e. just bread and wine. The same is not true for Bartholomew, however. As an ordained bishop, when he takes the Eucharist with this group it has real power. . . and real consequences, some of which we’re seeing in real time.

      I should add that we need to pray for him.

      • George Michalopulos says

        That’s an interesting (and perceptive) way of viewing this, Gail. Quite correct if I may say so myself.

        And yes, we do need to pray for the EP.

    • blimbax,
      “what do people believe about the situation where a person who is not properly ordained, or who was never ordained at all, purports to administer the Eucharist. Under that circumstance, could one become infected?”

      I have heard the following justification, but I am not sure whether it applies to our case:

      “He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward”. (Matthew 10:41).

      If it does apply, it means that if you receive communion in a church and you do not know that the specific priest is not properly obtained, then by God’s economia/justice YOU still get a real communion.
      BUT another person who does know the truth about the priest, HE is not getting the blood and body of Christ. 

      A contribution from an expert on Matthew 10:41 is welcome.

      • That’s an interesting response, Ioannis, but it doesn’t really address the question directly.  The question is, can one get infected from receiving Communion from an improperly ordained priest.
        But taking what you’ve said (and I realize you are positing it as a possibility and not as something you necessarily believe), then in the case of two people who receive Communion, one right after the other, one would not be receiving “real” communion but the other one would, depending on what each one knew of the truth about the priest.
        Would it then follow, at least from the perspective of whether receiving communion exposes the recipient to disease, that one of the two hypothetical recipients could become infected but not the other?
        Obviously, my question is addressed to those who take the position that (a) one cannot get sick from taking communion and (b) that only communion received from a properly ordained priest (or, to include the scenario you describe, from one whom one believes to be properly ordained) is filled with Grace.

        • Blimbax,
          You are correct. This is really a borderline thing. Remember, as Orthodox, we want to be exact on the center, not to the right, not to the left.
          When you receive a holy sacrament from an unknown priest or bishop, you do it in good faith that the clergyman is a real one. As explained to me by one theologian, as I understood it to be tacitly implied , it is a kind of justice from the part of God  to protect you.
          Again, we probably need a theologian to explain it to us.
          I think, until then, I am inclined to think that it is a valid point.
          In THAT CASE, the two consecutive communicants you mentioned will receive two different things. One the holy body and blood of Christ, the other one will receive just bread and wine. This is as much as my poor mind can think.

          BTW, do not forget that he whor receives holy communion unworthily will be punished by God.

          I’ll do my best to try to find a relative commentary by St.J.Chrysostom.

          • Ioannis, you  may have misunderstood me.  I am only asking a question about how people who believe the Sacraments have no Grace if administered by some not properly ordained view the possibility of infection in that circumstance.  I have  taken no position nor have I reached any conclusions that would be either correct or incorrect.

      • Michael Bauman says

        My experience is small, not related to communion or the sacraments but…if you go to a clergyman in faith and call on Jesus Christ through that man, He will come. It can have some interesting consequences for the clergyman if they are not in a proper place.

        The Bible also tells us to confess our sins to one another. Repentance/forgiveness is always available 24/7 whenever and wherever. Good to go to a priest and offer it up later so that the absolution is sealed.

  19. Fr Andrew says

    To know how the Holy Church has acted in the past in similar situation please read Eusebius’ Church history. Book VII chapter 22.  This should clear things up.  We the Holy Church celebrate the Liturgy,  attend to the sick and dying and we honor and care for the dead.

    • Thank you Father. I had forgotten I had this book and so I found the passage that you indicated. I pray that our bishops might read this. It seems as if many of them are doing the opposite and following the example of the heathen. 
      Lord have mercy!

  20. Johann Sebastian says

    Yes, we must observe all the necessary sanitary rules, in no case ignoring them, as do people who are malicious but call themselves believers, saying: “Where is our faith if we fear an infection?” One wise man, responding to this absurdity, said: “So will you go cross yourself and jump from the fifth floor? Then why do you push people, by invoking faith, to break the rules that must be followed?”

  21. Not sure if this was posted here, yet. But…those who intentionally spread the ‘virus’ (I’m sure the globalists are exempt) could be charged as terrorists.
    Under the present – or not too distant future – rulers, this could see significant numbers of Christians, and Orthodox clergy specifically, charged as terrorists for communing the faithful, keeping parishes open, gathering in public, etc:


  22. Covid-19: An excuse to ban the Roman Catholic fast(whatever’s left of it).
    Cardinal O’Malley of Boston just exempted his flock from abstaining from meat on the remaining Fridays in Lent because of the threat posed by the coronavirus. I wonder if his good friend Metropolitan Methodios will issue a similar decree. They both read the gospel in each other’s Easter/Pascha services. L/COL. (C=crying)

  23. I understand that in Sweden it is business as usual. All schools, shops, restaurants etc are operating as normal. I expect that is a sufficiently large sample size (ten million or so) to determine the real nature of the threat.

  24. Article by Olga Tsviliy:
    ‘ Religious communities of the UOC receive a communiqué from the National Police of Ukraine demanding to follow the order of the Phanar’s head on quarantine.

    On March 27, 2020, the head of the Synodal Legal Department of the UOC, Archpriest Alexander Bakhov commented on the requirements of the National Police of Ukraine to comply with the decision of Patriarch of Bartholomew of Constantinople, who ordered to suspend services during the coronavirus quarantine.
    “In their messages, the National Police, in particular, note: <…> we ask you to comply with the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as set out in the Communiqué of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of 18.03.2020, which says about the suspension of all divine liturgies, church events and rites in all its dioceses around the world to preserve the health and safety of the faithful of the UOC-MP,” reports the website of the UOC Legal Department.
    In response, Archpriest Alexander Bakhov recalled that the Church is separate from the state, which means that no state authorities have the right to interfere in its internal life.
    “According to the Constitution of Ukraine, the Church is still separated from the state. And neither the police nor any other public authority has the right to interfere in its internal affairs, let alone disseminate the decisions of an official of the Turkish Republic,” stressed the head of the UOC Legal Department… ‘

  25. “They tell us to go to the store for groceries, go to the pharmacy
    for medicines. Isn’t the meeting with God a vital need?”

    • Ah, you point out the crux of the problem. 

      Most modern secular westerners – particularly our cultural and political “elite” – have no need for God or Christ and have completely forgotten Him. Hence, to them, of course Christ is not a necessity!
      Also, their framework comes out of a Protestant history, where God can be “encountered” on a hill by oneself in the middle of nowhere, where churches and priests and sacraments are worthless and where people make God and Christ into who they want Him to be. For the non-sacramentalist, churches are completely unnecessary at this time, or at any time. 

      It’s not an accident that historically Orthodox people would interpret what’s “necessary to live” very differently than a post-Protestant culture.

      It can be tough for us as Orthodox living in a post-Protestant culture, but God and Christ are here regardless — of that we’re certain. 

      • FTS, yes the atheists and modernists  want to separate us from God but in vain. 
        They could take similar measures as applicable in grocery stores but they didn’t.  They do not want. But even if they destroy the church buildings (as in communist Russia) they cannot separate us from God.
        St. Anthony the Great, lived alone on a mountain for 70(!) years but God was with him, and he even cured people by making the sign of Cross.
        Corona will enable us to understand who are the real Bishops (and not “background actors” as Fr. George Metallinos used to say)

      • Thomas S. says

        Everything you say is generally true but the Greeks in actual Greece have also closed their churches, even though there is much dissension among the laity (and some clergy).  Most of the US Orthodox jurisdictions folded to the authorities without batting an eye – that is what truly scares me.

        • Thomas,
          ” but the Greeks in actual Greece have also closed their churches”

          That is NOT TRUE!
          The Government of Greece have done this.
          And the key members of the government are obedient members of Bilderberg.

    • I listened a few times to Mr Taksiur talks on Internet. Then I was not able to do it anymore. He was too stringent, suspicious and depressing. Below is an excerpt.
      “All the 2000 years of the Orthodox Church’s existence, Her parishioners have been trying to be law-abiding, but there are things refusing from which is tantamount to betrayal towards God for a Christian, noted journalist Yan Taksiur … “The Church comes into its own, i.e. functions as the Church only when there is a congregation of believers. If there is no live assembly of people, then there is no Church,”
      Wrong, the Church does not cease to exist when there is no Liturgy.

      • Gail Michalopulos says

        Curious, Martin. What defines the Church to you? What is the one thing, that if it were missing, would make you say, “Nope, this isn’t Orthodox. Without this, there is no Church . . .”?

        • Gail Michalopulos:  “Curious, Martin. What defines the Church to you?”
          You ask a difficult question. Maybe I will give a comprehensive answer later.
          But I think that everyone who is baptized and chrismated and has correct faith, did partake of Holy Communion and loves God is in the Church. When you leave the church building after Liturgy you are not leaving the Church.
          Also when I pray with my family or even alone, the Church is still with me. The hermit saints who spend months or even years alone, were still part of the Church.
          This is my opinion, perhaps I am mistaken in some point. I will have to think more.

          • Joseph Lipper says

            The patron saint of North America, St. Herman of Alaska, most likely went to communion very rarely as a hermit on Spruce Island.  Most times of the year, Spruce Island is not accessible even by boat.  Yet he still lived a life in constant communion with God and the Church.   Because of his life of prayer, and aided by his separation from the world, that communion always existed in his heart.

        • Michael Bauman says

          Gail, I am in full agreement with Martin. Jesus says “Where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” One might ask about hermits, but many Orthodox hermits are not alone. The angels, the saints, the Theotokos, etc.

          Actually, I was thinking of an old 1950’s Protestant promo for Sunday gatherings at drive-in movies: “Come as you are and pray in your car.” Live-streaming plus live action.

          Communion could even be distributed without violating any social distancing rules.

          My son is not a gregarious person. Really likes to be by himself most of the time and has been criticized for that. He commented the other day that the behavior he used to be criticized for is now considered a virtue.

          I find it a little unseemly that Orthodox folks seem to be panicking over not being able to carry on as normal. What does this say about us if we were to actually experience an overt persecution? Nothing good, IMO.

          We do not deserve the Body and Blood you know. It is not a “right” and entitlement just because we have been cleansed and anointed. OH, and had the Holy Spirit SEALED in us.

          That means no matter what, the Holy Spirit is with us, closer than hands and feet.

          I am by no means presenting an “invisible church” argument here but just some patience and mercy. The physicality of the Orthodox Church is vital and real but it is not the whole story.

          There is a story I have heard about Christians in China when persecution was really high and they were not allowed to meet at all and all normal communication between them monitored there would be spontaneous meetings at places where folks were internally directed to go.

          I really think this time calls for meekness–real Christian meekness in deep submission to Our Lord’s love and mercy. “Fear not, I am with you always”

          Meekness is not something that comes easily to me. Most of my life it has been a virtue, if I considered it a virtue at all, for others to live. Jesus in the Temple was more my style, I thought. Now, I find it gently, quietly, almost stealthily creeping into and around my heart. With it, it seems, comes a strength, a vitality and a peace that I have seldom experienced. It is not a passivity. Far from it.

          There are two common responses when people feel out of control and threatened: Fight or flight. But what happens when neither really works? Meekness seems to be the answer. Holy meekness in which both human, bodily options are surrendered to God in thanksgiving. I could not be more surprised that such a solution seems to be invading my heart.

          Anyway, we need to pray for each other. No one wants this cup, but we have it.

          I keep remembering the face of St. Sophrony in a picture of him sitting in a chair in a garden. Full of joy, and life and so much light.

          God is with us.

          • Gail Michalopulos says

            Michael, it’s not the barring of physical bodies from the building during a plague that bothers me and it has nothing to do with the inner life of an Orthodox Christian.

            It’s the mysteries, the very essence of what it means to be united with God and the Body of Christ, being relegated to an inessential; a “nice to have”.

            Liturgy is the very foundation of being Orthodox and you cannot have liturgy without the Body of Christ. Otherwise it’s a mock service. Why are they doing them? Perhaps because they don’t want to be challenged by some other jurisdiction that they have no presence within a region, with all the piracy going on. Or maybe it’s because they have to do them to protect their 501c3 status. I don’t know. But I know this: There is no Tradition of having liturgy without the Body of Christ. So when they say that, it simply isn’t true and it’s disappointing.

            • Michael Bauman says

              Well, when I was no allowed to partake of the cup I still participated in Liturgy,  it is still going on, still being celebrated. Ever seen the icon of the inexhaustible cup?  
              Instead of praying the communion hymn I prayed Psalm 50.  
              I pray, that like St. Mary of Egypt, I be granted the grace to partake fully of it again before my bodily death but that is not up to me.  
              In the meantime I can still give alms, repent and confess.  Maybe by the time I can physically partake again, by God’s grace, I will actually be prepared to receive. 

              • Gail Michalopulos says

                Again, we’re not talking about the internal life of a single Christian and God is not going to fault anyone for being obedient to their bishop. This isn’t about anything the laity has done wrong.

                I can’t argue with you about how you feel or what you do, Michael. I’m surprised you mentioned that you are still able to confess, but that’s good if your priest is still willing to meet you face-to-face.

                One can be repentant and stand up for what the Church teaches. One can give alms and stand up for what the Church teaches. One can confess and stand up for what the Church teaches. One can even discern certain practices are inconsistent with the teachings of the Church without being guilty of judging another man’s heart. These things are not mutually exclusive.

                However: It is a fact that the Eucharist is the center of life in the Orthodox Church. It is a fact that the Church teaches that the liturgy requires the presence of the Body of Christ. It is a fact that the purpose of partaking is to unite the Body to one another and to God.

                And it is also a fact that we’re not being allowed to do that.

  26. Amen.

  27. Here is the official monitoring site for excess mortality in Europe:
    Check out the maps and graphs, particularly the pooled rates over the past few years and cmpare the current excess mortality spike (so far) with the spikes in recent flu seasons. The only rational conclusion can be that shutting down the economy for this is insane – or evil.

    • PS: ‘There have been NO proven infections while shopping or at the hairdressers’: German scientist casts doubt on how coronavirus is spread – as experts comb ‘Germany’s Wuhan’ for secrets about bug’
      Hendrick Streeck is a professor of virology.
      Perhaps he know whereof he speaks.

      • PPS: If going shopping or to the hairdresser is safe, so is going to Church

        • Johann Sebastian says

          Going shopping and to the hairdresser are categorically not safe. Grocery trips should be as infrequent as possible with minimal time spent in the store, with as few people accompanying as possible.
          Going to the hairdresser is…inexcusable right now.

      • Tim R. Mortiss says

        How could you possibly ‘prove’ a given infection arose from a trip to the hairdresser’s?
        Such an assertion is meaningless. You couldn’t ‘prove’ a given infection arose from a visit to my local grocery store…
        One week the doctors in our parish, including an infectious disease specialist of high reputation, were saying just wash your hands a lot, use sanitizer, and maybe we should pass on coffee hour. Less than a week later, it was nobody under 60 at church, and only 40 at worship at a time, widely spaced. Then days later…the rest.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          Hairdressers have their hands in water every hour. They are probably the least likely to pass on the virus.

          • Gail Sheppard: “Hairdressers have their hands in water every hour. They are probably the least likely to pass on the virus.”
            It does not work this way. Washing removes viruses from the hands, but these viruses also move by air in little droplets. Sneezing, coughing and even talking is sufficient in close contact between two people. That is why distancing is essential.

          • GSV Death and Gravity says

            They are an ideal vector because they have to be in close physical proximity. Washing hands is irrelevant if you are inhaling or exhaling microdroplets containing the virus. In an extreme example it ends up like this:

          • Joseph Lipper says

            Perhaps assuming they also wear a mask so as to contain vapor from their mouth and nose, and also maintain a six foot distance away while cutting hair .   Hey, does anyone remember the Flowbee?  One of the greatest inventions ever.

  28. I will add one thing. In this Gospel passage, there is a detail, I missed before:
    “Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple”
    The Temple is mentioned and the holy place.

  29. “COVID-19: An Excuse to Ban Religious Freedom?”

    All the atheist academics, journalists, politicians and ‘opinion-formers’ in the comfortable post-history, post-Christianity bubble, from which they had ejected (so they thought) God, are now face to face with their own mortality.
    Their response is panic. Blind panic:
    “Shut the shops! Shut the economy! Shut down society! Get away from me!”
    And what do the bishops do? They panic too – and shut the churches…

    • True, and very sad at that.
      God forgive me for saying this, but it seems to me that the majority of Orthodox bishops nowadays are bishops in title only, lacking the necessary charismata of the office.

      • Basil, 

         “it seems to me that the majority of Orthodox bishops nowadays are bishops in title only, lacking the necessary charismata of the office”.

        This is the sad truth and there is explanation for it.
        Firstly, Ours is a generation of sinners, and bishops are “flesh from our flesh”.
        Secondly, the office of the Bishop has a very dangerous Enemy, the Glory of the Bishop.
        If you read the Fathers, you come to the conclusion that the ideal Bishop is the one who honestly did not want himself to become a Bishop!
        One of the Fathers has wisely said: “He who does everything to become Bishop, will then do everything to remain a Bishop”
        Look around you in Greece, and probably in your country: 
        Most of the single priests have one big dream: Become Bishops!  

        • Very true. One of the holy elders on Athos said that the reason we don’t have good spiritual father snow is because there’s no good spiritual children. We have few good bishops now because there’s few good Christians.

          • George Michalopulos says

            Amen. I place myself in the latter category by the way. We get the bishops we deserve.

            • Michael Bauman says

              George, His Grace Bishop Basil of Wichita and Mid-America (Antiochian) always says his job is easy because of the faithfulness of his people. He says that without any irony or guile.   
              He would not like me giving him compliments nor did he have any desire to be a Bishop.  That is the key, I think. Disqualify anyone who has ever expressed his desire to be a Bishop.  
              I kinda think it works both ways.  

              • Michael,
                your last sentences agree more or less with what St.J.Chrysostom has said. 

                • Michael Bauman says

                  Ioannis, if you are correct I am in good company. My observation is simply from observing the integrity of my own Bishop who serves solely out obedience.  The fact that he is a bishop at all is a bit of a miracle and a consternation to him.  He is a good Shepard.  

                  • Glory to Thee, O Lord, glory to Thee!

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Indeed. I have had the honor and privilege of meeting His Grace and I just can’t say enough about him. Would that we had ten more like him in the U.S. We’d be well on our way to baptizing this nation.

  30. Department of Do as I Say, Not as I Do:
    Coronavirus Scotland: Fury as Scots chief medic Catherine Calderwood flouts own Covid-19 lockdown rule visiting 2nd home

    • The elites are flouting the rules because they know that the whole situation is media-manufactured panic and bunk, something they encouraged so that they could get away with their little power grab.

      • Steven J. M. says

        Speaking of power grabs – or at least the things which indicate that this is exactly what it is – a commentator I listen to put it well:
        Regarding an old couple in England, who were in the middle of nowhere, taking a walk, there’s footage of a drone flying over their heads, shaming them for not being at home. Said commentator noticed that this drone action had nothing whatsoever to do with social distancing – seeing as the ‘middle of nowhere stroll’ was a golden example of it – but everything to do with psychological warfare. 

      • GSV Death and Gravity says

        The Prime Minister of the UK is in intensive care. I’ve noticed you tend to respond to sober posts with such reasoned and substantive responses such as “ok boomer”, so let me break it down for you as a “meme” you may understand:

      • I have no doubt there is a virus that causes death in lots of people.
        (and Boris is in intensive care), But then, so does influenza;
        and we have never shut the churches and the economy for that.
        Equally, I have no doubt there is a power grab going on too.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          Don’t you think, saunca, that if THE ENTIRE WORLD AND EVERY MEMBER OF ITS SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY was thrown by the numbers between April 6th and now, maybe, just maybe, the people here might have characterize things a little differently in hindsight, too? I think we now all know this thing is not the flu.

          What I think is amazing is that Brendon was more right that THEY were! 2M people in the United States will NOT be dead by summer, thank God. They grossly overestimated the impact on the greater part of the United States.

          • ROU Killing Time says

            No, every member of the scientific community was not “thrown by the numbers” in April. Health experts were warning in March what was to come. I relayed some of that here in March. April was not a surprise. And the only reason things aren’t even worse now is due to measures that were being branded on here as hysteria.
            Projections of millions of deaths was a worst-case scenario in the event literally nothing was done to mitigate the epidemic. Obviously that was never going to be the case.
            But COVID-19 is going to be killing Americans all through 2020, the number remains to be seen.

            • Gail Sheppard says

              One of the problems with rotating your comments under different names, is that no one can go back and see what you said or when. I do recall you erring on the side of the most dire of predictions.

              I think it’s safe to say that this virus is going to keep on killing some Americans until (1) there is a vaccine or until (2) we have enough herd immunity for it to peter out on its own, whichever comes first.

              • Gail Sheppard says

                Here is what I think we’re going see now that we’re able to do serology testing. LA County is the largest county in the United States, as well as the most populous.


                L.A. County Study: Coronavirus Outbreak Up to 55 Times More Widespread, Less Deadly than Predicted

                The novel coronavirus has infected roughly 4.1 percent of the population in California’s Los Angeles County, suggesting the region’s outbreak is far more widespread than previously thought, between 28 and 55 times higher than the number of confirmed cases, new research shows, echoing the findings of a similar study elsewhere in the state.

                However, the new data, if accurate, also indicates that the coronavirus death rate in L.A. County, the most populous in the country, is lower than initially predicted.

                Researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) and the L.A. Department of Public Health gleaned the data from antibody testing of about 863 county residents. Antibodies are an indication that an individual’s immune system has responded to a past infection.

                USC and the health department released preliminary study results that found that roughly 4.1% of the county’s adult population has antibodies to the coronavirus, estimating that between 221,000 adults to 442,000 adults in the county have had the infection.

                This new estimate is 28 to 55 times higher than the 7,994 confirmed cases of Covid-19 [coronavirus illness] reported to the county in early April. The number of coronavirus-related deaths in the county has now surpassed 600, according to the Department of Public Health. The data, if correct, would mean that the county’s fatality rate is lower than originally thought.

                If accurate, the top end of the estimated number of L.A. County residents who may have contracted the virus would amount to more than half (56 percent) of the total number of cases in the United States, while the lower range would equal to about 30 percent of the overall number in America.

                Stanford University researchers who looked at California’s Santa Clara County, much less populated than its L.A. counterpart, reached similar conclusions, finding that the coronavirus outbreak may be more widespread but less deadly than originally estimated.

                The Stanford University researchers found that between 2.5 percent and 4.2 percent of county residents had antibodies to the coronavirus by early April, the Los Angeles Times reported on Friday, adding:

                Though the county had reported roughly 1,000 cases in early April, the Stanford researchers estimate the actual number was between 48,000 and 81,000, or 50 to 85 times greater.

                Based on their results, the Stanford researchers estimated the mortality rate in Santa Clara County to be between 0.12% and 0.2%. By comparison, the average death rate of the seasonal flu is 0.1%.

                The findings of both the L.A. and Santa Clara studies echo the results of other assessments.

                Earlier this month, the Economist magazine cited a new study that found the fatal and highly contagious novel coronavirus has spread faster but is less deadly than official data imply.

                The coronavirus mortality rate could be as low as 0.1 percent, “similar to that of flu,” the researchers cited by the Economist found, noting that the faster the disease spreads and hits its peak, the fewer people will die.

                In early March, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House Coronavirus Taskforce, predicted a much higher death rate for the United States, saying it could reach two percent.

                CNBC quoted Dr. Paul Simon, the chief science officer at L.A. County Department of Public Health and co-lead on the study, as saying in a statement:

                Though the results indicate a lower risk of death among those with infection than was previously thought, the number of Covid-related deaths each day continues to mount, highlighting the need for continued vigorous prevention and control efforts.

                USC Professor Dr. Neeraj Sood, who led the L.A. County study, added that the new findings suggest:

                …many more people in L.A. County could potentially be infected and as those number of infections rise, so will the number of deaths, the number of hospitalizations and the number of ICU [Intensive Care Unit] admissions.

                Dr. Stephen Hahn, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chief, told Breitbart News early this month that his agency is working with private industry leaders to bring more antibody testing to the American public.

                Last Friday, Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, told reporters that the FDA had approved three antibody tests, adding that they are currently being used for first responders and health care workers to see how they performed in the field.

                “We are taking that very seriously because you never want to tell someone they have an antibody and potential immunity when they don’t,” she said.

                Asked about L.A. County study’s findings, Dr. Birx warned reporters on Monday, “These [antibodies] tests are not 100 percent sensitive or specific,” adding:

                If you have one percent of your population infected and you have a test that’s only 99 percent specific that means that when you find a positive, 50 percent of the time will be a real positive, and 50 percent it won’t be. And that’s why we’re really asking people to start testing in among the first responders and the health care workers who may have had the greatest exposures because that’s where the tests will be most reliable and then when we have the luxury we can go out to broader and broader communities.

                Global health officials have also reportedly cautioned that antibody testing may not be able to accurately determine if a person has any immunity to the coronavirus.


                • ROU Killing Time says

                  Serology studies are going to be very important, but there are a ton of caveats and cautions. The article you pasted mentioned some of the issues. 
                  This, for example, was a more detailed look at some red flags with the Stanford pre-print:
                  It would be fantastic if the actual ratio of cases to confirmed cases was 50:1. From the discussions I’ve seen that is still rather unlikely. 10:1 very plausible, but a ratio of 20:1 is probably the upper bound. Again, it would be fabulous if this is wrong, especially since the higher the R0, the more people need to have been infected for a concept of herd immunity, but enthusiasm is premature. On top of that we still have no clue what quality or duration of immunity fighting off an infection bestows yet.
                  Realistically a looking back year from now, with what is currently known, these estimations are probably going to hold up pretty well:
                  COVID-19 will have a fatality rate roughly 10x a typical influenza. The unmitigated R0 3x as contagious. And asymptomatic/presymptomatic people can spread it. The combination of these factors plus the lack of an even partial vaccine (ala the flu) means that it can kill many, many more people than a typical influenza.
                  On one hand, it seems as if a huge percentage of cases never develop symptoms. On the other hand, we are starting to find that some people who do contract it end up with serious organ damage.

  31. Monk James Silver says
    Today, Monday, April 6, 2020, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon addressed a message to clergy, monastics and the faithful of the Orthodox Church in America.
    Address of His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon To the Orthodox Church in America

    April 6, 2020
    My beloved children,
    I pray that each of you is keeping physically healthy and is managing to stay spiritually and emotionally strong during these unusual and uncertain times.
    On this fifth Sunday of Great Lent, I offer to you a brief word as your primate and father in Christ.
    Above all, I encourage you not to dwell on the many “why?” questions but rather to discern in your hearts the “how?” of our present situation.
    As He hung upon the Cross, our Lord Jesus Christ did indeed cry out to the Father: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” But if we pull back from that one moment of agony and observe the whole of our Lord’s Passion, we will see that, in so many ways, He is showing us “how,” that is, giving all of humanity the example of sincere obedience, of extreme humility, and of divine love. He is showing us how to receive the great gift of life everlasting and how to change our own lives through that gift.
    How, then, can we best approach the present circumstances we find ourselves in?
    I myself have been wrestling with this difficult task of shifting my thinking from “why” to “how.” In the past 21 days, I have not celebrated any divine services nor have I been able to attend a live service or receive Holy Communion.
    I voluntarily placed myself in quarantine at the Chancery because of the strong possibility that, on several occasions, I may have been exposed to the virus. Although by your prayers I am in good health, I remain in quarantine out of obedience to the civil directive that all travellers from the State of New York must quarantine themselves.
    Now I find myself at the Saint Arsenius Skete of the monastery of Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk, yet still unable to pray in person with my brothers. I am grateful for their prayers and for their daily delivery of food, which they carefully place outside my door.
    Like many of you, my life has become a series of “zoom” meetings on the one hand, and periods of complete isolation on the other. These have been both difficult and inspiring.
    Over the past few weeks, I have electronically interacted with close to 200 individuals. I have met twice with the entire Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America, once with the Chancellors of our dioceses, and three times with the members of the Executive Committee of the Assembly of Bishops.
    Together with my brother bishops, we have consulted with our clergy, with physicians and medical professionals, with ethical experts, and legal consultants. I have participated in daily briefings with my chancellor and my personal secretary and Archdeacon, as well as with other Chancery staff.
    All of us, together, have reviewed the pastoral and liturgical implications of the path that lies before us. During this process, the Holy Synod has carefully listened, prayerfully considered, and extensively discussed the various options, and has provided a series of directives which are available on the Coronavirus Resource page on our website.
    In addition to the Church-wide directives, each bishop has provided further direction to his diocese. None of us finds joy in rendering such directives and I suspect that none of you is thrilled to receive them.
    Nevertheless, I would hope that all of us would find some consolation in the very act of love we offer for our brothers and sisters through our obedience to the directives of the bishops, but even more so, through our obedience to our present circumstances.
    True obedience means going where we might not want to go, just as our Lord, on his way to His passion. Our Lord, in his divine and human person, shows us both the human struggle of passing through painful events and the divine grace that comes through our voluntary acceptance of those events.
    Above all, we should remember that we are each voluntarily undergoing a little hardship for the sake of our brothers and sisters.
    We are not fasting from Holy Communion because we fear that the precious body and blood of Christ might spread disease but rather because even our gathering together in Church is a risk for transmission of the virus.
    We are not refraining from Church attendance because the government is trying to infringe upon our first amendment rights but rather because we don’t want to infect our own friends and relatives, or our priest and his family.
    We are not keeping social distance from each other because we dislike or distrust our fellow humans but precisely because we do love them and we don’t want them to die an unnecessary death.
    In the life of the martyr Polycarp of Smyrna, we are offered “an example of martyrdom which is conformable to the Gospel.” In contrast to another man, Quintus by name, who pridefully hurried to sacrifice himself as a martyr but then denied Christ, Saint Polycarp, we are told
    …lingered that he might be delivered up, even as the Lord did, to the end that we too might be imitators of him, not looking only to that which concerneth ourselves, but also to that which concerneth our neighbors.  For it is the office of true and steadfast love, not only to desire that oneself be saved, but all the brethren also.
    So I will conclude by encouraging all of us to grow in true and steadfast love, to not only think about our own salvation, our own health, our own good, but rather to look upon our present hardship as an opportunity for us to grow spiritually and to enter more deeply into communion with Christ in our hearts.
    For our bishops, this is the time to provide direct pastoral guidance and leadership;
    For our clergy, this is the time to strengthen those aspects of their ministries beyond their liturgical service at the altar;
    For our faithful, this is the time to remember that communion with Christ is not limited to our partaking of Holy Communion but is something that we can have through our own personal prayer, even if we are unable to participate in the Holy Week and Paschal services this year.
    I will speak more with you during the coming days, but in the meantime, I ask that we all may find strength in our Lord Jesus Christ as we enter into the sixth and final week of this very trying season of Great Lent.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      So he voluntarily placed himself in quarantine at the Chancery because of the strong possibility that, on several occasions, he may have been exposed to the virus. . . and then ignoring the March 20th directive from the governor of New York “requiring its residents to stay at home to the maximum extent possible, banning nonessential travel“, he finds himself at Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk in PA where he receives “their daily delivery of food, which they carefully place outside his door.

      How we would love to escape to a monastery and have them attend to us, but wait . . . he has closed them to us.

      Let him occupy himself with the medical, ethical and legal experts of this world. Would have been nice if he had at least considered talking with the Body. When he decides to get back to the things of God and what He appointed him to do, I may start listening again.

      • Joseph Lipper says

        Metropolitan Tikhon is a member of the St. Tikhon’s monastery brotherhood, and he is also their bishop.  It is actually quite appropriate (and probably safer) for him to return to his monastery home in this time of crisis.

        Since many of us have chosen not to live as cloistered monks in monasteries, how can we complain?

      • Monk James Silver says

        Dear Gail, your tone here is very disappointing, and your content needs a bit of adjustment.  The last paragraph of your post suggests that you didn’t read Metropolitan Tikhon’s words very carefully, or that you read them with an unreceptive heart.

        Was it not possible to engage Met.Tikhon’s words and ideas and disagree with them if need be,  rather than merely to criticize his respect for civil authority and the arrangements made for his period of isolation? Perhaps read again what St Paul wrote about such things.
        Met. Tikhon is not at St Tikhon Monastery.  He is by himself at the St Arseniy Skete which is at a considerable distance from the monastery and from the monks, who are bringing him food without interacting with him.
        In his current circumstances, he is being treated with as much dignity and consideration as his high and holy office requires —  as little of that as he is actually getting.  You should visit the Skete sometime in order to get a better idea of the place.
        In any event, mutatis mutandis, I don’t think that Met. T is receiving any sort of consideration beyond what we would offer our own mothers and fathers in a similar situation.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          Father James, a lot of things have disappointed you, as of late. What am I? The fifth person you’ve objected to? Four or five times you have taken issue with different guests on our blog to the point where they no longer wish to interact with you. You have a propensity to take things out of context and make an issue of them, as you did with George when he said something to the effect that there are two genders, meaning male and female. Although his meaning and the context were quite clear, you felt the need to even argue even about that. I realize this is Lent, but this being quarrelsome for quarrelsome sake is getting old. You even went after Brendan about his name!

          You are now judging my heart. May the Lord have mercy on you.

          I did read Met. Tikhon’s words. I read them very carefully. The man voluntarily quarantined himself because he believed he could have been exposed to the virus, although no mention was made of anyone he was in contact with who was sick.

          Then, when NY hit critical mass, and the governor made the announcement to STAY IN YOUR HOME and refrain from any unnecessarily travel, he chose to leave the state. He then puts himself under yet another self-quarantine.

          This is a lot of social distancing. One could speculate that these measures have nothing to do with protecting anyone else. What’s he going to do when his latest quarantine is through. My guess is he will move back to NY where he will quarantine himself again.

          When you’re a leader, you cannot be worried about yourself. You have to be out there, front center, or people won’t follow you. You can’t be hiding behind closed doors, self-quarantining your self from one place to the next, while at the same time leading people to trust in God and the Church. You also cannot take the Church and monasteries away from the Body while you rest comfortably in one of them.

          OF COURSE, he is in a skeet by himself. While the monks go about their daily business, I’m sure he is holed up as far away as possible from them with all his electronics (that’s got to be a first) because he is probably terrified of getting sick.

          It’s kind of a strange thing for someone who prides himself on words to ask me if it was “possible” for me to choose to comment on something else. Of course it was possible, as everything is possible. But but frankly nothing else he said resonated with me. Unlike him, I do not sit around wondering, “WHY and HOW this is happening to me?” I don’t watch services on videos. But that’s what happens when you choose not to live in community, as you well know.

          Met. Tikhon is a flawed human being like the rest of us. No better and no worse. He is certainly not holy by virtue of his office. Please do not presume I need to visit his little skeet, an option that is not open to me or anyone else in the laity at the moment, with the idea that I might better understand the circumstances. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past several months with monastics both in my home and at their monastery. I cook for them, purchase things for them, commune with them. I have been to several others over the years, as well. So I’m guessing these monks are just as hospitable as the rest of them.

          I never said Met. Tikhon was receiving any special consideration. My point was I think he is scared. There is nothing wrong with that, but a scared leader makes poor decisions, especially when it comes to the Church.

          George and I ARE those “mothers and fathers” you talk about who are at the highest risk and yet and none of our children expect us to lock ourselves away in fear. They wouldn’t respect us if we did. They look to us to be the voice of reason, not of fear, which is how THEY go out in the world and do what they have to do. I’m not sure where you are in all this, but George works in a pharmacy, his son is a doctor, and my daughter is stocking the shelves of her clients in gas stations and grocery stores. I was supposed to start a consulting job this week but the virus kind of screwed that up. In the meantime, I go to the store and fix not only food for us but food for a myriad of other people including monastics. We, too, could be exposed to someone who could be a carrier through the course of our day but we’re not quarantining our ourselves inside for weeks at a time in fear.

          As a Christian, there are far worse things than dying, FJ. Living in fear is one of them.

          • Thank you, Gail. Strong words.

          • Gail, your heartfelt words have touched me considerably.  Thank you!
            I pray that our clergy and hierarchs read your thoughts and listen to you.  Particularly, as you have astutely observed:  “a scared leader makes poor decisions, especially when it comes to the Church.”
            I once read in a biography of Metropolitan Anthony Bloom of blessed memory, in which it was described how he, working as a monastic physician in Nazi-occupied Paris during World War II, did indeed feel fear, but he did not allow the fear to win.
            Something along the lines that Metropolitan Anthony realized that “the Christian must allow Christ to teach him to conquer his fears.  If not, what results is cowardice.”
            Whenever I envision the “fearless bishop” among bishops living today, I consistently visualize Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and all Ukraine!
            George is a lucky man to have you!

      • Gail, parallel to your comments, I noticed another point in Met.Tikhon’s message:
        He begins his message with the words:
        “My beloved children”.
        Now St. Paul writes to Timothy, Bishop of Ephesus: 
        “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat [him] as a father; [and] the younger men as brethren;
        The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.”
        (1 Timothy,5:1-2)
        Metropolitan Tikhon is now 54 years old. There are most probably some people in OCA who are older enough to be  fathers or mothers to him. He calls them children too.
        Why doesn’t he follow St.Paul’s words and thus address the people in a better way, e.g. as:
        “My beloved fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters,”
        or even very simply
        “My beloved brethren,” ,
        Why does he 
        -use words which do not comply with St.Paul’s epistle, and
        -they sound Roman Catholic (Papal) and 
        -they intimidate or reduce the people to “children” instead of brothers and sisters (or even fathers and mothers).

        How does the Metropolitan (plan to) apply these words of St.Paul’s, or doesn’t he?

        • Monk James Silver says

          It would be better for ‘Ioannis’ to understand Metropolitan Tikhon’s words rather than to mistakenly question the correctness of his addressing the clergy, monastics, and laity of the Orthodox Church in America as his children.

          In using this form of address, Met. Tikhon is following St Paul’s example very closely. In his letters to Sts Timothy and Titus, both bishops of their own churches at the time, St Paul addresses them as his ‘sons’. He addresses the Galatians (GAL 4:19) as ‘my children’, just as the apostle John addresses the recipients of all three of his letters.

          Writing to the people of Corinth (1 COR 4:15), St Paul reminds them that — although they might have a thousand guardians in Christ Jesus — they have only one father through the Gospel, and that is Paul himself. Since he is their father, they are then his children in the faith.

          Our most ancient liturgical texts include references to the local bishop as ‘our father’, so the clergy and laity offering those prayers must consider themselves their bishop’s children.

          Altogether, Met. Tikhon’s use of this form of address is thoroughly traditional, scripturally attested, unrelated to his age relative to the ages of his people, and completely above reproach.

          • Gail Sheppard says

            Did you ask Met. Tikhon what he meant, Father James? Did he tell you he was following St. Paul’s example?

            • Monk James Silver says

              ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident….’
              I pray that you feel better soon, dear Gail.

              • Gail Sheppard says

                As I said, this was back in late Feb. If it was the virus it didn’t last long. A week, maybe? But, thank you. I appreciate your good wishes.

          • Ok, I’ll make it very VERY easy and straight and practical and clear,
            expecting equally easy and straight and practical and clear reply:
            How does (or should) Met.Tikhon
            intreat an older man as a father ????

  32. MALTHUS Mk II:
    Maurice Strong: “What if a small group of world leaders were to conclude that the principal risk to the Earth comes from the actions of the rich countries? And if the world is to survive, those rich countries would have to sign an agreement reducing their impact on the environment. Will they do it? The group’s conclusion is ‘no’. The rich countries won’t do it. They won’t change. So, in order to save the planet, the group decides: Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about?”
    Interview, 1992 in Gibson, Donald. Environmentalism: ideology and power. pg. 95

  33. Bulgaria refuses to close the churches.

  34. I know it’s a week early for us, but – it’s still funny:

  35. Monk James Silver says


    The Media Office of the Orthodox Church in America Announces Live-Stream Schedule for Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Pascha

    As many of our churches are either closed completely or restricted to the priest and a few others to assist him, we invite you to participate in the services of Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Pascha, joining His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon and the brotherhood of the Monastery of Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk through live-streamed services on our Facebook page and YouTube channel.

    The schedules of services is listed below.

    Download Reader’s Services of Holy Week and Pascha
    adapted for use without a priest

    April 11: Lazarus Saturday
    4:00 PM – Festal Vigil for Palm Sunday

    April 12: Palm Sunday
    9:10 AM – Hours and Divine Liturgy
    11:10 AM (Approx.) – Moleben to St. Anna
    4:30 PM – Ninth Hour, Vespers, Bridegroom Matins, and First Hour

    April 13: Holy Monday
    8:00 AM – Third, Sixth, Ninth Hours; Typica; Vespers and Presanctified Liturgy
    4:30 PM – Bridegroom Matins and First Hour

    April 14: Holy Tuesday
    8:00 AM – Third, Sixth, Ninth Hours; Typica; Vespers and Presanctified Liturgy
    4:30 PM – Bridegroom Matins and First Hour

    April 15: Holy Wednesday
    8:00 AM – Third, Sixth, Ninth Hours; Typica; Vespers and Presanctified Liturgy
    4:30 PM – Matins of Holy Thursday and First Hour

    April 16: Holy Thursday
    8:00 AM – Third, Sixth, Ninth Hours; Typica; Vespers and Divine Liturgy
    6:00 PM – Matins of Holy Friday

    April 17: Holy Friday
    8:00 AM – Royal Hours
    3:00 PM – Great Vespers; Canon of the Lamentations of the Holy Virgin
    7:00 PM – Matins of Holy Saturday

    April 18: Holy Saturday
    8:00 AM – First, Third, Sixth, Ninth Hours; Typica; Vespers and Divine Liturgy
    11:30 PM – Midnight Office and Procession

    April 19: Holy Pascha
    12:00 Midnight – Paschal Matins, Paschal Hours, and Divine Liturgy
    4:30 – Agape Vespers, Matins, First Hour

    April 20: Bright Monday
    9:00 AM – Paschal Hours and Divine Liturgy

    Holy Week and Pascha Resources

    Here is an intiative from ROCOR Europe:

    From the Diocese to the World: An Orthodox ‘Lock-Down Choir’ is Creating a Mass-Choir for Pascha Made Up of Singers at Home.
    12 Apr, 2020 | General News and Events

  37. Here are some quotes from an article that is worth reading:

    “It’s plausible that somewhere between 100 million and 500 million people
    on earth have had, or are having, the coronavirus infection…”

    “The Presence of a Virus Is Not a Presence of Sickness”

    “If indeed 37 million Americans have had a brush with SARS-2, then the death/exposure ratio is 0.135% (50,000/37M). Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, one of the architects of the Santa Clara study, is also suggesting a death rate for SARS-2 of 0.1% to 0.2% (one to two in a thousand), which is of the same order of magnitude as influenza.”