Where Everyone Knows Your Name

“Where Everyone Knows Your Name” is the theme song of a long running sitcom from the 80s called, Cheers.  It’s about a bar in Boston that serves as a regular hangout for the neighborhood.   Norm Peterson is one of those regulars.  So regular, in fact, the crowd yells, “Norm!” every time he walks into the room.  A little from the theme song:

Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you got

Taking a break from all your worries,
Sure would help a lot
Wouldn’t you like to get away
Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came
You wanna be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same
You wanna go where everybody knows your name
Our boss may not recognize us, our mother-in-law may not like us, but at Church we are like  “Norm” which is never more apparent than when we step up to take communion and the priest begins, “Dear servant of God . . .” followed by our name.  Our Christian name.  He might as well be yelling it when we walk into the parish.  We belong there. 

This is why, for an Orthodox Christian, there is nothing worse than being shut out of our beloved Church, especially during a crisis which is negatively impacting you and everyone around you.  The Church represents safety and normalcy, and the thought of having to look through a crack in the door, seeing your priest and a skeleton crew, go through a service without you is tantamount to a starving kid having to watch of his family have supper without him. 

One only has to read some of the comments of our readers to understand what it feels like to be on the outside looking in:

–  I personally need Holy Communion and the Divine Liturgies. They are essential to my health spiritually and physically. So sad they are not deemed as essential as the grocery store or an attorney or a shipping service which in my state are allowed to stay open and let many congregate though 10 feet apart. I am concerned some of the directives imply we are not deprived of anything important. To me both are filled with Grace and Holy Communion May only heal.  Likely I am just weaker than most but I don’t breathe or live well without my spiritual oxygen so it is a deprivation for me not to be allowed in. I appreciate the obedience to their bishops which clergy show.  I am sad to see some of them not understand how vital these are to my spirit and well-being and perhaps to others.

–  Where I live, there is not one Liturgy available to me and my family this Sunday. The Sunday of the Cross! This includes OCA, Greek, and Antiochian. Some parishes are having skeleton crews by invitation only (five maximum). I’m seriously wondering if they will cancel Pascha. This is ludicrous. It is not Orthodox. I am pleased to hear that this is not the case for some OCA parishes in other parts of the country. I may make the one hour plus drive to the ROCOR parish with my family. Lord have mercy!

–  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. . . 
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 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.


The thing is, we’re supposed to participate in the services, which is why these encyclicals, including the latest from Patriarch Bartholomew, chastising some for not taking the previous encyclicals seriously, is such a hard pill to swallow.  We don’t see ourselves as dispensable.  Our participation is required, indeed, it is essential.  Well, isn’t it?  

The OCA puts it best:

“We think of worship as a specifically clerical sphere of activity. The priest celebrates, the laity attend. One is active, the other passive. It is another error and a serious one at that. The Christian term for worship is leitourgia which means precisely a corporate, common, all embracing action in which all those who are present are active participants. All prayers in the Orthodox Church are always written in terms of the plural we. We offer, we pray, we thank, we adore, we enter, we ascend, we receive. The layman is in a very direct way the co-celebrant of the priest, the latter offering to God the prayers of the Church, representing all people, speaking on their behalf. One illustration of this co-celebration may be helpful; the word Amen, to which we are so used, that we really pay no attention to it. And yet it is a crucial word. No prayer, no sacrifice, no blessing is ever given in the Church without being sanctioned by the Amen which means an approval, agreement, participation. To say Amen to anything means that I make it mine, that I give my consent to it… And “Amen” is indeed the Word of the laity in the Church, expressing the function of the laity as the People of God, which freely and joyfully accepts the Divine offer, sanctions it with its consent. There is really no service, no liturgy without the Amen of those who have been ordained to serve God as community, as Church.  –  And, thus, whatever liturgical service we consider, we see that it always follows the pattern of dialogue, cooperation, collaboration, cooperation between the celebrant and the congregation. It is indeed a common action (“leitourgia”) in which the responsible participation of everyone is essential and indispensable, for through it the Church, the People of God, fulfills its purpose and goal.”

So this is either true or it isn’t.

Some of our priests have known at the onset that it doesn’t make sense for people to wander around in malls and Target and not go to Church.  And they’re doing something about it.  No, they’re not ignoring the directives of their bishops, but they’re feeling the pain of those entrusted to their spiritual care and doing what needs to be done to address it.  

One such priest is my own.  He, like many others, is feeling the burden of this pandemic. He knows that it weighs on our souls and as a spiritual father, it weighs on his, as well. He recently sent the following notice to us:

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Brothers and Sisters, how quickly things have developed over the past two weeks!  On Friday, March 13, Archbishop Alexander requested that we take extreme measures in the Church to do our part to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. Those measures, which at the time appeared to some very strict, were soon followed by others – the entire OCA, the Antiochian Archdiocese, the Greek Archdiocese, and all manner of civil authorities.  Indeed, after a week and a half, we here in Oklahoma are better off than most, in that we are still permitted to serve, albeit with a “skeleton crew”, while others in places like New York and Chicago are not.

Nevertheless, what has weighed most heavily on me is the fact that most of us here at Holy Apostles are effectively prohibited from Holy Communion of the Precious Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I know that this situation also weighs on you.  While we are becoming increasingly limited on what we can do, I am hoping to provide a way for those who desire it to receive the Holy Eucharist beginning this weekend.  This will take some planning, so I ask that if you would like to do so, please email me directly.   

Obviously, any thing we plan will be subject to the requirements of our civil and ecclesiastical authorities, and the situation is rapidly changing.  However, given the situation as it currently stands, I believe it is possible without disobedience or increasing danger to our brothers and sisters in the parish or our communities.

Lastly, if you or someone you know in the parish is in need of any kind of aid – whether a pastoral visit or even financial aid due to loss of income – please let me know.  I am also available for confession in the Chapel by appointment.  You should know that I am praying for all of you.

I leave you with this lovely sermon by Bishop Alexis encouraging us to make use of the situation as Christians.



I encourage everyone who has eyes to see and everyone who has ears to hear.



  1. Bishop Alexis is not convincing me. He gives a sermon on prayer and repentance and being isolated in our own personal desert. But as Christians, we have always been called to prayer and repentance. No Orthodox Christian should be receiving frequent Communion if they are not confessing regularly and preparing properly. He literally admitting that they are caring for the body instead of the soul. Am I reading that correctly?!? At least he didn’t parrot the usual OCA talking point by making a comparison to St Mary of Egypt…but I’m sure we’ll get a lot more of that when they prolong the shut down through the Sunday of St Mary of Egypt. The Bishops are desperately trying to sell their cancellation of the Great Fast (and Pascha?)….but I ain’t buying. Thank God for some of the old calendar Churches which decided not to close!

    • Mikhail, who said anything…especially the bishops…about cancelling the Great Fast? Just because Orthodox Christians are more home bound now, doesn’t give them the right to ignore fasting rules.

      • Thomas S. says

        I assume he meant the services of the Fast, which cannot be repeated just any time of the year.

        As far as I can tell, the churches are permitting the State to shut down the liturgies of the Fast, Holy Week, and even Paschal liturgy. ROCOR resisted popular pressure but it is unclear if they will resist illegal Executive Orders. It would seem most jurisdictions will.

        I am incredibly sad.

        • Gail Michalopulos says

          Legally, CAN they require Churches to comply? I’m not one who knows a whole lot about government (George would know this), doesn’t our constitution protect our right to worship and don’t we have freedom of assembly?

          • Gail, hoping this changes but from LifeNews.com:
            Virginia Christians Could be Jailed for 1 Year for Attending Church, But Abortion Clinics Can Keep Killing Babies.


            The real question is what is ESSENTIAL. Do our hierarchs, priests and laity believe the ORTHODOX CHURCH Divine Liturgy and Holy Communion are essential? If so, we would claim ESSENTIAL STATUS and then follow whatever logistically protects others as at any Essential place of business or service. Stay home if we are symptomatic, shelter in place as ordered except for Essential business when we are asymptomatic (Divine Liturgies & Holy Communion being Essential), keep a safe distance in Services if that means rotating, being outside, wearing a mask, etc., as we would for the drugstore or shipping service. Go outside as some of our Continental Orthodox have done.

            The real tragedy for me has been the silence of Patriarch Bartholomew and the North American hierarchs who have not declared the Orthodox Church, Services and Sacraments to be ESSENTIAL spiritual and physical medicine even to the flock much less to those making the rules. I try not to imagine why. I am bewildered as to why the counsel of seasoned Patristic voices such as Met. Athanasios of Limassol and Met. Onouphry has not been sought then heeded, when it varies from their own. What do the Holy Fathers say and our Tradition advise?


            • Gail Michalopulos says

              Good grief!

            • Gail Michalopulos says

              Yes, it probably does come down to what our bishops feel is ESSENTIAL, and, sadly, we see that the bishops put the presumed benefit to our health (the numbers just don’t support what we’re doing) over our spiritual well being.

              I hope someone takes the time to address your questions for they are the same questions I have. I, too, am bewildered as to why the counsel of seasoned Patristic voices such as Met. Athanasios of Limassol and Met. Onouphry has not been sought then heeded. It honestly shook me to the core when I realized that the monks had capitulated and closed their doors. I simply cannot imagine these particular doors being closed to us now. Met. Onouphry, on the other hand, is not only keeping his doors open, he is sending the virus through them! https://orthochristian.com/129698.html

              In the past, I have never wanted to learn anything about Ukraine because it always seemed like a crazy place to me. Russia wasn’t far behind on my “do not want to know” list having grown up in the 50s and 60s. But I’ve got to say, as a result of being in the Church, my position has dramatically changed. I have spent a lot of time trying to better understand who they are and why. I have grown to love these people and in the case of Met. Onouphry and Patriarch Kirill, would now follow them before all others.

              I realize that if Mt Athos and the Ephraim monasteries started pulling at the thread, the whole fabric of the Church could come apart. There is still no consensus about Ukraine. 3/4 of the Church do not agree with Bartholomew’s actions. Because we couldn’t have another Council without this topic coming up, we may never have another Council again.

              If the monasteries don’t obey Constantinople, the schism becomes real. It’s already real but no one wants to acknowledge it. I understand that schism is the worst possible scenario to a monk but we’re wasting away in the process. Every day a little death.

              What do the Holy Fathers say and our Tradition advise? I have no idea. We hear a lot of individuals weighing in but what is missing is consensus. The bishops are no longer even trying to act as one. Our beloved Church reminds me of a person who is technically dead but whose vital organs are being kept alive on life support; a different machine for each body part. We’re living and breathing artificially, now, and no one wants to “call it.” We need to pray God brings us out of this coma quickly so we can start living and breathing as one Church again. Otherwise, we’re going to have to “pull the plug.” Our organs cannot function like this forever. Infection has set in. We don’t have long.

          • Thomas S. says

            You would have to get arrested and then challenge the charges on constitutional grounds.  I am inclined to think the chance of the police even caring if you have a midnight Paschal liturgy is probably low.  If they do care, they may at most try to break it up.  If they do arrest people, I think it is very hard to imagine they get charged.  If you do get charged, I dont think you would have to go bankrupt with legal expenses to get the cases dropped.But, if the church institutions state they will comply with the law no matter what (I have not necessarily seen entirely absolute language to that end, but it is the impression I get), then the maybe 1-2% risk of getting arrested that many of us are willing to make is a moot point as the bishops will likely try to justify an “electronic” Pascha or design some odd system whereby only a few people can attend directly.Can’t we do something about this?

    • Monk James Silver says

      The Great Fast and Paskha have not been canceled.  What an idea!
      If anything, this period of contagion and isolation should inspire us to even greater acts of selfless love, including not infecting/being infected by each other in public gatherings, albeit unintentionally —  even in church.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Although I am conflicted by the various directives mandating the closure (partial or otherwise) of our Orthodox parishes, I completely agree with you Monk James about what you say about “greater acts of selfless love”. Now is the time for those of us who are not sick and/or symptomatic to look out for our neighbor, particularly if they are elderly and/or afflicted.

        • George if you haven’t seen, please consider the video sent out by Fr Justin of Dr David Price Pulmonary ICU doc in NY.  Full of important new information to empower and encourage and direct us to adopt crucial new habits and patterns necessary for some time to come. Explains what to do to protect yourself and your family and what is safe, healthy and possible. When to call doc by telephone and when to go to ER. How to quarantine at home and with family. What happens in the hospital.  Says COVID 19 can infect anyone  over 14 and send any to the ICU, disputing the CDC ad about who is vulnerable.  Counsels health care folks about levels of protection for different settings and bedside procedures  with patients and the very different outcomes for docs and nurses when correctly followed. Specifies the courses of degrees of illness.  And looks to our future herd immunity in 5 years accomplished the wise way (not the British way). Hope he is right in every regard https://vimeo.com/399733860

      • I would not speak too soon. In California they are talking 10-12 more weeks of this. Do you see our Bishops opening the doors for Pascha  if we are still under lock down? 

      • “The Great Fast and Paskha have not been canceled.  What an idea!”

        The services of the Great Fast have pretty much been cancelled by many jurisdictions. I do not believe live streaming is a substitute. Let us pray that they do not also cancel Holy Pascha Liturgies.

        “not infecting/being infected by each other in public gatherings, albeit unintentionally —  even in church.”

        I do not believe you can be infected in the Church. Everything is sanctified by God’s grace…including Holy Icons and the priest’s hand.

        • Mikhail, please read (look) over things before you post them. You stated earlier: “The Bishops are desperately trying to sell their cancellation of the Great Fast (and Pascha?)….but I ain’t buying.” 
          You made it sound like they (the bishops) were cancelling the Great Fast (as in giving everyone a ‘free’ pass on skipping the fasting rules of the Church during this pandemic), as opposed to cancelling the Great Fast(ing) services. Big difference 😉

          • Gail Michalopulos says

            I guess Mikhail could have said canceling the services of the Great Fast as he has said other places, but I knew what he meant. I’ve never heard anyone suggest the fasting “rules” were to be cancelled so it never occurred to me this was his point.

            Sometimes people fail to make an effort to understand someone else or worse, they pick apart their words to mean something they didn’t intend (cute emoji, notwithstanding).

            Alex, did you really not understand what Mikhail was saying? Did any part of you think he was referring to the rules we follow outside Church during Lent? If so, I truly owe you an apology.

            • Thank you Gail. You interpreted me correctly. ?
              My apologies to Alex for my lack of clarity.

            • Sorry, I did truly think that’s exactly what Mikhail meant—that “The Bishops are desperately trying to sell their cancellation of the Great Fast… .” I guess that I look for clarity, as I’m actually a marketing and SEO copywriter, and part of my job is to be crystal clear. I didn’t mean to pick apart anyone’s words. Please accept my apology for coming across as an irritated copyeditor.

        • This brings up my question regarding whether Grace fills the Sacraments if they are administered by “priests” who have not been properly ordained, or not ordained at all.
          Would you say the same thing – “I do not believe you can be infected in the Church. Everything is sanctified by God’s grace…including Holy Icons and the priest’s hand” – about the schismatic churches in Ukraine, for instance?
          As for the Great Fast and Pascha, and the discussion as to whether it is proper to close the churches and limit who can attend the services: There is an interesting degree of selfishness being subtly manifested in some of the comments.  Maybe this is a time for the kind of serious reflection and self-examination that it takes a crisis to generate.
          I agree with Monk James Silver’s comment, above.

          • Gail Michalopulos says

            Father James said nothing about Ukraine.

            There is nothing “selfish” about boldly stating what the Church teaches and BELIEVING IT to the degree that that you’re willing to act on it. In terms of inadvertently making someone sick, you could do that in a store, which I assume you still frequent. That doesn’t make you “selfish”.

            I do agree, however, that Father James feels pretty much like you do: people who stay home are “selfless”, which suggests the people who don’t are “selfish.” I picked up on that, too, but you were talking about comments and he was talking about people.

            The fact that none of us can be credited with staying home, as we are all barred from entering the Church, was lost in all this.

            We are dealing with this pandemic because God allowed it. Let’s do what what the Church teaches us to do, to the degree our hierarchs will allow it, and let God decide what happens without judging. “Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see mine own faults and not judge my brothers and sisters. . .”

            • It is always sad when I hear the “selfish” accusation.

              • Gail Michalopulos says

                It seems to be the default position of all who disagree with you. “You like Trump? You’re selfish.” You want to go to Church in a pandemic. You’re selfish.” “You don’t agree with my take on compassion? You’re selfish.” “You don’t like the new green deal? You’re selfish.” And on and on it goes.

        • Monk James Silver says

          Considering that history provides many examples of people getting sick or even killed in church, this belief a bit of a stretch.

          On the other hand, it is true that no Orthodox Christian has ever been sickened by receiving Holy Communion worthily, but that’s a completely different issue from gathering together in church before, after, or without receiving Holy Communion.

          • God has allowed holy martyrs to be killed in the Church. And I will take your word that God has allowed people to get ill in ways other than Holy Communion. But God allowed it unto salvation. The Churches were not shut down, eh? The people were in the Church. Every part of Christ’s holy Church is sanctified with His Grace. There will be no death or illness within those walls unless it is the will of God.

    • Please do not take an offense, but my opinion is following.
      If you are seriously sick, it is not a sin to stay at home. Especially if disease is infectious. Epidemic is when many people are sick, so … Same with fire, or earthquake, there are situations when you do not enter the building. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

      • Gail Michalopulos says

        I don’t think you’re going to find anyone on this blog saying people should not stay home if they are ill or if the building is destroyed in an earthquake, etc.

        This discussion has nothing to do with what the people should be doing, as it is between them and their priest or spiritual father/mother.

        All the conversation on this blog has been on what they Clergy is doing in relationship to what the Church teaches.

        • Gail Michalopulos: “I don’t think you’re going to find anyone on this blog saying people should not stay home if they are ill or if the building is destroyed in an earthquake, etc.”
          You misunderstood  me. I did not mean the case when building is already destroyed. I meant the situation when the church building might be destroyed, if the liturgy should be stopped.
          Also primarily and explicitly I meant epidemic, the earthquake and fire I just added to make it more general.
          Another Bible quote:
          “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence … And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”

          • Gail Michalopulos says

            You said, “situations when you do not enter the building” and I assumed after the fact, like after an earthquake. Why would a building be destroyed if the liturgy stopped? I’m not following. – I do get what you’re saying about the Sabbath, though, and it’s an interesting point.

            • Solitary Priest says

              I think Martin might be referring to what might happen if the church catches fire while liturgy is being served. We priests must removed the chalice , Patten, antimins, etc. to a safe place and then continue the liturgy.
              There are also directions what the priest must do in the event of the invasion of pagans, Muslims, or other hostile forces during liturgy. He must consume the holy gifts, whether consecrated or not. Then, if he can, escape. But if he stays and endures martyrdom, he does better.

              • Gail Michalopulos says

                Thanks, Father. I didn’t understand.

                • Solitary Priest says

                  For the letter of the law zealots here, I offer this true story. My last Pascha in a Russian parish, it rained so hard, that we did the midnight procession inside the church. After services, when we were downstairs breaking the fast, one of the zealots reproached the rector because we didn’t circle the church three times. Patiently, the rector explained that not only would we have gotten our vestments wet, but we would have tracked water onto the church floor, causing people to slip, a real safety hazard.
                       During WWII, I guarantee that many Eastern European churches did not celebrate the Paschal services beginning at midnight. You could not have procession with lights at midnight, because of air raids. So everything was done early in the morning, when it was light.
                      That is how my parish does it as well, everything Sunday morning, but the whole service, not having Paschal Matins as 6 or 7 PM Holy Saturday and then coming back for Liturgy. Our chancellor’s church follows a similar schedule for the same reason; he and I are both in our 60′ s and most of our people are our age or older. 

                  • Letter of the law zealots? Are you really a member of the clergy? You are comparing processionals and non-continual Pascha services with the people being shut out of services? For real?

                    • Mikhail: “Letter of the law, zealots? Are you really …”
                      No need to be angry. The key reason for the spread of coronavirus in Korea, was that one fundamentalist Protestant sect refused to reduce its services.
                      Yes, God is in control, but it means also that the epidemics happen with His permission. Possibly for a reason. So be humble.

    • Joseph Lipper says

      “Go home my people, and lock your doors! Hide yourselves for a little while until the LORD ’s anger has passed.” – Isaiah 26:20 

      Incidentally, this is directly from the Biblical Canticles chanted during Great Lent.

      • That is because it is in reference to the Passover…not the coronavirus.

        • Joseph Lipper says

          Yes, but coronavirus is a plague.  While it may not be the same as the plagues foretold by Moses, is it not similar if our bishops are merely asking us to “hide out for a while” until this passes over?

          • No. In my opinion, Liturgy and the Sacraments are needed now more than ever. I believe that many of our bishops have failed us. The supermarkets and hardware stores are essential…but not our Liturgy? Lord have mercy!

            • Joseph Lipper says

              The Liturgy is essential and needed, and it is still continuing unabated, especially now in cloistered monasteries.   Yet even if we don’t live in a monastery, our circumstances will not separate us from God’s grace and love, nor preclude us from a life of prayer.  There are many instances where people are unable to go to church for a period of time.  This is just one of those times.  

              • Joseph Lipper says

                Gail, yes, I know for a fact that people are shifting jurisdictions because of this.  However, it’s entirely possible those parishes that continue to open their doors and serve Divine Liturgy during this crisis will be shut down by the authorities as health hazards anyways.   May God forbid that any Orthodox Church actually contributes to the spread of this Corona virus!  I would still rather have my bishop lock our church doors than have a sheriff under orders put a padlock on it. 

              • No Joe. The people need to be at the Liturgy and receiving the Sacraments. This is not a time to be shut out. This is the time that the people need to be there even more. The Monasteries have always prayed for the world. Once they stop…it ends here.

                • Mikhail: “The people need to be at the Liturgy and receiving the Sacraments.”
                  Yes, you are right. But not on every day and at any cost. There were great saints who came to the Liturgy very infrequently.
                  Also one need  to be mindful of the others – non-Orthodox people. Stubborn and rigid behavior might scandalize them, convince them that Orthodox Christians are inconsiderate, fanatical and foolish. Please …
                  Patriarch Kirill urges worshippers to refrain from visiting churches amid coronavirus outbreak, reminding about St Mary of Egypt.

                  • Martin,
                    The saints were in the state of illumination.
                    It does not bother me that you call me names such as stubborn and rigid (the common insult being used is selfish). We need the holy Mysteries now more than ever. I am quarantined like everyone else…but I am still blessed to be able to attend Liturgy. You will never change my mind. We are being betrayed by our hierarchs. It is shameful that Patriarch Kyrill has caved, and followed the path of some of his contemporaries. Now he has something in common with Bartholomew. It saddens me greatly. I am not alone in this belief. In times of crisis the Church needs to step forward and offer her healing Sacraments to strengthen the weakness of the people. These holy Mysteries are administered by the Bride of Christ unto our salvation.
                    I know a woman in her early 50’s who is high risk with an immune issue and chronic severe asthma. Her teenage daughter also has issues and is at high risk. They are in Church at every service. They humbly submit themselves to Christ. In their simplicity, they trust in Him and His protection. They recognize the need to commune now, more than ever. They are a great inspiration to me. So your insults are inconsequential to me. Faith unto salvation is more powerful than a virus.

              • Yes Gail. I am already looking to be under one of the Bishops who did not shut us out.  It would be difficult to invest in my spiritual well being….or to donate my time and money…to a Church where the bishop locked the doors.

  2. ‘Liturgy’. ‘Leitourgia’. ‘The Work of the People’.
    If there is no ‘People’ present, there can be no ‘Liturgy’.
    That’s how I have always understood it.

    • Indeed!

    • Actually, the original meaning is probably closer to ‘work on behalf of the people,’ coming from when notable dignitaries would pay for public works like bridges, etc.
      We all benefit from Divine Liturgy being served, even if we are not there, especially through the commemorations at prothesis, but certainly the raison d’etre of the Liturgy is to commune the people with the Body and Blood of Christ. That this cannot happen is the worst part of this whole situation.

    • Monk James Silver says

      It is inaccurate to say that our word ‘liturgy’ (Greek leitourgia) means ‘work of the people’.  At best, this is a paratheological folk etymology employed by preachers unskilled in the languages they would cite..
      As is well attested in pre-Christian Greek and Roman usage, leitourgia/liturgia means ‘a public activity’.  Most commonly, it describes parades and festivals, especially those held in honor of victorious generals or to celebrate a monarch’s birthday.

      It is true, though, that such spectacles wouldn’t mean much if there were no spectators (not the participants), a ‘congregation’, so to speak. For us Christians, though, the dynamic of ‘liturgy’ is a bit different, in spite of the word’s etymology.

      • “It is inaccurate to say that our word ‘liturgy’ (Greek leitourgia) means ‘work of the people’.  At best, this is a paratheological folk etymology employed by preachers unskilled in the languages they would cite.
        As is well attested in pre-Christian Greek and Roman usage, leitourgia/liturgia means ‘a public activity’.”
        (emphasis mine)

        (1) There is no mention of sources.

        (2)  leitourgia comes from the words leitos and ergon. 
        “ergon” means work.
        “leitos” means: “of, belonging to the people”, Greek-English Lexicon, by Liddel/Scot, 1853, p.835. Certainly not para-theological or unskilled
        “leitos” is sometimes translated as “public” but it is forgotten that public actually means “of, belonging to the public ie the people”.

        (3) last but not least, the liturgy is indeed the work done by the priest TOGETHER with the laity.
        This is proven e.g. by the famous professor P.N.Trempelas (The Laity in the Church, pp.203-206). Certainly not para-theological or unskilled.:
        Here are some examples:

        Although there may be one priest only, he  prays in the plural using the words  “we” and “us”, i.e. meaning himself and the rest of the people, e.g. “we thank Thee”, “we offer Thee thine own”, etc.

        Some prayers are started by the Priest and are completed by the Choir/people, eg:
        Priest: “Singing, shouting, proclaiming the triumphal hymn and saying:
        Saying what?
        Then the Choir completes it:
        “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabbaoth…” etc. 
        Also many times, the Choir interferes and completes the Priest’s words with “Amen”.

        And the professor concludes:
        “From these it becomes evident that not only is the sacrifice of thanksgiving offered by the celebrant and the whole community…but the people following the whole anaphora prayer…interfere in it and sing various parts…”


    • Alitheia 1875 says

      Generally speaking, it has been accepted practice that there should be at least one layperson present for the liturgy to be celebrated. 

  3. E M Cimmins says

    Hi George,
    Very moving entry.
    As I contemplated your post, I was reminded of the stories I heard from people attending secret services during the Soviet period, and of the “catacomb experiences” they shared with me. They were unnerving and very sobering.
    Families would quietly sing in their apartments, every ear attuned to a sound in the stairwell that would betray a “listener” outside.
    Little paper icons hung from a nail would quickly be thrust into a book on the nightstand at an unexpected knock at the door. Wooden icons couldn’t be used as they were too hard to hide. Such worn paper icons, sometimes stained and torn, became very dear.
    Little kids of kindergarten age, suspected of being from religious families, were called out and mercilessly berated by their teachers in front of their class and the school. They often broke down, innocent and defenseless, and would carry this abuse well into adulthood. It marked them.
    Lists of names of suspected worshipers would be posted on apartment buildings and at workplaces. They were accused of being “subversives” and “foreign agents”.
    One woman I knew told me stories of her father piggybacking her to small liturgies in the forest. She especially remembers the snow and the cold. And the quiet.
    Catacombs indeed.
    To be temporarily cut off from the Divine, and to yearn for it, is not always a bad thing. It reaffirms what is needed for our souls. We can forget this all too easily amidst worldly concerns. Pascha will be more glorious because of it; of that I have no doubt.
    E M Cimmins

    • George Michalopulos says


    • Estonian Slovak says

      Thank you indeed, Mr. Cimmins. I am reminded also of the Communist era in Albania, where school children were watched at lunch hour to make sure they weren’t observing lent, or Ramadan, if they were Moslem.
            It might behoove all of us to do some online research of the Pskov mission. This was in the Pskov region of Russia during the German occupation of WWII. The mission had the blessing of MP Metropolitan Sergius(Voskresensky) of the Baltic. It was served by clergy from Latvia and Estonia, many of whom later served abroad in ROCOR and what was later to become the OCA. These priests were kept busy from dawn to late at night, liturgising, baptizing, conducting weddings, funerals, etc. This showed that after twenty years of atheistic rule, people still hungered for the faith. May it be granted to us as well.

      • Alitheia 1875 says

        Some years ago I met a young man, in his twenties, who was from Albania. He told me his parents took him up to an abandoned chapel in the mountains near their village, leaving home about midnight and returning before dawn. Why? He was baptized, as were many others during those years.

    • Alitheia 1875 says

      There was a story reported by a religious news service in England some years ago about a man who worked on the railroad in the USSR. He had no home, lived on the trains he worked on and all his worldly possessions were, as I remember the story, in two suitcases. Because he worked on the railroad he had an internal passport and traveled around quite a bit in his work. The he died. One of his suitcases contained bishop’s vestments. He was a catacomb bishop and his work allowed him to travel to different places where he would conduct liturgy in secret. Indeed, he has found his place with our Lord. Glory be to God for all things.

      • E M Cimmins says

        Thank you very much for your posts dear Alitheia and Estonian Slovak!
        In the region of Lviv (Lvov, Lwow) in western Ukraine, a large collective farm produced strawberries. As you know, not all churches were destroyed during Soviet times, but were used as shops, barns and storehouses. One man on that farm was given the job of grazing a dairy cow by day and seeing the “storehouse” remained secure from break-in for his weekly pittance. He was a rather shabbily-dressed old man and was considered ‘odd’. He was secretly a priest of course, and had performed many services in the old church. His oddities and shabbiness were just a ruse.
        What faith that man had! What fortitude in the face of betrayal at any moment! And what of the character of the parishioners  that never betrayed him? Do our forebears not speak to us by their example?
        E M Cimmins

      • How times change!:
        St. Petersburg, then Leningrad, allowed 21 churches to function there during the siege and served regular icon processions even during air raids.
         I fear we have all become faithless cowards.  What we are witnessing here is the wildest overreaction I have ever seen, such that I would not have believed it possible.  
        But again, it is an election year, people are keeping track of the lack of relative factual support for measures taken, and there will be serious consequences just like for the Russia hoax. 
        Still, I am deeply ashamed of the American people.  This is not my country.  Being led by the nose to totalitarian measures is something we associate with the French.
        Trump’s second term will be a spectacle of Democratic and MSM destruction.  When the Right takes a look back at how shamelessly dishonest this whole thing has been and the economic damage done, they will have no choice but to make heads roll unless the want America to be repeatedly and perpetually held hostage to fake crises made from whole cloth.
        The MSM made a conscious choice to temporarily destroy the American economy for no quantifiable reason other than as a last ditch effort to stop the president’s reelection.
        And they found they had the power to do it. 
        We need a president who will take Putinesque measures against them to break their stranglehold on the nation or they will openly rule indefinitely.

  4. Thomas S. says

    I still do not see any authority within any Orthodox jurisdiction addressing head-on the fact that the scope and duration of many state and local “executive orders” will ban Paschal liturgy if the churches obey them.  What Trump said out of the side of his mouth about the country being open for Easter does not matter – if a state has a stay-at-home order or just an order banning gatherings of more than 10 people that extends beyond Pascha, are we really going to cancel Paschal liturgy to hear a chorus of ninnying “it’s for your own good” mixed in with “Well, we have to obey the law”?  I see no legal challenges, no signs of resistance.  Please help!  I don’t want to complain mindlessly, I want people to mobilise and avoid this outcome.

    • E M Cimmins says

      I also feel your dilemma, Thomas S.
      Midnight or sunrise services are traditional for Pascha where I live. I see no reason why an Orthodox parish, calmly and deliberately and with resolve, should not assemble for the Paschal Liturgy at the appointed time. That they should accept whatever consequences the authorities (Church or otherwise) choose to administer should be a conscious part of it.
      And if the church is closed, I plan to stand with a candle outside for an appropriate amount of time.
      May Christ be with you all.
      E M Cimmins

      • Thomas S. says

        Thank you for your kind words. For me, it is not much of a dilemma – I don’t worry about the consequences. I will go to Paschal liturgy if it is offered, end of story. Last year, I worked somewhere where churches are illegal and was unable to attend Paschal liturgy. Maybe it is naïveté but I also really doubt that a traditional midnight liturgy would be anything other than a curiosity to the police, at least outside a big city.

        The problem is that I don’t think the local churches will have Paschal liturgy. i made arrangements last Thursday with a priest to drive to another state which had far fewer restrictions than mine. The next day the governor issued a new EO with shelter-in-place orders and a 10 person limit on assemblies and clear language including religious services in this. It is unclear what the ROCOR parish there will do. I could drive 3-4 hours to a state with almost no restrictions, but, unfortunately, we still have three weeks for the legal situation to change. It is like whack-a-mole, once you find one diocese which still conducts liturgy in a state or locality that has not yet banned it, within days they’ve banned it.

        I have never heard of Paschal liturgy being cancelled in a church that is not literally chained up by the State (i.e., Ottomans or Bolsheviks). My wife and I stay at home all but a few hours a week, I think we can take the risk upon ourselves to venture out to Paschal liturgy.

        • E M Cimmins says

          Good-hearted Thomas S:
          Sadly, we can now add the Ukrainian state authorities to those that padlock churches. Yet under the phenomenal Metropolitan Onuphry, and with the grace of God within the canonical Ukrainian people, the onslaught by the schismatics against the churches has slowed to a crawl. A few court cases have even been won. There is reason for hope.
          Your words have had me turning the puzzle of our clergy over and over in my mind. What I suspect is this: we have faith, and we are adamant in defending that faith. Rightly or wrongly, we expect our bishops and priests to be as adamant and forceful about defending the faith as we are.
          But would this truly be prudent of them during the corona crisis? They cannot simply defy the authorities to their faces. And many of them must feel the same yearning and attach the same importance to the Divine Liturgy as we do, especially at Pascha. They are, after all, caught between their high calling as shepherds to us and the great weight of the consequences secular authority and a desacralized society can bring to bear. Seen in this light, I’m glad I’m not in their shoes.
          Perhaps then, they are better men than we have given them credit for, and they have also turned this over and over in their own minds. They will understand that the fault line lies precisely where the sound of our knocking on the church doors at Pascha meets their resolve to open those doors (or not). This will be the moment of decision.
          Any clergyman I know could be forgiven for opening those doors to the faithful in such a case. “What? I’m supposed to leave them out there in the cold and damp? And while I am warm and comfortable in here? Who could do such a thing!”  Isn’t this being wise as serpents yet gentle as doves?
          So, I agree with you Thomas S: “I think we can take the risk upon ourselves to venture out to Paschal liturgy.”
          Who knows? Maybe it’s something America needs to see?
          E M Cimmins

  5. Ronda Wintheiser says

    This is what our priest had to say about it.  We’re an OCA parish in St. Paul.

  6. Sage-Girl says

    Isn’t today National Day of Prayer that President Trump announced ? 
    One thing’s for sure:
    we will never be Same again after this — collectively a Metamorphosis just might happen;
    the faithful will appreciate going to Ecclesia like never before, a renewed respect toward the genuine good clergy… especially since our religious freedom was threatened… + ultimately, the retrieving of our inner world from forced isolation… 
    oh + politically, the realization globalism is a failed experiment…
    hopefully shaking hands will be renounced in polite society,
    Hollywood degeneracy will lessen,  environment will get cleaner, more will work from home, schooling too + who knows what myriad of transformation is awaiting us in this ‘brave new world’?

  7. Has anyone heard of the purported directives from Mt. Athos to put a cross, or, make a cross with olive oil above all outside doors tonight?  

  8. As I sit here in my beautiful, comfortable home with my lovely wife, lacking nothing (no, not even toilet paper)…
    As I rest today from a hectic and thoroughly stressful week of non-stop calls and emails from all sorts of medical facilities seeking PPE and other medical supplies that I am either unable to provide or can provide only in amounts that don’t even approach their actual need…
    As I ponder my retirement fund (not good; but it could be far worse) that I had hoped to utilize in the very the near future…
    As I long for the heavenly food of immortality and wish I could not only gather for prayer in my parish, but simply go and visit my grandchildren…
    …I cannot help but think of my parents and grandparents who lived through dreadful economic depression and wars involving sacrifices and shortages I can only imagine but have never really felt (nor do I feel them now).  Or of my brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the centuries who have truly suffered persecution, who have been imprisoned and deprived of the Chalice for years on end, who lost everything they had in this world, and even suffered martyrdom.
    Of course, like everyone I wish my current circumstances were otherwise.  I wish the churches were open.  But what do I have to complain about?  My life, that of my family’s, and those of my fellow parishioners are in no imminent danger.  None of us are really suffering as others have been called to suffer.  We all live in comfort, have more than we need; and God has not abandoned us. 
    How can I not be grateful?  How can I not give thanks – not only for this present trial, but also for the relative ease of it all?  And when, feeble and spoiled fool that I am, I am tempted to do otherwise, I am reminded of the word of the Lord to Jeremiah.
    “If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?”

  9. Joseph Lipper says

    Speaking of the hit TV series “Cheers”, it was through the generosity of actor John Ratzenberger, the Cheers postman “Cliff”, that the Orthodox monastery of the All Merciful Saviour was established on Vashon Island in Washington State.  It is through monasteries like this that the Liturgy of the Orthodox faith is preserved while the rest of us now hide “until the anger of the LORD has passed”.   The work and prayers of (the now cloistered) monasteries are truly invaluable during times like this.  Thanks “Cliff”!

    Support your local monastery!

    • Gail Michalopulos says

      “Cliff!” (Actually, I would yell “Cliffy,” as that’s what “Norm” calls him.) – I didn’t know this!

    • Good call out, Joseph. It is, as Cliff would say,”a little known fact.” And I suspect John prefers it that way. The more one learns about him, the more one admires him. He has used the gifts God has given him to do all sorts of good.

  10. Went to Home Depot today it’s parking lot had more cars in it than a Orthodox Church at Pascha.  The point is Home Depot is here for me and many others in our time of need. The Orthodox Church not so much.

    • Joseph Lipper says

      Jacob Lee, that’s just a temptation.  You may be willing to risk your life and the lives of others by going on an “essential” trip to Home Depot, but is it also “essential” to risk the lives of others by also going to church? 
      If our bishops are telling us to stay home during this crisis, then that’s “being there for us”. 

      • Joseph,___”If our bishops are telling us to stay home during this crisis,”

        (1) have you ever written here that a bishop has done something wrong?

        (2) if there is a safe procedure to go to the food store why can we not follow that safe procedure to go to church?

        • Joseph Lipper says

          Ioannis, if it were available, I guess we could all get full haz-mat suits.  Then perhaps those “essential” trips to the grocery and hardware stores might actually be without risk to ourselves and others.  Otherwise, I think we’re just fooling ourselves with “safe procedures” that only serve to mitigate risk.  The best we can do is simply to avoid going out right now until this is under control.  Abstinence always works better than prophylactics anyways.

      • That is utter nonsense, Joseph. If the bishops truly cared for their flocks, they would be finding ways to make the Sacraments more accessible to their sheep. Thank God there are still a few good ones.

        • Joseph Lipper says

          May God protect His people from both the Corona virus, and our own arrogance.

          • Let me correct that for you.

            May God protect us from the corona virus. And the arrogant bishops who feel that the people need to be locked out of Christ’s Holy Churches at a time when they need them the most.

          • This isn’t the bubonic plague and if I can take a risk going to Wal-Mart or Kroger then I should be able to celebrate Paschal liturgy in the traditional manner.  If YOU are afraid of getting sick, then stay at home. 

            • Thomas S.: “If YOU are afraid of getting sick, then stay at home. ”
              What if you carry infection unknowingly, aren’t you afraid to infect others, perhaps more vulnerable? If they die, how will you feel?
              Epidemic is like fire, you can put it down by isolating hot spots, and drenching with water what you can. After fire ends, you need to search for the remaining sparks and extinguish them.

              • Gail Michalopulos says

                What if you, Martin, are a carrier and you go into the store where vulnerable people will also be, because unlike Church, everyone has to eat.

                Each time you push a cart, pick up something to look at it, squeeze an avocado to see if it’s ripe, reach across the counter to pick up some fish and manually unload your groceries for the cashier who has to load everything you touched back into your cart, YOU ARE PUTTING PEOPLE AT RISK, knowingly, because the vulnerable are there, too.

                How do you feel, not IF people die, but WHEN people die because they will becoming infected in the places the government, in their infinite wisdom, has decided to keep open. Had they forced grocery stores to do delivery, they would have eliminated this risk.

                At yet, you ask Thomas S., who wants to stand in Church, without touching anyone or anything, knowing the vulnerable are at home, how he feels?

                I’m guessing you’re asking a rhetorical question because no one wants anyone to die. We did not create this situation.

                • Gail Michalopulos: “I’m guessing you’re asking a rhetorical question because no one wants anyone to die. We did not create this situation. ”
                  OK, I follow my bishop, you follow yours 😉 I have nothing more to say.

                  • Gail Michalopulos says

                    Martin, I hope you know I wasn’t directing my frustration toward you. I was speaking about the logic of the directives and the pressure to follow them to help someone else, when the same directive (like leaving stores open) will hurt the people they’re trying to protect in another setting.

                    We all need to follow our bishops. And you can say anything you want! Truly. Did not mean to shut you down. If I did, I apologize.

                    • Gail Michalopulos: “when the same directive (like leaving stores open) will hurt the people they’re trying to protect in another setting”
                      Unfortunately people MUST eat. And this WILL HURT some buyers and sellers. In the grocery where I go, number of people at the same time is limited, people are given gloves, personnel has masks, cashiers are separated by plastic shields, you pack your stuff by yourself etc …, In the drug store (apothecary) only one person is allowed at a time, the rest has to wait outside in 2 meters (6 feet) apart.
                      Christ said that man does not live by bread alone, but it means that he has to eat too.
                      In our parish, priest serves with a few people present, it is visible live on Internet. He asked people to stay home.
                      Christ said also: “when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
                      The present epidemic is not the worst, certainly is not like bubonic plague or even so called “Spanish flu”. Yet it is bad, and if medical services break down, people who need urgent care for other reasons (like after heart attack) might not get it. That is why this fire has to be extinguished as fast as possible.

                    • Gail Michalopulos says

                      Wow! In my store they don’t have anything like that in place.

        • My Greek Orthodox Church is closed to laity for liturgy, but allows us to come during a one hour period to light a candle and receive communion, parish council members escorting people from their cars into Church, evenly spaced. Common sense to protect our older parishioners.

          • Ok, that is a least something.

          • Dino,
            Great to hear from you.  I think (hope) we are going to see more of what your parish is doing as time passes.  Hopefully soon.

            • Brian & Jacob,
              This will be the new normal for a few months, regardless if we like it or not. I believe an evangelical pastor was arrested in Florida after having two worship services with about 400 people in each service. I also just read that MP has told his flock to pray at home, and not attend Church services in Russia.

              I hope and pray an exception will be made this coming Pascha. Think of the  passion to attend Church after  such a long absence. The  collective spirit among us would be incredible. I imagine the only way possible would be outside the Church, with laity safely spaced out. I would risk arrest and/or a fine to attend.
              Aside from that I am very bitter how this all played out with the virus.  How an entire nation can be changed so quickly and forever, and our Constitution ripe for destruction is unbelievable. Will the “cure” destroy us as a nation? Only time will tell.

              My advice, get out of  large urban centers. When the money and food is scarce, cities might burn, and businesses will be looted.

        • Johann Sebastian says
      • Jacob Lee says

        Why did the GOA tell us to stay home? To keep our “liturgical tradition alive” not for our salvation but for their tradition. What is the purpose of Church is it not salvation? It is a betrayal of the faithful to hold liturgy without them. How many doctors nurses front line workers are in our Churches right now ZERO!!! I spent a good long time on the phone with one today. He is hurting, has his priest called him? Can he come to Church and find peace? No and No.
        Why did I go to Home Depot? I went for some electrical stuff for my senior citizen father-in-law. Better me go than him. 
         From our great archbishop “Divine Liturgies, to be celebrated behind closed doors in our Holy Churches, as is the case with the Monasteries. In this way we may be able to keep our liturgical tradition alive, even in this minimal way”

    • Johann Sebastian says

      Now, are the people flocking to Home Depot there for materials to fix their leaky roofs and clogged toilets or are they there to match paint for their new rec room or check out a new gazebo in preparation for summer?

  11. I wonder when we’ll start seeing an increase in arrests around the globe for attending Liturgy.

  12. Thank God for the Church of Georgia! The Patriarch had this to say:
    “Prohibiting church attendance for those for whom it is vitally needed is an unjustified offense against God.”

  13. God bless Patriarch Ilia – and Metropolitan Onuphry
    who also opens his churches for Liturgy.

  14. Jacob Lee says

    Prediction time. Do to the current CDC guidance there is no way our Bishops will open the Churches for Pascha. The only way I am wrong is on or about April 6th the accountants run the current stewardship numbers and they are way down.

    • You are correct Jacob. The frightened bishops will be offering the virtual reality Paschal Liturgy. And I will be offering the virtual reality donation to them. My newly adopted parish that is still holding services will be receiving the real donation. 

  15. A Patristic Orthodox perspective from Hieroschemamonk Nilus of St. Arsenius Hermitage in Decatur TX:
    The Coronavirus ~ Why?

  16. “The soviet regime fought against religion, drove out the Church, destroyed churches, and killed clergy, but it did not forbid worship behind closed doors. Our government has done this.”
    Metropolitan Nikolaos of Mesogaia

  17. George Michalopulos says

    God bless Gov Abbott! And the great people of the Lone Star State who elected him:


    BTW, social distancing can be practice in churches which have no pews. In those churches that (regrettably) have pews, two people can be placed per pew with only one pew out of three being occupied. The other two can be cordoned off.

    Just sayin’.

  18. Texas also suspended abortion as not medically necessary.