The Metropolitan of Kiev: A True Archpastor

His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev has ordered all monasteries in Ukraine to open their gates and receive coronavirus patients and for the monastics to take care of the suffering.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has more than 200 monasteries and 5,000 monks and nuns in that country. This is the time when the Orthodox Church will show Her strength by showing no fear. (Courtesy of Orthodox Church, a YouTube channel.)

In the meantime, the Archons are trying to scrounge up the money to try and finish some shrine on Wall Street.




  1. Axios!

    Metropolitan Onouphry on the Coronavirus in another outstanding statement to his flock:

    This is Orthodoxy. This is a true priest of the Shepherd we sheep recognize and follow. Glory to God.

  2. The virus has revealed many things. It revealed that there are only a handful of true Orthodox Bishops who are willing to take a stand for the faith by ministering to the faithful in their greatest time of need. It revealed that many of us are completely fine with the decision to watch Lenten and Paschal services on a computer screen. It revealed that the majority of us are more concerned with the maintenance of the flesh rather than the health of the soul. And it revealed that Bartholomew persecuted the true Hierarch of Ukraine by setting up a pseudo “church” of laymen pretending to be clergy.

    God works in mysterious ways.

    • Antiochene Son says

      I don’t think anyone is “fine” with it. But the Church has never called the faithful en masse to be martyrs to attend services during a pandemic. The church cooperates with the state in its competent sphere of ordering society.

      How would it serve the faithful if priests threw open the doors, got arrested, caught CV in jail, and dioceses went bankrupt dealing with lawsuits, and shut down a large number of parishes. They’re not asking us to deny Christ, they are asking us to sacrifice a tiny bit so 2 million don’t die.
      Countless heroic priests are ministering to the faithful in need, even today, and we will never know about it.
      When less than 200,000 deaths in the US will be a success by the president’s standard, I think we need to be good members of society, practice a little humility and a little symphonia, and understand that the churches will open soon enough. The liturgy is still being celebrated, God’s grace is still in the world. Christ is still risen. 

      • Gail Michalopulos says

        If they had fought harder for the Church as ESSENTIAL, they would not be arrested, etc. But they didn’t fight the battle. They feared the effects of a virus, even though they knew they could give a blessing to those who needed or wanted to stay home.

        To close the Churches was a fear-based decision; a “no confidence” vote. No confidence in the Scriptures where we are told we each have an appointed time. No confidence in the Eucharist that it has the power to help keep us well. No confidence in all these centuries where there have been no reports of people getting sick from partaking. No confidence in the fact that if it was so easy to get sick, our priests never seem to. Frankly, no confidence that God will protect us.

        The people we now look to protect us are the same group of people who were screaming we had only had 13 years to live because of climate change a few weeks ago. We see the same hollywood stars like Oprah saying things like “staying safe is staying home.” We believe them when they tell us outrageous things like we’ve got to stay home but it’s OK to go to stores where every sick person has to go because they have to eat, knowing they pick up melons to smell, squeeze the oranges and avocados to see if they’re ripe, pick up the perishables to examine the expiration dates, while making their way down narrow isles less than 4 feet across, pushing huge carts with the germs of hundreds of people all over it. All this, even though grocery stores are uniquely positioned to deliver to your home, offer online ordering and curbside assistance because, well, BECAUSE THEY ALREADY DO THAT!

        Allowing people to go to the store makes sense to them but not to allow people to go to Church, where we can stand a few feet apart, do not need to touch anyone or anything, where the sick, vulnerable and fearful have been given a blessing to stay home. Do our bishops realize that people will probably not be coming back? Why should they when they’ve been told praying at home is just as good or even BETTER! Why round up all the kids and spend a couple of hours trying to help them be quiet during a liturgy that is really not so important when push comes to shove? Of course when people stop coming, the money dries up.

        We do not KNOW what the coronavirus is going to do here. Scientists are backing off from decisions they made even 10 days ago. We do not KNOW how many people have it or have had it. We do not KNOW people are unwitting “carriers” though they do not appear to be sick. We do not KNOW when the apex will be or even if it has already passed. We do not KNOW how it’s going to behave in less dense areas. We do not KNOW know ANYTHING about this virus other than it’s probably a good idea to increase the supplies we may need.

        More importantly, we have no metrics. We can’t say, when a state has X number per capita, implement this measure and if it meets Y criteria, implement another. We’re taking a one-size fits all approach and running this by the seat of our pants. If EVER we needed the stability of a 2000 year old institution that has faced every plague known to man, it is now. The true Church KNOWS how to handle these things. At least she DID. One has to face the fact that the Church today is not the Church of yesteryear. Not even close.

        • “One has to face the fact that the Church today is not the Church of yesteryear. Not even close.”
          I agree, with a heavy heart.

        • Sage-Girl says

          Excellent salient points ???????! Never dreamed I’d miss the Ecclesia more than now… 

        • LonelyDn says

          Amen, Gail. 

        • Amen, Gail, George and Mikhail!

          Gail, thank you for emphasizing the fact the the hierarchs did not try to make a case for the services and sacraments being essential to their flocks. I pray they believe they are but from their inaction one cannot be sure. I understand fear and anxiety but wish they would not yield as quickly as I do and would remember our Holy Hospital of soul and body.

          IMO one ROCOR parish had aced the spiritual and scientific realities until their own Bishop restricted them, ahead of shelter in place. Their clergy and parish council were creatively offering more services to rotate different parishioners through and offering those not able to be “inside” to stand a distance apart outside and then be called in one at a time after the Divine or Presanctified Liturgies to receive Holy Communion.  

          Now with shelter in place there is still no medical reason why a service cannot be held with the same distancing rules as Trader Joe’s and why people who wish to do so could not wear masks and gloves within (honoring autonomy as Mikhail as mentioned). They could also follow the model of the ROCOR parish and rotate parishioners through on a sign-up basis and provide Holy Communion for those outside after the Liturgy one at a time, like at Trader Joe’s or FEDEX. If they truly understood Orthodoxy as well as the old country folks do, wouldn’t all the American hierarchs have tried to be considered essential?? Does it mean they don’t think so? Ah the temptation of this thought.

          Personally I am hoping all the hierarchs truly believe in the divine reality of Holy Communion at a minimum.  Reading one Archbishop’s stern directive recently I am beginning to wonder, another grave temptation for me during Lent.

          Many Patristic clergy in the lineage of Mount Athos, Elder Ephraim and Vladika Dmitri and who read the Lives of Saints believe as well that icons (windows to the Divine and which grant healing) and the Orthodox Divine Liturgy itself in which all the Saints and Angels are present are also impossible sources of disease.  For those who do not, this ROCOR parish had no judgment, just love and understanding.  And those who do not, can choose whether to participate and how much to glove and mask up if they do. And with regard to 2D streaming services which have a performance aspect, George you nailed it about the difference between 3D participation, utterly different.

          I agree with you Mikhail that what we ourselves believe and what others believe is becoming more clear.  

          George, Gail and Mikhail, thank you all especially for your article/comments.  It is lovely to feel understood by Orthodox sisters and brothers, especially when my official Bishop does not. It is also difficult for me, ruled by the passions as I am, to read the directives of Bishops who seem insensitive to the needs of the elderly, infirm, and spiritually weak while they are receiving the spiritual medicine of participation and the Spiritual Healing of Holy Communion which we cannot due to their own directives at the time we need it most. And to be told how weak or impassioned we are not to be joyfully obedient to Bishops when we are in need and also confused by how different their understanding is from that of the Saints and Mets Onouphry and Athanasios? Couldn’t we just be honoring the Orthodox Tradition and distressed by what seems a conflict?

          May the Lord Jesus Christ illumine my darkness and any and all darkness.  

          Your prayers please! On to do as my SF suggested and read Akathists and say the Jesus Prayer. Certainly need the reframe and to pray for mercy for me and us.

          With love and prayers in Christ to all,

          • Gail Michalopulos says

            Beautifully stated, Nicole, and thank you for initially pointing out that were our Churches considered to be “essential,” they would not have had to be closed, per secular authorities. But it needs to be said, they were not the ones who had to intervene. Our bishops gave them no reason to. It seems to me they should have.

          • Dear Nicole,
            Thank you for the beautiful post. You hit the nail on the head. I feel betrayed by many of the bishops. They stripped us of our free will. It would have been very easy for them to recommend that the elderly and infirm stay home. They could have soothed the nerves of the frightened by letting them know it’s okay to stay home and pray. And they could have left the Churches open for those who need to be there (with a directive to maintain a healthy distance from each other). But no…they shut EVERYBODY down wholesale. Stalin would have been proud!  I am not judging the people who cannot attend Liturgy. They are being obedient to their bishops. It is on them. I will never forget the anti Orthodox actions that these bishops have thrust upon us. They do not have the Orthodox phronema of our Holy Fathers. Yes Nicole…we seem to be in the minority. But be of good cheer. God plus one is a majority.

            • Thank you Gail and Mikhail, you are both very encouraging and kind.  Gail the latest OCA directive On Byzantine TX reveals they really do not understand or share our perspective. Praying they may!  Your last sentence Mikhail is a favorite of my spiritual father’s too. I can never hear that enough! I am grateful to you both.

              If you have not yet met him, I think you would Both be encouraged by knowing and reading Fr Justin Frederick. Tonight I was moved deeply by watching the YouTube service of Matins, Great Canon and life of St Mary at his church St Maximus the Confessor Orthodox Church in Denton. Candlelight only, focus on the icons and the fine priest Fr Justin prostrating, chanting, and reading from his heart  in place of and for us all ~ accompanied by a few devout choir members and the spirits of Vladika Dmitri of thrice-blessed memory and Fr Michael Storozuk of blessed memory. Fr Justin’s face seen only when reading the Life. Otherwise the icons of Christ and the Theotokos  and the altar his intense focus and ours.  Suggest watching in the dark. The video I would send to someone not yet aware of the singular, mystical worship of Orthodoxy.  No surprise,  Fr Justin is a true “son of Vladika” as we say about his devoted priests and a soulmate of the humble and repentant Holy Fathers.  Balm to the spirit.   Glory to God. And the homilies and resources on the Church website Patristic to the core. The link to the Canon:

        • Mariam Visagio says

          BRAVO Gail! Our chicken hierarchs closed before it was recommended to do so, they were afraid of getting sick, no fight or faith whatsoever. ” The true Church KNOWS how to handle these things. At least she DID.” Correct, the majority now are soft and faithless, and so are the majority of laity.

          • George Michalopulos says

            Mariam, Nicole, Petros, et al: I have been thinking long and hard about this pandemic and our secular and spiritual leaders’ reactions to it. And, even though I am mindful of the fact that we are not going to be called to account for heeding “those placed in authority over us”, I am giving consideration to the reaction of the laity/citizenry as well.

            I ask for all to be patient while I gather these thoughts.

        • Linda Engle says

          Thank you Nichole, Gail, George and Mikhail. I do not feel so alone in my thinking having read your comments! God Bless you every one.

        • Risking – in fact, with high probability taking – the lives of others, especially the weak and vulnerable, so that you can appease your own sense of piety is hands down the most un-Christ-like thing I can conjure up for a church to do outside of clergy child abuse. But then again, an abuse victim may have a shot at recovery. There’s something deeply deeply wrong at a spiritual level with the rationale that you can and will do just what you choose without regard to consequences for others. What happened in the time of Dionysius was Christians sacrificed themselves for the good of the sick. The idea that this is the moral equivalent to sacrificing others for your own desires is about as backward as it gets: its esssentially what we mean by the term “evil.”

          And, yes, with regard to the original post: Met. Onophury does appear to be a living saint.

          Addendum: we don’t believe in magic. A central part of the Orthodox understanding of Baptism is that we have died in Christ and already renounced a claim to “health and wealth.”

          • It’s not magic, Greg. It’s faith. How dare you bash good Orthodox Christians for claiming that they need the Bride of Christ during a crisis. How dare you call people selfish for weeping every day because they need the Body and Blood of Christ for the healing of both soul and body. How dare you call people “un-Christ like” because they feel betrayed by their bishops for locking them out of their beloved Churches. You should be ashamed of yourself. 

            • Gail Michalopulos says

              To add to what Mikhail is saying, what is the one thing that Christ would say to the recipients of His miraculous healings? He said it was their FAITH that healed them. Each and every time. It was their faith.

              And here we are in His Church, 2000+ years later. What is going to happen if we (especially the clergy) stop having faith that the mysteries will not make us sick or stop believing what the Church teaches about how the Body of Christ (as opposed to 2 stand-ins from the choir) must be present in the liturgies?

              My fear is that if we stop believing in the mysteries and what the Church teaches, they will cease being true.

              • Exactly!

              • Monk James Silver says

                Faith is not enough.  ‘Even demons believe, but they shudder.’  (James 2:19) 
                ‘If You say that you have faith but don’t act on it, can faith save you?….Faith alone without action is dead.’  (James 2:14, 17)
                Faith doesn’t operate in a conceptual vacuum —  it functions in a context which requires not only assent to truth and trust in God, but is demonstrated by appropriate actions, deeds done with clear minds and in love.
                ‘Augment your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with piety, piety with fraternal affection, and fraternal affection with love.’  (2 Peter 1:5-7)
                In our current circumstances, we would be wise not to test God by putting ourselves in harm’s way.  Even the three young men in the furnace at Babylon knew that God might not save them from the king’s flames. but it made no difference to them —  they would serve no one but God no matter what the king did.  They didn’t volunteer to be burned, but they wouldn’t bow to the king’s idol, either.  Now we sing of them on Holy Saturday.
                In the same way, we should not test God by asserting that our faith will keep us safe in this contagion if we don’t also take prudent precautions to preserve our health.  As we begin to see from the brief excerpts quoted here, the apostles strongly suggest that we have a great deal of mental and spiritual and even physical adjustments to make if we would aspire to share in divine nature.

                • Gail Michalopulos says

                  It is not “testing” God to take Him at His word. “Safe,” to me, is doing God’s will and not worrying about the consequences. “Safe” to you might mean waking up in the morning. – I am less worried about that than I am of losing sight of God.

                  In terms of the virus, let’s get something straight: I am home like everyone else, which is where I would be if there weren’t a virus. I like being home. I might go out into the world once every week or two but for me that means taking a day trip somewhere in OK where only a handful of people live. I do practically all my shopping online. George picks up the food. I think I’ve only been to a mall once this year and that was to find my wedding dress. I do not frequent crowded places. I never have. So if you’re worried about me spreading germs, you can relax.

                  I don’t spend a lot of time wondering how I can increase my knowledge, self-control, endurance, piety, and fraternal love, because it is an exercise in futility. True virtues are the outward manifestations of what is going on on the inside. You take care of the inside and the virtues will become evident: Your knowledge will seeming come out of nowhere, your self-control will be found in the way you measure your words, your endurance will be a given, your piety made clear in your commitment to the Church and fraternal love will flow in abundance in the absence of all that would compete with it.

                  Those who like to “work” on such things believe they can control them. They are so invested in the way they want the world to be, they cannot let other people’s opinions go unchallenged. As a result, they can be quarrelsome and insensitive. They’re fine with the mysteries of the Church unless it interferes with logic. Then, the mysteries are dispensable. They are unable to envision a way of life where the things of God are always true. For them to feel “safe,” they need to believe they have control over the truth. The things of God are negotiable. It’s like they’re saying, “Yes, yes, of course, the mysteries have a place, but in THIS situation, we cannot partake unless the experts tell us we can and we’re safe.” These are the same experts who have admittedly changed their models every day because they do not know what is coming next, but they’re the ones that make these people feel “safe.” God? Not so much: If you rely on Him, you’re “testing” Him.

                  People of faith approach things differently. There is nothing the world has to offer that they will accept if it’s incompatible with the teachings of the Church. For this reason, they become targets. The dark cannot tolerate the light and they must extinguish it.

                  • Gail, you hit the nail on the head with this comment:
                    “They’re fine with the mysteries of the Church unless it interferes with logic. ”
                    I know a very dear priest who has this to say about logic:
                    A reason-centered Orthodox Christian is an oxymoron. Our life – since the “old man” was buried in the sanctified waters of our Baptism, since we were sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit – is centered on “faith, in that of the Son of God, who loved me and gave His life for me” [Gal. 2:20].  Therefore, my reasoning, my human logic must be based on my faith.  Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis, among other things, has revealed that too many Orthodox Christians in the USA and Canada seemed to have joined with the majority of our fellow citizens, and the overwhelming majority of our civic leaders, and reversed what is natural for us: our faith now seems to be based on our human logic.  We’ve lost that simplicity of spirit, which keeps our hearts wide open to such divine blessings as: tears of repentance; total trust in – and obedience to – God’s will; the ability to experience worship and the Sacraments within our hearts, and never caring to comprehend or understand them (because we cannot!); the conviction that our holy, consecrated Churches – and all the ikons, crosses and sacred vessels within them – are always instruments of God’s healing and never instruments of disease.

                    • Gail Michalopulos says

                      Thanks for this, Mikhail. Logic is like brick wall.

                    • Monk James Silver says

                      I regret that no one is attributed for this quotation.  It could be taken more seriously if we knew who wrote these words.  Their author might be well respected, or regarded as an idiot.  We don’t know.
                      In general, though, I can say that the gift of reason  —  often described as logic —  is part of our being created in the image of God.  We should use it wisely and well.

                    • Gail Sheppard says

                      Father, is logic a gift or is it a tool? In terms of “gifts”, Scripture talks about revelations from God and discernment. Nothing about logic or reasoning. Even animals can reason.

                      As far as the quote is concerned, it appears as if it came from a priest, not an “idiot.”

                    • A quick Google search will reveal the author of those words. Try it sometime, rather than nit-picking about lack of attribution. It took me less than a minute to identify the priest in question, who is godly and well-respected.

                    • Tim R. Mortiss says

                      MJS says:
                      “I regret that no one is attributed for this quotation.  It could be taken more seriously if we knew who wrote these words.  Their author might be well respected, or regarded as an idiot.  We don’t know.”
                       I agree. But this cogent observation may be said to run afoul of the oft-repeated precept here that anonymity is no obstacle to the authority of posts!

                    • Gail Sheppard says

                      Anonymity is no obstacle for “one who is afraid of death,” either. It seems to work for most people.

                    • Gail Sheppard: “Anonymity is no obstacle for “one who is afraid of death,”

                      Anonymity is no obstacle for one who does not need to work for living, or rent an apartment, or apply for a loan, either.

                  • Gail Michalopulos: “It is not “testing” God to take Him at His word.”

                    What about that:

                    throw yourself down. For it is written:

                    “He will command his angels concerning you,    and they will lift you up in their hands,    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”

                    Jesus answered him, “It is also written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

                • No one is testing God, monk James. We need the chalice and the bishops shut us out. That’s all.

      • Antiochian Son,

        Religious institutions in many states are exempt, (such as my own state), and yet most jurisdictions locked us out anyway. I will find a parish that did not cave during this time and make it my own…no matter how far I have to drive. My hard earned money will go toward a parish which practices what it preaches. You will follow your conscience and I will follow mine. I am wondering how the early Church dealt with pandemics. Oh…wait…Saint Dionysius gives us a clue.

      • TheFutureOfTheChurch says

        Well stated. Although I would like to attend church services I refrain from doing so to limit the potential spread of the virus and to help protect others. Especially, those that may be more vulnerable than me.

    • What it comes down to is who truly believes the Divine Liturgy transcends time and the world and that the Eucharist is truly the body and blood of Christ… and who does not. 

  3. Whenever I see photos of Met. Onufry, I get a sense of inner peace. He just generates it.

    • Gail Michalopulos says

      George said the same thing.

      • Great minds think alike.

        • George Michalopulos says

          I’m humbled!

          Seriously, it’s possible that since Ukraine was the heart of this EU/NATO/EP-generated schism, that the Holy Spirit has shown forth a true archpastor in the heart of that riven land. Perhaps the healing of this unfortunate schism will be healed there.

          If nothing else, Onuphry is manifesting tremendous grace, not only in his actions but in his presence.

    • Agree, without a doubt.  Definitely along the same lines as St John of Shanghai and San Francisco.  Those few times that I have been able to venerate St John’s relics in the cathedral on Geary Blvd stay with me so much these days — the inner peace that his relics generate.  It is beautiful and indescribable. 
      Same with reading about Met. Onuphry.  Eis polla eti, Despota!
      Those who persecute Met. Onuphry do so unto their own condemnation.  And Met. Onuphry prays for those who persecute him – like a true living saint!

    • Met. Onufry is
      a real man of God
      a real Bishop.

  4. I just read about something else the virus has revealed.

    • Curious George says

      I must say that I am not going to criticize the GOA bishops here. Assuming this story is true (and for the sake of charity I do so), then they should be applauded for being selfless to the extent that they are.

      This raises troubling questions about a priest who was mentioned in this article. It has been widely assumed that he has done well for himself “shepherding” shall we say the building of the St Nick Boondoggle-and-Reflection Center. According to Helleniscope, both his wife and son were on the Archdiocese payroll to the tune of six figures for several years. I am curious as to how much he and his family are going to contribute to keep 79th St afloat.

      Curious minds want to know.

  5. Antiochene Son says

    I don’t know how monasteries are operated in Orthodox countries; do they usually have medical facilities up to par for dealing with this virus? I honestly don’t know.

    • Joseph Lipper says

      I was wondering the same thing.  Assuming that most monks have no medical training, how are they supposed to suddenly be nurses for patients with Covid-19?  Of course the monks pray for everyone, but I don’t understand the benefit of turning the monasteries into hospitals or nursing homes.  If the monks also get sick and are no longer able to accomplish their prayer rule and liturgical services, then what is the benefit?

      • Joseph,____(1)Assuming that most monks have no medical training, how are they supposed to suddenly be nurses…?”
        — They will do what the specialized doctors ask them to do (plus providing beds etc). 

        “I don’t understand the benefit of turning the monasteries into hospitals or nursing homes”.
        — You would understand if e.g. your biological brother who couldn’t find a place in other hospitals (full up) finally was hospitalized and saved there. 


          “If the monks also get sick and are no longer able to accomplish their prayer rule and liturgical services, then what is the benefit.”
        — The benefit is for them to go straight to heaven
        and for you brother (example) to have found a bed etc and get cured.

        BTW, Joseph now that you have some indication of possible answers why Onuphry did that,
        will you finally ask  3 wrong things you do not understand about  what Elpidophoros or Bartholomew is doing or is everything ok there?

    • TheFutureOfTheChurch says

      I was wondering the same. Receiving those infected with coronavirus in monasteries is obviously a selfless act of charity but how prepared are they given that many hospitals have been unable to handle this?

      • Gus Langis says

        I imagine they would not put the covid patients there, but move the non infectious patients to the monastery to free up space in hospitals. Here in NYC they converted jacob javits center (a convention hall) into like a 1000 bed makeshift hospital with portable partitions for the corona overload. They are not looking to put covid patients there but empty out the hospitals of patients with less severe problems who dont require as much monitoring and place them in the center.

        • Gus Langis, what you say is logical, provided there is a means to test people to make as sure as possible that persons moved to the monasteries are not infected.

    • I have limited experience with monasteries, although I have visited several in Greece, on Mount Athos, and in Russia.  I did not examine their medical facilities but I assume they have some modest resources to deal with the illnesses and injuries one might expect from the normal monastic population.
      However, monasteries are not hospitals, at least  not in the conventional sense, and I cannot imagine that they could provide effective medical treatment to large numbers of lay people who might flock to them for assistance.
      Receiving infected people might be reasonably viewed as “a selfless act of charity,” as “TheFutureOfTheChurch suggests, from the perspective of those who are offering monastic assistance, but not only is it likely that, as Joseph Lipper suggests, the monks themselves will also get sick, but what is worse is that the accumulation of many people at monasteries is likely to spread the virus from the infected to those who might not have become infected.  It could very well end up creating a much larger problem than currently exists.
      I think the decision to open up the monasteries to the sick, while well-intended, could end up making a bad situation much worse.

      • O ye of little faith.

        • Mikhail, could you explain yourself, please?  Are you saying that somehow no one can become infected if he or she is in any church or in any monastery?  Is that what you believe?

          • I believe that you cannot contract illness from Holy Communion, Holy Unction, Holy Icons, or kissing the priest’s hand. I also believe that the monks will not fall ill by caring for those stricken with the virus…and if they do…it is to the Glory of Jesus Christ. 

            • Monk James Silver says

              That’s a very convenient escape hatch for a failure of God to act in accordance with one’s beliefs:  I do what I believe, and if it doesn’t work out, then God’s to blame.
              From the earliest days of The Church, Christians were instructed to strengthen themselves for martyrdom at the hands of their persecutors at the same time as they were forbidden to seek martyrdom.
              When King Saul’s spared the cattle of Israel’s enemies after God commanded him to slay them along with , the people who owned them, saying that he thought that the cattle would please God as sacrifices, the holy prophet Samuel told him that God was not interested in Saul’s opinion, and that He was not pleased by sacrifices so much as by obedience —  a foundational principle in Orthodox Christian spiritual life.
              Our bishops are not wrong to direct the laity to follow the requirements of civil law in order to at least minimize if not prevent contagion.  They and the people who humbly follow their direction are not cowardly but prudent.  Far from abandoning their flocks, the bishops are enduring these restrictions with them, and many of our faithful priests are continuing to conduct services with a severely reduced number of people present.  Sometimes these services are made available electronically, sometimes not, but the laity are always being remembered in those prayers, and encouraged to join them from the safety of their isolation until the danger passes.  This is reminiscent of painting the lamb’s blood on the lintels and doorposts of Israel in Egypt so that Death may not enter the house.
              If we think about this just a little, we can sense a similarity to and solidarity with our ancestors in the Faith, whether persecuted by Romans or by Turks or by Communists, unable to gather in public places for prayer and instruction, not even daring to acknowledge one another on the street.
              Those troubles passed, and so will this plague.  Only let us be faithful and obedient until then.

              • I am not seeking martyrdom monk James. I am saying that I do not believe the Chalice, Holy Unction, Holy Icons, or kissing the priests hand can transmit illness in the Holy Church. This is what I believe. You may believe as you wish. I live in a state with a religious exemption and yet all the bishops locked down the Churches and shut out the laity.
                Contrary to your odd comparison, this is not another Passover.
                You are correct about one thing. The bishops have succeeded where the communists could not. They have voluntarily prevented the laity from entering the Church…even when they have an exemption.
                The bishops have abandoned us and they will answer to God.

            • What about Holy Communion, Unction, Icons, or kissing the hand of an improperly ordained priest in a schismatic “Orthodox” church?  Would your answer be any different?

            • Mikhail: “I believe that you cannot contract illness from Holy Communion, Holy Unction, Holy Icons, or kissing the priest’s hand.”
              I don’t believe that. Well, I do not believe the opposite either. I accept the possibility that you cannot illness that way. But I presume that it is not the best idea to test God.
              It would be different if I knew that it is the last chance in my life to receive sacraments, then I would join no matter what, but I hope that the epidemic will pass, and there will be another opportunity.

              • You don’t have to believe it Martin. You have free will to believe as you wish. It seems that people on this blog (such as yourself and monk James) have begun accusations of “testing God”. How very sad.

                • Monk James Silver says

                  Be careful here, ‘Mikhail’.  Neither I nor ‘Martin’ have accused anyone of ‘testing God’.  Like him, I merely suggested that it wouldn’t be a very good idea to test God, especially since the scriptures often warn us against this.  I adduced the story of the three young men in the furnace at Babylon as an illustration of how this works.
                  When they told the king that they would worship God alone and not bow to the king’s idol no matter what he did, the three men knew that the king had threatened to throw them into the fire if they would not obey him.  They did not insist that God would save them, but repeated their refusal to bow to the idol, adding that they would be faithful to God even if He did NOT save them from the fire.  By saying this, they made it clear that they refused to test God.
                  Now, before continuing, I want to affirm my trust in Christ and my firm belief that no one can get sick from receiving Holy Communion, at least not from Communion itself.  Yet I do NOT believe that the faithful would be safe from contagion if they gathered in a group of people likely to infect them —  even if all those people had assembled in church for the Divine Liturgy and to receive the eucharistic Body and Blood of Christ.
                  But defying the best medical advice we have, insisting that the faithful cannot be infected by gathering together in church, by venerating the ikons or kissing the hand of a priest, or by being anointed with holy oil, is indeed testing God.

                  It’s at this point where — based on your own words and by the standards I just explained — I am accusing you of testing God, and I suggest that you stop this and trust the bishops.

                  Your facile way of backing out of the theological absurdity you created was to assert that, if the faithful were infected anyway as they gathered in church, this must be God’s will.  This is unhelpful, and reminiscent of those poorly instructed snake-handling rural sectarians who take the gospel a bit too literally.  In spite of their beliefs, a good number of them get bitten and end up in the hospital if they don’t outright die from the venom of those snakes, but their rationalizations are identical to yours.
                  I thank Heaven that the prudent if painful decisions concerning our meeting for public worship during this plague are being made by faithful bishops who do not share your opinions.

                  • There you go…you accused me of testing God again. How dare you. Because I believe everything in the Church is sanctified, I am testing God? You have a lot of nerve Urban Monk James! And to clarify, we were talking about the monks serving the ill. Is it possible they can contract an illness while ministering to them on their cots and feeding them in makeshift cells and other such things? I suppose so. But I do not believe that inside the temple, which is sanctified by God’s healing grace, that someone could get sick by kissing the Icons, the priest’s hand, Holy Unction, and of course Holy Communion. Please stop your nonsense and insults. You suggested that you believe that people cannot get sick from Holy Communion itself. Do you believe they could get sick from the spoon being used to administer Holy Communion?

      • Joseph Lipper says

        “It could very well end up creating a much larger problem than currently exists.”
        Yes, particularly because monasteries tend to attract pilgrims from all over, and then they return home.  Left unchecked, the possibility of spreading disease is much worse for monasteries than any village parish.  That’s why it seems crucial to keep the monasteries cloistered and quarantined until the pandemic is under control. The last thing we need is for the government to deem our monasteries as health hazards and shut them down.

  6. Sage-Girl says

    Hi Gail –
    Thanks for enlightening me to
    GermFree Innovations ! Ordered stuff & spoke to sales – good to know they’re there.

  7. Thanks be to God for Met. Onuphry…by their fruits you shall know them. 
    If our bishops put as much effort into ending abortion or Orthodox unity…imagine what could be accomplished. This whole spectacle has exposed that they have no worry in acting quickly when it suits them but can’t be bothered with anything else 

  8. It’s the flu. 
    And in the end, like H1N1, it will be shown to be the flu.  Now, those statements may be completely accurate, or off by some margin of error.  But we don’t have the data to know because we have no accurate numbers regarding exposures versus deaths.  We only have small samples where it got on a liner or some other isolated space.  So we won’t know its true mortality for, likely, many months.  But the estimates keep falling and some estimates were quite low from the start.
    And we do know the death toll from the regular flu is 24000 and counting, and from this is 4000 and counting.  On that basis, the whole d@mn country is shut down, a country of 330,000,000.
    That’s insane.
    So the sane thing to do would have been to isolate the high risk, use good hygiene and wait and see.
    But no, the sky just positively must be falling.  Armageddon is at hand, the seven vials are being emptied.
    “The wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous are bold as lions.”  Proverbs 28:1
    Symptoms of faithlessness.
    But, Lord have mercy on me, the worst of all sinners.
    Kali sarakosti.

    And may God grant Vladyka Onuphry many years as the faithful pastor of his flock.

  9. Prelest.

  10. Nicholas of New York says

    Ok- this soumds like Grade A “Fake News” to me. Either the Ukrainians are ignorant and/or stupid,  or are extremely intelligent. Do ALL of their monastics possess a nursimg or medical degree/ licence? Where did the monasteries get their hospital beds ($55,000.00 ea.), ventilators ($45,000.00 ea.), PPE, etc. (China?) This is Absolut “Russian” propganda aka B.S.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Nicholas, you overestimate the expense in apocalyptic conditions.  The Church invented hospices/hospitals way back in the Middle Ages.  They weren’t the pristine, aseptic edifices that we’ve come to expect.  They were merely places to warehouse the dying and/or the grievously wounded/sick.

        Still, it was better than nothing.  If memory serves, Mozart died of TB face down in a Vienese gutter.  On the other hand, I’ve seen dozens of people die alone in pristine, clean hospitals, surrounded by no one.  

        Ideally, most of would rather pass away peacefully in our sleep surrounded by loved ones and perhaps hearing the Gospel being read, or a small choir chanting the prayers for the departure of the soul of the body from the body.  I imagine, that at the very least, those Ukrainians who are afflicted at these monasteries will at least be given a comfortable cot to sleep on, at least two meals a day, and the consolation of beautiful Rusyn hymnody.  

        There are worse ways to go.

    • Nicholas of New York

      “Either the Ukrainians are ignorant and/or stupid,  or are extremely intelligent. Do ALL of their monastics possess a nursing or medical degree/ licence?”
      I am not going to say,
      “Nicholas you are ignorant and/or stupid,  or are extremely intelligent”
      because obviously you are intelligent.
      And you thus twist the meaning of there offer to be purely medical expertise.
      No, Nicholas!
      They provide beds etc and themselves and will then further help as the experts tell them to do.
      Thank you.

    “In the event of a critical deterioration of the situation with the spread of coronavirus infection, in which medical institutions will not be able to hospitalize all those infected, the monasteries of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church should be ready to receive as many patients as possible,” the statement reads.

    • Gus Langis says

      The monastics will not be nursing anyone, their involvement with patients would be minimal.  They are offering their facilities;  monasteries have space with beds, large kitchen, bathrooms etc. 

      • Monk James Silver says

        That’s exactly right, Gus Langis. 
        At the direction of Metropolitan Onufriy of Kiev, the monasteries in Ukraine —  to the extent they can — are making their facilities available to house patients who are too numerous for the hospitals.  Apart from the fact that this is an Orthodox Christian initiative, it’s not much different from the field hospitals being set up by Samaritan’s Purse or the National Guard, etc., in the United States and elsewhere.  If there were such accommodations at the disposal of the Orthodox in other countries during this contagion, I expect that they would do the same.
        Except for those few nuns and monks with medical training, the monastics themselves will not be caring for these patients directly, but serving only as (for lack of a better word) ‘orderlies’ and as other support staff.
        Of course, the continuous prayer of the monasteries and the generally beneficial atmosphere of patients’ being surrounded by church life cannot be overestimated

  12. Monk James Silver says

    NEW YORK: April 1, 2020


    Dear in the Lord fathers, brothers, and sisters!

    I sincerely greet you with the very warmest well-wishes for the blessings of God, good health, spiritual calm, and the patience so needed in this trying time! I especially greet the doctors, nurses, and all who work in the hospitals, sincerely wishing them increased strength and Heavenly aid! I wish for those who are sick – and for their friends and relatives – comfort in the hope of God’s will, which always directs man toward the good. Our prayers are with all of you.

    As a result of measures being taken to halt the spread of the Coronavirus infection, which have been instituted by the governments of countries in which our Church maintains a presence, many of us have been deprived of the divine services and of communal worship in the temples. In some parishes, following the strict recommendations of local authorities, no services are held at all; in others, it is possible to serve, but this must be done with closed doors and in the presence of an extremely limited number of people, who themselves observe the required distance from one another. In many parishes, the service is performed by a single priest, sung by a single chanter. For these parishioners, it is a comfort to know that prayer is still being offered up in the churches, that the living and the dead are being commemorated. And where the divine services are being broadcast over the Internet via live-stream, many unite and join in this prayer, creating a prayerful atmosphere in their own homes. I have even heard of instances where some among the faithful light candles and lamps and, standing in their prayer corners, follow along with the service and pray. I think that such church “attendance” has the virtue for them of actual attendance, and inclines to them God’s mercy. It is a joy to hear how some priests, using modern technology, support their parishioners by holding talks on various spiritual, moral, catechetical, and others useful subjects. I am sure that such a creative approach strengthens the unity among people who together endure these difficult circumstances, and will bring good fruit in the future. In general, any positive examples in such complicated situations, when new methods of preaching and pastoral nourishment are discovered, are always inspiring and instructive.

    Unfortunately, we also hear of sorrowful instances of insubordination not only to local authorities, but also to the ruling bishops. Such behavior on the part of the clergy and lay parish officers is completely irresponsible and involves risk not only to the physical health of our neighbors, but also to our relationships with these communities and to parish property. Tempting God and man, their actions can result in insurmountable fines and other measures from law enforcement. In so doing, they irreparably damage their relationships with those around them, sowing in them doubts toward Christ’s Church, whose members must serve as an example. As a result of their disobedience and so-called “zeal not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2), there can even develop divisions and conflicts within the parish communities themselves.

    “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God,” writes the Apostle Peter, “That He may exalt you in due time; casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you” (I Peter 5:6-7). I call on the clergy and faithful of our churches, as law-abiding citizens of their countries, to follow all precautionary measures implemented by the local authorities, as well as adhering to the instructions issued by your Hierarchy, and to use the present conditions of quarantine to redouble your prayer, fasting, reading, and salvific contemplation, strengthening relations with family and friends. Perhaps before we did not sufficiently treasure the opportunity to pray in church, missing the divine services through our laziness and carelessness, or were so swallowed up by our affairs that we practically never saw our families, never prayed, never read anything of spiritual value, never prepared for the feasts, and never observed the fasts. General quarantine is a gift from God, which drives man into the depths of himself, forcing him to reexamine his attitude toward life, to think and to care about what is most important. Let every one of us make use of this blessed opportunity, at midnight on the Glorious Pascha night, to say to our own heart: “Christ is Risen,” and to hear from it that sweetest reply: “Indeed He is Risen.”

    Asking your holy prayers, I remain with love in the Lord,

    HILARION, Metropolitan of Eastern America & New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

  13. I was wondering who would be the first person to post this. I am extremely displeased that ROCOR has caved and followed the lead of the other bishops who abandoned the laity. At this time in history, we need a courageous bishop to step forward so that the faithful can follow him. Lord have mercy. Saint Mark of Ephesus pray for us.

  14. Hopefully they will have the resources in the Ukraine to set up tent hospitals, as other countries have done during epidemics and is happening now in places including the US. As for monasteries, I appreciate the desire to be charitable and care for the sick. But this is a highly contagious disease, and the thought of it entering monasteries is very worrisome. I truly hope it does not come to that. It was reported a few days ago that a monk on Mt. Athos was infected, he’s been taken to a hospital and isolated, let’s hope he didn’t infect others.

    I live in the West so don’t know about Eastern monastic communities. I do know that in past centuries in the West, monasteries also served as hospitals for the local villages, will skilled apothecaries and herb gardens among the monastics. That is not so today with our much more highly advanced healthcare system.
    During the Black Plague, a quarter to a third of the European population died, including a very large number of clergy and monastics, because they were the ones who cared for the sick. With them, a disaster for Europe, also died the ability to transmit the faith well, for it takes time to form new clergy and monastics. Many men were rushed into the priesthood without good formation, simply to make the sacraments available. But these priests caused widespread problems due to their lack of formation, including sexual immorality and a large rise in ignorance and superstition that a century later contributed to the Protestant Reformation.

    So I wouldn’t be in a rush to open the monasteries, not with a virus like this, not in a country like the Ukraine that is already suffering division and discord within Orthodoxy. They are intercessors and spiritual warriors, and the Ukraine needs their spiritual aid even more during times like these. They should be protected, not exposed.
    To those who say we who feel this way are of “weak faith,” I invite you, if those monasteries open, to immediately go and volunteer to help. Better yet, go right now to your local hospital and volunteer to help, since you are so eager to volunteer monastics for this work.

    • Huh? No one is volunteering the monastics for this work. They are volunteering themselves to do God’s work. What are you talking about?!?  Furthermore, how do you know that people on this blog are not in the medical field, or not volunteering to help on the front lines in medical facilities, or not helping to feed the hungry. Your assumptions are ugly. 

      • George Michalopulos says

        Indeed. I can say that there is a lovely person whom I know who has tirelessly worked to feed the hungry whether by cooking for the homebound or by giving alms to beggars. This person did these things long before the Chinese flu and hasn’t stopped since.

        I am quite sure Theo that there are many others who read this blog who are stepping up the plate. I think in the spirit of Lent you should give a blanket apology and double up on your own efforts.

        Forgive me, Brother, for any offense if I have spoken out of line.

        • George, I think you missed Theo’s point.  His last paragraph was directed to those who say that certain people among us are of “weak faith.”  It was not directed to those who, as you put it, are “stepping up to the plate.”  It may be that you adopted the way Mikhail framed Theo’s comment rather than the way Theo himself framed it.  Theo is not the one who owes an apology, certainly not based on the sensible and carefully crafted things that he wrote. 
          I suggest you carefully reread the last paragraph of Theo’s comment, and then look closely at how Mikhail responded.  If you do that, I think you’ll see that Mikhail mischaracterized what Theo wrote.

          • George Michalopulos says

            Will do. Also, Theo informed me that she’s a woman so I erred.

          • And I urge you to read more carefully Mr. Blimbax. I said little…not weak. I am also of little faith. That is why I need the Church and the Chalice…especially at this dire time in our lives.
            “Lord I believe. Help my unbelief.”

            • Actually, Mikhail, I used “weak faith” because I was referring to something Theo had written, and she used that particular phrase. In other words, I was quoting her words. . .  [Editor]

              • And what was Theo referring to Mr. Blimbax?

                • My response to your comment, in which you suggested I read more carefully, was redacted by the editor of this blog.  I can only guess at the reason for that, although it resulted in eliminating some of what I wanted to say.  However, in the long run it makes no difference to me.  I see no point in continuing this dialogue with you.
                  I’ll close by noting that there are people who have talked before of the need to obey one’s bishop and to respect the clergy.  But if their bishop tells them what they don’t want to hear, they’ll go find another bishop who agrees with them.  If a priest writes something they don’t like, they question whether he actually is a member of the clergy.
                  Monk James Silver and Solitary Priest have articulated their positions more persuasively than I could, and in a manner and with a tone more befitting an Orthodox Christian who is communicating with other Orthodox Christians.  In that respect, they have set good examples that ought to be followed.

                  • I agree that one should be obedient to their bishop. That is why judgement falls on the bishop…not the laity for this situation. It is the hierarchs who have locked the people out of the Churches and deprived them of Holy Communion during the Great Fast and Pascha. That is on the hierarch. We must obey the bishops, but we don’t have to agree with them. And I will never be silenced regarding the fact that they shut us out of the Church when we needed it the most. And if a Hierarch emerges in America who can courageously lead the people with a patristic phromena…I will surely follow him.

          • George Michalopulos says

            OK, let me think about it.

      • “His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev has ordered all monasteries in Ukraine to open their gates and receive coronavirus patients…” Doesn’t sound like volunteering to me.

        Nor is it ugly to suggest you practice what you preach, and it would be nice to hear what others on this blog are doing to help, that would be inspiring. As for me, I am not a healthcare worker and am required to stay home due to my age. But I had a store of face masks left over from an old project, and donated them to my local hospital since they did not have enough. If I knew how to sew, I’d be sewing face masks, as many in my community are doing.

        Btw, George, it’s sister, not brother. Theo is short for Theodora. It’s a family name and we go by Theo.

        • George Michalopulos says

          Will do. Also, Theo informed me that she’s a woman so I erred.

          • George Michalopulos says

            OK, I’m hitting the “post” button too quickly.

            Sorry, Sister!

            Of course, I have no way of knowing how old you are (or anybody else for that matter) nor what health issues that the readers of this blog have. I’m sure that as Christians that we are all stepping up to the plate in spite of what physical, social or economic constraints we have.

            Forgive me if I offended you.

            • No offense taken, George. And I like this blog, like the honest discussion here.

              It’s amusing to me that I’m usually mistaken for a man online, despite the cute kitten picture. I wouldn’t think most guys would choose a cute kitten for an avatar. But I like it, it’s of a street kitty in Athens, where I’ve been and where there are many street kittens.
              I don’t feel or think of myself as “elderly,” nor do my friends think that of me. Actually I think I’m pretty youthful. But it was a bit disconcerting to realize I’m in the age category of those who are supposed to stay home. I’m a lot more worried about my truly elderly mom in assisted living, and whom I cannot see now thanks to this virus. I just want everyone to stay safe and be well.

              • George Michalopulos says

                Dear Sister, forgive me for thinking you were elderly!  I’m sure you’re youthful (and younger than me).  I pray your mother is well.

                • Gail Sheppard says

                  George married a woman of “your advanced years (haha)” and he is definitely not complaining!

                  • George Michalopulos says

                    Balderdash, my dear!  I am sure that you are still 39.  Certainly you look and act it!

                    • Speaking of which, are we ever going to see a wedding photo?

                    • I forgot how many times I’ve been 29 again, it was so long ago.  😀

                    • Kipling wrote a wonderful poem on this subject:

                      My Rival

                      I go to concert, party, ball —
                      What profit is in these?
                      I sit alone against the wall
                      And strive to look at ease.
                      The incense that is mine by right
                      They burn before her shrine;
                      And that’s because I’m seventeen
                      And She is forty-nine.

                      I cannot check my girlish blush,
                      My color comes and goes;
                      I redden to my finger-tips,
                      And sometimes to my nose.
                      But She is white where white should be,
                      And red where red should shine.
                      The blush that flies at seventeen
                      Is fixed at forty-nine.

                      I wish I had Her constant cheek;
                      I wish that I could sing
                      All sorts of funny little songs,
                      Not quite the proper thing.
                      I’m very gauche and very shy,
                      Her jokes aren’t in my line;
                      And, worst of all, I’m seventeen
                      While She is forty-nine.

                      The young men come, the young men go
                      Each pink and white and neat,
                      She’s older than their mothers, but
                      They grovel at Her feet.
                      They walk beside Her ‘rickshaw wheels —
                      None ever walk by mine;
                      And that’s because I’m seventeen
                      And She is forty-nine.

                      She rides with half a dozen men,
                      (She calls them “boys” and “mashers”)
                      I trot along the Mall alone;
                      My prettiest frocks and sashes
                      Don’t help to fill my programme-card,
                      And vainly I repine
                      From ten to two A.M. Ah me!
                      Would I were forty-nine!

                      She calls me “darling,” “pet,” and “dear,”
                      And “sweet retiring maid.”
                      I’m always at the back, I know,
                      She puts me in the shade.
                      She introduces me to men,
                      “Cast” lovers, I opine,
                      For sixty takes to seventeen,
                      Nineteen to forty-nine.

                      But even She must older grow
                      And end Her dancing days,
                      She can’t go on forever so
                      At concerts, balls and plays.
                      One ray of priceless hope I see
                      Before my footsteps shine;
                      Just think, that She’ll be eighty-one
                      When I am forty-nine.

  15. Here are some words from a true Hierarch!

    “Any person, at the time of a trial, seeks for deliverance and consolation… Today, when a new infection that has spread throughout the world threatens the life of the population, it is natural that parishioners would place special hopes in the Lord and be drawn to church. For believers, spiritual food is just as important and necessary as physical food; therefore, it is impossible to close the doors of the churches, and they will be open for those who want to come to Church, to receive God’s grace and be spiritually strengthened.”
    Patriarch Ilia II of Georgia

    • Gail Michalopulos says

      Is it any wonder that my heart is leaning toward Georgia?

    • Monk James Silver says

      To be completely honest here, we should acknowledge that, in this same letter, Patriarch Ilia  also accommodated the concerns of the Georgian laity who felt that they could/should not gather together for public worship in the churches during the contagion. 

      • Gail Michalopulos says

        Which is exactly as it should be. None of the laity should be made to feel uncomfortable for staying home whether they’re sick, think they might be sick, think they could get sick or even if they’re just afraid. They have a BLESSING to stay at home.

        Blessings are mysteries, too, in that they carry weight, are common in the tradition of our Church and offer the same protection.

    • “Any person, at the time of a trial, seeks for deliverance and consolation… Today, when a new infection that has spread throughout the world threatens the life of the population, it is natural that parishioners would place special hopes in the Lord and be drawn to church. For believers, spiritual food is just as important and necessary as physical food; therefore, it is impossible to close the doors of the churches, and they will be open for those who want to come to Church, to receive God’s grace and be spiritually strengthened.”Patriarch Ilia II of Georgia
      Wonderful statement from Patriarch Ilia.  Thanks for posting Mikhail!

  16. I am saying this to you, not to “people”. By all means, weep. I am saying plainly, however, that your compulsion to satisfy your own needs at the expense of the weak and vulnerable among us, especially widows and children, is plainly the very opposite of Christ like. He gave His life “for the life of the world.” You too can make a sacrifice for others (the only thing I can agree with is that withdrawal from Holy Communion is a grave and painful sacrifice).
    Gail, God will heal whom He will for reasons we cannot know or control. The presumption that we can do either is not faith.

    • No one is satisfying their own needs. The Church…the Bride of Christ…was there for the people even during the worst times of the Communist era. Now we have the Chinese flu…and the bishops lock us out in a heart beat. For shame!  Many states exempted the Church…and the Bishops have shut us out anyway. You are welcome to stay home Greg. But many of us know what is happening here.

      • All of which avoids acknowledging the simple fact that the willful “choice” to endanger the vulnerable cannot be reconciled with Christian teaching or practice.
        In any case there is no point to continuing this.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          That’s just it, Greg. No one is endangering anyone but if the vulnerable (especially the spiritually vulnerable) don’t feel comfortable coming, they have a blessing not to.

          Why should you be able to impose your fears, that are not universally shared or acknowledged, onto the rest of us? Why is it not enough for you to just go your own way and protect yourself? Why do I need to adopt what, to me, appears to be totally irrational because you say so? You and I both know very, very few die from this virus and you live with worse odds from a variety of other things no one is talking about.

          Go ahead, Greg. Live in fear. Stay in your home. If living this way works for you, fine. But do not attempt to limit what I do to make you feel safe. That’s not my responsibility. And to be honest, nothing I could do would make you feel safe, anyway, if you don’t feel safe in Church.

          • Bravo! Why do you always say it better than me, Gail? ?

            • Gail Sheppard says

              Well, Mikhail, it’s not that it’s better, it’s that it resonates with you. – It’s kind of like food. It always tastes better when someone else makes it.

  17. Anonymous says

    Well, it looks like most of us will have to watch Pascha on youtube. Be patient, because maybe in a few weeks, Bill Gates will have his vaccine right in your arm, and THEN you’ll be allowed to receive Holy Communion. 

  18. St Nikephoros the Leper appeared in Greece…and now in Bulgaria. The testimony of the person says that the saint appeared to him three times. He said that Holy Communion is the cure for coronavirus. He said that the people need to be in Church and that there cannot be any contagion in the Church and no one can be infected there. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. I have linked the article. Now excuse me while I brew some thyme tea.

    • Judgement Day is going to be tough for those bishops that ordered our churches closed.

    • Well, that settle it!  Now we can all throw away the hand sanitizers, the 24-hour hand cleaners, the elderberry concentrates, the latex gloves, the masks, and all that.

      • Gail Sheppard says

        You may not have known anything about that 24 hour hand sanitizer, but you didn’t challenge me on what I told you, whether you bought it or not, because it didn’t pose a risk to your logical brain.

        Going “all in” spiritually, seemingly requires great risk. I say “seemingly,” because the risk is an illusion. The traditions of the Church will not hurt you. They are “truths.” But to prove it to yourself, you have to at least be willing to take a peek into that world. Instead of dismissing it, consider it.

        Few remember our first haircut but a lot of us have raised children and we know to a toddler, the idea of someone cutting something off their head is abhorrent. They are unwilling participants in this ordeal which is often accompanied by crying and screaming. They do not listen to their parents when they tell them it won’t hurt because in their brains they believe if you cut something off the body with scissors (!!!) it will turn into a major “owie.”

        I am telling you, blimbax, that believing in the traditions of the Church will strengthen you, not hurt you. It is unconscionable that I have to be the one instructing you (for lack of a better word). Our bishops should be doing that but they are “babes in the woods” when it comes to these things. If they could do better, they probably would, but clearly most of them have little experience with the spiritual world if they’re worried about a virus tainting the mysteries.

        The Church rose in a world full of viruses and germs with few remedies. People almost always died back then. They took illness very seriously. If the traditions of the Church made you sick, it wouldn’t exist today. It would have been shut down a long time ago.

        By all means follow your bishop, as we can do nothing else. They have padlocked the Church. If they are wrong, it’s on them.

        “The road to hell is paved with the skulls of erring priests, with bishops as their signposts.” St. John Chrysostom

        • Gail, thanks for trying to provide the instruction you assume my bishop is unable to provide.  But you’ve missed my point.  If you believe, like Mikhail, that Holy Communion is the cure, then you need not rely on hand sanitizers and all the rest.
          As for your statement,

          It is unconscionable that I have to be the one instructing you (for lack of a better word). Our bishops should be doing that but they are ‘babes in the woods’ when it comes to these things,

          what can one say?  Now you’ve placed yourself above the bishops in knowledge and wisdom.  
          Do you not see a problem here?  Perhaps not.  Perhaps you have the security in believing the things that Mikhail believes.  Is your bishop saying something that conflicts with your beliefs?  Well, then, go out and find another bishop whom you do agree with.  Or, rather, agrees with you.  Does a priest post a comment that you think is wrong.  Well, then, he must not really be a priest.  Does a layman post something that you disagree with?  Well, then, he is of “little faith.”
          I am not dismissing anything, Gail, except for those whose “beliefs” almost put them on the level of snake handlers.  The way I see it, Orthodoxy is a bit more nuanced, a bit deeper, than some people who comment on this blog seem to realize. Fortunately, there are others, such as Monk James Silver and Solitary Priest, who, for those who are willing to contemplate it, help show us that.  

          • Gail Sheppard says

            You know I was trying to be helpful. Put down your sword, blimbax. You and I are not at war here. My point was not about the bishops and I did not place myself above them. I said to follow them which is pretty much a moot point since they have padlocked the Church.

            Clearly, it is not our bishops, yours or mine, that I’m even talking about as the decision to close the Church was made at a higher level. How do I know? Because individual bishops rarely agree on anything and their directives were almost identical, word for word, including the metaphor of being in the desert.

            Is the rest of what I said so threatening to you that you have to allow yourself to be sidetracked this way?

            • Let me make this simple. Mikhail wrote, “Holy Communion is the cure for coronavirus.” Do you agree with him? Is it the “cure”?

              • Gail Sheppard says

                It is a remedy for the spiritual weakness within us that make us vulnerable to viruses in the first place. There is a caveat, however: if you partake unprepared, it can be harmful and literally make you sick. Being “prepared” does not mean you have to completely understand how truly powerful it is, as it is also a remedy for your spiritual formation to help you on your journey, i.e. “milk” for a time and then “meat” down the road.

                Being unprepared means not living a sacramental life in the Church.

                I truly believe this. I’m not trying to sound all pious or anything because you have got to know by now, I am anything but. And I am saying this out of love for you as a brother (or sister) in Christ. If you don’t believe this, it is truly not worth your time to read anything else I have to say.

                When I was in AZ, I was unable to go to Church. If you’re curious why, you can listen to the interviews I did with George at the time. It got so bad my priest, who was always my champion BTW (a testament to him, not to me), felt he had to retire. He subsequently had to sell his home and move because a gunman, having been told he had money hidden somewhere in his home, held a gun to his wife’s head. In talking with my priest about it later, neither of us are completely convinced it wasn’t motivated by the same people who did over $100,000 damage to my parent’s home. My own apartment had been broken into, twice, in the preceding weeks and then there were those interviews. I’m not so sure the same thing wouldn’t have happened to me if I hadn’t been on my way out of town. Only in my case, Father would not have been there to wrestle the gun out of anyone’s hand and we would not be having this conversation.

                The point is, I could not attend Church. After missing 3 liturgies in a row, I was technically not even Orthodox anymore. Until I could again live a sacramental life in the Church, which involved completely restructuring my life, I refused to take the Eucharist and this went on for more than a year (closer to 2). THAT’S how much I believe in its power. If I thought less of it, it would have been far easier for me to partake. Imagine how hard it is seeing people streaming around you to line up to take something that you value so much, you wouldn’t even dream of touching it unless you were in the right place.

                So, getting back to your question. What you really want me to do is confirm what you believe, based on what you know, to date. However, until you can look at this from both POVs (mine as well as yours), you can’t really posit an answer. I, on the other hand, used to be you! I used to think exactly like you do. I get where you’re coming from and now I see it differently.

                It is my greatest hope that one day we can again have this conversation where you can say, “I get where you’re coming from, too, Gail.” – You have no idea how much.

                • George Michalopulos says

                  Blimbax, you ask the wrong question. Gail is correct: Communion is the cure for death. How do I know this? Because Jesus Himself said so. And St Paul reiterated that in no uncertain terms.

                  What worries me about your question is What Comes After. (BTW, that’s going to be the title of a major thought-piece.) Are we going to get to the point where many of us believe that the Eucharist is not the Body and Blood of Christ? That we should not use the Spoon? That it can transmit disease?

          • Solitary Priest says

            For the record, Gail never said I might not be a priest. I know I probably shouldn’t have become a priest at a young age, but it’s a bit late to do anything about that now.
            I do think Fr. Seraphim Rose was correct in pointing out that we have extremists on the “right”, as well as on the “left” in Orthodoxy. I used to think there was no such thing as extremism on the right, because I was one of those extremists. My spiritual father was blindly obedient to a certain elder. This elder was an Archimandrite who caused horrible divisions in the church. That is past me now, but I regret having been overly zealous and perhaps driven people away in the process.
            I don’t know Gail and George personally, but we have a mutual friend in Michael Bauman. Michael is like the wise older brother I never had.

            • Solitary Priest, also for the record, I agree it was not Gail who said that nor did I intend to suggest she did.  Take another look at your comment from last month and the comment that followed it:

              • Gail Sheppard says

                My first Pascha, it rained cats and dogs. Our parish was in a business complex in Southern CA. I was incredulous when they opened the doors. I said to Khouria Lynn (St. Barnabas), “We’re not going out in that are we? I thought this part would be cancelled.” She laughed and said, “Gail, we never cancel Pascha!” She threaded her arm in mine, and said, “Let’s go!” My friend, Bonnie, grabbed my other arm and out we went. We were slipping and sliding, the babies were howling, our candles went out and the 3 of us couldn’t stop giggling as we sang at the top of our lungs. It must have looked absurd to the freeway traffic beside us as we proceeding around a business complex on a Saturday evening in the pouring rain. I looked like a drown rat by the time we got back but it was one of the best Paschas I ever had. – Strike that. It was the BEST Pascha I ever had because Khouria Lynn was there, it was my first, and, well, because I was told the Church never cancels Pascha.

                • Solitary Priest says

                  Are you saying then, Gail, that the rector of the church I served in was wrong for not going out and doing the procession in the rain? First of all, it wasn’t my call, I was a guest. We didn’t cancel anything, we did the procession inside. I wish it had been outside, because the bell ringing indoors almost blew my eardrums.

                  • Gail Sheppard says

                    I shared my experience with you because it helps to explain how my formation in the Church influenced me and why I am having such a difficult time with the Church cancelling Pascha. Until now, I didn’t think it was even possible. – We lost Khouri Lynn a few years ago and I miss her. I also wish I could go back to a time where celebrating Pascha was just a given.

                    I’m afraid I drank the “Kool-Aid”, Father. I do not think the Church needs to change. I do not want the Church to change.

                    • Solitary Priest says

                      Who the hell said I wanted the church to change? Not me. Gail, I left an OCA parish because I would not cave in to their demands about the services. Peace. Be healthy you and George.

                    • Gail Sheppard says

                      No one, Father.  Nothing I said had anything to do with you, I promise!  I was just making a declarative statement.  I don’t want to the Church to change.  Canceling Pascha is a change.

                    • Solitary Priest says

                      Forgive me, Gail, for my harsh response. I’m afraid years of being told I was never right no matter what have taken their toll on me. It looks like we will be able to celebrate Pascha here, albeit in a low key manner. I certainly don’t deserve to be a priest, let alone celebrate the divine services. God is merciful.

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Gail, never in a million years did I think that the Church would change the Paschalion. Not even Metaxakis of sorrowful memory would go that far without the entire Church acting in Council. The most he could do (which was very regrettable regardless) was do this half-a-loaf thing in which only the fixed Feasts were to coincide with the Gregorian calendar.

                      As it is now, I heard that the Church of Greece is going to celebrate Easter 40 days after Easter (or something like that). It will not be the same.

                      I’ve spoken of “silver linings” here, especially the confounding of the Globalists’ and the Phanar’s modernist plans. Those stand. But these are exceedingly small victories in light of what we have to go through.

            • Just as no one knows my full name…because I only use my first name…I do not know if solitary priest is truly a member of the clergy. I do not use my full name because I am fearful of retribution. I do not have the courage that Gail has/had. If you are a true priest…then please forgive me for questioning it, solitary priest.
              I love the writings of Fr. Seraphim Rose. He is spot on about those who have an issue with what I believe he termed, “super correctness”.  Am I zealous for the faith? No doubt. Do I suffer from the disease of “super correctness”?  At times. Is fighting for the Churches to stay open and the Holy Mysteries to be available to the laity in times of crisis an example of “super correctness” or over zealousness? I don’t believe so.

              • Gail Sheppard says

                Well, I’m in a unique position because I am under the protection of Monomakhos.

              • Michael Bauman says

                Solitary Priest is an Orthodox Priest

              • I have largely refrained from participation in this conversation, and I don’t expect this comment to calm all our passions, least of all my own, but…
                We can argue all day about what is right or wrong about how this is being handled by our bishops, or about faith or the lack thereof, or about what can or cannot possibly spread the infection, or about whose fault it is that we cannot gather as the Church.    But at the end of the day, after all the arguments and/or frustrations are voiced, there are no options left to us.  Regardless of the reasons or the culpability, all avenues of realizing what we all desire have been closed off to us.
                Shouldn’t this, perhaps, tell us something about whose hand it is at work in all this?
                I am at this very moment pondering the icon of my patron Saint, Joseph the Patriarch.  One would rightly say that his brothers were to blame for selling him into Egypt (they were!).  Joseph neither desired nor chose anything that he suffered.  He wanted to be in his father’s house.  Like us, he was a man of faith; and like us, he was as victim – or so it seemed – of the evils of others, both those of God’s own chosen people and those of the heathen.  Though God had a wondrous purpose that was made manifest in His time, it was hidden behind multiple injustices.  When the purpose of it all was finally realized, Joseph, while acknowledging the evil, praised the sovereignty of God in the midst of it all and showed mercy to his brethren.  In a strange and unfathomable manner, God used even the sin of the Patriarchs to save them.  And when Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers, as they trembled before him fearing his just retribution, he said,
                “Fear not for I am God’s.  Ye took council against me for evil, but God took council for me for good.” 
                Forgive me.  It is not my intent to chide, offend, or contradict anyone’s opinions or feelings.  I have some of my own.  Believe me when I say that I myself am extremely disappointed that at least some sort of reasonable accommodation has not thus far been made in order to commune the faithful.
                But it is becoming increasingly evident that none of what any of us think, believe, or feel matters much in the end.  The way is sealed to us at this moment.  God Himself is apparently doing something (perhaps something marvelous) through all this, though I do not pretend to know what it is.  And since He has  evidently placed these things beyond our control, stubbornly eluding our desire to manage or change it, I can only trust that it is His council for us for good.

                • E M Cimmins says

                  Spot on Brian.
                  I really like many things you say. You’ve got a great perspective and you’re becoming one of the people I pay particular attention to on this blog.
                  No human action, no natural occurrence, can or does derail His ultimate plan for mankind.
                  Big thumbs up.
                  E M Cimmins

                • Michael Bauman says

                  Brian, amen

          • I would politely suggest that you give it a rest Mr. Blimbax.  You do not have believe that Holy Communion is the cure for all that ails us…bodily and spiritually. God gave you free will.

    • Mikhail, Gail, if I may add something:
      “But the wonders appeared to those who worshipped the mystery in faith”.
      Written by St. John the Damascene ( 750).

      This what we sing in the Lauds in Matins, Fifth Tone.

      Do we believe what we sing in Church?

  19. “When we face a temptation like the one we currently have, we must repent and take refuge in the Church, not panic about how to protect our bodies and thereby distance ourselves from the Church. I am not saying that we should not protect ourselves from the dangers of this epidemic, which is spreading quickly and causing panic. Everyone should be taking the necessary preventive measures to protect his body, but we must not forget our souls. Whoever locked himself at home and did not come to church is the truly ill person. Please excuse my harsh words, but every one of us must be aware of our salvation and that true prevention and true life is through persevering to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. There is no real life except through the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.”
    Archimandrite Gregorios Estephan, Abbot of the Dormition of the Theotokos Monastery, Bkeftine, Lebanon

  20. St. Andrew of Crete, together with honest and zealous helpers, rebuilt the ruined Churches of God and lavishly adorned them. Also, he built a shelter and clinic for the care of the elderly, the healing of the sick, and the lodging of strangers and the poor. He would abundantly care for them and feed them.  Thus did the all-wise and God-pleasing man spend the revenues of God. Notwithstanding, he imitated Christ in other things also, as his Master and Teacher. Indeed, with his own hands, he ministered to the sick and strangers. He would gird himself with a towel and would wash their hands, feet, and heads. The blessed one would dress wounds of the sick, cleansing them of pus and blood, so fervent was his love toward God and neighbor. It is said that his outward appearance was such that each man was touched and renewed just beholding his face and listening to his words, which flowed like honey from his lips.
    St. Andrew of Crete from The Great Synaxtaristes of the Orthodox Church

  21. In 2009, the OCA published an article in response to the H1N1 virus and pandemic. People were getting nervous about the possibility of the virus being transmitted through Holy Communion. Some were afraid of the spoon and wanted the Eucharist to be dropped into their mouths with the head tilted back. The article goes on to put minds at ease and to reiterate the fact that Holy Communion cannot transmit disease. They quote Metropolitan Nicolaos Hadjinikolaou, founder of the bioethics institute in Athens.
    This is an excerpt:
    The Metropolitan concluded with a pertinent observation: the real problem is not the virus H1N1, nor is it world-wide panic; it is rather “the virus of impiety and a lack of faith,” for which the best remedy is precisely frequent communion.
    So what has changed? The Church was not locked down in 2009. They were touting the nessesity of frequent Communion. Now they lock us out and tell us to mimick St Mary of Egypt. Very interesting.

  22. Rather than criticise our Bishops let us all redouble our prayers that they will open the Churches on Pascha.

    • That is a noble gesture, Dan. Let us pray that this will happen.
      My family and I have been blessed to be able to receive Holy Communion on the Glorious Feast of the Holy Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. My prayer is that others may also be able to receive this blessing.
      For those of you who do not agree with me (and I know there are many) I ask your forgiveness if I have come across too harshly. I have been wounded deeply. The wound will heal. I hope the scar does not linger too long. Holy Pascha is two weeks from today and it is time for me to log off the internet until after Bright week. May the remainder of the Great Fast and Holy Week be a time of blessed repentance for everyone. Blessed Pascha to all!
      George and Gail: Thank you for all the work you do maintaining this blog. It is an important platform and a great responsibility that you have here. May God bless both of you abundantly.

      • Gail Sheppard says

        Thank you, Mikhail.

        I’d like to share a story with all of you.

        George and I spoke with an iconographer who was helping a priest do the Canon of St. Andrew this week. He had never read it before and it had a deep impact on him to the point he was thinking about it into the following day. He was pondering this when he saw a worker next door fall to the ground. He went out there to help him up. When he got there, he realized the man had not just fallen. He was in pretty bad shape. He had foam on his mouth and his face was turning blue. He wasn’t breathing. He made a sign of the cross over himself and the man and while saying the Jesus Prayer, started pumping the man’s heart, even though he had no idea what he was doing. He had never been trained in CPR. The man came around about the same time the paramedics arrived. The man survived. The man’s name was Andrew.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Great idea as long as we are prepared to be fully obedient to whatever decision is.

  23. Michael Bauman says

    Pascha. The Ressurection.  15 years ago about 3 weeks after my late wife, Pamela, reposed, I experienced her ressurection on Pascha along with the Ressurection.  That experience still lives in my heart and still brings me to tears of joy and rememberance.  So perhaps that is why “opening the Church” on Pascha is not quite as important to me as to some.  

  24. Joseph Lipper says

    May God help Metropolitan Onuphrey and the monks at the Kiev Caves Monastery!

  25. Molon Labe says

    Boy, this post did not age well!

    • Why, because some monks got sick? That happens in any epidemic. Those saints that cared for lepers got infected sometimes, too.
      What’s important is that Metropolitan Onuphry and the monks of the Lavra didn’t recoil in fear and offered to help the sick and the dying, instead of locking the faithful out completely and letting people deal with it on their own, without the Church and without the Mysteries. Theirs was a sacrifice of mercy; most bishops have shown that they don’t know what sacrifice even is.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Molon, I must agree with Basil here.  Epidemics happen.  People get sick.  Some of those who get sick while caring for the physical and/or spiritual needs of those afflicted are guaranteed a place in heaven.  

        We need to get away from this rationalization that has been foisted upon us since the so-called Enlightenment.  

        As for “not aging well”, did you see that latest post about the numbers that came out of Los Angeles County?  How the actually numbers of those infected are perhaps 50 times higher than the numbers reported?  Which means that the novel corona virus is not as virulent as we have been led to believe.

      • Monk James Silver says

        All of these altruistic and even Christian considerations notwithstanding, it’s not been reported anywhere that the monks at the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev who were infected and even killed by COVID-19 experienced these troubles as a result of their caring for people already sickened by the contagion.
        On the other hand, Metropolitan Pavel, hegoumen of the monastery, said that he regretted not having taken the cautions of public health officials more seriously, and e apologized for encouraging the laity to come to services.
        So, please, first let’s get the story straight.  Then we can moralize, if we feel we must.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          Is that what he said, Father James? Can you please find the direct quote you’re referring to and provide the link?

          Because what I read is that he “underestimated the gravity of the pandemic.” He may have thought that these measures were taken for a different reason, i.e. to further suppress the Russian Church. Let’s be clear: He encouraged the laity to come to services before he knew what was really happening. But once he (the monastery) knew, “. . . they then threw their support behind the Ukrainian government’s lockdown measures, moving church services online, disinfecting buildings and offering to house patients in monasteries.”

          What is the point of disparaging this one man who is routinely persecuted for belonging to the canonical Church in Ukraine? Do you really believe he willfully and deliberately advocated for giving people a deadly disease? Or is it more likely that what he said was true, i.e. he underestimated the gravity of the pandemic?

          While we’re blessing people, God bless Metropolitan Pavel and count him worthy. And God bless all the leaders of our Church who remember that the Church belongs to the entire Body of Christ; not just to a group of bishops, a single bishop or even a monk.

      • Joseph Lipper says

        The Kiev Caves monastery sought to remain open, despite the warnings, and then many of the monks and hieromonks got infected.  Apparently those infected included their Abbot, Metropolitan Pavel, who now seems to regret his prior viewpoint.  Although they had an initial opportunity to self-quarantine, instead they chose not to. 
        Yet because  of the virus outbreak at the monastery, it was shut down to visitors (quarantined) by the government anways.  So either way, the monastery is closed to outsiders.  Yet now many of the monks are sick and not able to function at full capacity.  I guess the monastery has fulfilled their bishop’s orders though.  It has become a refuge for patients suffering from the virus, yet the patients are just the monks themselves.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          Joseph, this is incorrect. They closed their services to the public. They were not “shut down.” What Metropolitan Pavel regrets is not understanding the seriousness of this particular virus and encouraging people to come.

          I think the real point you are trying to make is that you think people should blindly trust authorities, even in Ukraine, where the authorities routinely do the most outrageous things to shut down the Moscow Patriarchate. Things like require them to change their name or give up their property. Am I right?

          • Joseph Lipper says

            Gail, I’m reading that they were shut down to visitors by the government:
            Sure, those monks who are not sick are probably still trying to keep the daily liturgical services going, and may God help them.  I don’t think the Ukrainian government is trying to prevent the now cloistered monks from conducting services inside the monastery, just as long as the monastery is quarantined and shut down to any outside visitors.  
            I highly doubt this government intervention is being construed as an action against the Moscow Patriarchate.  President Zelensky has shown himself to be very supportive of the UOC-MP.  This is just a common sense concern for public health. I believe Patriarch Kyrill was himself eventually advocating for the monasteries to be closed to visitors:

            “The Moscow Patriarchate had initially asked worshippers to ignore government-imposed lockdown measures, which include a ban on church gatherings, and urged people to come to church and hug each other.

            “But it later fell in line with the quarantine rules, closing its churches to the general public and disinfecting buildings. The monastery’s head, Metropolitan Pavel, told Reuters last week he had underestimated the problem.”


            • Gail Sheppard says

              They “sealed it off” due to the number of infections. They didn’t shut it down. The term “shut down” means to cease doing business.

              The monks have shown no inclination to open their doors to the public. It has been widely reported they are now working with authorities and have been for awhile.

              I highly doubt “this government intervention is being construed as an action against the Moscow Patriarchate,” too. NOW! A month ago, I’m not so sure.

              Why can’t we just to take them at their word: They underestimated the seriousness.

    • “Molon Labe” …and He did.
      But He didn’t take them all.
      If a monk must die, when better than Pascha?

      • Joseph Lipper says

        “If a monk must die, when better than Pascha?”

        Maybe. However, if a monk dies because of gross negligence on the part of his superiors, then there is potentially criminal liability.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          Well, it’s a good thing no monk died because of gross negligence on the part of his superiors then, isn’t it?

          • Joseph Lipper says

            Sure, I think Brendan meant it as a hypothetical situation, “If a monk dies on Pascha….”

            • Gail Sheppard says

              I agree it was hypothetical, as no one wants anyone to die on any day BUT if a monk dies on a Holy Day because he went to Church, there are worse things.

              I’ve have heard multiple stories where monks know the exact day of their death. That was true of St. John Maximovitch. I never heard of a monk choosing to die anywhere other than in Church.

            • Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster says

              Mr. Lipper, when will you answer a question I posed to you on this blog weeks ag0?

              Here it is again in simpler form: Do you support government protections for the exercise of the abortion license–that is, abortion-on-demand or perhaps only abortions for some reasons but not others?

              • Joseph Lipper says

                Archpriest Alexander F.C. Webster, please forgive me, I thought I had already sufficiently answered your question in my previous reply to George. 
                It sounds to me like you are asking a political question, and I’m not politically active myself.  I haven’t been a registered voter in over 25 years. Yet like many others I hold to our Christian duty to support our God-ordained government authorities and armed forces with daily prayer and also with whatever taxes and respect I personally owe.  That’s it.
                Is abortion a sin?  Yes, of course.  Should our government have a law against abortion?  I’m not going to answer that question, because I’m not politically active.

                • Gail Sheppard says

                  Joseph, do you vote? You don’t have to answer this, of course, but if you do (vote), it would be disingenuous to deflect the question.

                  • Joseph Lipper says

                    Gail, no, I don’t.

                    • Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster says

                      I appreciate your honesty regarding that question. As a retired Army chaplain who, along with tens of thousands of other patriotic Americans, went into harm’s way to help secure our American liberties, including the right to vote as citizens, I am disappointed that you have chosen not to exercise that franchise.
                      Your comment about “our God-ordained government authorities and armed forces” leads to another important question. Would you have been so indifferent or sanguine if you had lived in Germany during the Third Reich or in the former Soviet Union?

                    • Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster says

                      I  appreciate your honesty, Mr. Lipper, in response to Gail’s question about voting. To be sure, I must express disappointment in your decision not to vote in any U.S. elections for 25 years (do I have that right?). As a U.S. Army chaplain who went into harm’s way to support warriors who fought to ensure–among other noble causes–the free exercise of the right to vote by all American citizens, I think your concept of citizenship is sorely deficient.

                      Moreover, your revelation here leads to another question. Would your “Christian duty to support our God-ordained government authorities and armed forces with daily prayer and also with whatever taxes and respect I personally owe” apply to the governments in other lands and times in which you might have lived? I am thinking of the Soviet Union and the Third Reich in particular. If not, then where do you draw the moral, not merely political, line?  

                    • Joseph Lipper says

                      Archpriest Alexander F.C. Webster,
                      As you point out, the underlying freedoms we share in our country were not bought with democracy and voting, but rather with blood, sweat, tears, and the very lives of our soldiers who submitted themselves to the tyrannical regime of our armed forces and who fought in fierce battles so that our freedoms may be preserved.  Yet those battles were won not only by our soldiers, but also most importantly by the very prayers of our faithful and by God’s own merciful hand.  It is hardly deserving to call anyone who prays daily for our armed forces as being indifferent, even if they choose not to vote in biennial political elections. 

                      By the way, I’ve met many Orthodox clergy and monastics who take this very same viewpoint (although of course not all of them do.)  
                      Yes, it is a hard-earned freedom we share in our country to vote, or not to vote.  In the past twenty-five years or so, I have never been summoned, fined, or imprisoned by not voting.  That freedom doesn’t exist everywhere though.  I believe it was actually in Soviet Russia (and probably other countries) where voting was made compulsory.  If for some reason voting was also made compulsory in the U.S., then I would try to respect this and would agree to vote.

                    • Gail Sheppard says

                      Thank God Soviet Russia is a thing of the past. If we could it put it in the past in our hearts, we would truly have something to celebrate.

                    • Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster says

                      Mr. Lipper mentions “the very lives of our soldiers who submitted themselves to the tyrannical regime of our armed forces . . .”

                      That comment reveals more about Mr. Lipper’s attitude toward the U.S. military than, perhaps, he intended. It also fits the pattern of his deflections and evasions of the questions I have posed to him on this blog. I have personally encountered too many Orthodox Christians who, while claiming to be pro-life, manage to find various ways of refraining from acting upon those “convictions” in the public square or even tacitly support abortions while citing flimsy excuses such as “I cannot impose my personal views on the body politic.”

                      Instead of pursuing more of his rabbit trails, I shall cut to the chase and state what I surmise is the true reason for Mr. Lipper’s convenient excuse for “avoiding politics” and not addressing the issue of abortion directly. If Mr. Lipper were truly “pro-life,” heart and soul, he would be moved to oppose vocally and even actively the U.S. political establishment’s (and I include under that rubric every level of government and the mainstream media) embrace of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973, which led directly to the extermination of some 60 million preborn children during the last 47 years. To adopt a position of neutrality on the political regime of abortion, while proclaiming one’s moral affirmation of the intrinsic, unquestionable, unexchangeable, and non-negotiable moral value of the preborn child in a mother’s womb is, at once, contradictory and nonsensical. It is also, in effect, to be morally complicit in any government’s condoning and facilitation of the abomination of abortion.

                      Sins of omission can be as grave as sins of commission.

                    • Archpriest Alexander F.C. Webster,
                      I frequently disagree with Joseph, but I think, if I understood him correctly, it is not fair to say that   
                      his “concept of citizenship is sorely deficient”.
                      He says,
                      “In the past twenty-five years or so, I have never been summoned, fined, or imprisoned by not voting. “
                      So, I assume he didn’t do something against the American Law. Correct me if I am wrong, not living in the US.
                      I would agree with you that voting is a very good idea. However there are people  out there who are utterly fed up with politicians, and if they were physically forced to vote they would cast a blank vote.  They surely have the right to help the Country and the Government in an “unusual” way, by praying for them. Being an Orthodox priest you can surely appreciate the Gigantic value of this. Can you imagine the results of the prayers of millions of Americans for their Government?

                    • Gail Sheppard says

                      Father, forgive me, but I agree with Ioannes. It isn’t fair to ascribe motive to someone’s actions (or inactions, in this case) or make pejorative statements about their “citizenship.” Honestly, as much as I enjoy your posts, I have to apologize to Joseph. George and I should never have let this go through.

                      Joseph, please forgive me.

                    • Joseph Lipper says

                      Archpriest Alexander F.C. Webster,
                      As a military chaplain, how would (or did?) you morally justify voting for “Pro-Life” politicians who sent soldiers to invade and occupy Iraq?  Perhaps the invasion and occupation of Iraq was the lesser of evils?  Surely it wasn’t just “collateral damage?”  
                      Going back to the subject of abortion, “Roe vs. Wade” was a judicial decision of the Supreme Court, and it was not and is not a political decision.  Yet by contrast, the “Pro-Life” movement is primarily a political movement.  As such, it garnishes political support for most any politicians who espouse it, and thereby even “justifying” the use of our country’s military for all sorts of abuses.
                      Perhaps “tyrannical” comes across as too strong a word and in modern times with negative connotations.  Yet the military is obviously not a democracy, and perhaps at times it necessarily is tyrannical and in a positive sense.   Soldiers selflessly give up their own personal freedoms so that their country’s freedom may be protected and preserved.   The military defense is often the price of a country’s underlying freedoms, but the misuse of a military can be a great sin, not only against it’s soldiers, but also against their nation, the world, and the very sanctity of life.
                      Rather than going down the rabbit-hole of speculative political solutions for any of this, I’ll just stick to the guns that our Church offers us:  asking God’s mercy on our country, on our government, and on our armed forces. 

                    • Joseph: ‘…the “Pro-Life” movement…garnishes political support for most any politicians who espouse it, and thereby even “justifying” the use of our country’s military for all sorts of abuses.’
                      Syria and Libya are Clinton and Obama’s wars.
                      They are not notably ‘Pro-Life’ politicians.

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      As was the Easter-time bombing of Serbia by St Clinton.

                    • While I am completely opposed to the (illegal) invasion and occupation of Iraq – and having served there, I am entitled to such an opinion – but you can’t really compare soldiery and war, or the death penalty for that matter,  to killing children in their mothers’ womb.

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Hear! Hear! I completely agree.

                    • Gail, if the ballot paper contained an option to vote for ‘NONE OF THE ABOVE’ (or perhaps ‘A POX ON THEM ALL’), I expect most of the non-voters would happily turn out to cast their votes.

                    • Basil: “While I am completely opposed to the (illegal) invasion and occupation of Iraq – and having served there, I am entitled to such an opinion”

                      I did not participate in that, does it mean that I am not “entitled to such an opinion”? 😉

                    • Martin – you are certainly entitled to an opinion, as we all are. I have a habit of adding that – either in writing or in speech – to pre-empt anyone that tries to shut me down for ‘disrespecting our veterans’ or something similar.

                    • Tim R. Mortiss says

                      It’s a free country, as my ma used to say, and of course anyone has the right not to vote.
                      That said, I believe that participation in the political life of a community is a responsibility and duty in a republic.
                      I twice ran for county-wide public office; mercifully for me and the community, I lost. But we did the whole deal of campaigning, doorbelling, putting up signs, etc. This was in my 40s; looking back, I am very glad I threw my hat into the ring in my time and generation.
                      My wife, on her part, won 5 consecutive six-year terms for city-wide (unpaid) public office, and served for a full 30 years. Lots of campaigns; fortunately each 6 years apart. She served this community very well.
                      We’ve always been on local boards of this and that. I give to local and state candidates as I decide. I go to city council meetings and legislative committees to say my piece now and then.
                      All one part of being alive and active, and an important one.

                • Joseph,
                  Though I do not entirely agree, I can at least respect the reasons you have shared for your refusal to vote.
                  What I cannot respect is this answer (or lack of answer) that you offered.
                  Should our government have a law against abortion?  I’m not going to answer that question, because I’m not politically active.
                  One might reasonably wonder, then, if you also feel that murder (or theft or bearing false witness…) is merely a political issue.  One does not need to vote or choose between the lesser of evils in order to recognize that government has a God-ordained responsibility to restrain and punish undiluted evil by means of civil law.

                  • Joseph Lipper says

                    What I’ve been saying is that abortion law is not really so much a political issue anyways.  Roe vs Wade was a judicial decision, not a political one.  The same could probably be said about our government’s approach to other types of murder and to lying. While there is the political sphere of activity that many of us choose to participate in, we all know that ultimately it is the courts that decide whether or not laws are constitutional.
                    Yet even the most strict totalitarian governments have laws against murder and lying.  Do those same governments still illegitimately murder and lie?  Yes, of course they do.  Yet I always try to go back to Romans 13, where St. Paul writes:
                    “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.  Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
                    For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.”

                    So, if our government had a law against abortion, then obviously I should subject myself to that law, because all government is ordained by God. Yet even if our government doesn’t have a law against abortion, I should still not commit this, because it is evil. Regardless of our government’s position, God’s law of “thou shall not murder” still stands.

                    • Respectfully, Joseph, you keep answering questions that were not asked.  You were not asked if it was a political or a judicial issue or about Saint Paul’s instruction.
                      You were asked a very simple question that you rephrased clearly in your own words: Should our government have a law against abortion?

                    • Joseph Lipper says

                      Brian, so why isn’t abortion illegal?  Is it really because there is too many damn people like myself who don’t vote?  Is the voice of the “Pro-Life” movement not loud enough?  Is that really the problem?  I don’t think so.
                      To the question of whether or not our government should have a law against anything, I won’t answer that, because once again, I’m not politically active.  Yet like most of us, I try to fully respect and subject myself to whatever laws our government passes.

                    • One has to wonder how slavery could ever have been abolished if the righteous throughout the world had taken a passive view of their Scriptural responsibilities. [Editor Note: Slightly revised statement.]
                      You pray for the country.  You do well.  However…
                      “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?  If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,  and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?   Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Respectfully, Joseph, there is no difference between a political decision and a judicial one.  Our judges are appointed politically by elected representatives.  
                      As for the word “political”, all that means is that one lives in a polis and as such has to have interactions with other people.  It’s impossible to believe that any other circumstance is possible. 

                    • Joseph: “To the question of whether or not our government should have a law against anything, I won’t answer that, because once again, I’m not politically active. ”

                      So, you will give no opinion on whether there should be a law against theft? Or robbery? Or murder? Or rape? Or…

                    • Gail Sheppard says

                      So, I’m going to stop this discussion here and I’ll tell you why: I think it’s highly unlikely Joseph is going to change his position just as it is highly unlikely that those of you who take issue with his position will change yours. This is a dead discussion. No life can come from it and frankly the acrimony (bitterness and/or ill feeling) bothers me. It bothers me to have read it. It bothers me to have to edit it. It bothers me to have to change or remove parts of what is said because frankly, I feel it’s unethical for me to do that. I would rather pull your entire comment altogether but the rules say if I can edit out the offending remarks, I have to try.

                      It is against the rules to call people names or imply they’re empty, lead people down rabbit trails, deflect, evade, make excuses, or tacitly support something negative or antithetical to Orthodox belief. I don’t like to see people labeled as contradictory, nonsensical or for people to say someone condones and facilitates an abomination of some kind. These are all pejorative statements. They express contempt or disapproval. In no universe can one construe the statements I have italicized above as anything but pejorative and it’s not allowed.

                      Let me tell you why.

                      When one person hurls an insult at another, it puts the other person on the defensive and they feel they have to respond. I suspect it may make them feel bad, as well. It can’t be fun having other people refer to you as lacking. From my perspective, it’s really unpleasant to witness and I have to read every comment you make so you might as well be saying it to me. Also, we get a lot of emails from people asking us to stop these ongoing discussions that can go nowhere but down.

                      But primarily, it’s unnecessary. No one has to make someone look bad to make a point. Stick to the issue. Avoid the “you” messages. Ask questions rather than accuse. For example, instead of saying, “How can you be that stupid”, say: “Explain to me how it makes sense to say . . . when . . . because I’m just not getting it.” Yeah, it takes a few more words, but you will have made your point, without telling someone they’re deficient. You’re also not making me uncomfortable which I will greatly appreciate, as it is not my intention to want to censor any of you. I don’t feel like I always have a choice, though.

                      Of course you have a right to appeal to George if you think you’re being treated unfairly. I put your comments in a place where he can read them, too. He makes the final decision but it can take him days to do it and sometimes your comments just drop off. He is accessible, though. If you want to talk with him about something just let him know.

                    • Guilty as charged. I apologise.

        • As the original Spartans might have said:
          [Translated into modern terms:
          Do you have information we do not?]

  26. Joseph Lipper says

    Coronavirus: Ukrainian town sealed off after monastery outbreak
    “Police have stopped people going in and out of the Ukrainian town of Pochayiv after an outbreak at one of the largest Orthodox monasteries in Eastern Europe.”


  27. Accusing Church leaders or government leaders of mishandling the Covid-19 should be avoided. Medical and government officials were issuing directives based on insufficient and even inaccurate information. The orders being given to the people had such an aura of certainty and authoritativeness that many of us settled for   erring on the side of caution. Under these conditions, I choose not to accuse hierarchs who could have acted sooner but rather to notice which of them excel by caring for their flocks under the severe restraints imposed on them. Those bishops that understood the fear their flock had, and the zealous need they had for attending services and receiving the Eucharist. Some pushed the envelope while observing the rules of the government. Some wrote extraordinarily inspiring sermons.The best ones let us know they felt our pain. We should do some evaluating so we’ll respond even better  the next time, but stop the blame game for present. For those of us who have been on Monomakos for sometime, it’s obvious that some of the critics of certain bishops have pre-existing dislikes for the hierarchs they are criticizing.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      Peter, I’m curious what you meant by “severe restraints imposed on them”? What restraints? – Interestingly, there have been few comments regarding “certain bishops,” given they all did the same thing. They even used the same example of “being in the desert”.

      These days it takes a “zealous interest” in attending services and partaking of the Eucharist, as you can always sit at home and watch it on TV. It’s the same, right? It’s the same because our bishops just told us it was.

  28. Gail, I meant the restrictions concerning public gatherings which varied from state to state.Some states allowed 50 people some 25, others 10 and some specified only clergy and assistants could participate in church services. The most severe restrictions said there could be no worship.

  29. @Elpidophoros

    In this time, when we need global solidarity, I express the wish that #Ramadan

     will help bring peoples and nations together around the meaning of life, the hope of eternity, and for the propagation of peace and goodwill on earth as together, we overcome this world pandemic.

    Note the beginning and the end:
    “wish that #Ramadan……. overcome this world pandemic”.

    Yes… thanks to…Ramadan…?

  30. Monk James Silver says

    27 April 2020, 19:12


    Moscow, April 27, Interfax – Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has ordered the clergy to strictly abide by Covid-19 prevention requirements, adding that otherwise clerics will have to be held accountable for negative consequences.

    “Unfortunately, not everyone took this threat seriously at the initial stages of the spread of the infection, ignoring warnings from doctors and church authorities. This led to a large number of cases in individual monasteries and some churches. By his special order, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia stated that clerics should be held to account for failure to abide by instructions aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus infection,” the working group under the auspices of the patriarch said on Monday.

    “In cases when failure to abide by these orders and instructions causes people to contract the coronavirus infection and subsequently die due to this disease, the culprit may face a church trial and in other cases may face church and administrative liability for intentionally ignoring measures that help protect large numbers of people from contracting this fatal disease,” the patriarch said in his order published on the website of the Russian Orthodox Church.

    Life in churches and parishes of the Russian Orthodox Church will gradually return to normal as the sanitary and epidemiological situation improves, the working group said.

    A public sermon in which priest Sergy (Romanov) from a monastery in Sredneuralsk dismisses the Covid-19 pandemic as a myth and calls for disobedience to the senior clergy and authorities has drawn outcry on social networks and in the media. Father Sergiy also cursed those who have temporarily closed churches during the pandemic and warned of the creation of “Satan’s electronic camp.”

    • George Michalopulos says

      Thank you Fr James for this news account.

      As much as I admire Patriarch Kirill, I feel that he too, has dropped the ball on this one, although not to the extent that those bishops who actually padlocked their churches, thereby preventing parishioners from attending. To my knowledge, churches in Russia placed masking tape on the floors of their naves (another good reason to not have pews) and instructed worshipers to stand on these spots.

      I know that this happened in many churches but I can’t say that it happened at all churches in Russia. Any information on that would be greatly appreciated.

      As for Serbia and Bulgaria, worshipers were instructed to attend services but stand outside reverently. That was also a good thing, relatively speaking.

      • Anonymous says

        Hear me out, please. Of course, I want the churches open – taking precaution, of course – and I want our faithful communed and receiving the sacrament of confession and absolution – and marriage! – you don’t have to convince me something sinister is going on.
        Now, this said…
        I’m beginning to wonder.
        ‘Who am I to question my bishop, and countless other bishops whom I lovingly trust and respect?’ It’s very likely they see something we don’t, a bigger picture. Trust me, as clergy, serving Pascha was simultaneously wonderful and sorrowful, terrible and great.
        Much was missing!
        It seemed the apostles were locked out of the tomb that night.
        At times during this crisis, I wrestle with impatience and lack of faith. And yet, once I saw Pat. Kirill moving toward similar measures as we’re seeing in America, I felt comforted. I don’t know why, but I do. Maybe there’s something to this…
        While I personally want to commune my faithful, and know they’re encouraged to confess and receive absolution I have to trust God’s hand right now, putting my thoughts and feelings into, perhaps, my prayer and humbling accepting that without God, Pilate can do nothing. 

  31. Joseph Lipper says

    Has anyone heard or seen anything from Metropolitan Onufriy in the past two weeks? Strangely, he seems to be silent. I can’t even find a video of him serving Pascha this year, which is quite surprising considering that most everyone else was livestreaming.

  32. Greatly Saddened says

    Below please find an article from today on the Orthodox Times website.
    Home > Orthodoxy > Patriarchates > Patriarchate of Moscow
    Mosaic with Putin was removed from Church of Russian Armed Forces
    May 01, 2020 | 15:50