The Twilight Zone

I can just see Rod Serling standing in the Narthex saying, “Imagine waking up on a Sunday morning and instead of saying their morning prayers, your bishops are furtively thinking of things that must be sanitized for your protection. Everything they see in their minds is covered with germs. But it is not the “things” they see in their heads that need to be cleansed . . . 

Cut to the first scene with timid people returning to their parishes, being confronted with a sea of masks, gloves, sanitizers, napkins, plexiglass, and polished hard surfaces.  The parish hall is cordoned off and the coat room is bare.  People are asked to sign a registration sheet so they can be ‘tracked’ in case someone else who is contagious shows up.  Well-designed, seating/standing charts dictate where each is to be, keeping their children and belongings in tow.  Those who leave a child at home or need to include a visiting cousin, throw the greeters into a frenzy, as they frantically re-design the space to accommodate the change.  You see a choir of two, but hear a voice of one, for the choir director wears a mask and does not sing.  Several staff monitors flit about the parish in masks and gloves blocking entrances, handing out napkins and squirting disinfectant on every surface that is touched.  Outside, inquirers are turned away because their information cannot be verified.       

Cut to scene two, a solitary bishop with a crooked smile sitting in the middle of a vacant parish with his mitre askew, as Rod Serling concludes:  “A self-satisfied bishop who has managed to cleanse all that threatens his parish.  You, my friends, have just entered The Twilight Zone.

Hand sanitizer, masks and all the hygienic practices known to man cannot keep death at bay. God did not give us providence over death. The preservation of life, yes. The prevention of death, no.

There is a difference, which is one of the reasons why suicides are so incredibly hard to take. It isn’t just the tremendous vacuum it leaves in its wake; it’s the preempting God part that is abhorrent. God is to decide the appointed time and everything up to that point, even the pain and suffering, is for our edification. We forfeit God’s plans when we intervene.

And that is why what we’re seeing now is so difficult to deal with. In lieu of life, our spiritual leaders have decided to let the prevention of death take center stage.  Death doesn’t have a place in the life of the Church for death is not the end of anything.  It’s merely a marker on the journey. Life, as defined by the Church, does not end.

What our leaders appear to be doing is spiritual suicide. It’s almost as if they do not believe the Eucharist is the powerful medicine that it is.  Do they believe it can make you sick if take it when your heart’s not in the right place?  Is that what happened to many of our bishops? Did they take the Eucharist one too many times with a disbelieving heart? Because something is very, very wrong with them.

This is a harsh thing to say and I tremble to say it, but it looks as if they no longer believe in its life giving properties.  They could not believe it is truly Christ’s body and blood if they feel the need to sanitize it or its delivery.  The Eucharist hasn’t changed.  They have.

When my daughter was a toddler she thought if she closed her eyes really tight no one could see her. It made sense in her tiny brain that if she couldn’t see you, you couldn’t see her.

Perhaps this is what the bishops are thinking.  That when they put on their mitres, it conceals their lack of faith, when the complete opposite is true: they might as well set them on fire for we can see nothing else. To believe, let alone say out loud, that “our problem” with padlocking the Church and implementing these overreaching sanitation practices (like getting rid of all “soft items” that can’t be sanitized, i.e. rugs, towels and even bibles) is a Bill of Rights issue is completely insane. 

Why would they equate our reaction to their bizarre behavior toward the Eucharist as a civil rights issue? Trust me, that is not why we’re losing sleep at night.  (Well, my husband is, but that’s another story.)  Those battles can and and will be won in our courts. It’s the questions that keep us up at night.  How do we win back the hearts of our bishops? Why did they put down their spiritual sword to pick up a secular one to fight a virus? Have we gotten to the point where they identify so strongly with our civil authorities that the Church, and all she represents, has become the enemy?  

They are allowing the evil one cover each of their heads with a cloth that is so black and so thick no light can get in. We are witnessing nothing less than a spiritual execution. That’s why our mouths have dropped to the floor. We are aghast.  We have never seen anything like this before.

Maybe they’ve had those dark hoods under their mitres all along.  Maybe this is why we’ve been cautioned to beware of false prophets who come to us in sheep’s clothing. Did God allow this virus to happen so we could see who our bishops really are?  Not all, assuredly, but many?

And what, exactly, are we supposed to do now? Go back to Church as if nothing happened?  

Mrs. Yours Truly

About GShep


  1. Antiochene Son says

    I’m here to eat crow.
    I was here wringing my hands since January about the virus. Along with Tucker Carlson and other conservatives, I felt I was ahead of the curve and Trump was making a mistake with his cavalier attitude. When my state’s shelter in place order came down, I was secretly relieved because this thing was going to sweep the nation. Five percent death rate, virus surviving for weeks on surfaces. When the Antiochian Archdiocese closed parishes ahead of the Annunciation, I was glad our bishops were taking it seriously.
    But how quaint it was. I thought it would be over in a few weeks. “By holy week this will be over,” I told myself.
    But then it kept going and going. In the last two weeks I accepted what is plainly happening. The moving goalposts, the reliance on old science and old tropes. I was had.
    I was glad today when Trump declared churches open. Surely our bishops would seize this lifeline! 
    Not so. I got an email from my parish that the Metropolitan has left all current measures in place indefinitely. 
    I don’t even know what that means. The last message from Met. Joseph about the pandemic was April 2. My priest does not know what is going on, the entire process is opaque. We’ll be told we can open when they decide to do so. Under what criteria? Who knows.
    I was proud to call myself Antiochene Son here, but now I’m having second thoughts. There are OCA parishes in my state that are now opening. I may not agree with all their measures but at least you can go to church there. 
    The Antiochian Archdiocese has struck a good balance in this land, and I am pleased by the Orthodoxy of its moral clarity in recent challenging times. But today? I ask, who has bewitched you?
    Father Bishops: if you are going to keep us closed indefinitely, you owe us an explanation as to the specific criteria for re-opening. Because I can’t blame the state anymore, the responsibility lies solely with you. You had an easy out and refused it.
    Until then I am suspending my tithe. I apologize to my parish but it’s the only thing I can do. Maybe I’ll organize a flash mob to show up at church on Sunday. We could bang a semantron and sing in the parking lot if you won’t let us in.
    It pains me to say it, but this has exposed something ugly that I don’t want to believe. 

    I repent of my contribution to the hysteria. I suppose in part I am reaping what I’ve sown in this “year without a Pascha.”

    • Dear Antiochene Son,
      I am sorry to hear about the plight of the Antiochians here in the US. That is a horrible situation and you are right to be angry about it. 
      I ask that you reconsider your tithe. I would suggest either continue your tithe or move officially (even temporarily) to another church and continue your tithe there. Also, if you have a stewardship pledge, I ask that you complete your pledge at the current parish. I make this statement for two reasons: that pledge or tithe is a promise to God, and on a more mundane level, if the church will reopen it needs the funds to do so, and the majority of your dollars goes to the priests salary (if you all have that kind of system) and church building and ministry overhead, not to the larger structure of the archdiocese. They need the money to make budget, especially if its a pledge. 
      I hope all is made right soon. I often have to remind myself that we are in God’s hands. 

      • George Michalopulos says

        AS, I respectfully ask that you consider Sarah’s fine words.  The pledge is a promise made to God Himself, not the parish council of your local church.  You should honor it but then, once honored, you are free to move on.

        • Antiochene Son says

          My parish doesn’t do pledges, it’s totally freewill. I will still give the money to the Orthodox Church, but I can’t yet say to whose account.
          And my anger has passed a bit, so I won’t say I won’t give it to my parish, but I feel my money may be the only voice I have. I have some praying to do on this. 

          • It’s not the only voice you have! It may sounds trite, but write letters! Even if they blow you off, letters aren’t often totally ignored. Write to whoever you think has done wrong. At least you’ll have it off your chest, and you’ll feel like you’ve done everything you can do in good conscience. The Holy Spirit works through the Church as a whole, and our hierarchs do know that. If enough people speak to them from their hearts, maybe that will get their wheels turning a little bit too.
            God bless you,

            • One hand-written letter will nowadays command
              greater attention than a hundred angry tweets.
              However, avoid green ink!

  2. Antiochene Son says

    And thank you Mrs. for this excellent piece. I have the Twilight Zone episode playing in my mind as I read it. Sorry for making the combox my personal blog. I am in tears tonight.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      RE: “I am in tears tonight.”

      We’re right there with you.

      • George Michalopulos says

        AS, I pray we are all stronger.  No need to ask for forgiveness. You’ve always been a solid guy.

        • Antiochene Son says

          Thanks George and Gail.
          The local Catholic diocese was planning to open next weekend, Western Pentecost, and decided not to move it up a week just for logistical reasons. Trump springing this out on Friday afternoon is perhaps not ideal. So, I will suck it up and pray for good news next week. There’s not much more we can do.
          I’m still sad that I could attend an OCA parish this weekend if I wanted. But the Assembly of Bishops has urged people to attend only their own parishes right now, which makes sense as everyone has limited capacity, so I’ll respect that.

  3. I yearned for the holy Liturgy. I begged to kiss an Icon. I prayed to receive Communion. The Bishops responded to my pain. They said: “You should be more like St. Mary of Egypt you selfish impatient trouble maker who has no love for his neighbor.”
    It is truly like the twilight zone.

  4. Rhipsime says

    The reaction to the threat of Covid-19 is dehumanizing on so many fronts. The fear of the ‘other’ even among friends, the creation of two arbitrary classes, the “essential” and “non-essential”, the isolation, the masking, and even in the midst of confusing data, the arbitrariness of it all, and the rewarding of the “Karen’s” – the little snitch-tyrants. No wonder it feels like living in the Soviet  Union!
    Here in WI, our governor, who shrieked for months about how everyone would die to open up the state again would rather have no regulation at all than sour with the Legislature for something in the middle. I’m happy for that, but it’s not the action of someone who actually believed his own schtick.  I still can’t go to church and my baby, who should have been baptized at or just after Pascha, has never even been there. Granted, our bishop has been pretty quiet, and left most of the decisions to the priests and parish councils, but even so, I feel completely abandoned by the Church, and though I don’t think I could quit Orthodoxy, this is a huge wound that is going to affect my relationship with the Church for a very, very long time.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      This breaks my heart. Truly.

      From George and me; na sas zisi! Enjoy being with your little one, Rhipsime, and try not to worry too much about all this. The true Church is going to survive.

      • Rhipsime says

        There is some wisdom in letting the parishes have more autonomy, but our church is part of an “ethnic” diocese and up until about five years ago, was kind of the “ultra ethnic” parish of the area.  Our priest came in at that point and really understood that if things kept going the way they were (Sunday attendance often under 10, but you pay the bills through the summer of picnics) the parish was going to die, so he’s done a lot to try to change the course, much to the chagrin of the old guard who didn’t see any reason to change.  
        A big problem is now that although there is new blood in the parish, a few young families, etc., the “old guard” still controls most of the parish council.  Our priest was actually okay with continuing with services through all this, and the bishop probably wouldn’t have told him he couldn’t, but the parish council said absolutely not.  This, from most of them who are lucky if they show up once a month.  But they still control the picnics, etc.  And so the church went to “livestream mode”.  
        Although the priest is pushing to reopen, I have no doubt that the parish council is going to be adamant about CDC guidelines, etc.  And that’s fine for the people who don’t show up anyway.  For the young (non-ethnic) families – my husband and I have 5 kids, and we’re not the only family with five – I don’t think that there’s any way to adhere to these “guidelines” that would allow all of us to come together for the foreseeable future, and I don’t know that the bishop is going to intervene.  

  5. Sage-Girl says

    Hi Gail –
    Just got your “Twilight Zone” post today the 23rd along with 7 comments …
    anybody else get these a day late? ⏰

    • Gail Sheppard says

      I just published it 14 hours ago. I can’t sleep which is why there are published comments out there! Most people do not wait for the email. They periodically check the site when nothing else is going on.

  6. Ronda Wintheiser says

    Gail, everything you wrote resonates with me completely.
    Having said that, my own priest’s homily last Sunday gave me pause.
    I’d love to know what you think.  You or anyone.  🙂

    • I am wondering where he gleaned his interpretations. It does not sound patristic. If my priest gave this sermon, I’d be looking for another parish.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      He says, “the Eucharist can never be separated from the circumstances surrounding it. . . In the spirit of love, everybody’s circumstances have to be taken into account,” which includes the poor, infirmed, etc.

      I do not disagree! Interestingly, he is making a case for the very thing he is trying to get us to reconsider.

      Using his example, in our present circumstances, who are the rich men who have access to “food and drink” and who are the “poor and infirm” who do not have the same access? The bishops are the rich men. The laity are the poor and infirm.

      No one is asking to exclude anyone. The Church has a process for making sure the infirm are not put at risk when they receive Communion. The priest delivers it to them directly. The laity is asking only to be included.

      Jesus asked, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?” I think the bishops need to ask themselves this question.

      • Ronda Wintheiser says

        Mikhail, you are free to pronounce whatever you like about our priest.  If you knew him, you would know how very wrong you are.  

        Now I regret exposing him to public scrutiny and condemnation.  I will try to make amends. 

        Gail, as it should be, Fr. J is speaking to his own parish.  He has made it clear from the gitgo that he will conform to the civil/health authorities here in Minnesota, in obedience to our Bishop Paul.

        Whether or not he should have chosen civil disobedience is not for me to judge. 

        Even though our bishop and the OCA in general chose to offer livestream, he chose not to, thank God.  He chose to deprive himself of what his parish is being deprived of.

        I wouldn’t have watched it if he had done it. What he has been doing is sending us a worship packet every weekend with the appropriate variables — the text of a typika, along with the music and all of the other rubric things for each Sunday. His wife is our choir director, so she has recorded the hymns so that people can sing along, or just listen, in their own homes at their icon corners. He includes a homily.

        What he was speaking to in that homily was not so much the larger picture, but in fact how to re-open.  He is speaking to his own flock, about how we are to respond to the needs of everyone in our parish.  

        In response to my expressions of disappointment to him about some things, he has said this:

        “Speaking only of our own parish, consider that it is very poorly ventilated; that 25% of the congregation are over 65, often a lot over 65;  that is a full quarter.  Consider that a further 10 or 12 people are actively engaged in the lives of caring for  some of those elderly people,  and in regular physical communion with them… dropping off groceries, arranging medications, and so on…  and, in normal times,  visiting and feeding and having table fellowship.  That raises the number who are directly vulnerable to a third of the parish.  This does not include anyone on chemo,  who is diabetic, or who is otherwise vulnerable in ways I may or may not  know about.  In a church with no ventilation, where aerosols are the most serious contagious factor,  a 92 or 95 per cent recovery rate is not at all reassuring in cases of infection.  What is the obligation of the rest of us? Surely to make church as safe as possible for as many as possible.  It is tough enough to do this for someone like Jessica* at the most normal of times.  Now we are expected to do it for a much larger group of people with enormously varying needs and responsibilities…  we can only aspire to do a very bad job of it, at best.”

        *He is referring to my adult daughter with autism who is struggling mightily at these changes and the loss of church attendance, and about our concerns about how she will handle the incremental manner in which we are re-opening, not the least of which would be that she would not comply with wearing a mask — she would rip it off — as well as the fact that she has been known to be physically aggressive with people at church when she is upset.  

        Whatever you choose to think about him, even if he had chosen to disobey our bishop and engage in civil disobedience from the gitgo, how to take into account the myriad variables that exist in just our little corner of the world in our parish is an incredibly complex proposition. 

        He does not deserve anyone’s judgment or condemnation.

        Here is what he has to say about this, as we resume services, just this morning:


        • Gail Sheppard says

          Ronda, I was not being critical of your priest. You asked me what I thought about a video based on something I wrote. Kind of like when you give a CD to a friend and say, “Hey, I heard you like this kind of music. What do you think about this song?”

          You said this video was a homily which is generally for a broader audience. I could have no way of knowing your priest was referring to specific people in your parish or that one of them was your daughter! I assumed he was talking allegorically. If this video was meant for your parish to address some specific concerns you may be having internally, we should never have seen it.

          We, least of all me, wants to get into a discussion about your priest, your parish, and your daughter.

          I was not being judgmental and formed no opinion of your priest one way or the other. I was concentrating on giving you the specific feedback you requested on his reflections of various passages in scripture, in light of our present circumstances. Had I known there was a deeper agenda, where I would be wrestling with your feelings and potentially hurting other people, I would have politely refused.

          • Ronda Wintheiser says

            “You said this video was a homily which is generally for a broader audience. I could have no way of knowing your priest was referring to specific people in your parish or that one of them was your daughter! I assumed he was talking allegorically. If this video was meant for your parish to address some specific concerns you may be having internally, we should never have seen it. ”

            I said no such thing.
            I just asked what you think…

            • Gail Sheppard says

              You used the word sermon. A homily is a sermon. Many priests put their homilies on videos. They are intended for a wider audience, which I presumed this was.

              You then say, “Fr. J is speaking to his own parish. . . He is speaking to his own flock, about how we are to respond to the needs of everyone in our parish. . . He is referring to my adult daughter with autism who is struggling mightily at these changes and the loss of church attendance, and about our concerns about how she will handle the incremental manner in which we are re-opening, not the least of which would be that she would not comply with wearing a mask — she would rip it off — as well as the fact that she has been known to be physically aggressive with people at church when she is upset.”

              In conclusion, you said: “Whatever you choose to think about him, even if he had chosen to disobey our bishop and engage in civil disobedience from the gitgo, how to take into account the myriad variables that exist in just our little corner of the world in our parish is an incredibly complex proposition. . . He does not deserve anyone’s judgment or condemnation.”

              I had no idea this had to do with the issues of your parish. My comments were strictly about his take on scripture with respect to the point he was trying to make. There was no condemnation about your priest in anything I said.

              I feel like I was set up at this point.

              • Ronda Wintheiser says

                Indeed I said that, Gail.

              • Ronda Wintheiser says

                Well.  I responded to a different comment, Gail.  I did not see your last two paragraphs.
                They were not there when I responded.
                Fr. J does not post his homilies/sermons online for public consumption.
                As I said, I regret exposing him.

  7. Philippa says

    What upsets me is the lowering of the bar to receive the Holy Mysteries “for the sake of our weaker brother.”  Multiple spoons.  One spoon per communicant. Sanitize spoon between communicant. Disposable spoon. Ancient manner of putting the bread in the hand.  One podcast that reviewed the history of why changes were made to the way of distribution – laity abuse.
    Rather they had considered the ancient martyrs who, instead of renouncing their faith for “the sake of their weaker brother” stood strong in the Faith.  Because of that, many believed, just like the soldier at the foot of the cross.
    I am NOT saying a person should deliberately expose themselves to any contagious disease.  That is stupid and irresponsible. What I am saying is to approach with faith and care. Don’t lower the bar. Keep it high and work to reach it.

  8. I’ve wondered if any of the episcopate – or how many of the bishops – agree with the Fr Peter Heers and the Fr Josiah Trenhams and other clergy who are quite vocal on the demonic nature & narratives of the secular world’s fear-of-death coronavirus responses.

    As opposed to how many of the episcopate think that the Fr Peter Heers and Fr Josiah Trenhams are just plain nuts and wish they’d stop broadcasting?

    It’s beyond disconcerting to get one message from our well respected and articulate clergy and a completely different message from some Orthodox bishops.

    I do believe that some Orthodox bishops erroneously believe that they are responsible if granny or gramps is exposed to coronavirus because their child or grandchild was exposed at church. Not true! Where does this illogic end? To take this reasoning to its logical conclusion, we must now plan to close church every flu season.

    It does indeed seem that the secular authorities managed to accomplish what the communists never could do – to close the churches, all with the consent of many/most church leaders, and we’re being told that’s it’s “for our own good and safety”! If we don’t see the mark of the evil one in this process, then we have not cultivated the spirit of Christ and are not Orthodox Christians.

    I, fortunately, am one of the few able to worship at liturgy tomorrow – it’ll be my first time at liturgy since mid-March. I will refrain from any “elbow bumping” veneration of the icons, even if it’s the “safest method of veneration” according to Dr Fauci.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      Fauci now says no one needs to wear masks. Don’t know if the Church will require it. The truth, he admits, is that masks were never very helpful in the first place which is probably why the CDC did not recommend it initially. Wearing the masks made us feel like we were doing something important to combat the virus. Like back in the 60s when they taught us to hide under our desks in the event of a nuclear explosion. We would never have survived a nuclear bomb! They just wanted us to think we could. It made us feel like we had some control over our circumstances when we didn’t. – I wonder how many mind games they continue to play like that.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Gail, in my opinion the masks have become a type of virtue signaling.  At least for many people.

      • RIP (reluctant internet poster) says

        “Like back in the 60s when they taught us to hide under our desks in the event of a nuclear explosion. We would never have survived a nuclear bomb! They just wanted us to think we could. It made us feel like we had some control over our circumstances when we didn’t. ”
        I ran across a post on The American Conservative last week making this same observation.  Because, for obvious reasons, I have more time on my hands these days, I went and looked into the topic, because I (Gen X) didn’t experience duck and cover, but was raised with it being roundly mocked as silly and pointless.  However, it turns out that it wasn’t simply a psychological recommendation.  If you’re at ground zero and totally exposed, sure, you’re toast, but the further you get away from ground zero, the more significant where you are and even what your body position is impacts how much damage it does to you.  Even 170 meters, however, is enough to make the difference between surviving at not.  Check it out if you are so inclined, as there’s some really interesting stuff:
        To highlight the effect that being indoors, and especially below ground can make, despite the lethal open air radiation, blast and thermal zone extending well past her position at Hiroshima,[39] Akiko Takakura survived the effects of the 16 kt atomic bomb at a distance of 300 meters from ground zero, sustaining only minor injuries, due in greatest part to her position in the lobby of the Bank of Japan, a reinforced concrete building, at the time of the nuclear explosion,[49][50] and to highlight the protection conferred to an individual who is below ground during a nuclear air burst, Eizo Nomura survived the same blast at Hiroshima at a distance of 170 meters from ground zero.[51] Nomura, who was in the basement of what is now known as the rest house, also a reinforced concrete building,[51] lived into his early 80s.[52][53][54]
        In contrast to these cases of survival, the unknown person sitting outside on the steps of the Sumitomo Bank next door to the Bank of Hiroshima on the morning of the bombing—and therefore fully exposed—suffered what would have eventually been lethal third- to fourth-degree burns from the near instant nuclear weapon flash if they hadn’t been killed by the slower moving blast wave when it reached them approximately one second later.[55]

        • Gail Sheppard says

          I don’t doubt what you’re saying but during the Cuban Missile Crisis, I lived just north of ground zero for the U.S. Missile Defense, where 18 of the Air Force’s 54 Titan II Missiles were housed. I believe we were #3 on the Soviet Union’s top ten hit list. We would not have survived.

          As an aside, this is a pretty good movie if you haven’t seen it:

          • RIP (reluctant internet poster) says

            Yes, I have seen that and other things about near misses.  Amazed we never actually blew ourselves up.
            I grew up near a naval weapons station where we assumed there were nukes.  The 80s weren’t near as intense as the Cuban Missile Crisis,obviously, but it was always on my mind as I would have to drive by it on the way to school every day.  

        • George Michalopulos says

          Also, there is something called the Hormetic Effect, which depending upon the level of radiation and the distance you are from it, it can actually be beneficial to you.  

          From what I understand, the area surrounding Chernobyl is quite lush and verdant today.  

        • Very interesting. Kudos for a high-effort post!

    • Antiochene Son says

      I think that if the virus has truly been as bad as they were predicting, people would not be angry like we are now. 
      We’re angry not because our leaders, civil and spiritual, took drastic action based on devastating information, but because they have refused to let up after more information became known.
      It is a massive betrayal of trust that will only get worse as time goes on. The only way back is to undo what has been done. 

      • George Michalopulos says

        AS, you hit the nail right on the head.  

      • Well said, Antiochene Son.
        Like you, apparently, I had no serious problem with the drastic actions taken initially (I am referring here to those of our bishops, not those of the government).  I was willing to trust that they were doing the best they knew to do – even apart from government orders.  I also recognized that, though rare, this was not the first time in history that the churches were forced to close due to a pandemic.  I did not like it, but I accepted it as the reality of our time by the providence of God and as something to be patiently and humbly endured. 
        And now that many of our churches are beginning to reopen, I even accept the precautions, though some of them have gone madly overboard to the point of absurdity.  (Some of the directives read more like the sort of laws politicians pass in order to make a show of doing something about a problem that in reality accomplishes little of practical significance and  in this case still [in strictly medical terms] leaves all sorts of rather obvious gaps in infection control protocols.)
        But even so, if they want us to ‘socially distance,’ refrain from kissing  icons, etc. out of an abundance of caution, I am willing to comply, if for no other reason than obedience itself is a virtue, though, again, I do not like it.  After all, who among us can say they like not having things the way they want them to be?
        However, when these ‘precautions’ and directives extend even to the Chalice we have every right and obligation to be scandalized.
         As you doubtless know, we Orthodox have a saying that reads in Latin, “lex orandi, lex credenda” (“the law of what is to be prayed [is] the law of what is to be believed”).  Today (Saturday morning), I went to the Divine Liturgy for the second time since the churches were closed.  At the end of the Liturgy, as at the end of every Divine Liturgy, the words we sing/pray seemed to ring out loudly as a stern rebuke…
        “…for Thou hast made us worthy to partake of Thy holy, divine, immortal, and life-creating Mysteries…”
        We pray it.  I believe it.  And I will always believe it, as will all right-believing Orthodox Christians.  And since – regardless of how the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is distributed – the Blood of our Lord is a liquid that by its very nature must somehow be contained in a vessel, it is impossible for an Orthodox Christian to believe that the vessel, whether it be the chalice or the spoon, can be a means of imparting anything other than what is holy, divine, immortal, and life-creating to those whom He has made worthy.
        Whether they realize or not (i.e., thought it through), whether they intend it or not, the directives many of our bishops have given about the distribution of Holy Communion border on heresy.  They have (unintentionally, I believe, in the case of many of them) opened a Pandora’s Box of false teaching which, if not corrected quickly and decisively, may well become an indelible stain on their teaching office that permanently mars their credibility in the eyes of the Faithful.
        May the Lord have mercy on me and on all His people.

  9. I’m stunned in that the Greek parish I attend is asking me to sign up to attend a liturgy, sign in and sign to agree to not hold  the church responsible if I get sick. Really?   Not to mention a whole bunch of other hoopalla to go with it. I am in the Twilight Zone for sure. 

    • Stunned,
      The lawyers and insurance agents are running things. The or the day our Hierarch forwarded an email from Church Mutual regarding “guidance” on reopening. If tomorrow the government did a 180 and eschewed any need for masks, antisocial distancing I have a sneaky suspicion the Hierarchs would too.

    • I anticipate being asked to sign “release of liability” forms prior to going to my next confession. After all, confession and its highly intimate nature, often with advice given by the priest, has the potential to be far more riskier to most of us at church than being exposed to coronavirus. 

      What if my priest gives me advice that later on I interpret as being bad advice?  The implications for my life could be disastrous. The obvious logical next step is for all to sign releases of liability prior to confession, as the church referenced above has started to do due to the risks of being exposed to coronavirus at church.
      Obviously I’m being satirical, but one of the reasons the secular world hates Orthodox Christianity is that we highlight the absurdity of the secular world. We point out how insane and ridiculous the secular world is, without shame.

      Lawyerly interference, contracts, and a “transactional” faith just don’t work from an Orthodox Christian mindset.  That some of our hierarchs and clergy have bought into this mindset demonstrates how secular their worldview is – whether they realize it or not.
      In this new legal, transactional, contractual distortion of the Christian faith, there is no room for holiness – but then again, maybe that’s the point.  Those advocating broad legal injunctions to following Christ – making Christianity simply a transaction – don’t believe in holiness to begin with.  

  10. Fr. Michael Butler wrote some endearing words about his Spiritual Father…the holy priest from Romania, Fr. Roman Braga (from the one year memorial). One paragraph stands out. He is talking about the only time he ever saw Fr. Roman upset.
    I only heard him speak harshly one time. He was preaching at Liturgy on a Saturday morning and he was upset with people who would not close their mouths on the spoon when they received Holy Communion. He rebuked them for lack of faith: did they really believe they would get sick from the Body and Blood of Christ, which is the Fountain of Immortality and the Medicine of Incorruption? If Holy Communion never, in fact, touches your lips, how can the Priest say, “Lo, this has touched your lips. It will take away your iniquity and cleanse you of your sins”?

  11. Ronda Wintheiser says

    “…in my opinion the masks have become a type of virtue signaling. At least for many people…”
    That is what I am seeing. 
    Not mask shaming.

    • Gail Sheppard says

      Exactly. “Virtue signaling.” And it’s got that Trump Derangement feeling to it.

  12. Johann Sebastian says

    If we’d closed the damn borders (or at least been more “selective” with who we let in here) we wouldn’t have had any need for masks, lockdowns, ventilators, “stimulus” packages, etc., etc. No overdriven leftist chest-beating and no tin-hat-theories-to-contaminate-the-kernels-of-truth from “source Q.”
    The only lockdown that would have worked with any certainty was the one that was in place before circa 1965.

    • George Michalopulos says


      • Johann Sebastian says

        Perhaps there is a reason Americans are deflecting and turning a blind eye to what is unquestionably an act of biological warfare on the part of the Chinese. There is a saying common amongst southeast Asians: “The Chinese are the Jews of the Orient.”

        Interpret that as you will.

        • As I understand it, Fauci was sponsoring gain of function research on coronaviruses in the US until it was halted by Congress – whereupon he transferred the research to Wuhan No 4 Lab.
          So, the Chinese may not be entirely to blame…

          • Gail Sheppard says

            Why am I not surprised.

            • George Michalopulos says

              Me neither.  I’m fairly convinced that the Chinese were set up by the American Deep State or that they were complicit.  

              What do they gain by going along with this ruse?

              1.  derailment of the US-China trade treaty which Trump renegotiated in our favor,
              2. the end of the Hong Kong demonstrations,
              3. a state of belligerency which allows their navy to more or less control the western Pacific Ocean,
              4. the solidification of their claims to the man-made islands in the South China Sea,
              5. the ignoring of the whole Muslim-Uigher issue.
              6. the possibility that by doing so they can derail Trump’s reelection and put in their puppet, Creepy Joe.
              • Johann Sebastian says

                Can anyone tell me how—from a legal standpoint—seeking remuneration from the Chinese government for deaths caused by their certain responsibility for the COVID-19 pandemic is any different from those who seek damages against Russia for deaths caused by their alleged downing of MH-17?
                Why is the latter considered legitimate whilst the former is dismissed as a futile undertaking?
                Double standards?

                • Johann Sebastian says

                  And—setting aside my disgust toward Bolshevism—why was the Soviet Union called “the Evil Empire” while  the People’s Republic of China was granted that questionable economic honor of “Most Favored Nation” just a few years later?

                • George Michalopulos says

                  There’s one thing we could do which would not cost is 1 cent but would terrify the CCP:  recognize Taiwan as the formal republic of China.
                  The howling would be 9.4 on the Richter scale.

                  • Johann Sebastian says

                    Indeed. The “True Republic of China” or the “Republic of China outside China.”

                  • Wars tend to cost more than one cent, much less zero cents.

                    • Gail Sheppard says

                      Who said anything about war?

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      As La Galina asked: “who said anything about war?” I certainly did not. I merely mentioned moving the US embassy from Beijing to Taipei.

                      We moved our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem with no repercussions. I admit, that was within one country (Israel) and what I’m suggesting is moving it from one country to another which is an apples-and-oranges comparison. BUT, it would send a huge message to the CCP. It could lead to war but it need not necessarily lead to war.

                      All The Golden Don would have to do is threaten to do, quietly, discreetly, and let them cogitate on it

                    • Johann Sebastian says

                      Aim a few missiles at China. We don’t seem to have a problem doing that to Russia.

                    • If one does not understand the consequences of a course of action, one should refrain from suggesting a course of action.

                    • Gail Sheppard says

                      Good thing that’s not what’s happening here!

                    • Johann Sebastian says

                      Turn them into porcelain.

                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Flavius, we are already in a war –a trade war.  All I’m suggesting is a non-violent way (recognition of Taiwan) of forcing Red China (there! I said it) to come back to the negotiating table and/or otherwise back down. 

                      Can it spin out of control, in a violent manner?  Yes, it can.  Where we are now has more of a chance to spin out of control, however.  

                      While I’m at heart a free-trader, it is impossible for us as a nation to go back to the status quo ante as our economy would eventually crumble and we would be reduced to several inter-regional civil wars. 

                      Unlike liberals who worship at the altar of Lincoln, I have no essential quarrel with our nation dividing up between the Red-state/Blue-state divide or some semblance thereof.  Frankly, I look at grotesqueries such as J B Pritzker of Illinois and Andrew “Nipple-ring” Cuomo of New York and wonder what the hell I have in common with the people who elected such creatures in the first place.  

                      The problem therefore is not mine.  It is instead the problem of those who believe in the neoliberal world order and the idea that we must chug along as we did from the time of Bush 41-Obama, when it was our “duty” to export (read:  cram it down their throats) democratic liberalism to the rest of the world.

                      Do I want a shooting war with China?  Nope.  Unlike Russia, which our neoliberal establishment likes to provoke at every turn (for no reason whatsoever), perhaps we should concentrate our firepower on China instead.  

                    • Apparently the recognition of Tibet is being mooted:

                    • Please do not read any ire into my statement, but you could not demonstrate less of an understanding of China than by suggesting that the US claiming Taiwan was the true legitimate China would result in anything other than the Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

                      Do understand that in the context of a society of great control and censorship, and one where the government does have concerns about unbridled nationalism run amok, things like this are considered acceptable by the Chinese state:


                    • George Michalopulos says

                      Flavius, in response to your latest comment, the recognition of Taiwan (and thus the de-recognition of Red China) could lead to war. Might I suggest a carrier group deciding to patrol the coast off of Taiwan at about the time of any recognition of Taiwan? I’m sure the ROC would love to put us up for a few months.

                      And how about this: the lifting of all sanctions against Russia? It’s called “triangulation”.

                      Nixon did that to the Soviets when he sent Kissinger to pay a visit to Mao Zedong back in the 70s.