Whether in isolation or in community one big part of our ongoing transformation into the sons and daughters of God is Repentance (Confession) and partaking of Holy Communion. It is OK to go a few weeks without partaking of the Holy Mysteries. But we have for years encouraged people to commune often. Because that is a very good spiritual practice. It forces us to confront our sins, to fight them, and to ideally hate them so they will be literally repulsed by those sins. That does not mean we commune every day as a rule or even every week, but we should not be going months without the Mysteries either. The communications from the diocese make it clear that the laity, except for those who are in church to execute the services, should commune at home. It also makes it clear that the laity should be patient with the priests – this will be a significant burden on them, especially as a wave of severe COVID cases hit in various areas. There will be people dying in the hospital and the priests will have to try (I say try because right now we are banned from the University Hospital and St. Joseph for infectious disease reasons) to care for these people as they step into the next life. But there is still time to bring communion to those who are healthy and at home. Fr. Moses is still working some, so we will try to do this mostly via me, but you are always welcome to reach out to Fr. Moses and see if it would work for him. For me, you can use open times you find on my Calendly application for one hour blocks only. I will open up some more mornings for the next few weeks as well. A few important guidelines:
1. Read the pre-Communion prayers as usual. If you don’t have those they can be found at our PARISH PRAYER KIT
2. Fast from Midnight if you will commune early in the day. If you will commune much later in the day follow the rule before evening Presanctified Liturgy (light breakfast – nothing after that).
3. Participate (do not just watch or listen – participate actively) in the Divine Services of the day you will commune if those are available on the LIVE STREAM. If not – one of the recent cycles of Divine Services found on our Facebook page. Just pan down – you will find them. They should be in “videos” too.
4. Forgive everyone and have noth
ing against anyone (as usual before Communion)
5. Write out your confession if you can write. Give that to the priest that visits. He will read it and have a short conversation with you about it. SHORT is the key word here. We are trying to minimize the opportunity for infection and the infection spreads by droplets – and talking makes droplets.
6. Follow this protocol, which was created with the consultation of three Orthodox Christians physicians to minimize the spread of the coronavirus:
- The faithful will confess in written form.
- When considering to visit a sick person at home for confession and communion, a priest is to first ascertain if the illness manifests as respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms.
- If a person is sick with the above-mentioned symptoms, the priest should abstain from visiting this person but strongly encourage that person to seek medical attention immediately. If the symptoms are different, e.g. those of worsening chronic disease, a priest is to follow precautions recommended by CDC in the current situation.
- Contact should be between the priest and the penitent only without any family members which would allow for distance of 6 feet. The room should be well-ventilated.
- After the prayer of absolution both the priest and the pertinent should wash their hands, or use towelettes or waterless hand sanitizer if hand washing is not practical or possible.
- A mask should be worn by the sick person. The priest may wear a mask if he desires.
It is important that as we are quarantined on any level we do not quarantine our faith. We have been given the blessing to be in our desert during this Great Lent – isolated from most of the rest of the parish. That has good aspects and bad – but most certainly it is a struggle and and opportunity to draw nearer to the Lord. Just as the monastics in Palestine used to wander through the desert for the 40 days of Great Lent and grew spiritually from that struggle. We will read the life of St. Mary of Egypt this week on Wednesday evening. Please listen carefully to the benefits she, and St. Zosimas, received in the desert. You could argue – and I would submit that this is true – that St. Mary was transformed in the desert. We can too – but we have to struggle to acquire these benefits – to be transformed. You cannot read the life of St. Mary of Egypt and take from it that struggle is NOT necessary. May the Lord strengthen you! Please let me or Fr. Moses know if you have any questions.
Asking Your Prayers,