The memorial commemoration of the outgoing year is hard and scary to read. So far, it is even impossible to count the deaths of priests and clergymen due to coronavirus infection.
The latest high-profile case of a chain of tragic infections is shocking. On November 20, the 90-year-old Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church Irenaeus died of coronavirus infection, who became infected at the funeral of Metropolitan of Montenegro-Primorsky Amphilochius, who died of coronavirus on October 30. The same funeral was attended by other prominent hierarchs of Orthodox churches, the Primate of the Albanian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Anastasius, he completed treatment at the Evangelismos clinic in Athens on November 23, and the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church, Archbishop of Athens and all Greece Jerome, who was discharged from the clinic 1 December. But the history of the disease does not end there, almost every day there is information about the illness and death of bishops and employees of various Orthodox churches.
Should the age-related diseases of elderly hierarchs be considered the cause of death? Or, to be honest, do we recognize covid? We understand that all these verbal tricks are needed only in order to divert our attention from the real danger. And, by and large, - to separate. After all, disunity - let us recall the Sacred History - leads to drama, tragedy and sin. Both Adam and Eve, and Abel and Cain - this is the story of the separation of people who were previously close to each other. And it doesn't matter at all what the reason is, more important is the result to which it invariably leads.
We could observe almost eschatological attacks of doubters during the first covid wave, in the spring. Remember how painfully everyone discussed the lockdown and the closure of churches: "But what about Easter?" The priests who closed the churches and thus tried to fulfill their direct duty - to save the flock, were accused of all sins. An entire community of dissidents has emerged within the Church. From the pulpit and YouTube, they called anathema against those who are afraid of the virus and so show “their disbelief”, they argued that “the virus of the communion will be afraid”, that “there is no infection in the church”! And the one who thinks differently is a real enemy of the Church and a blasphemer. Then everyone got confused, who is the real detractor.
Thank God, the Russian Patriarch and other hierarchs of Orthodox churches also spoke their say. And they cited as an example the holy martyrs, from Mary of Egypt to the new martyrs of the Soviet era of execution. For various reasons, they, too, did not have the opportunity for worship and communion, but did this alienate them from God, did it make their holiness less significant? It's a shame that not only devout laity, but also the clergy were responsible for the covid dissidence with weakness and death. Monastic cloisters fell sick with waves, in monasteries the virus spread especially quickly.
With God, everything is providential. As Patriarch Kirill said: "Such events cannot occur outside of divine providence." I think that providence is also possible in testing us for community, as a church, as a gathering of churched people. The church authorities, in response to the "covid-dissidence", did not begin to arrange a showdown with the rebellious hierarchs, but launched a social service in hospitals. In order, as it should, by the word of God, to help the needy and the sick. Many on the Web, looking at the pictures of priests in "covid spacesuits" with epitrachilia over their overalls, chuckled. It's painfully unusual to see priests in such vestments. But, so we did not have a reason to get used to such a situation. And the prayer of the priest, even in the church, even in the hospital ward, is unchanged. If it helps according to God's will, then what difference does it make through a mask or with open lips? There were also those who opposed communion in their homes. “What kind of antics is this? - they were indignant. - The apartment is not consecrated, is it possible to bring holy gifts there !? It turned out that here, too, the Patriarch's blessing does not contradict the canons, communion at home is a revival of the ancient Byzantine tradition, and the fact that priests serve where people need it is almost their main mission, especially since we are all now we exist in such "military" conditions. There is almost no doubt that everything that happens is reminiscent of a war. The elders have been talking about this for a long time, the devil does not sleep, but waits in the wings to unleash the full might of his blow on us. Beats from everywhere.
Another blow of the outgoing year was for me reports of persecution of Christians in different parts of the Orthodox world. Especially, tragic events unfolded in the very center of Africa - Ethiopia. The only Christian country on the continent, and also surrounded by hostile Islamic countries, is now at war. The long-smoldering conflict between the main peoples of the country: Amhara and Tigray - on the one hand, and the Oromo people - on the other, developed first into a series of burnings of Christian churches and numerous killings of Christians, and then into a full-fledged civil war inside the country. The Russian Orthodox Church at the highest level has declared its support for Ethiopian Christians, let's hope that this will help stop the bloodshed and preserve for the whole world the oldest Christian church, the cradle of the Holy Ark.
“Let us love each other, but confess with like-mindedness” - this, in my opinion, is almost the main task of all churched people, it seems, has become even more impracticable at the end of the difficult 2020. And not at all because the ancient custom prescribes kissing each other on these words of the divine service. Kissing as a kind of material sign of gratitude is not so essential, although it is pleasant. It is much more important - not expressed physical action - to love to some extent that very, almost mythical, like-mindedness.
2020 from the birth of Christ has become difficult for everyone. And until we all try to become "like-mindedness of confession", I am afraid that the next year will not be easy either. Let such diligence become a daily deed for us - because if you believe the Apostle Peter, this is the beginning of the path to true love: “applying all diligence to this, show your virtue in your faith, discretion in virtue, abstinence in discretion, patience in abstinence, patience piety, brotherly love in godliness, love in brotherly love ”(2 Peter 1: 5-7). The holy apostle will not say in vain.
Until then, let us believe that “Christ is in our midst. And it is and will be. "