April 2, 2020
To The Worthy and Beloved Clergy of our God-protected Episcopate:
Christ is among us! He is and ever shall be!
The complexity of the makeup of our Episcopate is due to many factors: dual national authorities; clergy availability; variety of church campus complexes; numbers of parishioners and of “holiday” visitors who have limited ties to and support of the parishes and Episcopate.
The COVID-19 pandemic has flattened some of these factors.
No church of the Episcopate is presently open for public services.
Clergy, whether full-time or limited time, are bound to remain home, out of public life, as determined by the civil authorities.
The Orthodox Christian cycle of Divine Services during the Great Paschal Fast and Paschal season is complex. Depending on various factors, but in general, our parish liturgical life has been expressed in a modified execution dependent on a parish situation. We clergy select which of these services, depending on various practical factors, can be celebrated and which are not.
If the church and parish house are on the same campus, the determined, blessed services may be celebrated by the priest with only family members who are living permanently in the parish house. There is to be no access to anyone else. Church doors must be closed during and after services; recommended health precautions must be taken.
If the priest must drive to the church, services may not be conducted by him in the church for the reason of re-locating from place to place. He may serve in his home.
The services blessed to be served may all be broadcast through appropriate social media according to the experience and knowledge of the priest.
Home: Remember, if you do not know how to do this, you may not invite someone into your home to do this.
Church: If you are blessed to serve in the church, accordingly as above, the same applies -- you may not call anyone to help set up a broadcasting system.
Pre-sanctified Liturgies (as prescribed) cannot be celebrated because of closure of the churches based on civil directions.
The Great Canon may be said on a day other than Thursday, April 2.
The Akathist to the Mother of God may be recited on Friday, April 3.
No Divine Liturgy for Lazarus Saturday.
Vespers may be celebrated in church/home only according to the above.
Entrance into Jerusalem/ Palm Sunday
No Divine Liturgy for this Sunday.
Matins: Bridegroom services may be celebrated on all days pre-scheduled.
Great and Holy Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday
No Pre-Sanctified Liturgy (of course there is no Lamb from any previous Divine Liturgy).
Vesperal part of the Pre-sanctified with readings may be served as blessed above.
Great and Holy Wednesday
Holy Unction: A modified service may be said without the sanctification of oil. The Introductory prayers, scriptural readings and perhaps appropriate prayers may be said. A short homily, relevant to the present condition of the world crisis and the frailty of our fallen human nature may be appropriate.
Great and Holy Thursday
No Divine Liturgy. At a future, joyful time, the preparation of the Eucharist for the sick can be celebrated.
Matins: “12 Gospels” may be served as indicated above.
Great and Holy Friday
Vespers of the “Removal of the Body from the Cross” may be served as above. In the house, perhaps a crucifix on a table would be appropriate and sufficient.
Matins with “Lamentations” may served as above. No external procession.
Great and Holy Saturday
The Midnight Office (if usually celebrated).
Matins may be done only in the church with no external procession.
There is no Divine Liturgy served; not in the church nor in the house.
Vespers of Pascha may be celebrated within the church as above or in the house, as above.
Paschal Matins may be served as indicated above.
We will issue further directives as time requires.
Brothers, I am a priest for 54 years and a bishop for 40. As the hymn says: “I weep and I lament when I think about death and see our beauty, created in the image of God, now lying in the grave…," and we have wept over the body of our Savior, Jesus Christ, in whose divine image we are made, now lying in the grave. We are witnesses, as well, to thousands, “now lying in the grave,” and we know, there shall be thousands more. But on that Great and Holy Day of immense power, joy and promise, the Pascha of the Lord, our weeping shall be turned into light, power and determination to await the subsiding of the sickness which keeps us physically but not spiritually from each other.
With you, I lament that we have not “…approached with the fear of God, with faith and love…the Holy Gifts.”
I am also suffering much to keep our parishes closed. Is it not better to prevent much preventable suffering by having patience than to open the churches and wonder “…is it I Lord, Is it I?” There are bishops who have not taken the road I have. Some of our faithful may have gone to the services with those others of 10, 25, 100. It is only “the 1” who can unknowingly spread the preventable or who can out of mutual concern, self-quarantine.
Who does not know how and what to pray? Who knows who has the virus and who not? Our prayers must include all, known and unknown, for the mercy of God “…at the dread judgment seat of Christ.” But our role as clergy is to show our faith and our patience to endure.
Brothers, I know that you are dependent on the remunerations from the parish. Some have expressed this concern. Certainly the Lord of heaven and earth will look after us. Saint Paul reminded the faithful of apostolic times: “The laborer is due his support.”
I close in telling you that I have scrolled down the photos of each of you on our Episcopate website; I have scanned the face of each and prayed to your guardian angel to watch over you; I recall the names of the Preotese and asked our Lady to embrace them. I beg our loving Savior to guard your children under his wings, as a mother hen her brood.
God of our Fathers, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others. Amen, amen, amen.
+NATHANIEL, A sinner in repentance