A friend called to ask what I thought about the government telling us to close the church to most people and have minimalist services broadcast.
I told him I don’t like it, but what is the intent?
The intent is not to shut down religion or to keep us from each other.
The intent is to keep us alive, to keep us from hurting each other, and while “Thou Shalt Not Kill” is not the first commandment, it’s on the list.
This is a different illness. It’s more like chicken pox, which all of my kids have had and one kid had three times, which is supposed to be impossible, in that you are contagious days before you show symptoms.
So no matter how good we feel, we could be spreading this to people we love.
These bans are to keep us from doing that.
These frustrating measures are to keep us from harming each other, and harming each other gravely, by accident.
Excommunication, when imposed by the Church, is the gravest punishment and is saved for the gravest of sins, and it feels like we’ve been excommunicated when we cannot congregate together and celebrate the Eucharist, together.
But the Church uses it for our salvation, and this separation is for our good and the good of the people we love.
And it’s temporary.
At Jordanville in my husband’s time and later, seminarians were assigned, in rotation, to barn duty instead of church on Sundays so the barn workers could be at the Sunday Liturgy and commune. The cows had to be milked and fed at the same time every day, and sometimes you have to miss church so the cows can eat and so that your brother can be at the services. One seminarian balked, and went to church instead, He said he came there to get an education, not to milk cows, and there was fallout. An elderly monk remarked to a friend, “You know, if you’re supposed to work in the cow barns, and you went to Liturgy instead, did you really go to Liturgy?” I thought of this often when my children were young and I had to stay home with whoever was sick.
This isolation is working in the cow barns so your brother can live and go to church another day, and so you can, too, only now we can also see the services on the internet, and receive Holy Communion one on one from our priests, who need prayers for protection, support, and strength during this difficult, difficult time.
Sometimes the best way to serve is to cease from complaining and to be where we are told to be for the duration, thinking always of how beautiful it will be when we are all together again.
This is the Sunday of the Cross. How few of the Apostles were there at the actual Crucifixion. How many millions now stand at the foot of the Cross, looking up for hope and help. Another thing — the myrrh bearing women and the noble Joseph who buried Christ were considered unclean and would not have been able to participate in the Passover, for having touched a dead body. But we sing of them now. And that one sacrifice lead to so many more services, churches, congregations, and chances for believers to pray together.
This is hard. This is miserable. This is temporary. And in that it is what God has either sent or allowed, it is for our salvation.
This is the loving thing that we can do, right now, for each other, and that we can do graciously, to support our bishops and priests, who want us to have life, and to have it abundantly.
Let us pray for our bishops, for our clergy, for each other, for our civil leaders, for all those who have to make hard decisions and for all of us who have to live with them. And in that way, this disastrous crisis can bring us closer together, by bringing us closer to Christ.