We are officially half-way through our Great Lenten Journey. Remember, the forty days ends the day before Saturday of Lazarus, and today is day twenty! We’ve made it this far, and if you’re still “in the game” chances are you will finish the race. Congratulations on making it this far! I’ve written a great deal about how this year’s health crisis has affected our journey. Today I’ll look ahead at try to “reframe” the second half of our journey considering the new, albeit temporary, reality.
Moving forward it seems more likely that we will spend even Holy Week without being allowed to gather in our Churches. While this is a sad possibility, it remains nonetheless a blessed opportunity for spiritual benefit and growth this year. This can be the year that we learn how to love our neighbors as, if not more than, ourselves.
When the world is facing a health crisis such as the Coronavirus (COVID19) with all its unknowns, staying home as much as possible is an act of love for others. If we need to leave our homes, staying at a distance from others is an act of love for others.
As Orthodox Christians, our history is filled with experiences of being forbidden to worship God as we would like. In some cases, this meant locked doors by the governments, in others it simply meant the lack of clergy available to celebrate the services of the Church. In our case this year, it means severely limiting attendance of faithful while the clergy celebrate the Liturgy behind closed doors.
This is a tragic and temporary situation through which we will learn to love others. As inspiration, I offer the words of St John Chrysostom in his homily 25 on Romans. “Therefore, when you are the cause of destruction for others, you will suffer more grievously than those whom you tripped up. For committing sin does not cause destruction as much as leading others to sin.” It is not a sin to remain home during this health crisis, but it might be a sin if our actions of not remaining home or at a distance is the cause of the death of others. THAT sin will be greater than missing the Liturgy.