Sunday of Orthodoxy - sermon by Fr Andrew Gliga
Dearest brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we finish this first week of fasting, our bodies finally begin to get used to the new rigors we are enduring. Last week we had many Church services, lots of prostrations, low intake of food, and extended prayers. We heard during the great canon of St. Andrew all those sins which weigh us down, all those things we need to put off in order to take on Christ. This great rigor we undertook last week was just a prelude to the journey to Pascha. As we see with many things outside of Church, starting something with great discipline and fervor will lead to favorable results. This is why we are thrown right into a strict first week in order to help us complete the journey. As we complete this week, we are greeted with a great celebration of the triumph of Orthodoxy in the face of heresy. We see all the icons placed in front of us, showing how the truth of Christ will always prevail. The Fathers of the Church had always strived to keep our Orthodox faith intact. Because of this, they of course struggled to ward off false teachings that began to creep in the Church. The truth was so important to them, that many gave up even their lives to protect that truth.
We can contrast this joyous struggle that we untook with what is going on in our world today. We see many people panicking, workplaces shutting down, people stocking up on food and supplies because of this widespread Coronavirus. This is no surprise that this great panic took place just as we began to enter Great Lent. The devil is always ready to stir up anything to deter us from any sort of labours we might be undertaking. We should be vigilant and be able to not let these mass panics affect us in any way. Instead, we should always put our absolute trust in God that whatever happens is his will, whether good or bad. If what happens is bad, we should come on our knees towards repentance. If good, then we should also come on our knees offering thanksgiving to him. It is our faith which strengthens us As Bishop Irinei of London states do not let the "concerns of the moment shake you from the firm foundation that is unhindered faith in the living God, Who heals the sick and restores the broken-hearted".
One thing I do agree with the masses, is that we should take precaution. If we are actually sick and not feeling well, we should stay home. We should take sanitary measures like washing our hands. This is exactly why we have disposable cups for zapifka today in order to take measures in order to protect ourselves and especially our elderly. These things are good and we should not avoid them. However, by the same token, we should also not remove important portions of our worship and replace them because of the fear that we will get sick. One of those that tends to be brought up, is the Eucharist. Brothers and sisters, we can in no way get sick from partaking of Holy Communion. How can that which gives us life, also transmit sickness and disease? The Bishops of the Ukrainian Church in America say the following: "When the common spoon of communion is dipped into the Chalice following the communion of one individual, it is cleansed by the Blood of our Lord beyond our broadest comprehension of what “cleansing” is in human terms. Throughout all the history of our more than two millennium Church, we can recall no thread of witness or even a shadow of one, indicating that any disease has ever been spread through the Chalice containing the Precious Body and Blood of our Lord. Perhaps the most convincing fact here is that if the Chalice did, indeed, spread disease, we would certainly be praying regularly for the repose of the souls of tens of thousands or more deacons and priests who, throughout the past 2000 years have consumed the full Chalices following communion of the faithful during hundreds of thousands of Divine Liturgies throughout our history. This is our faith, dearly beloved, and if we lose that faith, we are in grave danger far beyond the physical danger of a virus." As the Fathers of the Church fought for the truth, we too should not be afraid of standing firm in the truth.
Another case comes with kissing relics or holy icons, which yes, we should clean and keep neat. But we also know that the grace of God is present in these icons. Again, to quote from the Patriarch of Romania: "in the case of kissing the holy icons, the believers who have a strong and living faith are not afraid that they will become ill, but they enjoy the prayer and the blessing of the saints depicted in the icons. As faith unites freedom with love, it is through faith that people express their love of God and His saints freely".
These are very trying times for our faith. But we should keep in mind that these are placed in front of us to deter us from the goal of our faith. Sometimes we forget that our goal is salvation, not earthly comfort. Which is why I urge you to take this Lent seriously. Try to attend an extra service or two during the week. Make sure you keep the fast to the best of your ability. Do your evening and morning prayers. And doing so, you will be able to "come and see" as Christ said in the Gospel reading. You will be able to come to a realization of how important these things are. And doing these things will bring us the ultimate form of healing; the healing of our soul. And that can also bring healing to any earthy disease or discomfort. Become icons of Christ and nothing can harm or hurt you.