A Notice To Our Parishioners Concerning the Coronavirus

by frjonah on March 16, 2020

(Note: this was sent out to the parish email list on Saturday, March 15th)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I’m sure that, by now, we are all aware of the news regarding the rapid and unprecedented spread of the Coronavirus both abroad and, indeed, here within the United States.  First of all, this is an important time for us, as Orthodox Christians, to intensify our prayers for those affected by this virus both in the US and througout the world.  To that end, I encourage all of our parishioners to add the following prayer to your daily rule of prayer, calling upon the Lord to aid those who are affected by the Coronavirus and to protect those who are as of yet unaffected:

Prayer in Time of Devastating & Death-bearing Pestilence

O Lord our God, look down from Thy Holy Heaven on the supplication of us, Thy sinful and unworthy servants, who have angered Thy graciousness by our transgressions, and have provoked Thy deep compassion, and enter not into judgement with Thy servants. But do Thou turn aside Thy fearsome anger  that hath  justly  seized us,  appease the destructive  threatening,  avert Thy terrible sword that, although invisible, cutteth us grievously, and spare Thy  poor  and  needy  servants.  Enclose  not  with death the souls  of us  who have  fallen  down  in repentance with  broken  hearts  and  tears  before  Thee, our kindhearted, condescending, and accommodating God.

For Thine it is to show mercy and to save us, O our God, and unto Thee do we  send  up  glory:  to  the  Father, and to  the  Son,  and  to the Holy  Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

We will also be adding this prayer to all Divine Liturgies effective immediately, following the Augmented Ectenia.

Our hope is in the Lord, dear Brothers and Sisters, and it is important for us to recall that we are facing this situation during the season of Great Lent, when we are called upon to intensify our prayer and fasting both for ourselves and for the whole world.

Despite the fact that there are still no confirmed cases of the Coronavirus in West Virginia, it is incumbent upon us to take concrete steps sooner rather than later to protect those who are most at risk from this virus.  It is very important for us, as a community, to educate ourselves about the real risks of the Novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) as knowledge is always the best antidote to panic and fear, which thrive in the face of the unknown.  What we know so far about this virus is that, by all accounts, the risk to most individuals is extremely low.  In fact, no children below the age of 10 have died due to COVID-19 (the disease which results from infection from the virus) and the mortality risk to most individuals up to the age of 70 is considered be low.  That being said, this virus does pose a considerable risk to individuals above the age of 70 and to those who are immunocompromised in some way.  The efforts of our country to combat the virus (including President Trump’s declaration of a “State of Emergency”) are mainly focused on these older individuals with an emphasis on trying to reduce the rate of transmission to ensure that our medical apparatus isn’t overwhelmed due to the extremely high rate of transmission.  It is up to us to help to slow this transmission rate, not, perhaps, for us as individuals, per se, but on behalf of those in our society who are at higher risk of complications, which would also certainly negatively impact our healthcare professionals should the rate of infection grow too quickly.

With this in mind, we will be implementing the following counter-measures effective immediately at Christ the Savior Parish:

  1. Though we will not be cancelling any scheduled services (unless ultimately directed to do so by the hierarchy), we urge that those who are exhibiting any symptoms of illness refrain from attending church for the time being. This also applies to those who, due to the nature of their jobs or simply the circumstances of their lives, have reason to believe that they have come into contact with someone infected with the Coronavirus.

    We are taking steps to livestream our services to our Facebook Page.  Alternatively, those who miss services due to sickness or possible exposure to the Coronavirus have a blessing to read the Hours and Typika at home until they are no longer exhibiting symptoms (or 14 days from their possible exposure has passed).

  2. For the time being, we will be cancelling trapeza at Christ the Savior. I know that many of us love trapeza and I am sure that we will be able to resume our fellowship time after Liturgy in the near future.  Unfortunately, this does extend to our potlucks and to the class we have been holding following our Wednesday evening Presanctified Liturgies.
  3. While we will not be making any changes to how we distribute Holy Communion (because we do not for a moment consider that the Life Giving Mysteries could themselves be a vector of illness), we are changing the method of distributing zapivka beginning with tomorrow’s liturgy. Instead of communicants drinking from a common “zeon” cup, individual paper cups will be provided.  We ask those who communed to dispose of the cups in a bag that will be provided near the zapivka area so that these cups can be burned following the liturgy.

    Additionally, one of the priests will be assigned to pass out the bread that is customarily consumed together with the zapivka wine, which should be taken from the priest without kissing his hand.Alternatively, all of our parishioners have a blessing for the time being to partake only of zapivka wine following Holy Communion without consuming the prosphora if they prefer.

  4. We are calling upon the Sisterhood of our parish to organize a regimen of disinfecting and wiping down vulnerable surfaces in the church beginning tonight at vigil. Icons, Icon cases, Relic Cases as well as all other vulnerable surfaces should be wiped down with disinfectant at least before the beginning of each service and at the end of each service.  The Gospel and cross given for veneration at Confession and the cross at the end of Liturgy will, likewise, be wiped down before they are presented to the faithful for veneration.

    The above being said, I will not judge any of our parishioners who elect, for the time being, to refrain from venerating the Holy Icons, Relics or, indeed, the Gospel and Cross at the various appointed times until such time as this pandemic has ceased.  These are, indeed, unusual circumstances and, if we elect to refrain from these practices temporarily, let us be sure to resume them with all faith and piety once the danger has passed.

  5. Concerning priestly blessings and the kissing of the priest’s hand: as with the icons, etc. outlined above, I will judge no one who, for the time being, wishes to refrain from taking a physical blessing from either Fr. Jan or myself. We will be perfectly happy to bless you by making the sign of the cross over you without the need to venerate our hands until such time as the pandemic has died down (this does also apply to servers in the holy altar).  If you wish to receive a blessing the usual way, you are, by all means, permitted to do so.
  6. Concerning altar servers: Effective immediately, any and all altar servers entering the holy altar will proceed to the sink in the sacristy and thoroughly wash their hands for 20s before serving. Zapivka for the clergy will also be served using paper cups rather than zeon cups.  Furthermore, until further notice, only the priests and deacons will be permitted to handle the prosphoras directly in the holy altar.  The servers are permitted to carry the bags of prosphora back and forth to the candle counter.
  7. We will be inserting the following petitions into the Augmented Ectenia during Liturgy asking the Lord’s mercy and healing until the virus is contained:

    “More than all others we have sinned against Thee and we have transgressed, O Master, and if we have not acquired repentance instead of repentance accept our offering. And having set Thyself to mercy, as Thou art almighty, free Thy servants from death bearing sickness and grievous afflictions, groaning in pain we pray Thee, quickly hearken and have mercy.”“We have sinned and we have transgressed, and therefore Thy righteous anger has visited us, O Lord, our God; and the darkness of death has encompassed us and we have drawn nigh unto the gates of Hades. But, with compunction, we cry out unto Thee, our God, in our infirmities: Spare, O spare Thy people, and destroy us not utterly, humbly we pray Thee, hearken and have mercy.”

    “O Lord, Who rules by life and by death: do Thou not enclose the souls of Thy servants in death, but turn aside from wrath and forsake anger, for our days vanish like smoke, and our strength has wasted away, and we are perishing utterly because of our sins. Be Thou merciful unto Thy servants who are repenting with tears, we pray Thee, hearken and have mercy.”

  8. Following the Prayer on Descending the Ambo, we will also be serving the short version of “The Moleben Sung in Time of Devastating Epidemic and Death-bearing Pestilence” until such time as the virus is indicated by the CDC to no longer be a major epidemic.
  9. (Taken from Archbishop Kyrill of San-Francisco’s directive):

    “The members of the Faithful are encouraged to increase their prayers by daily reciting an Akathist to the Lord, or the Theotokos, or to our beloved St. John of Shanghai & San Francisco, or to the Saint of their choice, praying for the cessation of this pestilence. To increase the sanctification of our souls and bodies, we are all encouraged to frequently partake of Holy Communion, and also of Holy Water and Prosphora; to daily anoint ourselves with Holy Oil from the Saints; and to confess our sins and pray fervently. Our arms against this epidemic, although spiritual, will be nonetheless powerful.Already reports are coming in that the Archangel Michael has appeared to many people promising them his powerful help. Also, the newly-glorified Saint Nikephoros the Leper has appeared in Greece to a pious Orthodox serviceman and assured him that he will intercede for all who ask his prayers to be protected and healed from the Coronavirus.”

    Troparion, Tone 1:

    “All the angels were awestruck by the courage and fortitude of Saint Nikephoros the Leper, in ascetic deeds and contests, for like another Job he suffered pain, with patience, ever-glorifying God, who has crowned him now with glory, granting him grace to work great, wondrous miracles. Rejoice, O guide of monastics and their aid, Rejoice O shining beacon of light, Rejoice for thy relics now exude a fragrance bringing joy to all.”

    Kontakion, Tone 8:

    “The valiant athlete of endurance and fortitude, the steadfast diamond of great patience and long-suffering, was tried by the affliction and pains of illness, and who in this way did glorify the Most High God, let us praise and laud the leper Nikephoros, saying unto him: Rejoice, true namesake of victory.”

  10. Concerning the food pantry: The Metropolitan has directed us to cease operating the food pantry until such time as the epidemic dies down. Thus, we will not be having the food pantry until further notice.

It is extremely important for all of us, at this time, to understand that, even though we might individually be at a low risk for serious complications resulting from the Coronavirus, there are those in our community and in our society in general who are at much greater risk at it will be largely up to all of us to make these temporary sacrifices on their behalf.

Among all men and women, we are truly blessed.  As Orthodox Christians, we do not live in the fear of death, or even of suffering, because we know that our Savior has overcome death and that we live in hope of the Resurrection.  We live in hope and in the Spirit, and I pray that none of us will yield to a spirit of fear and hopelessness during this time, but will instead use this opportunity to redouble our efforts to pray to our Beloved Savior Jesus Christ, both for ourselves, our families, our parish community and, indeed, for the whole world.

Glory to God for all things!!

Fr. Jonah Campbell
Pastor, Christ the Savior Orthodox Church
Wayne, WV

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