My dear spiritual children in the God-man Christ,
Observing the fear and panic that is spreading around the newly emerged virus, which has also gripped Christians, out of paternal solicitude, love and archpastoral duty, I feel the need to address you, my beloved faithful, with a few words of spiritual counsel.
In a time when the world is overcome with great fear and panic, we as Christians are called to soberly stand on the solid Rock of our Faith and Hope, Who is Christ Jesus.
Observing, reading and hearing about what is happening across the world and around us, fear grips the human heart, and if left uncontrolled, it leads to widespread panic and a struggle for sheer survival at all costs. Such fear is the fruit of a subconscious hominised reliance solely on the power and abilities of man; a salvation that comes from man and in man; dispersing within us the Kingdom of God’s peace which has been given to us in Christ and by Christ, from which our hearts will not be confused and have fear (John 14, 27).
In all this panic have we remembered Christ?
How can we remember Him when, apart from the vale of fear that has covered humanity, Orthodox Christians are listening and reading communiques these days of how their sacraments are potential sources of contamination!?They hear about certain measures and restrictions being imposed on the Sacrament of Holy Communion?! Which begs the question, who is in the Chalice? Who is being offered on the spoon? Is it the same Christ that conquered the world – death, sin and the devil, or another one?
That is why today, perhaps more than ever, Holy Orthodoxy should stand firm on the guard of faith, for us to be sober and vigilant, and pray for the entire world.
Every crisis is an opportunity for us to reflect on our lives, where we stand in relation to eternal life, in relation to the Gospel of the God-man Christ.
Standing before death, remembering it daily, with hope in the resurrection and eternal life, was and has remained the daily routine of soberminded monasticism and holy Christendom. The virus we are faced with is precisely the right moment to stop and think, to ask ourselves the question, are we ready to stand before Christ?
What kind of life are we living? What are our values? Have we sowed the seeds of faith or the weeds of passing into the hearts of our children? What if the Lord calls us today, how will we be found before Him?
With this in mind, as Christians we should always be prepared, to live in faith and hope and love, to pray for the whole world, especially for those who are sick and for those who care for the sick, without leaving out the Truth of the Gospel that teaches us that we are not to be afraid, for the hairs on our head are numbered and known before God (Luke 12,7).
In addition to preventative measures which we are implementing according to the advice of health experts and government authorities, we as Christians are called this Great Lent, having confessed and questioned our hearts, to approach, with even more fervour, fear of God and faith, the Holy Mysteries more frequently.
Holy Communion is the God-man Christ Himself – the Fountain of Life and Physician of all sickness, Who entering us, disperses every affliction, every death, every darkness and worldly fear.
Apart from Holy Communion, dear brothers and sisters, we have the Holy consecrated water of Theophany and our antidoron (naphora), which we should prayerfully consume during the weekdays when we are not partaking of Holy Communion.
We need to burn holy incense in our homes, to have our oil lamps lit before our icons, to pray and read prayers before each meal, bestowing blessings upon our tables.
May our children, having learned from the example of their parents, be encouraged with faith and hope in the strength, power and love of the God-man Christ, Who has conquered the world.
Having done all we can on our behalf in light of the current circumstances (both according to the advice of the medical experts/relevant authorities and spiritually, according to the teachings and experience of our Holy Orthodox faith) we rest all our hope in the Lord, surrendering ourselves to the will of God which does all onto the salvation of man.
In Christ with every blessing and paternal love,
Bishop of the Metropolitanate of Australia and New Zealand
The Serbian Orthodox Church