May 2020

Beloved in Christ,

I miss you all, and I long for the day that I will turn around from the Holy Altar, and see you, back where we are most united. Celebrating the Divine Liturgy in front of a camera, even with the knowledge that you ARE on the other side of it, is strange to say the least. I think a large contributor to the discomfort is how the camera only shares the sight and the sound of the liturgical experience. The other senses are restrained by this stop-gap. You cannot smell the incense, nor embrace family and friends, nor taste of the Cup of Salvation. The normal symphony of perception is reduced, and seems out of tune. Particularly, one line from the Divine Liturgy keeps coming back to me. It is the last command: "Let us go forth in peace" and it seems to hang in the air, reverberating in an empty church. In our current situation, there is no going forth, and ever-elusive peace! So what does that line mean for us right now?

It means that the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy is not an end but a beginning. Those words, "Let us go forth in peace," are not merely a comforting epilogue. They are a call to serve and bear witness. In effect, those words, "Let us go forth in peace," mean the Liturgy - the breakfast of our Spiritual life - is over, and now the workday of Christian living is about to begin. This, then, is the aim of the Liturgy: that we should return to the world with the doors of our perceptions cleansed. We should return to the world after the Liturgy, seeing Christ in every human person, especially in those who suffer. In the words of Father Alexander Schmemann, the Christian is the one who, wherever he or she looks, everywhere sees Christ and rejoices in him. We are to go out, then, from the Liturgy and see Christ everywhere."

None of us can control the massively disruptive circumstances we are in. And certainly, there is not one among us who is not suffering in some way because of them. While we all wish for different days, these are the days which the Lord has made, so let us rejoice and be glad in them. Perhaps the aspect of this whole crisis that has surprised me the most is just how much I have rushed past, which now I have no choice but to see. There are moments in our every day in which we have an opportunity to lean in and try to see the face of Christ in the other. In the past, we have been busy, and able to make excuses to avoid discomfort. Now, we are out of other things to do, and this is a blessing. Lean in to the family God has given us. Lean in (figuratively, of course) to the neighbor who still tries to stand too close when you are just taking the garbage out. Lean in to the humanity of the suffering all around us. There, find Christ. There, BE Christians.

While we are all anxious about how this will resolve, we have been invited to inspect our smallest, most boring moments. Thank God, they only come one at a time, and we only need to operate in the present one. There, find Christ, who suffered and died and rose from the tomb. There, BE Christians. Christ is here, in this moment, Risen from the dead. May we depart in peace, and find our faith echoing in our day-to-day, and rise from our tombs with Him.

In Christ,

+Fr. Patrick