It has been quite a while since I posted anything here. I’ve been too busy painting icons 🙂
But the time has come for words – strong words.
Last week, the decision was made by the Catholic bishops of Ohio to temporarily lift our religious obligation to attend Sunday Liturgy. This move was made, of course, as part of the worldwide effort to stem the spread of COVID-19, the highly contagious and deadly coronavirus. We could attend if we wanted to but people at risk were especially encouraged to stay home.
Today, late in the afternoon, the bishops decided to temporarily suspend all public celebrations of the sacred liturgy throughout the state.
Without a doubt, this is the work of the evil one.
By no means am I suggesting that the bishops were acting inappropriately. On a human level, they made a sensible decision to try to protect us – as much as it is in their power to do so.
But who is it that creates pandemics? People, in their fear and suffering, often assume that it is God. Haven’t we been told that He is the Creator of all things? Who could have created the viruses (not to mention the bacterias) if not Him?
To understand this, we must return to the story of Creation for it tells us many truths.
In the beginning, as the Spirit, the breath of God (Ruah) swept over the waters, the Word was spoken. All things were created through Him and for Him. The love within the Trinity gave birth to all things and everything born of this love was pronounced good.
Hence, we know that all of God’s creation was good from its inception. Are viruses then good?
On the level of science, we do not know how viruses came about, though their origins appear to be ancient. So insidious are they that they left no footprint in history that we can study. While considered “living”, viruses seem to be a perversion of life, existing only to reproduce and yet able to reproduce only through parasitism.
And we know who has introduced the perversions we see in Creation. It was not God.
While sometimes obvious, it is often not easy to see how sin leads to such tragedies as pandemics. We know the evil one sows the seeds of sin in us – but how does this lead to illness? Is it our fault?
I am not suggesting, of course, that succumbing to illness is the fault of any individual nor is the development of a pandemic the work of any one generation. It is more the fault in our nature that has grown and developed through hundreds of centuries during which time the seeds of the enemy have grown.
We were given dominion over the earth, to be the loving caretakers of all of the life in it. Need I say that we have not done a very good job? With the perversion which is evil embedded in us, we have brought the planet with us into our death-producing state of sin.
Were it not for Christ our Savior, our situation would be beyond hope. Not only do we kill each other with our rages and our wars but we draw the rest of creation with us.
Yet Christ has given us the antidote: Himself. He has given us Himself in His life, death and resurrection. He has given us Himself sacramentally in Eucharist, the bread from heaven, that nourishes us unto eternal life.
And so now the enemy thinks he can starve us out. Create enough suffering, enough fear – then take away our Food – surely we will despair and defect to his side.
But he is wrong.
Even though I participated in the Sunday liturgy yesterday, something moved me to go to my church for Mass again this evening. I had not heard the announcement this afternoon but I sensed that time was growing short.
I would have expected myself to feel sad or dejected upon hearing of the suspension of public liturgy but that is not the case. Receiving Him one more time was immensely joyful, as His love came crashing into my heart.
In a new way, I realized that He is here to stay, whether it be weeks or months before I can commune again.
The sacraments are a great gift – far greater than we understand. I need them – but God does not. I will hunger for Him but I know He will continue to feed me. He will not leave my heart.
And my hunger will make me desire Him even more.
The enemy can indeed wreak much havoc upon us but we must not be afraid. He cannot win. The victory has already been won by Christ Jesus our Lord.
Take courage, my friends, and do not be afraid. Let us pray for each other daily that we might be strong in battle, strong in the certainty that our Savior’s love will conquer all.
All praise and glory to Him.