In these, unprecedented for humanity, days of the pandemic, we are experiencing a different reality, different from that of everyday life and routine. An intense emotional state, result of the news that bombards us about the rapid spread of the coronavirus, sad news that friends and relatives are ill or have passed away and the implementation of new restrictive measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
Many friends and brothers from many parts of the world call us to find out if this new pandemic has affected the lives of our local Church and our people. I thank them all from the bottom of my heart for their interest.
On Friday of the Akathist Hymn, in St. George Cathedral in Stockholm, although we did not perform the service, respecting the instructions we received from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, I stood in front of the icon of the Virgin Mary in the iconostasis, with my rosary, in an empty church, but I was not alone.
I felt surrounded by a lot of people. Indeed, I was not alone! Christ, Panagia and the Saints I invoked were present, as well as those I brought to my mind, our clergy, our flock in Scandinavia, the sick, the victims who died battling the virus, the expatriates, the homeless, those in need, the prisoners, the monks and our abandoned fellow human beings, the doctors, the nurses and the hospital staff who fight and save lives, the people who lost their jobs, those who lost loved ones and those who fight in the research centers for finding the drugs to treat the virus.
Everyone was present at the temple. Although “Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride!” was not heard, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us sinners,” and the rhythmically mentally repeated prayer “Our Lady, Mother of God, intercede for us,” were heard aloud.
I confess that I missed the children’s smiles and them running in the temple, the presence of our young people, the benevolent volunteers and our church council, the Sunday coffee of the Philoptochos society and the Byzantine choir of our church.
I returned to my office, looking at the beautiful stained glass window of the Annunciation, with the bright colors, a photo of which I am posting with this post. Shortly afterwards, I called the clergy of my province to express my support for their struggle.
I was moved to hear Fr. Benedict, our clergyman and distinguished Swedish writer and novelist, tell me that he is now translating “Philokalia” into Swedish.
Father Nikolaos, our clergyman and nephrologist, informed me about the endless hours he spends in the hospital where he works, saving lives!
Father Alexandros informed me about the initiative of his parish, to support their parishioners in need, distributing food himself at their houses, in view of the Easter holiday!
Nun Christodouli recently sent me the Small Paraklesis to the Theotokos (Small Supplicatory Canon to the Most Holy Mother of God) translated into Swedish, which will be published soon by our local Church.
Currently, I am working on the completion of the bilingual memoir book under publication, dedicated to last year’s Patriarchal Visit of His All-Holiness to Stockholm.
The virus may have taken us by surprise, but it did not interfere with our lives and our ecclesiastical ministry. We are reviving the home church and continuing our action, having as our motto the phrase of St. John Chrysostom: “We are not standing, for we are walking”, that is, we do not stand still, we are not motionless, but we are constantly on the move.
Fortunately, there is the coronavirus! I dare say, without ignoring the deadly and devastating effects of its transmission worldwide, especially in the areas of health and the economy. Not to be misunderstood, I mean that its presence had some positive elements too. The world has become more humane, more social and more charitable.
Many neighborhoods were turned into large families, where neighbors communicated with each other for the first time – albeit at a safe distance – and supported vulnerable groups. They revised their priorities, somewhat escaping the isolation caused by tablets and mobile phones as well as by unknown friends on the internet, motivated by personal reflection, self-assessment and prayer, aiming for “knowing thyself.”
By restricting the movement of vehicles, the air has cleared in many cities and the blue of the sky, rivers and seas can finally be seen.
The road to Emmaus, our crucifixion and resurrection course, will last another two weeks. Every time I read the 24:13-27 verse of the Gospel of Luke, I am troubled and controlled by the words of the disciples, Cleopas and the other one: “But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel,” that is, we had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. The past tense of “hope” used instead of the present tense, reveals distrust, doubt, rejection. And I wonder, “Surely, not I?”
Life goes on, the vision exists, optimism prevails, and the Annunciation is experienced as a joyful divine message. Life goes on, because Life ascended from the grave, since Life and Resurrection are Christ himself, who gives meaning to yesterday, the present (now) and the forever of the world.
Since Christ has gone through “closed doors ,” we are patient, “we stay home,” mentally and prayerfully, but still, we are present in the services, praying for ourselves and our neighbors. Thus, we are not alone. We communicate through our thoughts, our heart and prayer, since “prayer” is the safest channel of communication between people and between God and man.
Stay strong and have a Happy Easter, my brothers! Pray!