There is only one thing we can offer you, whether in this time of pandemic or otherwise. It's not our prayers, though you have them.
I admit that it was unnerving when the military transports and news helicopters converged on our neighboring Bergen Community College. We had never seen anything like it before. FEMA was orchestrating the movement of all this heavy equipment — did that mean we were living across the street from a federal disaster area?
The cars would begin forming a line at 2:30am. The sick waited hours to get tested. Just before 8am, police would drive up and down the line, blaring sirens and horns to wake everyone up.
Some of them, we knew, would become critically ill.
While all of this was happening, a deep and disorienting change was facing us — the laying down of our liturgical and communal life during the intensity of Great Lent, Holy Week, and Easter. The one place we could run to for comfort, solace, forgiveness, encouragement, and spiritual strength was now off-limits. All of our energy, ingenuity, and effort was focused on keeping our people connected to their church.
Our home chapel, where we've been streaming services.
During Great Lent, we’re supposed to take stock of our relationship with God. This always involves considering our relationships with others. As Saint John writes, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20) It’s easy to think of the ways we disappoint God and our neighbor, to name the petty, small, selfish things we do wrong.
It's also easy — far too easy — to forget the good left undone.
Why didn't we try to offer some consolation to our neighbors as they sat in their cars and wrestled with doubts, fears, fatigue, and poor health?
They say the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago or today.
You have our prayers each day when the testing center opens. The lines are shorter, everything moves quicker — it's late in the season to plant. But it's what we can do now.
The one thing we truly have to offer, though, is above all human disappointments: above all disease, distress, and even death. It rests in three words that, despite their brevity, turned the world upside down. These three words gave courage to simple men who hid from their persecutors. These three words make an improbable, impossible claim; yet they were shouted to the rooftops in the one place they could have been disproven.
Three words to describe something incredible, experienced by multiple witnesses, attested to throughout the centuries.
We, the Orthodox Christians of Christ the Saviour, offer to you, our neighbors, the center of our life. It’s the one thing we can’t truly live without.
"Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body and met God face to face. It took earth and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen and fell upon the unseen.
O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep." — Saint John Chrysostom
Christ is Risen!
With love in Christ,
Priest Leonid Schmidt, Rector