Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord,
I have been praying for all of you, especially during this Great Fast, during this time of turmoil in the country, in the Church and in the world. I believe I have a message of hope to share with you, which I pray is from Our Father. Please allow me to share my reactions to the current situation in the Church, as well as the light I believe that God has given me to accept and find grace during this time.
Over the past week, our country has plunged into a radical reactionism unlike anything I have experienced in my 33 years of life. Over the course of several days, precautions have been taken and bans put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, commonly spoken of as the coronavirus, which has been labeled a pandemic. It seemed like each day, there were more freedoms limited, more opportunities taken away--most especially, our freedom to worship the Lord at Mass and the Divine Liturgy. As a nun, this was a great pain for me. During the Great Fast in the Byzantine Tradition, we fast from the consecration of the Eucharist on weekdays, but the Church in her wisdom, knows that we cannot fast from the Bridegroom completely, so she prescribes what is called "The Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts," which is a communion service with Jesus’ Precious Body consecrated on the previous Sunday given to the faithful in the context of Vespers, or evening prayer. But now, in the current state of affairs, we will also abstain from this--and even from the Sunday celebration of the Divine Liturgy.
My first reaction was anger and frustration. How can the bishops do this? How can it be good for the faithful to be without the sacraments or public worship, especially during this difficult time? How can we conceivably cancel Holy Week and Pascha (Easter)?! Perhaps some of you can relate to these sentiments--or have felt them yourselves.
As I was shopping this past week to prepare for a three-week self-quarantine at the monastery, in an attempt to protect our immuno-compromised sisters, I felt all these feelings welling up within me. As I turned to the Father in the midst of this seeming "apocalypse shopping," I felt His overwhelming presence and invitation to trust. In His goodness, I also felt Him place upon my heart an answer to my question. Not the question I asked of, "Why is this happening?" But the deeper question of, "What am I supposed to do?" The response was staggeringly simple. “Consent.”
“Ok, Father. You are asking me to consent. To trust that You are at work in the request of our bishops. To give my ‘yes’ to that which I would not choose for myself. Yes, Father. I consent.”
As this prayer tumbled around in my heart while I moved 50-pound bags of rice, I also became aware of a deeper reality. My consent was to bear fruit! I saw another invitation--to offer my ache to receive Him in reparation and repentance for those who do not receive Him worthily. My pain was becoming fruitful before my eyes! I saw a great opportunity to offer my own living sacrifice--a contrite heart--which the Lord will not refuse. As my spiritual father has often told me, we don’t need to seek out penance--our lives and vocations will present us with the penance and suffering that God desires for us. Since I believe this to be true, I see the invitation of this Great Fast and Pascha to enter into an Even Greater Fast--from the very sacraments that bring me into contact with God’s presence--because God is allowing this to happen and asking me to consent. And you, too.
In a sense, we now know for sure what the Father is asking us to give up for the Great Fast--and it’s not just chocolate!! Though we continue with our other observances for the Great Fast, there is more He is asking.
I believe this is precisely the purification that we need--as a culture and Church in America. We need to know Who we receive in the Eucharist. We need to know that He is God, and we are not. We need to fast from our need to control--to have things ‘on demand’--even sacraments . We need to allow this purification to drive us inward in the right way--to the presence of God in each of us. To learn to pray. To seek relationship with the Trinity. We need to learn to pray as a family, to make God’s love present in our homes.
So, I make a radical request of you, dear brothers and sisters. I ask you to share in the Father’s request of me, the request He is making of each of us, to "consent." Consent to the situation that God has placed us. Pray for our bishops and trust their discernment. Pray intentionally in your hearts and in your homes for our Church and for the whole world during this time of crisis. Allow your ache for Him to be fruitful. In this time of cleansing our bodies to remain free from COVID-19, allow the Father to purify your soul from the virus of pride, self-love, self-determination and control. And trust that the Father will be faithful and bring more good than we can imagine out of what seems to be evil.
I am praying for all of you and I love you.
In Christ’s Heart,