At this difficult time, when the governmental authorities are taking all possible
measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection, I call upon the hierarchs,
clergy, monastics and laypeople to intensify your prayer to the Lord for the deliverance
of people from the harmful epidemic, and I call upon the arhpastors and pastors to
continue to zealously celebrate divine services and especially the Holy Eucharist – the
Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ – even in the absence of the flock due to the
authorities’ respective recommendations. “Indeed, nothing is to be preferred to the Work
of God” (The Rule of St Benedict of Nursia, chapter 43).
Today many of us are compelled to take upon themselves the feat of constantly
staying in their homes. To them I am saying: let the place of your solitude become a desert
of your personal and domestic work of prayer, according to the Gospel: “But thou, when
thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father
which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Mt
6:6). May in this feat we also be inspired by the example of the Venerable Mary of Egypt
who had spent many years in the desert in solitary prayer.
These days we are losing an opportunity to attend together the Lenten divine
service, which we all hold dear. Yet, we know that even the gates of hell cannot prevail
against the Church of Christ (cf. Mt 16:18). “Who shall separate us from the love of
Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or
sword? <…> in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us
<…> neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present,
nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate
us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:35-39). Even while
in forced separation, as throughout history followers of Christ often found themselves
scattered over deserts and mountains, caves and gorges of the earth, we remain the
inviolable community of faith united by the prayer which we offer to the Lord Jesus in
our heart. In this prayer we are not alone – standing together with us before God’s Altar
are our holy kinsfolk, the saints of the Russian Church from all epochs of her historical
being, inspiring and encouraging us. “Take heart, the Church of Christ <…> for the
friends of Christ are taking care of you – those standing in the presence of Him and
gathered round Him” (Sessational hymn after the Polyeleos during the Service to the New
Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church).
Brothers and sisters, let us endure temporary privations in order to preserve the life
and health of our neighbours. Let us patiently undergo the affliction which has befallen
us in the firm hope that the Almighty Lord, Who took upon Himself the sufferings and
death on the cross for humankind and Who by His Resurrection opened for us the path to
salvation, will in good time change this affliction into the joy of the meeting in praising
Him by our joint prayers in a church during the divine service, “and the Lord God will
wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from
off all the earth” (Is 25:8).
In these days let us lift up fervent prayers for those who are selflessly striving to
put an end to the pestilent epidemic and those who are working to sustain the life of our
cities, towns and villages. Let us be grateful to them and give them all the support we can.
I also thank all of you, dear Vladykas, fathers, brothers and sisters, for your zealous
service to the Lord, to His Church and to each other.
I am unceasingly praying for all of you.
PATRIARCH OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA