The ongoing chaotic situation surrounding the Coronavirus to which, it seems, the general response is panic, revels to a degree certain spiritual realities.
Obviously, people should strive to maintain good hygiene as it is continuously being pointed out to us. Such a virus has possible grave physical implications.
My point, once again, is not to diminish or belittle the potential tragedy of the Coronavirus or any physical virus or disease for that matter.
What is interesting to me is that when our bodies are threatened with some novel and potentially harmful infection, people in general start to fear and panic, and drastic measures are implemented to protect people. Now, there is nothing wrong with striving to maintain bodily health, in fact, it has its place in this life. But the body is passing away in the long run. Our bodies will die, in the current fallen state this mortal coil is destined for the grave sooner or later (then to be resurrected on the last day in incorruption).
Christians have always ministered and offered care for those in physical suffering and have striven to lessen the effects of disease and such. This is a positive thing and has its place. Yet, what is the primary role of the Church and Christianity? Is it physical health and hygiene? Or is one of the primary vocations of the Church to protect from spiritual diseases that kill not only the body but the soul also?
Without demeaning the importance of offering physical care, it must be pointed out that in the Scriptures and the writings of the saints the most important issue is spiritual health, this is an eternal state which has eternal consequences; bodily health or lack thereof does not. Spiritual health is much more important than material bodily health.
What concerns me is that I see a host of firm statements being issued from numerous jurisdictions regarding proper physical hygiene in church, which, again, is fine in and of itself. Yet, in the past Orthodox Christians have been in contact with grave spiritual illnesses and threats and very little has been said or done (on a jurisdictional level).
If radical precautions are necessary to prevent the spread of a grave physical ailment, how much more are they needed to restrict the spread of spiritual disease?
Almost unchecked by most of the Orthodox world, the Ecumenical Patriarch has attempted to unite excommunicated and defrocked persons in Ukraine to the Body of Christ. Did we receive any firm statements on how to guard ourselves spiritually from this illness? Were we given guidance on how to protect our spirits from the corruption of this debase union? (In large part, no.)
It seems that to a great degree it was “business as usual” for Orthodoxy in America. I’ve heard a few times this phrase when the Ukraine situation is touched upon, “the situation there is above my pay grade.” Is the Coronavirus above your pay grade? Or are persons taking precautions to protect themselves from possible physical infection? Most everyone considers that physical hygiene is indeed not “above their pay grade.”
And yet, when it comes to spiritual maladies they become “above our pay grade”? This should not be. If a physical virus makes no distinction between the lowly and the grand of this world, bishops or laymen, do we think that a spiritual one will not? Ignoring a grave illness does not make it go away, indeed it only makes it worse. If ignoring a physical illness shows delinquency in one’s life, how much more the ignoring of spiritual diseases?
Of late, the Greek Archdiocese in America has created a “Slavic Vicharite” with defrocked priests. These priests have very serious allegations against them and were defrocked for valid reasons. Yet, were there any strong statements released warning against this newest pathogen being released in the Church in America (and elsewhere)? No. And in the past when the GOA flew the leader of the Ukrainian schismatics, Mr. Epiphany, over to America and gave him one of their “prestigious” awards, were there any warnings given from other jurisdictions about the grave spiritual effects of this action (outside of ROCOR, who at least has given some firm direction)? Mostly we just heard about maintaining “unity” in America. Yet, at what cost?
What will communion with those in fellowship with apostate, defrocked, and excommunicated persons do to the Body of Christ? If one ill person could infect a whole group, physically speaking, what will these ill ones introduce into the Body of Christ? If effective precaution dictates not being in contact with a person physically ill with the Coronavirus, for example, then what will the result be of continued contact with persons infected with the spirit of apostasy? (Also keep in mind that it is a violation of the hierarchical oath to receive suspended clergy without a canonical release, let alone defrocked “clergy.”)
What unity will be had when the head of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in America is the one actively communing with these defrocked persons?
What spiritual disinfectants should we be using? What “distancing” should be implemented?
Further, where are the firm statements and directives warning against the toxin of “public orthodoxy,” “orthodoxy in dialogue,” “orthodox studies at Fordham,” numerous articles in “the Wheel,” and so on? Which leaders of which jurisdiction have publicly and officially warned of these purveyors of spiritual toxin? (There are individual Bishops who strive to uphold the faith, I’m addressing the greater “jurisdictional” level.)
Why is it that some who actively and consciously promote the sexual immorality of modernity continue with no rebuke whatsoever? Why is the pan-heresy of Ecumenism, as St. Justin Popovich calls it, promoted in many jurisdictions and seminaries? Is it not the primary job of hierarchs to guard the flock from death bearing spiritual malady, heresy? Which is worse than any physical ailment.
Why are we failing to warn of grave spiritual diseases (heresy) and yet are on the ball when it comes to the physical? Should we not set as primary the first without leaving the last undone?
Archimandrite Athanasios of blessed memory notes, “It is the bishops’ responsibility to discern any foreign elements, any strange or impure teachings within the Church, and to expel them immediately.” At the same time, all Orthodox Christians must learn to recognize the symptoms of heresy so as to combat it.
Why are we all so eager to preserve our bodies and yet it seems we’re reticent to protect the souls?
Why are we giving more concern to the physical health of the body while neglecting, so it seems, to give greater concern and guidance for the spiritual health of our whole being and the Church at large?
If I have bad hygiene and somehow contract the Coronavirus in my body and even die, well, can that destroy my soul? No is the clear answer. Yet, if we continue to have “bad hygiene” with regard to spiritual issues, will not souls become gravely ill and perish, together with the body also? Yes. The spiritual issues that are confronting us have much graver implications than the Coronavirus. And yet they have not been addressed in nearly such a speedy and effective manner as the threat of physical harm. Why?
Given the response of the Church to both the physical Coronavirus and spiritual fellowship and communion with schismatics, one would think that the former is a greater threat than the latter.
Have we become more concerned with bodily health rather than spiritual?
What if I have a healthy, strong, and beautiful body and yet am full of untruth and foul deeds? Am I not then simply rotting from the inside out? Am I not then but a whitewashed tomb?
I deeply appreciate the direction for dealing with the Coronavirus but I would rather have clear guidance from those above with regard to the grave spiritual maladies which are threatening to contaminate Orthodox Christians across the globe.