Coronavirus Update

Glory to Jesus Christ!

Weekly Services:
Presanctified Liturgy & Great Vespers: CANCELLED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE
Divine Liturgy, 9:30 AM Sunday

Because of the Corona Virus and out of concern both for the health of the faithful and the general public, the bishops have directed that the parishes NOT celebrate any of the divine services EXCEPT Sunday Liturgy:

We direct that ALL liturgical worship services in our parish communities, except for Sunday Divine Liturgy, must be suspended until further notice.We direct all our beloved and devoted clergy to celebrate Divine Liturgy every Sunday morning, without a choir, but with the participation of at least a reader or cantor.  The Eucharist MUST be offered “in behalf of all and for all” during this horrific crisis. We will not close the doors of our parish churches in the face of our faithful who wish to participate in the Liturgy but the restrictions of remaining at least six feet apart must be followed as per regulations set by federal, state and local governments and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

You can read their letter on the matter here.

Therefore, beginning this week and for the foreseeable future, we will not celebrate either the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified or Great Vespers. I will be available BEFORE (8:30 on) and AFTER Liturgy if you want to go to confession.

The bishops asked that those over 65 years old, those with chronic health issues or any who might be ill to please not come to church for their own health and the health of others:

…we do direct that ALL our faithful over the age of 65 completely refrain from visiting their parish churches because they are the most vulnerable and susceptible to the pandemic virus.  Further, regarding all other faithful, we can no longer recommend that “those who exhibit no symptoms continue to gather for services”. THE RISK OF INDIVIDUAL “SELF-DETERMINATION” OF ILLNESS OR SYMPTOMS OF THE VIRUS, A FLU OR SIMPLY A COLD – INCLUDING YOUR OWN HIERARCHS – ARE SIMPLY NOT ACCURATE IN TOO MANY INSTANCES. We have canceled all our own scheduled parish visitations throughout this pandemic crisis, so that no obligation is perceived by the faithful to be present to welcome their hierarchs.

As your pastor, I would recommend that all of you, but especially those over 65 or with chronic health concerns, exercise great prudence in your fasting in the coming weeks. As the bishops point out, one can be infected while also not exhibiting symptoms. Fasting is meant to weaken the body to free the soul. In our current situation, it is important for us to remain healthy not only so we can meet our obligations to Christ, our family, friends and work but also so that we don’t inadvertently become a source of illness for those in the community. Therefore I would recommend that those who can, fast as strictly as they are able on Wednesday and Friday. Use your discretion for the other days of the week.

Some of you will not be at Liturgy on Sundays. This is perfectly fine. For those who wish to do so, I have sent a copy of the Typica service that can be said in place of attending Liturgy (here). If you have trouble opening or printing the pdf, please let me know and I’ll send the service directly to you.

Finally, it breaks my heart that we because of the pandemic, we will not seeing each other on a regular basis. Please pray for our bishops, Mtka Mary and I, even as we are all praying for each of you.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Yes, We’re Open!

See the source image

Dear Madison & UW students, faculty and staff:

Ss Cyril & Methodius (1020 Regent St Madison, WI) will continue to hold divine services as

scheduled during the closure of the University of Wisconsin. We will at all our services offer prayers for “those who are sick or have died” and that God grant peace to those who “worry and grieve” and that He “defend them and us from illness and despair.” Our schedule is below. All our welcome

Fr Gregory Jensen
Chaplain, OCF
Pastor, Ss Cyril & Methodius Orthodox Church

Lenten Services:
6:30 PM Wednesday: Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts(Vespers & Holy Communion)
8:00 AM Friday: Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts(Vespers & Holy Communion)
9:00 AM Saturday: Divine Liturgy
5:00 PM Saturday: Vespers & Confessions
9:30 AM Sunday: Divine Liturgy

Forgiveness Sunday

Sunday March 1 (O.S., February 17), 2020: Cheese-fare Sunday; Sunday of Forgiveness; Commemoration of Adam’s expulsion from Paradise; Great Martyr Theodore of Tyro (306); Ven. Theodore the silent of the Far Kyivan Caves (XIII); St. Mariamne, sister of the Apostle Philip (I); St. Nicholas Planas, priest in Athens (1932).

Epistle: Romans 13:11-14; 14:1-4
Gospel: Matthew 6:14-21

St Paul reminds us this morning that “salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” It is tempting to think that it is nearer because, well, we are older. Understood in this way, his observation that “the night is far gone, the day is at hand” might evoke in us a certain anxiety. Hurry, we might say, time is running out.

While understandable, salvation is nearer not because we are older but because God is ever drawing closer to us. It isn’t that we are moving toward God but that God is always moving toward us. In each moment, God draws nearer, revealing a bit more of Himself to us and of His great love for us.

Our repentance and our asceticism have no other goal than–to borrow from St Dionysius the Areopagite–to make our hearts more expansive, to make of ourselves ever larger vessels but always filled to overflowing with divine love.

The problem of sin is that it makes my life small. It narrows my vision, constricts my life, making me less able to receive God’s love for me and so making me less than who God has called me to be. Sin, if I make speak this way, makes me boring and stupid.

This is why the Apostle tells us to welcome those “weak in faith” but not to argue with them. This isn’t because we aren’t to preach the Gospel but we do so through hospitality not polemics. We must first demonstrate by our lives what it means to love God and to be loved by Him. Only then can we correct errors and explain the faith to those who have themselves accepted this love.

Jesus tells us in the Gospel that we do this primarily through our willingness to forgive others “their trespasses” against us. When we do this, we imitate God the Father Who is always eager to forgive us.

After saying this though, the next thing Jesus says might seem like a tangent.

When I fast, I shouldn’t draw attention to myself. My fasting, like whatever good I do in this life, must be done “in secret.” But while fasting in secret is easy enough, how can I forgive in secret? The next verses, I think, explain what Jesus means.

What we are called to do, we are called to do freely, out of love for God and neighbor.

Too often I find myself instead tempted to engage in good deeds in the hope of winning the favor of God or my neighbor. My charity, my asceticism, even my prayer, can too easily become transactional–I do in order to get.

And so Jesus reminds us, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” If I fix my heart on earning your good opinion of me or on winning God’s favor, it’s not God or you I care about but my own ego. When I try to earn love–when I make being loved an item on my to do list–I reveal that I have radically, possibly fatally, misunderstood love.

Love is a gift that God gives to us and we to each other. While it can be received or lost, it can never be earned. Love that is not freely offered and freely received is simply not love.

When we look into our own hearts, when I look into my own heart, I realize how little I understand love. And so the Church asks us at the beginning of our preparation to receive our Risen Lord on Pascha to ask for forgiveness and to offer forgiveness to each other.

We do this not because we have done bad things or hurt each other–though in a fallen world this is unavoidable even if not frequently unintentional–but for the simple reason that we misunderstand love.

But we are made for love!

When we misunderstand love, we misunderstand ourselves, our neighbor and God.

When we misunderstand love, we fail to be who God has created us to be.

When we misunderstand love, we fail each other and become instead impediments to salvation.

When we misunderstand love, we fail to witness to the Gospel and instead forge chains out of its life-giving words

When we misunderstand love, we fail to know God and worship instead an idol of our own creation.

My brothers and sisters in Christ! For all this, and more, forgive me a sinner!

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

Hidden in Christ

Sunday, February 23 (OS February 10), 2020: Meat-fare Sunday, Commemoration of the Awesome Judgement; Hieromartyr Charalampos, Bishop of Magnesia and Martyrs Porphyrius and Baptus, (202); St. Anna, wife of Yaroslav I (1050); Ven. Prochorus of the Near Kyivan Caves (1107); Martyrs Ennatha, Valentina and Paula of Palestine (308); St. Scholastica, sister of St. Benedict (543).

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 8:8-9:2
Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46

Glory to Jesus Christ!

This past week the daily Epistle and Gospel readings have focused on two themes.

The epistles have emphasized the primacy of charity–of love–in the Christian life. As for the Gospel readings, these have recounted the events of Holy Week. Taken together, the epistles remind us of Jesus Christ’s great love for each of us. They remind us as well that it is the same sacrificial love to which we are called.

Let me make this stronger.

Love that is not sacrificial is not really love. However if we stop here we risk misunderstanding the life to which we are called. To know what it means to love sacrificially we need to turn to today’s readings.

St Paul reminds those troublesome Corinthians, that while fasting and the ascetical life are important, they are not the point of the Christian. The goal, as we’ve heard all week in the readings, is to love others. And, by love, Paul means to do that which is best for our neighbor.

Often in my own spiritual life I get undone because I assume–wrongly as Jesus tells me in the parable–that to love others means I must do great things. After all, if my love for you must be sacrificial, don’t I need to do something big? This isn’t what Jesus asks of us today.

Rather our Lord asks us to do small acts of kindness that St John Chrysostom says are within the reach of all of us. Indeed, one needn’t even be Christian to know that you ought to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirst, clothe the naked or visit those who are sick or imprisoned. All of these are the actions of any morally decent human being.

So where is sacrifice? It is this: rather than doing great things to win the praise of others, or even to bolster our own sense of self-worth, we are called to live a life “hidden in Christ” as St Paul tells the Colossians (3:3). The humility of our love should be such that it is easily overlooked not only by the world but, as the response of both the sheep and goats suggest, by us as well.

Put slightly differently, we are called to engage in quiet acts of simple charity for no other reason than because it is the right thing to do. This means that need to be indifferent, detached, from not only your opinion of my actions but of my own as well.

And doing the morally good thing because it is good changes me. Too frequently get things backwards. I don’t do good things because I am a good person. I become a good person by doing good. It is the habit of small acts of charity that purifies my heart. If I wait for my heart to be pure, my intentions to be right, then I’ll never act.

The sheep in the parable simply loved others without any thought of reward. The goats, however, did good but did so to earn a reward; their good deeds, their charity, was transaction. They did something to get something.

Sheep love others, goats love only themselves.

While the good we do is easily overlooked, we shouldn’t underestimate its effects in the aggregate. It was through small, easily overlooked acts of charity, that the early Church overcame the Roman Empire. The Church conquered the Empire not by force of arms by making it the Church.

Everything the Church has accomplished, it has accomplished by the habit of daily acts of personal charity. The Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Soviet Union, all of these persecuted Christ and the Gospel. And all of these fell not through military might but by Christians who lived faithful lives hidden in Christ. It is the Cross, not the sword, which overcomes the world.

The Church has triumphed in this life when Christians have embraced a life hidden in Christ. We will triumph as a parish, to say nothing of finding our own, personal salvation, by likewise living a life hidden in Christ.

My brothers and sisters in Christ! To do this we need only take our eyes off ourselves and fix them on Jesus Christ. Look to Jesus and allow Him to direct you in the ways you should go.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory