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

Home to Bethlehem

The Acton Insitute’s Fr Robert Sirico has a beautiful reflection on Christmas. It is offered here in its entirety and without comment beyond my recommendation that you read it.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

(Acton Institute) Although the word nostalgia can be used to express a bittersweet longing for some pleasant remembrance of one’s past, it is safe to say that this is the time of the year when it is virtually unavoidable to drift into a sustained sense of nostalgia and where its experience is most intense.  This is a time when our minds go back to a younger version of ourselves: to the sights and the sounds and the smells of our mothers’ kitchens, and the excitement and anticipation of opening gifts for Christmas.

I suspect, however, that there is an even deeper meaning to this palpable experience in Advent and Christmas. I recall feeling a deep sense of longing for something in the past one Christmas evening when I was about nine years old. Once all the relatives had gone their separate ways and my mother had stored the last morsels of the feasts and restored the remains of the day and had finally gotten off her feet, a wave of reflection swept over me. How much looking back can a nine year old do, after all?

Bethlehem might be described as our common home for which we each long.

What I realize now is that I was not, in fact, surveying the previous years of so short a life. My mind, our minds, go back much further, to a home, indeed an origin we recognize as if by nature, even when words escape the description. I refer, of course to that first Christmas.  Bethlehem might be described as our common home for which we each long. And Bethlehem is itself the restoration of God’s original intention in the creation of his world. What occurs in Bethlehem, or more specifically in the womb that “yon Virgin” is the healing of a primordial scar at the base of humankind.

It is the Christian contention that the ineffable God of the universe deigns to descend into the material world so as to reconcile it to himself by the incarnation of his Son.  The experience of this nostalgia, made acute by their concrete particularity, tells us something about ourselves and our origins, not unlike but more profound and explanatory: the fond recollection of the sweet thickness of that under-crust of your aunt’s cinnamon roll, where all the brown sugar has coagulated and almost hardened; or the simple yet evocative smell of percolated coffee in one of those old tin coffee pots; or the smell of my father’s Old Spice Christmas gift (his gift every year). A grandmother’s apron.

I’m sure any number of things could account for experiences of nostalgia, but undergirding them all is some concrete particularity in which the tangible nature of our memories and their associations with things touch upon our deepest senses and longings.  To my mind this is appropriate enough because the very feast day that we are celebrating has to do with the material world, or more precisely, with the divine breaking out of our material world, and in doing so, throwing back meaning upon the whole of the human endeavor.

The incarnation of God’s Son, we are taught, by the scriptures and reinforced in the art and music of the Christian tradition, tells us of a world that was broken but has been restored.  The world spoken of and to in this telling of the story is not just some cerebral concept, or an aggregate or ephemeral yearning, but a concrete reality. Sin, after all, affects not only our souls, but our society, indeed our whole world and all of its parts.

But so does redemption, so that the very substance of the physical might become the vehicle of salvation, whether it be the water of baptism, or the bread and wine of Communion, or the act of matrimonial love; God works his love through all of these.  So too the entirety of our world may become sanctified, indeed sacramentalized.

This could include our family feasts, our gift giving and even our work, if these are offered to God for his glory.  This God, Immanuel, is “with us” in the whole of it all: from the baby’s cry in the manger to our commerce and trade, even as the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins said in “Pied Beauty”:

Glory be to God for dappled things –

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;

And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise Him.