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We have faithfully followed the guidance of our Archbishop throughout the Pandemic, and practiced self-restraint in how we gather together in worship. His Eminence, Archbishop Alexander has lifted many of the precautions, as Father Christopher shares in this letter:
“The Precious and Life-Giving Cross is now placed before us to refresh our souls and encourage us who may be filled with a sense of bitterness, resentment, and despondency. The Cross reminds us of the Passion of our Lord, and by presenting to us His example, it encourages us to follow Him in struggle and sacrifice, being refreshed, assured and comforted” (The Lenten Synaxarion).
Dear faithful of Holy Cross,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
With the blessing and at the direction of His Eminence, Archbishop Alexander, I am sending his guidance for Holy Week and Pascha, as well as his guidance related to ending the present pandemic precautions.
With regard to ending the pandemic precautions:
When everyone 16 years and older is eligible to receive the vaccine in NC then we may petition the Archbishop to cease the precautions. Once we have been given the okay to proceed we will be able to cease all pandemic precautions in 8 weeks allowing enough time for anyone who wants the vaccine to get it and allow enough time for 2 doses and a two-week waiting time after the last dose.
This past Wednesday, NC has opened up the vaccine to everyone 16 and up who wants it. We have petitioned the Archbishop and have been given the blessing to move forward and our 8-week timetable begins today. This means that on June 4 we will be back to our normal church life. People are still welcome to wear a face-covering at that time and if one is showing any covid-related symptoms should stay home.
Of course, it remains the bishop's prerogative to adjust the guidance in response to any changes in conditions throughout the diocese.
In the meantime, for Holy Week and Pascha, Missions and Parishes are encouraged to celebrate in as robust a fashion as possible with the present guidance ameliorated in the following manner:
Once we finish the 8 weeks (June 4), all covid precautions will cease.
A few of you have contacted me with questions about the vaccine and I have directed you to some of the statements made by Orthodox bioethicists and the Bishops. Archbishop Alexander has forwarded a very good document from the Orthodox Theological Society of America on some of the ethical questions raised regarding the vaccines which I have linked below as well as a document from the Canonical Assembly of Orthodox Bishops in the US.
I think the Archbishop has given us a reasonable way forward towards the full opening of the parish as he has done throughout the pandemic. Let us continue to be diligent in our precautions and in our obedience to our dear Archpastor in Christ.
This has been a difficult year but this week the “Cross is now placed before us to refresh our souls and encourage us who may be filled with a sense of bitterness, resentment, and despondency. The Cross reminds us of the Passion of our Lord, and by presenting to us His example, it encourages us to follow Him in struggle and sacrifice, being refreshed, assured, and comforted.” May the Cross comfort us as we continue through the course of the Fast and the winding down of this difficult year of the pandemic.
I look forward to seeing many of you for the first time in a long time and with joy to be able to celebrate our Lord's three-day Pascha together very soon!
O Lord our God, Thou who art rich in mercy, and with careful wisdom directest our lives, listen to our prayer, receive our repentance for our sins, bring an end to this new infectious disease, this new epidemic, just as Thou didst avert the punishment of Thy people in the time of David the King. Thou who art the Physician of our souls and bodies, grant restored health to those who have been seized by this illness, raising them from their bed of suffering, so that they might glorify Thee, O merciful Savior, and preserve in health those who have not been infected. By Thy grace, Lord, bless, strengthen, and preserve, all those who out of love and sacrifice care for the sick, either in their homes or in the hospitals. Remove all sickness and suffering from Thy people, and teach us to value life and health as gifts from Thee. Give us Thy peace, O God, and fill our hearts with unflinching faith in Thy protection, hope in Thy help, and love for Thee and our neighbor. For Thine it is to have mercy on us and save us, O our God, and to Thee we ascribe glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever, to the ages of ages. Amen.