Introduction: One of the most alarming aspect of the Coronavirus epidemic is not only the disease itself, but its effect on our faith, unprecedented questions which arise because of it, and the atmosphere of uncertainty.
In these times, we present spiritual advice from the Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, His Beatitude, Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, other Ukrainian Hierarchs.
The Hierarchs of the suffering Ukrainian Church provide good and spiritually edifying words for us to hear, encouraging people to take necessary medical precautions, but never to lose faith in God or His Holy Mysteries.
Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine
“The most important thing is not even sanitary standards, but prayer and repentance…”
“Many people are asking. What should we do? How should we act? You know, this is not the first time the Church had encountered such tragedies. In the history of the Church, there has many times been various epidemics, cholera, dysentery, etc. At such times, the Church always encouraged people to observe sanitary standards, and not to neglect them… We must comply with sanitary standards, protect ourselves from the simple, elementary influence of this disease on us… If we pray, if we ask God, if we repent of our sins, then we will destroy this disease… Therefore, the most important thing in this is not even sanitary standards, but prayer and repentance… God grants us trials not only for our virtues, but for our sins.
And in order to pass this test, in order to endure it worthily, we must say: “Lord, forgive me, I am a sinner. I have sinned and am guilty, and worthy of punishment, but I ask you, Lord, to have mercy on me by Thy mercy.”
This is something that can help us all overcome this temptation; this is the test that has come upon us today.
May the Lord, through the prayers of the Venerable Fathers of the Kiev Caves, whose memory we commemorate today,1 help us live in repentance, fasting and good deeds.
Pray to God that God forgives us our sins, that we will have God's grace in this earthly life, and in life eternal.” His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry wished.
Source: Union of Orthodox Journalists [In Ukrainian]
Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspil and Brovary
“Find joy and hope, and carry it through the darkness.”
“Today, many are plunged into a panic about the virus. Most people live in increasing fear day-by-day, inflaming an already tense atmosphere, spreading panic among friends.
But let's stop and look around: what is really happening, how are we to be saved in this situation, how do you save yourself?
The world is in fear. Fear and panic have caught people in a vise, we’ve entered into a suspended animation, it’s depriving us of humanity. People cannot adequately think, react, make sober decisions, they cease to fulfill their duties efficiently, they get annoyed and angry with others.
People are constantly monitoring the news, thinking, "What other terrible thing has happened?" This all deprives us of the opportunity to see what good is happening around us.
With our own hands we immerse ourselves in the darkness, the abyss of despondency and despair, while depriving ourselves of the light, colors of spring and joy.
Yes, there is a situation—the virus is real. But how can I help a person who is, for example, in Italy, and not taken to the hospital? I can’t. But I can help those around me—with my work, participation, attention, and with prayer.
Give the warmth of your heart, strength, and your time to those who need it now, those who are near, those who really need care and support—and all fears and panic will disappear immediately, I assure you.
Love destroys all fear.
The best cure for fear at all times is not masks and garlic, but love and compassion.
Our salvation is in immersing ourselves in that which is profound. Only in the depths, does one encounter and face issues hidden on the surface, like suffering and death. Only there can he meet God, and open himself to Him.
Acceptance of inevitability brings happiness, it liberates. Not an imitation of life, when one closes his eyes to spiritual laws and truth, and shrugs off reality, but real life—with all its troubles and misfortunes, joys and victories, with its profoundness—this bring happiness.
God cannot guarantee us avoidance from misfortunes; He gives us strength and patience to bear them, the courage to start all over again.
Believers in Christ inevitably pass through darkness, gloomy states that darken the light around them for a while, but with firm hope and faith to see the light again, find joy and carry it through the darkness—until the next flash of light.”
Source: Pravlife.org [In Ukrainian]
Metropolitan Pavel of Vyshgorod and Chernobyl
“He raised the dead…He’ll have mercy on us too.”
"Today, I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to avoid panic in this situation," the Vicar of Kiev Caves Lavra emphasized. “We have a tool that can prevent all these disasters. It is repentance through which the Lord turns away His righteous anger from us. Maybe in these days of Great Lent, we need to come to God, maybe we need to run to church, to start fasting, pray, start forgiving others, perhaps even to start seeing others not as the enemy, but brothers? And then…the Lord can avert from us all evil. "
The Metropolitan called on believers to go to church, receive communion, and pray.
“I thank God that I have the opportunity to be in the one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the Orthodox Church, in the Church of Christ, and have the opportunity to ask you: do not lose faith, Christ is not far off, Christ is with us, Christ is amidst us. If He raised the dead, opened the eyes of the blind, if He commanded the winds and healed any illnesses that were in people, then He will have mercy on us, too. There is only one thing left for us: to believe in Him, not to doubt His Divine nature and His grace-filled power, which heals the infirm and fulfills those who are lacking.”2
Source: Union of Orthodox Journalists [In Ukrainian]
Metropolitan Philaret of Lviv, Head of the Synodical Department for Health and Pastoral Care of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
“Holy Communion is for the healing of soul and body, we cannot speculate or manipulate this.”
“I appeal to you: no matter how complicated the situation with this disease may be, let us remember that, first of all, we are faithful to the Church of Christ, our lives are in the hands of God. Therefore, we will restrain our fears, we will not panic, we’ll rely entirely on the omnipotent will of God… to eliminate or minimize the risks of getting sick for ourselves and for our neighbors.”
In addition to saying that citizens should follow all orders from health experts, His Eminence also spoke to the importance of obeying quarantine measures, but said churches would be remaining open.
“The Holy Church in these troubled days will not leave its faithful without spiritual support and nourishment. All services in the churches of the Lviv diocese will be held according to the schedule without changes.”3
“During the period of epidemic, it follows to refrain from kissing holy items and simply make a reverence before them.”
Concerning Communion, “The holy body and blood of the Lord are given to us for the healing of soul and body, and we cannot speculate or manipulate this matter.”4
“Do not give in to despondency and depression. <...> We must realize that everything happens according to the will of God, such a test has been sent to us, and we must overcome it with dignity. Therefore, we will not grumble, but we will thank God for all the trials and tribulations, and for the opportunity to prove that we are true disciples of Christ,” The hierarch summed up, calling also to be sensible about media reports about the pandemic, which often “deliberately provoke panic.”
“Pray constantly, relying on the Lord, and faithfully follow the recommendations of doctors. Only in this way can we protect ourselves and our neighbors from infection and overcome the coronavirus infection.”
Metropolitan Hilarion of Donetsk and Mariupol
“The first and foremost method of our fight against the coronavirus will be our joint fervent prayer. Both in church and in our home, we appeal to God, we will earnestly ask Him for the cessation of the epidemic, and for the quick recovery of the sick…We know that the most important hope in all our lives is the Lord God.
He, who founded His Church, left Her on earth, a place full of imperfections and problems associated with the consequences of sin. However, the Lord does not leave us without hope and His care! <…> He is in the midst of us, He was, is, and ever shall be with us!”
Source: Union of Orthodox Journalists [In Russian]
Metropolitan of Svyatogorsk Arseniy
“Now, brothers and sisters, a lot of people are talking in the media about the spreading epidemic; they tell us how we must avoid it. It’s right, what they’re saying; but we, as believers, need to think higher and deeper… It’s not simply from viruses that we must protect ourselves, also from the sin, the origin of the sorrows and disasters in the world.
Oh, Mankind, you are not alone, for God has come down to earth for you, the Lord has worked many miracles for you, He has given you the commandments for your salvation… For your sake, he was crucified and laid in the grave, tortured for you… So that we are never alone, that we never think to ourselves, that we do not need anyone, and do not have any help. Indeed, we have a helper that no one has.
The Lord does not turn away from us. God forbid that anyone turn away from Him, with our misunderstanding of the great sacrifice God made for our salvation.”
Source: Union of Orthodox Journalists. [In Russian]